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Shane Victorino: ‘I should be the starting right fielder’

11.27.14 at 11:12 pm ET
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Shane Victorino is optimistic he will hit the ground running when spring training rolls around. (Getty Images)

Shane Victorino is optimistic he will hit the ground running when spring training rolls around. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Through all the uncertainty that has encompassed the Red Sox‘ offseason, Shane Victorino has taken solace in his own run of certainty.

Monday, for the first time since undergoing back surgery, the outfielder will swing a bat. It is the latest step forward in a rehabilitation process that has left Victorino as confident as ever heading into his third season with the Red Sox.

“Everything feels great,” Victorino said from Hawaii, where he had been over the last week or so to help run his charity event for the Shane Victorino Foundation (helping children in need). “There hasn’t been any setbacks. I was cleared to start swinging a few weeks ago but I was coming to Hawaii so they didn’t want me to do any swinging or rotating until I got back [to his home in Las Vegas]. Once I get back Monday I’ll probably start therapeutic swinging just to get the motion of what’s going on. It’s going in the right direction. I’m moving, running, lifting with no setbacks. Here and there, there are your normal fatigue of muscle areas, but beyond that there hasn’t been anything to have me slow it down.

“From what I know we’re all systems go if everything go as planned. As of now, all systems are go. We have no intentions of taking it slow going into spring training. That might be a mindset that changes, but as of right we’re focused on being ready for the first day of spring training and doing everything from the start to when things pick up.”

So with his health trending in the right direction, the next question involving Victorino involves his role in an unbelievably crowded outfield.

There’s Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Yoenis Cespedes, Hanley Ramirez, Daniel Nava, Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt. Yet, as far as Victorino is concerned, there should be one constant that provides some outfield certainty heading into 2015 — the soon-to-be 34-year-old playing right field at Fenway Park.

“If you think there’s somebody better in right, be my guest,” he said. “Obviously health will dictate that. But if I’m healthy if there’s a better outfielder in right field then show me and go out there and do it. I’m not saying that in a cocky or arrogant way. It’s just how confident I am to know I should be the starting right fielder. There are things to come into play and situations to be discussed. I plan on being healthy and out there and ready to go. Like I said, it’s my job. I don’t think there’s anybody can tell me differently. If they feel there is from an organization’s standpoint it is what it is. As I’ve said, whatever uniform it may be I’m going to go out there and give 100 percent and be the best I can be. Obviously I want it to be a Red Sox uniform and be a right fielder, but I can’t control decisions that are made from up top.”

Victorino — who is on the final season of a three-year, $39 million deal — then added regarding the perceived outfield competition, “It’s part of the business. Yeah, some of the things that are discussed in terms of contracts and length of contracts, as a player or as a fan who follows what’s going on you sit there and say less than a year ago they weren’t going to do these kind of things. Teams do change. But as I said, that’s their decision. That’s a business decision. It’s not our decision to worry and ponder about. As a baseball player I’m focused on being healthy and be ready to go. I’m not worried about what guys are getting and what contracts are signed. You worry about those kind of things then that takes another element away from your focus of being the best player you can be.”

It’s not a stretch to identify Victorino as the team’s best all-around outfielder when healthy. In 2013, he provided Gold Glove defense while finishing with 15 home runs, 21 stolen bases, a .294 batting average and an .801 OPS in 122 games.

Last season, however, back and hamstring issues limited Victorino to just 30 games, leading to the season-ending operation. It was a nightmare that began on the third day of spring training and has left the former switch-hitter (now hitting exclusively righty) having to stake claim to his former lot in life once again.

Yet, as far as the outfielder is concerned, if all things go as planned health-wise the days leading into the ’15 season shouldn’t be approached any differently than those heading into his team’s world championship-winning campaign two years before.

“I never try to impress anybody. I’m not out there to impress anybody,” he said. “Do I want to get myself as close to game motion and process? Yes, that’s what spring training. But I always say it’s not about the results of spring training and what happens there. It’s about being ready for April 5, to be ready for that first game in Philly. That’s what I’m focused on. I plan on being ready to go on Day 1 in spring training and be as healthy and at 100 percent as best I can.”

Ben Cherington on D&C: Yoenis Cespedes ‘in our plans for next year’

11.26.14 at 10:13 am ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday to discuss Boston’€™s most recent offseason acquisitions. To hear the segment, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

With the Red Sox‘ signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is in a precarious situation. He was acquired in a trade at the non-waiver deadline in July, but he could be on his way out in a trade this offseason because Ramirez is expected to start in his position. Cherington tried to downplay the urgency to move the Cuban outfielder.

Said Cherington: “We acquired him at the deadline in the [Jon] Lester trade because we felt that was the best deal at the time, we still feel that way. He’€™s in our plans for next year and his versatility and skill in the outfield and gives us the flexibility, could play any of the three positions. We’€™ll just see what the rest of the offseason brings. We have a long way to go, and as we get to January, closer to spring training, we’€™ll know more about who’€™s here and how it all adds up.”

Pablo Sandoval signed a reported five-year, $95 million contract. With the production he’€™s had over his career and the fact that two other teams were bidding on the third baseman, Cherington said the final contract fell in line with what he thought it be before Sandoval signed.

“It ended up being about in the neighborhood where we thought,” Cherington said. “Again, given his age, his sort of platform and what he’€™s done in the postseason and everything about him. And then the fact that he’€™s done it in a major market, he was going to get attention, there was going to be competition and we felt like he would end up in the neighborhood he ended up. It just so happened that the three teams involved in the end were all pretty much in that same neighborhood, and we’€™re obviously very happy he chose us.”

Before the 2013 World Series run, the Red Sox landed Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino on three-year deals. This time it took two more years to get Sandoval. Cherington said age played a role in the contract differences.

Said Cherington: “First of all, every guy is different, and I think most if not all of the contracts two offseasons ago were with guys past 30. … In Sandoval’€™s case he’€™s 28, so the calculus is a little bit different. … The other thing is, the market is changing. Every year for every player in baseball, contracts continue to move, the dollars continue to move. So you have to adjust to that. What was valued three years ago is different. Every year we’€™re trying to build the best team we can and end up finding the players that fit into that plan.”

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Pablo Sandoval part of new ‘3 Amigos,’ not thinking about taking DH job from David Ortiz

11.25.14 at 11:10 pm ET
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Ever since meeting David Ortiz in the minor leagues in 2008, Pablo Sandoval has always had a tight relationship with the Red Sox slugger.

Now, that relationship figures to get even tighter.

Sandoval was playing for San Francisco’s Double-A team in Richmond, Va. when he met Ortiz, who was rehabbing a wrist injury with the Portland Sea Dogs. There was a story circulating that the two had dinner last week and that Ortiz spent the evening recruiting him. Sandoval set the record straight Tuesday.

“It’s false that we had dinner last time I was in town,” Sandoval said. “It’s not even true. I was talking to him. He gave me advice [in the minors] that I always carry with me and don’t forget those things. Now that I’m here, and we do a Pepsi commercial together. He’s just a funny guy. To be his teammate is going to be exciting, to be 162 games, postseason, it’s going to be very exciting to spend time with him.

“The only thing we talked about was it’s a great organization. They take care of your family first. That’s one of those things that made my decision clearly when I came here last year to meet with Ben. It’s one those things that he told me, family is first [in Boston]. That’s what care about. That’s why I love to be a Red Sox now.”

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John Henry isn’t averse to blowing through luxury tax threshold; ‘Hopeful’ about Jon Lester agreement

11.25.14 at 8:04 pm ET
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John Henry

John Henry

John Henry offered some clarity Tuesday as to where the Red Sox might go from here when it comes to their offseason approach.

Following the press conference to introduce new left fielder Hanley Ramirez, the Red Sox principal owner said that he was not averse to blowing through the $189 million luxury tax threshold this offseason.

The comment was notable considering the Red Sox would need to reach such financial heights if they were to commit to signing a top tier free agent pitcher, such as Jon Lester. The last time the team went past the threshold was 2011.

(The team’€™s payroll currently stands at approximately at $182 million.)

“The way it’€™s structured we can blow through one year,” Henry said. “Again for next year we have tremendous flexibility so we could go could through for one year and not overly affect us.”

In regards to Lester, Henry made it clear that the pursuit of the free agent pitcher is a top priority for the Red Sox, responding to the question of whether or not he was optimistic about signing the lefty with, “I am. I’€™m hopeful.”

When asked about the email sent to WEEI.com by one of Lester’€™s agents, Seth Levinson, saying that the Red Sox had shown ‘€œgreat respect’€ during the ownership group’€™s visit to the pitcher, Henry said, ‘€œI don’€™t know that it sends a signal. I guess the signal it sends is there’€™s never been a problem between Jon and the organization either way. He’€™s been a huge part of what we’€™ve accomplished here and I think when we went to see him a large part of our presentation was finishing that legacy. We’€™re hopeful he can do that.”

Henry did add regarding how the Lester market is unfolding, ‘€œI don’€™t think we have any idea what the market is with regard to any other team.’€

Other Henry items:

On if the Red Sox need a proven top tier, front of the rotation starting pitcher

“That’€™s our strongest suit in the minor leagues. We have great strength in pitching coming up. But obviously we’€™re doing everything we can to sign a top tier pitcher, Jon Lester. And hopefully he’€™ll come back.”

On the thought that the Red Sox have broken from a philosophy of shying away from long-term deals

“That was really overblown because one comment quoting a study which says more about the structure of major league compensation. Players aren’€™t compensated that well in their 20’€™s. They have to get to free agency, so almost by definition you’€™re going to get more bang for your buck when a player is in his 20’€™s. That’€™s just the way the structure is set up. That doesn’€™t mean you’€™re not going to go out and sign 30-year old players. You can’€™t win unless you engage in free agency. We always engage in free agency. After the ‘€™12 and ‘€™14 season, we had such a flexibility during the offeseason that we went into the free agency market both time for 30 year olds. I don’€™t see that as a departure. But I understand because so much was made as if we were never going to have a long-term contract. We were never going to sign a 30-year-old. I thought that was a little much to assume. ‘€¦ We signed Dustin to a long-term deal.”

On if the signings of Sandoval and Ramirez will have an affect on their approach to expensive free agent pitching.

“Will it affect it? No. It’€™ll make it more competitive perhaps because we’€™ve taken a lot of the offense off the market. But I think that was going to happen whether we were successful or not.”

On the risk of signing Sandoval and Ramirez

“I think the risk of doing nothing was much larger. Again, Ben striking early in the process was key to the offseason. Now we can concentrate on pitching because we’€™re so deep offensively and defensively. I think we’€™re in good shape at this point.”

Ben Cherington: Hanley Ramirez signing makes outfield trade more likely

11.25.14 at 7:57 pm ET
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There’s a crowd.

The addition of Hanley Ramirez to an outfield group that already included Rusney Castillo, Yoenis Cespedes, Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, Daniel Nava, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. suggests that the Red Sox have more outfielders than reasonably can fit into a roster. Does that necessitate a trade?

“I don’t know that we have to [make a trade]. I think this increases the likelihood that we will,” said Red Sox GM Ben Cherington. “There’s a way to make it all fit. [The Ramirez signing] probably increases the likelihood that we do and we’ll just see what’s available to us. We’ve had a lot of interest in our guys already. We’ll see what comes now that these moves have been made. We know we have to add to the rotation. I think we have to be open-minded in how we do that. We have to be willing to look at all sorts of different options, trade or free agency. So we feel we’re in a position to do that and we don’t know where that will land and what it will look like, but by the time we get to spring training, I’m confident we’ll be able to do some stuff.”

The likeliest avenue for the Sox, of course, would be an effort to address their rotation in a trade, though Cherington said that the Sox will still explore both trades and free agency to round out a rotation that, for now, only includes the penciled-in names of Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly.

“I think we felt like we could look at a pretty broad array of options on the pitching end even before today and before these deals. I think we feel like we’re in a strong position to pursue all sorts of pitching options either through trade or free agency,” said Cherington. “We have a little better idea than we did even at the GM meetings as to what those possibilities are, but we’re also not on the doorstep on anything. So I’m sure we’ll spend a lot of time over the next several days and into the winter meetings working on that.”

Pablo Sandoval came to Boston because he wanted a ‘new challenge’

11.25.14 at 6:14 pm ET
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There were no hard feelings or expressions of disrespect coming from Pablo Sandoval Tuesday at his introductory news conference inside the State Street Pavilion at Fenway Park. The reason the free agent third baseman said he chose Boston was a simple one.

“I want a new challenge,” said Sandoval. “I made that choice to be here in Boston because I need a new challenge. The legacy they have here. To show them the fan support they have here. That’s what I wanted to make sure I made the right decision. It took me a long time but I’m happy to show the fans all the support they gave to this team. Now I want to show I came here to give them the support to go into the postseason again.”

Of course, the Red Sox did make it worth his while financially. As Alex Speier reported, Sandoval, with the help of his brother and agent Michael, agreed to a $95 million deal with a breakdown as follows: $3 million signing bonus and $17 million in 2015-17; in 2018 and 2019 he earns $18 million. Cherington confirmed Tuesday that there is also a club option for 2020, believed to be worth $17 million in 2020 with a $5 million buyout. The Giants offered a similar package in terms of dollars, and a sixth year option.

But there were reports Monday night that Sandoval left San Francisco because he was disrespected by the offer from the Giants and their concern over his weight. Sandoval denied those Tuesday.

‘€œIt was a tough decision for me,’€ Sandoval said. ‘€œIt took me a long time to be sure that I was going to make the right decision. This is similar, but the Giants gave me the opportunity to be in the big leagues. Opened the door, teach me how to respect the game. The Giants fans, one of the best, but in that time I want to close the cycle that I got there.
Pablo Sandoval has arrived in Boston.”

The 28-year-old Sandoval has only known the National League Giants as his home in his first seven big league seasons, winning World Series in three of the last five seasons, 2010, 2012, and 2014. The Giants showed their appreciation in a statement Monday.

“He has been with us through some of the greatest moments in San Francisco Giants history — including all three World Series championships. We will never forget his World Series MVP performance in 2012 and his numerous contributions to the 2014 championship. His connection with Giants fans — young and old — is truly special, and he will be greatly missed. We wish him nothing but the best in Boston.”
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John Farrell: Yoenis Cespedes a consideration in center or right field

11.25.14 at 3:59 pm ET
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Yoenis Cespedes could be a consideration for center or right field in 2015. (Getty Images)

Yoenis Cespedes could be a consideration for center or right field in 2015. (Getty Images)

Hanley Ramirez has been signed to play left field. So what does that mean for the Red Sox‘ season-ending left fielder?

In the case of Yoenis Cespedes, manager John Farrell said that the Sox have begun talking about the possibility of a move to another position. As news of the Sox’ signing of Ramirez circulated, Farrell said that the team reached out to Cespedes to explore that very possibility, and that the 29-year-old proved receptive to it.

“We had a chance to speak to him yesterday. To his credit, he’€™s just eager to do whatever is needed by this team,” said Farrell. “He’€™s showing that he’€™s a complete team player. And we’€™re excited to have his versatility be at our disposal at those other two spots, whether it’€™s center, right, we’€™ll determine that once we get to camp.”

Though Cespedes only played left field with the Red Sox, he has played at least some center in each of his three big league seasons, with roughly 20 percent of his career outfield innings spent in center. The Sox viewed him as a potential right fielder at the time of their acquisition of him based on his range and strong throwing arm. As of now, the team is hoping to look at Cespedes at both positions. Read the rest of this entry »

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John Farrell: Red Sox ‘are making every attempt’ to bring back Jon Lester

11.25.14 at 2:57 pm ET
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It comes as little surprise to see Red Sox manager John Farrell beaming at the shape that his 2015 lineup is starting to take. With Pablo Sandoval — a wrecking ball against right-handed pitchers — at third base and Hanley Ramirez (who hammers both lefties and righties) now slated to join the middle of the team’s lineup, the run-starved days of 2014 should prove far less frequent next season.

“We’€™ve made two very good additions, no doubt, particularly before [when] you’€™d sense the free agent market really coming into shape. [GM Ben Cherington] has done a great job of being able to add these two players before Thanksgiving,” said Farrell. “When you consider Hanley in left, Yoenis [Cespedes] in either center or right, you begin to look at power bats in a number of different positions and this is a really deep lineup as we stand today.”

Still, while the lineup (with that intriguing proposition of Cespedes at a different spot in the outfield) is now well-defined, Farrell acknowledged that the Sox’ offseason work is incomplete.

“What remains throughout the offseason is still an interesting proposition. … We’€™ve got a ways to go through this offseason,” said Farrell. “We’€™ve got complete trust in what Ben and his staff are doing. Clearly, there’€™s two prime pieces of evidence to suggest that. We’€™ve got work to be done, we’€™ve got additions to be made. So there’€™s going to be a number of things that are going to be interesting to follow here throughout the winter.”

Foremost among those will be the vacancy sign that hovers over 60 percent of the Red Sox rotation, with curiosity looming about whether the Red Sox might be able to bring Jon Lester back into the fold. Farrell acknowledged that the Sox are doing what they can to bring back the left-hander, though declined to handicap the likelihood of a return. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: John Farrell, Jon Lester,

Red Sox designate Ryan Lavarnway, Juan Francisco for assignment

11.25.14 at 12:52 pm ET
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Ryan Lavarnway

Ryan Lavarnway

In order to clear a roster spot for Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, the Red Sox announced that they had designated catcher/first baseman Ryan Lavarnway and Juan Franciscofor assignment.

Lavarnway, 27, a sixth-round draft pick out of Yale in 2008, split the 2014 season between Triple-A Pawtucket and the big leagues. He played nine games in the big leagues, going 0-for-10, and in 97 career big league games, he has a .201/.249/.315 line with five homers.

While that major league track record is modest, Lavarnway has a long track record in the minors of hitting for average and getting on base, with a career .283/.375/.479 line in the minors. That said, after he posted consistently strong power numbers from 2009-11 (an average of 25 homers a year in the minors), he hit just 15 homers over the last three years in the minors, resulting in his former status as one of the top prospects in the Sox system dimming to the point where he represented a depth option on the fringes of the 40-man roster. With no remaining minor league options and with a number of options in front of him at first base and catcher, he thus became a roster casualty to clear the way for Sandoval.

The 27-year-old Francisco had been claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays Wednesday. In 2014, the lefty hitter played in 106 major league games for the Jays, hitting .220, 16 doubles, 16 homers and 43 RBI.

For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

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Pablo Sandoval’s contract terms

11.25.14 at 12:43 pm ET
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According to an industry source, here are the terms of Pablo Sandoval’s five-year, $95 million deal with the Red Sox that includes a team option for a sixth season:

Signing bonus: $3 million

2015: $17 million

2016: $17 million

2017: $17 million

2018: $18 million

2019: $18 million

2020: Team option – $17 million ($5 million buyout)

The bonus and buyout factor into the $95 million guarantee and give the deal a $19 million average annual value for the next five years for luxury tax purposes. If Sandoval is still playing at a high level at the end of the deal, then his option — which would come at a $12 million marginal cost (and as calculated for AAV purposes in 2020) could hold considerable appeal for Sandoval’s age 33 season.

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