Archive for November, 2009

Sox Hire Lovullo as New PawSox Manager

Monday, November 30th, 2009

The Red Sox have hired Torey Lovullo as their new manager of Triple A Pawtucket, replacing Ron Johnson, who was promoted last week from PawSox manager to the first-base coach on the Red Sox’ big-league coaching staff.

Lovullo has spent the last four years managing the Triple A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, and spent the last eight seasons as a manager in the Indians system, working with current Sox pitching coach (and former Indians farm director) John Farrell, as well as current Sox farm director (and former Indians assistant farm director) Mike Hazen. The 44-year-old was a finalist to replace Indians manager Eric Wedge this offseason, but was bypassed in favor of Manny Acta.

Lovullo has cited Terry Francona as his biggest influence as a manager. He played his final major-league season, in 1999, under Francona in Philadelphia.

Here is the official press release announcing Lovullo as manager and Gerald Perry as hitting coach for Pawtucket:

The Boston Red Sox today announced that Torey Lovullo has been named manager of the club’€™s Triple-A Pawtucket affiliate. Additionally, the club announced Gerald Perry will serve as the PawSox hitting coach.

The announcements were made by Director of Player Development Mike Hazen.

Lovullo, 44, was at the helm of the Cleveland Indians Triple-A club for the last four seasons and has managed in the Indians system for eight seasons overall since 2002. He has compiled a 595-531 (.528) record while leading Single-A Columbus (2002), Single-A Kinston (2003-04), Double-A Akron (2005) and Triple-A Buffalo (2006-08) and Columbus (2009). Lovullo was named Baseball America Double-A Manager of the Year and Eastern League Manager of the Year in 2005 and also earned Carolina League Manager of the Year honors in 2004. He joined the Cleveland organization in 2001 as a roving coordinator.

A fifth-round pick by the Detroit Tigers in the 1987 draft, Lovullo played parts of eight Major League seasons with the Tigers (1988-89), New York Yankees (1991), California Angels (1993), Seattle Mariners (1994), Oakland Athletics (1996), Indians (1998) and Philadelphia Phillies (1999). Primarily a second baseman, he hit .224 (165-for-737) with 15 home runs and 60 RBI in 303 career Major League games.

Perry, 49, was the Chicago Cubs hitting coach for parts of the last three seasons from 2007-June 2009. He has also served as the Major League hitting coach for the Mariners (2000-02), Pittsburgh Pirates (2003-05) and Athletics (2006). Perry previously spent three seasons in the Boston organization as a minor league hitting coach with Single-A Michigan (1997) and Triple-A Pawtucket (1998) and was the club’€™s minor league hitting coordinator in 1999.

Selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 11th round of the 1978 June Draft, Perry played parts of 13 Major League seasons with the Braves (1983-89), Kansas City Royals (1990) and St. Louis Cardinals (1991-95). He hit .265 (832-for-3,144) with 59 home runs and 396 RBI in 1,193 career Major League games. Predominantly a first baseman, Perry was selected to the National League All-Star Team in 1988.

Cora close to deal with Mets

Monday, November 30th, 2009

According to a source familiar with the negotiations, former Red Sox infielder Alex Cora is close to a one-year deal with a vesting option for  second with the New York Mets. The deal, which would guarantee the 34-year-old the same $2 million he made in ’09 during at least the initial year of the contract, is expected to be finalized upon Cora passing a physical.

Cora played in 82 games with the Mets in ’09 before injuries cut short his season. He hit .251 for the season, playing 56 games at shortstop, 19 at second base and one at first base.

Cora spent most of the year trying to play with torn ligaments in both thumbs. His right thumb was the first to endure injury in mid-May, and his production steadily declined over the year. With Jose Reyes out, Cora became the Mets’ primary shortstop early in the year, hitting .333 with a .435 OBP and .886 OPS in 66 plate appearances prior to his right thumb injury. After returning from the D.L., he hit .232/.290/.277/.567 before undergoing season-ending surgery in mid-August. He ended 2009 with a .251/.320/.310/.630 line.

Cora played in parts of four seasons with the Red Sox before becoming a free agent following the 2008 season. Though the Red Sox are still in the market for a shortstop, they did not express interest in bringing Cora back to Boston.

Poll: Gonzalez or Scutaro?

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Last Wednesday, shortstop Alex Gonzalez signed a one-year, $2.75 million with the Blue Jays that includes a $2.5 million team option for the 2010 season. That closed the door to the shortstop’s return to Boston; Gonzalez had been told by the Sox that Boston was prepared to offer him $3 million to return next year if, by the winter meetings, the club had not found a better option.

Marco Scutaro is the consensus best shortstop available in free agency. Many have weighed in with their opinions about whether the Sox would have been better off re-signing Gonzalez, or if they would be a better team in 2010 with Scutaro signed as a shortstop. (For Rob Bradford’s breakdown of Scutaro’s position, click here. For Lou Merloni’s analysis of the two, click here.)

What do you think?

Would the Sox have been better off re-signing Alex Gonzalez, or are they best served by seeing Gonzalez walk and replacing him with Marco Scutaro?

  • The Sox needed Gonzalez - his departure is devastating (54%)
  • Forget Gonzalez - they'll be better with Scutaro (26%)
  • Neither - the team should look elsewhere (20%)
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Cross Josh Johnson Off the Winter Shopping List?

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

In a recent interview with radio station 790 The Ticket in Miami, Florida Marlins GM Michael Hill said that his club will not trade right-hander Josh Johnson this offseason. In comments relayed by MLB.com, Hill said that he could say “with certainty” that Johnson, who went 15-5 with a 3.23 ERA in 2009, will open the 2010 season in the Marlins rotation.

Johnson and the Marlins broke off discussions about a long-term deal this offseason. Though Johnson will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2011 season, his salary will escalate through the arbitration process in each of the next two years. As such, there appeared a chance that the Marlins might make the right-hander available in a trade, much as they did in the offseason following the 2005 season with Josh Beckett.

But, based on Hill’s comments, it would appear that the Marlins are more inclined to keep Johnson until at least the start of the season. That does not preclude the team from dealing him either during the season or next offseason, when his value would undoubtedly remain enormous. There is little question that if the 2009 All-Star is made available, that virtually every team in the majors — including the Red Sox — will investigate what it would take to acquire the right-hander.

“From the standpoint of Josh’s future, and how he fits, and how attractive he looks, no matter what his situation is, he’s a good player, and a good pitcher,” Hill told the radio station. “I don’t ever think there would be a shortage of teams that would want to have him on their team, and we’re very fortunate to have him as a member of the Marlins.”

Where It Stands with Scutaro

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

The Red Sox shortstop situation was infused with some potential positive news for the team on Saturday.

Two days after news came out that Alex Gonzalez would be signing with the Blue Jays, Marco Scutaro — thought to be a target of the Red Sox to replace Gonzalez — was quoted by Venezuelan reporter Augusto Cardenas as saying that four teams — the Rangers, Mariners, Dodgers, and Red Sox — have all shown interest in him.

Scutaro went on to say that he preferred the Red Sox and Dodgers at this point because of their potential to reach the postseason, and that he hopes to define his situation sometime after Dec. 1. None of the teams, the 34-year-old was quoted as saying, has made a formal offer. Scutaro explained that the Dodgers are interested in him playing second base — his primary position in the minors, and a spot where he spent about half of his defensive time as recently as 2008 with the Blue Jays — while the Red Sox are looking at him as a shortstop, with the other organizations perhaps identifying him as a third baseman.

Since the report came out, Texas general manager Jon Daniels was quoted by the Dallas News as saying the Rangers have no interest in acquiring Scutaro as a third baseman to replace Michael Young. There would be presumably no other place to fit Scutaro, with Elvis Andrus at shortstop and All-Star Ian Kinsler at second.

“We haven’t inquired about anyone for 3B and have no plans to,” Daniels wrote in an email to the Dallas News. “End of story.”

Scutaro is a ‘Type A’ free agent, meaning that any team that signs him would have to forfeit a draft pick, assuming Toronto offers arbitration to the shortstop by Dec. 1. After the signing of Gonzalez, and given the interest from other teams in the free-agent market, it is not expected that Scutaro will accept the Blue Jays’ offer of arbitraiton.

The Red Sox had told Gonzalez that they were prepared to offer him a one-year, $3 million deal, but that he would have to wait until the Winter Meetings to do so. The Meetings start on Dec. 7, which is also the last day players have to decide whether or not they are going to accept arbitration.

By that date, the Sox will know whether they are likely to net a draft pick from reliever Billy Wagner, another Type A free agent who is all but certain to receive an arbitration offer from the Sox.

(Wagner’s agent, Bean Stringfellow, told WEEI.com Wednesday that he fully expected his client would be offered arbitration by the Red Sox, and isn’t ruling out a return to Boston.

‘€œBilly is absolutely, believe or not, open to going back to Boston,’€ Stringfellow said. It was Wagner, the agent said, that listed the Red Sox as one of the teams he would be open to signing with when Stringfellow met with his client immediately after the regular season ended. ‘€œIf you asked me if he would be open to returning to Boston right after the season ended I would say there was no chance. But he’€™s the one that brought it up to me,’€ he said. ‘€œHe shared some stories that gave him comfort there in Boston that made him feel like he could come back there. It was one of the most positive experiences that he ever had.’€)

The Red Sox presumably set the timetable for the offer to Gonzalez to pursue what they deemed more desirable shortstop options, one of whom figures to be Scutaro. Gonzalez, in turn, decided to take the sure offer of Toronto’s one-year, $2.75 million guarantee for 2010, with a $2.5 million option for 2011.

Many fans have been critical of the Red Sox in the wake of Gonzalez’ departure, feeling the 32-year-old’s defensive abilities made him difficult to replace. But according to baseball executives, coaches and players who have worked with Scutaro, the 34-year-old is at least comparable with Gonzalez defensively, with one general manager giving Scutaro the slight edge.

“His hands are as good as any hands I’ve ever coached in major league baseball, and I’ve been in the big leagues for 14 years and I’ve had the opportunity to be around some great infielders,” said Blue Jays third base and infielders coach Brian Butterfield when appearing on the Mut and Bradford Show, Friday.

“This guy has no panic in his hands and he’s going to catch the ball. He’s very intelligent. He is 34 years old, but he takes great care of himself. He’s got a youthful body and he cares about baseball. A lot of times you look over at the other side of the field and you can see the skill, the arm strength, the running, the quickness, the ability to catch the ball, the ability to get it in the air. But a lot of times as a scout or being on the other side you don’t get a chance to get to know the player. But having had Marco I can assure you he cares about the game, he’s very popular among his teammates, he’s got an infectious personality, his teammates gravitate to him, and he does a lot of things on a baseball that help you win the game.”

Butterfield said that, if given the chance, he would have voted for Scutaro for the American League Gold Glove. Another advocate of Scutaro’s abilities is Blue Jays infielder John McDonald, who came up through the minor leagues with the former second baseman.

“Last year I think he played one of the best shortstops (in baseball) for the first five months, until he hurt his heel,” said McDonald on the Mut and Bradford Show, referencing Scutaro’s battle plantar fasciitis. “He was tremendous playing defense … I thought last year (Scutaro and Gonzalez) were very comparable.”

Alex Gonzalez Signs With Toronto

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Eric Goldschmidt, agent for shortstop Alex Gonzalez, confirmed in a text that Gonzalez signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays last night. The news was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford learned that Gonzalez will make $2.75 million next year, with the Jays holding a $2.5 million option for 2011.

Gonzalez, who was the Red Sox starting shortstop after Boston acquired him from Cincinnati in a trade in mid-August,  hit .284 with a .316 OBP and .453 slugging mark in 44 games for the Sox this year, his second stint with the club.

The Sox declined Gonzalez’ $6 million mutual option for the 2010 season, but did have interest in bringing him back for less guaranteed money. Boston said that they would offer the shortstop $3 million to return, but that he would have to wait for the winter meetings. But Gonzalez elected not to wait, instead going with the bird in hand from the Jays.

While the team viewed his defense as having provided a significant upgrade down the stretch, the team did harbor concerns about the lineup impact of a player with a career .294 OBP.

“At a time of the year when we had a lot of moving parts at shortstop, he was really a stabilizing force. When the ball was hit, you’€™re out. Nobody more than myself, I appreciated I a lot, because we had a lot of moving parts. Going forward, to have him back, from our front office’€™s side, if we could get him back at the right price, yeah. We would enjoy that,” explained manager Terry Francona in a visit to the Dale & Holley Show a week ago. “The thing to remember with Gonzy, what he did the last six weeks of the season was really helpful. [But] when you look at that .310 on-base percentage, for a full year, if that’€™s what you’€™re going to go with, you’€™ve got to recoup that somewhere else. That’€™s something to think about.”

The Boston Herald, meanwhile, is reporting that the Red Sox are “at or near the top” of the list of preferred destinations for Marco Scutaro, according to Scutaro’s agent, Peter Greenberg. Scutaro, who played shortstop for the Blue Jays in 2009, is believed to be seeking a three-year deal.

Red Sox acquire Hulett from Royals

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

This just sent in from the Red Sox:

The Red Sox today acquired infielder Tug Hulett from the Kansas City Royals for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

Hulett, 26, went 2-for-18 (.111) with one RBI in 15 games for the Royals last season. He appeared in five games at second base (two starts), but also saw time at third base (one game), shortstop (one game), left field (one game) and right field (two games). The left-handed hitter spent the majority of 2009 at Kansas City’s Triple-A Omaha affiliate where he hit .291 (109-for-374) with 11 home runs and 53 RBI in 99 games.

Originally selected by the Texas Rangers in the 14th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, Hulett owns a .194 (13-for-67) batting average with one homer and three RBI in 45 career Major League contests with the Seattle Mariners (2008) and Royals (2009). He is the son of former Major League infielder Tim Hulett.

Agent: Red Sox still in the mix for Wagner

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Bean Stringfellow, the agent for reliever Billy Wagner, told WEEI.com late Wednesday afternoon that eight teams have shown interest his client, and has been told by a few of the interested clubs that Wagner will be presented with offers sometime next week. All of the teams have approached Wagner with the intention of using him as their closer, said Stringfellow.

The agent also reiterated that the one team which Wagner could land with that wouldn’t be using him as a closer is the Red Sox, who Stringfellow said he has “no doubt” will offer the pitcher arbitration.

“Billy is absolutely, believe or not, open to going back to Boston,” Stringfellow said. It was Wagner, the agent said, that listed the Red Sox as one of the teams he would be open to signing with when Stringfellow met with his client immediately after the regular season ended. “If you asked me if he would be open to returning to Boston right after the season ended I would say there was no chance. But he’s the one that brought it up to me,” he said. “He shared some stories that gave him comfort there in Boston that made him feel like could come back there. It was one of the most positive experiences that he ever had.”

If the Red Sox offer Wagner arbitration and he signs with another team, the Sox will receive two draft picks. Dec. 7 is the deadline for players to accept or reject arbitration. Stringfellow feels Wagner will have enough offers in hand prior to that date that an informed decision can be made by the pitcher in regards to a possible return to the Red Sox.

The Boston Herald first reported the reliever’s willingness to potentially accept arbitration from the Red Sox.

Why Roy Halladay is a priority

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

The New York Daily News reported late Tuesday night that the Red Sox were going “hard” after Toronto ace Roy Halladay.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

Let’s piece together the reasons why Halladay has become a priority — and can be a reality —  for the Red Sox:

1. The Red Sox already went down that road and have a baseline for what they are willing to give, and what it might take to finish the deal. Toronto general manager Alex Anthopolous said at the General Managers Meetings:  ‘€If it’€™s apples and apples and I get two deals that are exactly the same, certainly I would not prefer to trade within the division. But if I have a stronger deal within the division and it makes this club stronger, that would certainly be the one that I would want to lean to.’€

That said, the Sox value Halladay enough that they might just be willing to give that “stronger deal” Anthopolous talked about. Of course, you have to start with some semblance of major-league value (which would presumably be Clay Buchholz, and/or Daniel Bard), and then dig deep into your farm system (see Casey Kelly). The Sox understand that, because if they didn’t they wouldn’t have gotten their feet in the door the first time around.

2. There is a willingness on the player’s part. Halladay has told the Blue Jays he isn’t inclined to sign an extension with the team, and has the preference of moving on. The Red Sox are on his list of teams to which he would accept a deal. When you have those two pieces in place, momentum can start be gained.

3. Halladay is a not only a short-term solution to competing with the Yankees, but (assuming a contract extension is part of any trade) covers the Red Sox beyond this season as well. The 32-year-old (who turns 33 next May) would presumably be the insurance for the Sox if they choose to part ways with Josh Beckett after next season. Beckett’s contract is up after ’10 and if there is no extension agreed upon before the hurler hits free agency, there is a very real possibility that some team swoops in and presents the kind of commitment the Sox aren’t willing to go to.

Interestingly enough, Halladay is the pitcher Beckett tries to emulate in regards to how he approaches the game, from mound presence to commitment in between starts. This is what Beckett told WEEI.com last July regarding Halladay: ‘€œI like to watch him pitch, although I don’€™t like to watch him pitch against us because he does so well against everybody. I just like the way he approaches his craft. Every one of his pitches are meant for him to swing at, get out and get to the next guy. As far as the mental aspect of the game goes, he’€™s so far ahead of everybody. That’€™s what I like to watch, his competitiveness, how he goes pitch to pitch. He does all the things we’€™re all striving to do. It’€™s just his craft, that’€™s what I like to watch.’€

It is Halladay’s name who Sox strength and conditioning coach Dave Page consistently shouts at Beckett during the Sox’ pitcher’s workouts, insinuating that the Blue Jays’ hurler is outworking everybody else.

Beckett has become the leader of the staff by example, a role nobody knows better than Halladay. He is legendary in baseball circles in terms of the way he, as Beckett explained, “approaches his craft.” It is just another drawing card when it comes to the impetus behind eyeing the Toronto hurler.

4. Because of the circumstances previously mentioned, Halladay is seemingly more attainable than the other pitcher for whom the Sox might unload their farm system, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez. The Mariners don’t have the kind of motivation to trade King Felix that the Jays have in regard to Halladay. And while the Toronto pitcher is appreciably older than Hernandez, the kind of production a team like the Red Sox would be looking for throughout any four- or five-year extension doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon. Even with a lingering groin injury in the second half of ’09, Halladay still finished with 17 wins, a 2.79 ERA and 239 innings.

Since 2006, nobody has thrown more innings than Halladay (930 1/3), but interestingly enough he is ninth overall in terms of pitches thrown during that span (13,331). He is almost always economical with his pitches, not having averaged as many as 15 pitches per inning since 2004. (As a point of reference, Beckett has never been below 15.4 as a full-time major leaguer.)

5. If the Red Sox don’t get Halladay somebody else will, and that somebody might be the Yankees. And as damaging as losing out out on Mark Teixeira to New York was, the American League pendulum swing with any Halladay acquisition might be even greater.

Report: Sox going hard after Halladay

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

According to a report on the New York Daily News’ website, the Red Sox are aggressively pursuing Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, “putting on a full-court press,” according to a source. “They would love to get it wrapped up before the winter meetings [beginning Dec. 7],” the source told the Daily News.

The story notes that the Yankees are planing to meet at their headquarters in Tampa, Fla., next week, at which time general manager Brian Cashman will be given his budget for 2010. Cashman indicated Monday night that he would need to wait until then to start negotiating with free agents, but he also said he would be monitoring the Halladay situation.

Read the Daily News article here. Check back later for more updates.