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The Red Sox and the quest for innings and left-handedness in their starting rotation

12.10.14 at 8:59 pm ET
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SAN DIEGO — In five full big league seasons from 2010-14, Clay Buchholz has averaged 145 innings. In his first season as a full-time big league starter in 2014, Joe Kelly logged 96 1/3 innings. Those are the only two known members of the 2015 Red Sox.

Neither pitcher has a demonstrated, reliable ability to handle a full-season workload of 200 innings. As such, the Red Sox may prioritize pitchers whose track records suggest the potential to do just that.

We always go through an exercise in budgeting, or coming up with a budget number of innings that need to be accounted for,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “You take into account what individual pitchers have done in previous years and what you project them to be able to provide upcoming. We knew going in that there were going to be a couple of spots needed for innings eating and very quality innings pitched. Ideally, if you can get a couple of 200-inning pitchers, they don’€™t go on trees, but that’€™s the goal.”

That might help to explain some of the Sox’ interest in Diamondbacks lefty Wade Miley, who has logged at least 198 innings in each of the last three seasons. The need for innings stability might also have the Sox particularly intrigued by pitchers like Jordan Zimmermann (203 innings a year for the last three years) and Rick Porcello (who threw 200 innings for the first time in 2014 but has never been on the DL). Other potential targets such as free agents James Shields (averaging an astounding 233 innings a year over the last four years) and Ervin Santana (averaging 207 innings a year for the last five seasons) might gain prominence as Sox targets for the same reason.

Ideally, the Red Sox would like to add a left-hander to their rotation as well given that, for now, their only two starters (and, in all likelihood, all the candidates for the fifth starter’s spot) are right-handed. However, Farrell suggested that the necessity of having a lefty in the rotation has diminished in recent years in the American League East.

I think you always like to have that at your disposal to match up or to map out your rotation how it might fall depending on the upcoming schedule,” said Farrell. “[But] when you look at what’€™s changing in our division, this once was and just was a few years ago a very left-handed hitting division. That’€™s shifting, when you see the changes that have gone in Toronto, in Baltimore, probably with some changes that still might take place down in Tampa, that might be the case as well, you’€™re seeing a little bit more right-handed offense starting to emerge in other cities.”

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Read More: 2014 winter meetings, John Farrell, Jon Lester,

Ben Cherington on Red Sox’ rotation outlook: ‘We’ll be able to put together a good pitching staff’

12.10.14 at 5:24 pm ET
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SAN DIEGO — Ben Cherington’s 30-minute media session at the winter meetings on Wednesday morning served two purposes. The Red Sox GM both articulated his view of the negotiations that took place between his team and Jon Lester (both about an extension in spring training and a free agent contract after the season) and offered his view of where things stand in the team’s quest to address the ill-defined shape of its rotation.

As much as the team was disappointed not to be able to retain Lester, Cherington expressed optimism that the team will be able to round out its rotation in a way that will produce a contending team for 2015.

“We’re going to add pitching. It’s not a matter of desperation. It’s a matter of when and how. I don’t know if it’s tomorrow or next week or January. We will add pitching, and there’s still a lot out there,” said Cherington. “Red Sox fans want a winning team. They deserve a winning team. And that’s our aim: To provide that. We feel confident we will. There’s a lot of different ways to do that. We’ve got a great talent base already. We’re going to be able to add to it. I think when there’s connection to a player, in this case, he wasn’t with us at the end of the year but there’s still that connection and now we’re in free agency. We understand that that can be difficult to fans who have a connection. Ultimately, we’re confident we’re going to put a really good team on the field and it’s going to be a team that our fans like watching and it’s going to win games. There’s going to be a connection to some other player. Those connections will grow in time. …

“We’re going to add pitching,” he added. “We still don’t know when that will happen, what the names will be. We’re going to add pitching. We’ve been working on it all offseason. We’re closer to it than we were in October and closer to it than we were last week, but we’re also not announcing anything today. So, we’ll see where it all lands. But there’s a lot of options out there still, good pitching out there. And we’re in a great position with the base of talent we have, the resources we have, that we’ll be able to put together a good pitching staff.”

Some other comments by Cherington on the pitching market:

— With Cole Hamels looming as a potential trade candidate, but in possession of the right to veto a trade to the Red Sox after naming them as one of the 20 clubs for which he has no-trade protection, Cherington was asked whether he’d want to deal for a player who used such a clause to restrict the chances of being dealt to the Red Sox. “There’s a lot of possibilities out there. If there are guys that are less interested in being in Boston, then they are. But there are a lot of guys that do want to be in Boston,” said Cherington. “So that’s just part of the process, working through that. I don’t want to comment specifically on any one player, but that would still be our criteria. We want people who want to be here.”

— Cherington suggested that the Sox were willing to pay the necessary price in money or players to acquire rotation solutions. “We went into the offseason knowing that in order to add to the rotation in the way we want to, it’s going to cost something. That will either come in the form of money or talent or sometimes both. It’s just a matter of finding the deals that make sense,” said Cherington. “We’re willing to give up something to add to the rotation. We expect we’ll have to. It’s not that. It’s just, how do we put together the best team for 2015? We are committed to winning in 2015. How do we do that without sort of fundamentally hurting the long term? That’s the work we’re doing. We feel good. We’ll be able to build a pitching staff and build a team that can win and that will have the blocks necessary to win for a long time.”

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, ben cherington, Cole Hamels,

Ben Cherington breaks down the breakdown in Jon Lester negotiations

12.10.14 at 3:54 pm ET
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SAN DIEGO — As the Cubs celebrate the arrival of their ace in Jon Lester, the Red Sox are left to answer for how it came to this — how a pitcher who expressed a desire to spend his career in Boston, even if it meant a hometown discount, ended up heading elsewhere. Looming over that postmortem is the question surrounding the team’s initial four-year, $70 million offer to Lester last spring — an offer that was so far from what the pitcher deemed acceptable that it became, in essence, the end-point of negotiations until Lester arrived at free agency.

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington — who learned late on Tuesday night of Lester’s decision in two conversations, first with agent Seth Levinson and then in a brief phone call with Lester — addressed some of those issues on Wednesday. While he declined to go into the specifics of the team’s offers (either the four-year, $70 million extension proposal in spring training that was meant to be a conversation-starter rather than an endpoint, or the team’s final six-year, $135 million offer this week (the team’s second offer of the free-agent process, according to Cherington, made this week after an initial offer in November following a meeting between Lester and team officials in Atlanta), which came up $20 million short of what the Cubs had on the table), Cherington offered his view of what happened in the talks with Lester.

I think we would have liked to have had more chance for dialogue prior to the season. Why that didn’€™t happen, maybe there’€™s more than one reason. I think we can certainly learn from the process. But we desired to have more dialogue prior to the season and made an effort during the season and weren’€™t able to,” said Cherington. “Then we got into free agency and we’€™re able to do it then. Jon did a lot of great things for the Red Sox. We wish him nothing but the best. We’€™re moving on.”

Here are some highlights of Cherington’s 30-minute media session:


“The problem when pieces of conversations or pieces of information get put out without the whole context of what’€™s going on, it can sort of shape the public narrative. All I can say is that we had a lot of conversations prior to making an offer. I think there was a decent understanding on both sides of where, back in spring training, and during the season, of where the sort of range of both sides were looking. We felt that we could enter into a conversation, and we could start a conversation and that’€™s the only way you get to a deal, is to start a conversation. We just weren’€™t able to have the kind of dialogue back in the spring, or during the season, that we wanted to. as I’€™ve said before, can we learn things from what happened? Sure. Always can. But right now, once you get into free agency, it becomes a different animal. We understand that. Simply put, the Cubs offered more than we did and he made a choice and we respect it and wish him nothing but the best. We go back to focusing on putting our team together and we feel really good about where we are.”

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Read More: 2014 winter meetings, ben cherington, Jon Lester,

Jon Lester to Red Sox Nation: ‘I understand the disappointment’

12.10.14 at 1:31 pm ET
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Hours after accepting a six-year deal to join the Cubs, Jon Lester sent a tweet to fans of the Red Sox in an attempt to soothe some hard feelings.

Wrote Lester: To Red Sox Nation, I understand the disappointment. Boston will always have a big place in my heart and we’ll always consider y’all family!

Continued Lester: Extremely difficult decision for me and my family but we love the outcome and couldn’t be more excited to join the Cubs organization!

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Source: Red Sox showing interest in Diamondbacks pitcher Wade Miley

12.10.14 at 1:16 pm ET
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According to an industry source, the Red Sox have engaged in discussions with the Diamondbacks about the possibility of acquiring left-hander Wade Miley. The Diamondbacks appear to be focused on acquiring pitching in return for the 28-year-old left-hander.

In parts of four seasons, Miley — a 2008 first-rounder — is 38-35 with a 3.79 ERA. He’s thrown at least 194 innings in each of the last three seasons, performing at a level described by one evaluator as a solid No. 4. He’s struck out 7.0 per nine innings in his career, including a career-high 8.4 per nine innings in 2014, though after posting ERAs of 3.33 and 3.54 in 2012 and 2013, Miley had a 4.34 ERA last season.

That said, his numbers were made worse by a putrid Diamondbacks defense, and he’s also spent his career in one of the more difficult home pitching environments in the game. While he is not being viewed by the Sox as a potential top-of-the-rotation replacement for Jon Lester, his career track record suggests a potentially stabilizing rotation presence.

Miley is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time this offseason. He remains under team control for three years before he’ll be eligible for free agency following the 2017 season.

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, wade miley,

Poll: Should Red Sox have upped offer to sign Jon Lester?

12.10.14 at 9:12 am ET
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Jon Lester decided to accept a reported six-year, $155 million deal with the Cubs late Tuesday night. The Red Sox apparently did not offer near that much money.

How do you feel about the Red Sox refusing to match the Cubs’ offer?

Should the Red Sox have upped their offer to sign Jon Lester?

  • No, a six-year, $155 million deal for a 31-year-old pitcher is not smart business (69%)
  • Yes, they have the money and they should have spent it (31%)
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Source: Cubs, Jon Lester agree to 6-year, $155 million deal

12.10.14 at 1:36 am ET
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Jon Lester's Red Sox career is now in the rearview mirror. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Jon Lester‘s Red Sox career now is in the rearview mirror. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO — Almost a year after his proclaimed interest in returning to the Red Sox on a hometown discount, left-hander Jon Lester rejected his former team’s free agent overtures and instead chose to make his baseball home in Chicago with the Cubs, according to an industry source.

Lester agreed to a six-year, $155 million deal, the largest average annual value ($25.83 million) ever given to a pitcher on a multi-year deal in free agency. His deal with the Cubs includes a vesting option for a seventh year. The Sox’ final offer, according to another industry source, was for a six-year, $135 million deal with no seventh-year vesting option.

Lester’s decision followed a weeks-long process of visits with interested teams and two full days at the Major League Baseball winter meetings in which much of the industry’s activity seemed to depend upon his decision.

“You just wait for the white smoke,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon joked on Tuesday afternoon of the wait for Lester’s choice between his team, the Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers. “This is a guy when the game is really big he was always at his best. To possibly get this opportunity to work with him for the first time is very exciting. … [You] can’t have any more respect for a baseball player than we do for him now. For us to be able to pull this off it would be pretty outstanding.”

In choosing to sign with the Cubs, Lester joins a front office with whom he has a great deal of familiarity. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and assistant GM Jason McLeod all have close relationships with the pitcher after spending years with him in the Red Sox system.

A case can be made that the fact Lester chose that group rather than a Sox organization with whom he spent the first 12 years of his career represented a particularly painful dagger for Boston. Lester was the first player drafted under the current Sox owners in 2002 and contributed to two World Series titles, foremost with a dominant performance for the ages in the 2013 postseason.

Lester had made no secret of his desire to return to the Red Sox, stating in no uncertain terms prior to the 2014 season that he would take less than full market value in hopes of remaining with the Sox for his entire career. But when the Sox made an initial four-year, $70 million offer to Lester in spring training, the pitcher and club saw insufficient common ground to continue talks during the season, and Lester didn’t re-open the door to in-season negotiations.

Still, even after the team traded Lester (and Jonny Gomes) to the A’s at the trade deadline for Yoenis Cespedes, the Sox remained adamant that they’d make a run at the pitcher when he arrived at free agency after the season following a 16-11 season in which he had a career-best 2.46 ERA and 220 strikeouts in 219 2/3 innings. That is precisely what they did, with team ownership meeting with him in the Atlanta area in November and principal owner John Henry traveling back to meet with the pitcher one-on-one again last week. The team showed a willingness to go to six years — the longest guarantee ever made under the Henry ownership group.

But ultimately, Lester, 30, opted to be a part of Chicago’s effort to end its 106-year championship drought. The Red Sox, who have two holes in their rotation, must now focus their attentions elsewhere as they pursue a top-of-the-rotation option for 2015 and beyond.

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, cubs, Jon Lester,

Dodgers, Giants informed they are out of Jon Lester sweepstakes

12.09.14 at 9:56 pm ET
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SAN DIEGO — The field is narrowing.

According to a major league source, both the Giants and Dodgers have been informed by Jon Lester that he is no longer being considered as possible landing spots.

Giants assistant general manager Bobby Evans — who told reporters earlier Tuesday that his team was “in the backseat” when it came to the services of Jon Lester — informed the media Tuesday night that Lester had informed San Francisco that it was no longer being considered an option by the free agent pitcher.

Later in the evening, the LA Times reported that the Dodgers were also no longer being considered by Lester.

It is believed that Lester is making a decision between the Red Sox and Cubs.

Check back for more …

Joe Maddon on Jon Lester sweepstakes: ‘Just wait for the white smoke’

12.09.14 at 7:26 pm ET
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SAN DIEGO — Cubs manager Joe Maddon said that he doesn’t know where free agent Jon Lester might end up or when he might make his decision. But the new Chicago skipper, whose club is one of the finalists for the left-hander’s services, said that he soon expects an indication of Lester’s intentions.

“I’m sure it’s not going to be much longer, I don’t think that it would be, but I have no information or knowledge about that. You talk about it, you just wait for the white smoke,” said Maddon. “I hope we win it. My role has been to ‘€‘’€‘ I spoke to him on the phone once. I’ve never spoken to Jon before that, adversarially with the Rays and the Red Sox for many years, always admired his work from a distance. This is a guy when the game is really big he was always at his best. To possibly get this opportunity to work with him for the first time is very exciting. So I honest to God don’t know where this is at right now. I did talk to him before ‘€‘’€‘ I think it was before Thanksgiving, actually. We had a great conversation, again, because I’d never really spoke with him before. It would be a great boon to us to have this come off.

“Can’t have any more respect for a baseball player than we do for him now,” added Maddon, who managed against Lester with the Rays over the last nine seasons. “For us to be able to pull this off it would be pretty outstanding.”

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, Joe Maddon, Jon Lester,

Manager Ryne Sandberg: Phillies would require ‘wow’ factor in return for Cole Hamels

12.09.14 at 6:54 pm ET
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Left-hander Cole Hamels had a 2.46 ERA for the Phillies in 2014 -- the same mark as Jon Lester had for the Red Sox and A's. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

Left-hander Cole Hamels had a 2.46 ERA for the Phillies in 2014 — the same mark as Jon Lester had for the Red Sox and A’s. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO — Need a top-of-the-rotation left-hander? Beyond Jon Lester, the obvious premium option on the market is Cole Hamels.

The Lester and Hamels markets unquestionably are interrelated. Any of the teams — Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants — that are currently engaged on Lester represent obvious potential trade destinations for Hamels if they lose out on him.

As such, according to a source familiar with the Phillies’ thinking, Philadelphia will wait for a full exploration of the Hamels trade market until after Lester signs. At that point, a prospect bidding war could proceed quickly for the 30-year-old, who will represent a $24 million a year average annual salary as calculated for luxury tax purposes over the remaining four years of his contract, with an option for 2018 at $20 million (with an $8 million buyout).

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said that his team would require an enormous haul in order to deal Hamels, who was 9-9 with a career-best 2.46 ERA in 204 2/3 innings in 2014.

“I know with any of these players that [GM Ruben Amaro] wants a deal that’s going to be good for the Philadelphia Phillies going forward. Anyway that he can help the process and add players that can help us not only this next year but in the future, that’s the goal,” said Sandberg. “There’s no way that Ruben’s going to just give away a player.  I mean, we’d have to be wowed to give up a guy like Cole Hamels, which would be a wow that would help us with the process and go in the direction that we want to go. … I’m just waiting to see through this process to see what comes about. Whether Ruben gets wowed or not is yet to be seen. If not, then he’s on our pitching staff, and we build some more starting pitching depth around him.”

Though Hamels has the right to veto trades to 20 teams (reportedly including the Red Sox), the left-hander has told the team that he’d be open to leaving the Phillies. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, Cole Hamels,
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