Archive for December, 2009

Why the Bay Deal Made Sense for Both Sides

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Had Jason Bay re-signed with the Red Sox, the deal likely would have been heralded. The idea that a slugger who seemed to fit perfectly into the Red Sox lineup, ballpark and clubhouse had come to an agreement to return made enormous sense. Through most of 2009, the industry-wide expectation was that the outfielder would be back.

But when that turned out not to be the case, and Bay instead landed with the Mets, the reaction was far less enthusiastic. Suggestions in the aftermath of the four-year, $66 million deal that includes a vesting option that can push the deal to approximately $80 million over five years are widespread that a) the Mets had failed to address their most significant deficiency, b) Bay had no interest in going to the Mets, and only went because no other legitimate options existed, and c) Citi Field is a park that is death to homers and demands defense for the expansive left field, thus diminishing one of Bay’s foremost assets (power) and accentuating one of his chief liabilities (defense).

A few thoughts on each:

–At the start of the offseason, multiple rival executives believed that the Mets wouldn’t get in the bidding for Bay due to their acute need for pitching. And when the Mets arrived at the Winter Meetings, they didn’t necessarily disagree. But New York looked at a landscape in which the top pitcher (John Lackey) was going to command a larger contract than Bay both in years and dollars.

The other free-agent pitchers — hurlers along the lines of Joel Pineiro and Jason Marquis, among others — were looking for the types of commitments that made the gap in annual salary between them and the top-of-the-market players (Bay, Lackey, Matt Holliday) relatively negligible considering the difference in impact.

Given that the health of pitchers in their 30s over a four- or five-year deal is almost always a riskier proposition than that of hitters, and that negotiations for Holliday (with agent Scott Boras) seemed likely to be protracted and filled with demands for Mark Teixeira-type money, Bay represented, to the Mets, a superior balance of risk, impact and investment size.

Even so, the Mets were under no illusions that their pitching staff is without flaws. That said, adding another pitcher would only do so much to boost a staff that has one front-line pitcher (Johan Santana) and a bunch of question marks. Adding a slugger — especially one who with the ability to produce at Citi Field (more on that in a bit) — offered the possibility of transforming the Mets offense from decent (assuming that Jose Reyes returns and approximates his prior career performance) to elite. And the Mets arguably had more room to upgrade their lineup of 2009 than they did their run prevention, since New York scored 671 runs last year, 12th among the 16 N.L. teams. By contrast, the team’s pitching permitted 757 runs, a mark that ranked ninth.

The team felt it looked better with Bay in the lineup than with Lackey in the rotation. And while there is risk on the pitching staff, there have been other recent seasons when the current pitching group has been above average: in 2008, for instance, Santana was brilliant (2.53 ERA), while Mike Pelfrey (3.72), Oliver Perez (4.22) and John Maine (4.18) all had an above-average ERA+. There is no doubt that there are significant question marks looming over Pelfrey, Perez and Maine going forward. But there is also a chance that the trio could be adequate to put the Mets in position where a significant jump in offense (with healthy seasons from Reyes and Carlos Beltran) could be enough to help the team improve significantly.

–The notion that Bay had no — or even limited — interest in the Mets was inaccurate, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. There is little question that Bay’s agent, Joe Urbon, tried to engage other clubs, but that is a common practice in free agency. According to the same source, when the Mets presented their offer, they received assurances of Bay’s interest in going to the team, and the two sides remained in near constant dialogue until an agreement was reached. The suggestion that the two sides experienced a lengthy period of non-contact while Urbon contacted other clubs was inaccurate, with there having been just one day when the two sides were not in contact.

Once the Mets broke the four-year threshold of the Sox’ offer by offering Bay a vesting option for a fifth year, it was reasonable for Bay to see if he could find a contract that included a fifth guaranteed year. Had that happened, the Mets might well have sweetened their offer to include a guaranteed fifth year. But, since there was no evidence of an offer by any other club for more than four years, and since Bay had rejected the Red Sox offer, the Mets could hold to the original framework that they proposed, and finalize the deal by a slight improvement in the guaranteed money and making the vesting option more attractive. (Contrary to some reports, the Mets never offered a deal that featured a guaranteed fifth year.)

And, in some ways, it is only appropriate that Bay would get an extra year based on a vesting option that is dependent on his health. After all, Urbon made the case to clubs that Bay was the durable and productive outfielder on the market. If he is confident of retaining that status, then he should feel confident in achieving the terms of the vesting option.

–As for the Citi Field impact on Bay, time will tell. It may be somewhat premature to characterize the park solely on the basis of its one-year existence.

That said, the Mets found that while the park plays big to the alleys and centerfield, that it is generous to right-handed pull power. The first year at Citi Field featured 10 percent more homers to left field than the average park, according to a source. Bay hit 22 of his 36 homers to left in 2009, another dozen to center and just two to the opposite field.

And, Bay’s power was anything but a byproduct of Fenway Park. Of his 36 homers in 2009, 21 of them came on the road.

While David Wright became a posterboy for the notion that the cavernous Citi Field was death to right-handed power hitters thanks to a precipitous drop from 33 homers in 2008 to 10 in 1009, his first in his new home park, the park does not account for the fact that Wright’s road homer total fell from 12 in 2008 to five in 2009. In many respects, it appears that Wright, in an otherwise strong year (.307 average, .390 OBP), did not drive the ball in a manner consistent with his past performance.

In Bay, the Mets have acquired a player whom they believe can sustain his power numbers in their new park. As for criticisms about Bay’s defense, the Mets believe that they have been exaggerated. Fenway Park, of course, skews the defensive metrics of left fielders. Bay is likely a slightly below average defender in left, but not so poor that his glove would offset his considerable offensive production. If it did, one can bet that the Sox — who believe strongly in defensive metrics, as evidenced by this offseason’s overhaul — wouldn’t have put a four-year, $60 million offer on the table.

–In the end, the Mets decided that Bay represented the safest value-for-dollar player on the high-end of the free-agent scale. Bay, meanwhile, received a contract that includes a guarantee that was 10 percent higher (in total unadjusted dollars) than the last offer made by the Sox, and that includes the possibility of an extra year. Ultimately, that positioned the two sides to reach an agreement.

The wisdom of the deal will be tested over the coming four or five years, but at least initially, the fit between the player and his new club is probably better than what has been characterized. Bay is a player who has managed to thrive regardless of setting, who has adapted well to change throughout his career and who seems to enjoy playing in a charged atmosphere of a major market after years spent in baseball obscurity. The Mets acquired a player who should be able to handle the critical environment and whose game, they believe, will translate well to their park and team.

Looking Back: The Reshaping of the Red Sox

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

(WEEI.com is counting down the ‘€œTop 10 Things We Couldn’€™t Shut Up About In 2009,’€ with the dramatic offseason overhaul of the Red Sox ranking at No. 4. Here is a written, visual and audio look at the team’s decision to replace Jason Bay’s middle-of-the-order thump with a club predicated on elite defense and dominant starting pitching.)

No. 10: Bruins getting bounced by the Hurricanes


No. 9: Garnett’€™s knee injury alters Celtics’€™ fate


No. 8: The drama between Crowley and Gates Jr. and No. 7: The downfall of Steve Phillips

No. 6: The Red Sox reshape at the trade deadline

No. 5: The Manny/A-Rod steroid controversies

No. 4: Goodbye, Bay; Hello, Lackey, Cameron and Scutaro

It shaped up as an offseason that might feature little more than a couple tweks to the status quo. Naturally, the Red Sox would re-sign Jason Bay, a hand-in-glove fit in Boston since his arrival in the deal that spelled the end of Manny Ramirez‘€™ career as a Red Sox.

With a rotation that ran plenty deep ‘€“ with returning co-aces Jon Lester and Josh Beckett flanked by Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield and the emerging Clay Buchholz ‘€“ the Sox, coming off another 95-win season and their sixth playoff berth in seven years ‘€“ seemed like they would face little need for overhaul beyond defining the shortstop position.

The day after the season’€™s conclusion in a three-game sweep against the Angels, Sox G.M. Theo Epstein suggested that it would be difficult to predict the direction of the offseason. He identified defense and road performance as deficiencies that the team would like to address. At the same time, he was reluctant to say whether there would be minor or major overhauls to a 2009 roster that suffered a jarring and unexpected sweep in the Division Series.

‘€œI think [the offseason] could go a number of different directions,’€ said Epstein. ‘€œI think we’€™re always open to change because I think you need change to improve as part of the natural cycle in baseball and in life.

‘€œSometimes the market doesn’€™t bear that out. Sometimes there aren’€™t the right fits, sometimes it’€™s not the right free agent market and sometimes you end up with more status quo than you want. If that’€™s the case, if we look back three or four months from now and say, ‘€˜Wow, there weren’€™t major changes,’€™ then I think next year will be perhaps the last year of this main group of players, we have a lot of players going into contract years next year, I think it might be one more chance with this group to go out and win the whole thing.

‘€œIf we are able to make changes, maybe that transition we talked about will happen earlier than some people expected. I think it could go one of both ways. I think we have a nice set of about 10 pre-prime or prime players that we’€™re going to build around and eventually we’€™ll get more. Whether that happens this winter or in subsequent winters or when that group of really talented 18-to-20 year-olds is ready, that remains to be seen. We’€™re open to all possibilities. We’€™ll see how it develops.’€

The Hot Stove season ended up proceeding in a fashion that would have been difficult to foresee, thus setting the stage for a far-reaching conversation about how to build a winning franchise.

The early stages weren’€™t shocking. The Sox made a move to acquire outfielder Jeremy Hermida, a player who, at 26, remains long on heretofore-unfulfilled potential, but whom the club views as a high-upside lottery ticket.

Then, after free-agent shortstop Alex Gonzalez agreed to a deal with the Blue Jays the night before Thanksgiving, the Sox were left having to make a counter-move to acquire Marco Scutaro. Of course, that was hardly a disappointment to the Sox, since the term of the contract (two years) is far short of the four-year pacts with Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo that turned into disasters. Moreover, Scutaro ‘€“ whose career path is virtually unprecedented in the post-World War II era ‘€“ is almost certain to represent a significant improvement on the Sox’€™ 2009 productivity at shortstop.

With the shortstop position having been settled, the real haymakers of the Red Sox offseason were yet to come. From the time that Epstein had said he’€™d like to improve the team’€™s defense and road performance, Mike Lowell‘€™s future in Boston became cloudy. Thus it came as only modestly surprising when the Sox agreed to send Lowell ‘€“ and $9 million ‘€“ to the Texas Rangers in exchange for potential slugger Max Ramirez at the Winter Meetings.

Though the deal was ultimately canceled due to the need for Lowell to undergo surgery to repair a damaged ligament in his right thumb, the Sox’€™ willingness to move on from the 2007 MVP spelled the start of a dramatic makeover.

The team and Bay had worked unsuccessfully since spring training to negotiate an extension. On Dec. 12, Bay’€™s agent, Joe Urbon, said that his client was ‘€œprepared to move on’€ after rejecting the Red Sox offer.

The claim seemed like it might be little more than posturing. But the Sox did not treat it as such. Instead, the club acted boldly, first approaching Matt Holliday to see if he would accept a five-year deal in the vicinity of $82.5 million. Told by Holliday’€™s agent, Scott Boras, that the left-fielder was looking for a Mark Teixeira-type deal, the Sox presented the same money and years to right-hander John Lackey.

Lackey accepted, and in something of a stunner to the baseball world ‘€“ particularly after Sox manager Terry Francona had suggested that the Sox would be ‘€œuneasy’€ about making the commitment necessary to sign the pitcher ‘€“ he received the biggest free-agent contract in club history.

With Lackey having become the Sox’€™ big-ticket item of the offseason, the team moved swiftly to acquire Bay’€™s replacement. Rather than going for another thumper, the team jumped at the possibility of signing outfielder Mike Cameron ‘€“ a three-time Gold Glove winner ‘€“ to a two-year, $15.5 million deal.

Thus, in one 24-hour period, the Sox had redefined themselves as a team built on the idea of elite run prevention, but that seemed likely to experience a step back offensively (albeit perhaps an exaggerated one), given the likelihood that Cameron, Scutaro and Casey Kotchman could be replacing Bay (who agreed to terms with the Mets on a four-year, $66 million deal that includes a vesting option that could push the value of the contract to approximately $80 million), Lowell and the team’€™s ‘€™09 shortstop merry-go-round.

Even after the Lowell trade was canceled by the third baseman’€™s need to undergo surgery, the remake was complete and far-reaching. While the hot stove season is not yet over, the Sox’€™ bold strategy is one that will continue to be dissected for months to come.

AUDIO

Hall of Famer Peter Gammons appeared in studio on Dec. 23 to talk about the Red Sox offseason overhaul.

Curt Schilling joined the Big Show on Dec. 17 to discuss the Sox offseason moves, Lackey’s 5 year deal and Mike Cameron’s defensive ability.

Red Sox Manager Terry Francona talked with Dale & Holley on Dec. 17 about the acquisitions of Cameron and Lackey, Scutaro’s impact and his feelings on Casey Kotchman starting at first base.

John Lackey chatted with Dale and Holley on Dec. 16 in his first radio appearance as a member of the Sox. John talked about the factors that led to his signing with the Red Sox.

Mike Cameron also made his first Boston radio appearance with Dale & Holley to talk about his previous relationship with Terry Francona, his perceptions of the Sox as an opposing player, and how there is a lot more to his game than just defense.

Lowell Surgery Successful

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

According to a team spokesperson, Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell underwent successful surgery Wednesday on a torn radial collateral ligament in his right thumb in Arizona. Dr. Donald Sheridan, who also performed operations on Sox’ infielders Jed Lowrie and Dustin Pedroia, performed the surgery. According to the Boston Globe, it was discovered there was a 95 percent tear in the ligament. Lowell told WEEI.com on Dec. 21 that he is expected to be able to start throwing six weeks from the time of the surgery, which would be Feb. 10, with the clearance for hitting coming two weeks later.

Looking Back: The Manny/A-Rod Steroid Controversies

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

(WEEI.com is counting down the ‘€œTop 10 Things We Couldn’€™t Shut Up About In 2009,’€ with

the steroids controversies involving Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez coming in at No. 5. Here is a written, visual and audio look at the situation that resulted in a 50-game suspension for Ramirez and a national TV confession from A-Rod.)

No. 10: Bruins getting bounced by the Hurricanes


No. 9: Garnett’€™s knee injury alters Celtics’€™ fate


No. 8: The drama between Crowley and Gates Jr. and No. 7: The downfall of Steve Phillips

No. 6: The Red Sox reshape at the trade deadline

No. 5: The Manny/A-Rod steroid controversies

Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez were no strangers to controversy heading into 2009. But the firestorm of criticism that hit the two superstars after it was revealed that both players used banned substances was at a new level.

Rodriguez was the first chip to fall. On the heels of a Sports Illustrated report that he had tested positive for testosterone and Primobolan, an anabolic steroid, in 2003, the Yankees third baseman participated in an emotional, sit-down interview Feb. 9 with ESPN’s Peter Gammons to confess ‘€” at least partly ‘€” two years after famously denying he ever used steroids in a “60 Minutes” interview with Katie Couric.

“When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure. I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me and I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day,” Ramirez said of his stint with the Rangers.

“Back then, [baseball] was a different culture. It was very loose. I was young. I was stupid. I was naive. And I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time.

“I did take a banned substance. And for that, I am very sorry and deeply regretful.”

Rangers owner Tom Hicks said he felt “personally betrayed” and “deceived by Alex.” Even Barack Obama weighed in, calling the revelation “depressing.”

Unfortunately for Red Sox fans, the situation didn’t slow down the slugger. In fact, Rodriguez indicated to Gammons after the interview that finally telling the truth made him feel more at ease. Rodriguez missed spring training and the first month of the season with a hip injury. When he returned, he homered on the first pitch he saw and proceeded to help lift New York out of an early season funk. And while his regular-season stats were slightly below his normal standards (.286 BA, 30 HR, 100 RBI), Rodriguez came up big in October, ending a long run of postseason failure with a number of clutch hits while helping the Yankees win the World Series, his first championship.

Ramirez’ situation came to light a month into the season, when he received a 50-game ban after allegedly testing positive during spring training for the female fertility drug human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is taken by steroid users to restart their bodies’ natural testosterone production as they come off a steroid cycle. Reports indicated that Ramirez also tested positive for artificial testosterone, but facing a challenge from the player on that charge, the league did not pursue it as it already had enough to hand out a harsh punishment.

In a statement issued by the MLB players’ union, Ramirez said: “Recently, I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I’ve taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons.”

While the general reaction was condemnation of the former Red Sox slugger, his current team and fans offered support.

“It’s a dark day for baseball and certainly for this organization,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. “But people do make mistakes.”

Ramirez was welcomed back to “Mannywood” on July 3 and finished the season with a .290 average, 19 home runs and 63 RBI, helping the Dodgers win the NL West.

Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports: Ken joined the show to help break down the entire A-Rod steroid story Audio|Mon, 9 Feb 2009: http://audio.weei.com/m/21848035/ken-rosenthal-fox-sports.htm

Mike Lupica, NY Daily News: Mike Lupica joins D&C to talk A-Rod Audio|Tue, 17 Feb 2009: http://audio.weei.com/m/21884959/mike-lupica-ny-daily-news.htm

Curt Schilling: Curt calls in to talk A-Rod, A-Rod and more A-Rod Audio|Tue, 10 Feb 200: http://audio.weei.com/m/21851766/curt-schilling.htm

D&C Opening Segment – 2-9-09: Dino and Gerry open the show with A-Rod talk: http://audio.weei.com/m/21847476/d-c-opening-segment-2-9-09.htm

Joel Sherman, NY Post: Joel Sherman joins Dennis and Callahan to talk A-Rod Audio|Mon, 9 Feb 2009: http://audio.weei.com/m/21847477/joel-sherman-ny-post.htm

Will Carroll, Baseball Prospectus: Will said there is no good explanation on why Manny took HCG and that Ramirez needs to come out and tell his side of the story right now Audio|Fri, 8 May 2009: http://audio.weei.com/m/22254122/will-carroll-baseball-prospectus.htm

Curt Schilling, Former Sox Pitcher: Schilling joins Dino and Gerry to talk Mannywood Audio|Fri, 8 May 2009: http://audio.weei.com/m/22254719/curt-schilling-former-sox-pitcher.htm

Sean Casey, MLB Network: Casey joins Dennis & Callahan to recap Mannygate Audio|Fri, 8 May 2009: http://audio.weei.com/m/22254724/sean-casey-mlb-network.htm

Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports: Ken talked about what the Red Sox could do if David Ortiz continues his hitting funk and also what he thought about the Manny Ramirez suspension Audio|Tue, 12 May 2009: http://audio.weei.com/m/22275884/ken-rosenthal-fox-sports.htm

Terry Francona, Red Sox Manager: Terry talked about the Sox battling through some injuries and if he has ever had to deal with any players who have used PEDs Audio|Wed, 13 May 2009: http://audio.weei.com/m/22285354/terry-francona-red-sox-manager.htm

Looking Back: The Red Sox at the Trade Deadline

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

(WEEI.com is counting down the ‘€œTop 10 Things We Couldn’€™t Shut Up About In 2009,’€ with the trade deadline deal for Victor Martinez — and efforts to acquire Roy Halladay, Adrian Gonzalez and Felix Hernandez — checking in at No. 6. Here is a written, visual and audio look at a frenzied midsummer trade market that resulted in the Sox acquiring an All-Star catcher/first baseman.)

No. 10: Bruins getting bounced by the Hurricanes


No. 9: Garnett’€™s knee injury alters Celtics’€™ fate


No. 8: The drama between Crowley and Gates Jr. and No. 7: The downfall of Steve Phillips

No. 6: The Red Sox reshape at the trade deadline

The names that surfaced in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline were enough to leave the heads of Red Sox players and followers alike spinning. The Sox proved singularly ambitious in the trade market, exploring deals for seemingly every star-caliber player in the majors.

That was a reflection, in part, of the fact that the Sox commenced the second half of the season with a thud. The team went 4-8 at the start of the second half, with culprits to be found all over the field. The pitching rotation was a mess, thanks to the injury to Tim Wakefield, the banishment of Daisuke Matsuzaka to Fort Myers to work his way back into shape, and the completely ineffectual performances of John Smoltz and Brad Penny. The offense, meanwhile, was in a miserable state, with Jason Varitek, Jason Bay and J.D. Drew all amidst dreadful slumps, Mike Lowell playing irregularly while recovering from a D.L. stint for hip maintenance, David Ortiz amidst a season of both struggle and suspicion thanks to the revelation about his positive test for use of a performance-enhancing substance… The wheels were coming off the season at a startling pace, resulting in the Sox going from three games up in the A.L. East at the All-Star break to 3.5 games back of the Yankees less than two weeks into the start of the second half.

The Red Sox front office made no effort to hide from its struggles. And so, the team pursued answers on any number of fronts.

The Sox pushed hard to acquire 2003 Cy Young winner Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays. They tried to convince the Padres to relinquish slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. The team made an empty-the-pantry effort to acquire starter Felix Hernandez from the Mariners.

In order to acquire any of those three players, the Sox were prepared to part with the cream of their prospect crop. A deal for any of those three players would have required the inclusion of right-hander Clay Buchholz, along with several other top minor-league arms. The Sox were willing to engage in such franchise-altering moves in order to salvage a season for a team that had shown immense promise before sinking into immense struggle.

But ultimately, the Sox could not wrangle any of those top players from those clubs. Instead, hours before the trade deadline, Boston consummated a deal that represented an apparent fallback plan, acquiring Cleveland catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez in exchange for swing-man Justin Masterson and minor-league pitching prospects Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price. In many respects, it ended up being the perfect deal for the Sox.

The Sox needed insurance both at catcher (in case Varitek never emerged from his injury-riddled slump) and at a corner infield spot (given the uncertainty of Lowell’s health). Martinez’ versatility addressed both concerns.

Moreover, because the Sox were able to part with very good pitching prospects who nonetheless ranked in their second tier (or, in the case of Price, perhaps a bit lower) of developing hurlers, they were also able to upgrade their rotation significantly thanks to the breakout second-half performance by Clay Buchholz, whom the Sox were able to retain (something that would have been impossible had the Sox dealt for Halladay, Hernandez or Gonzalez).

Martinez not only performed brilliantly down the stretch — hitting .336 with a .405 OBP, .507 slugging mark and .912 OPS with the Sox — but he also remains a critical (and inexpensive) part of the 2010 team thanks to the contract that he signed with the Indians. (Martinez will receive a base salary of $7.7 million in 2010.) In his short time in Boston, he emerged as a team leader, clutch contributor and undeniable presence. He has already been declared the everyday Red Sox catcher for next season, and Martinez has made no secret of his interest in staying with the Sox beyond next season.

Victor Martinez, Red Sox Pregame: Joe Castiglione talks with the new Sox C/1B http://audio.weei.com/m/25588250/victor-martinez-red-sox-pregame.htm

Victor Martinez, Postgame Guest: Joe & Dave talk to the new Sox slugger http://audio.weei.com/m/25599050/victor-martinez-postgame-guest.htm

Victor Martinez: Victor Martinez joins The Big Show to discuss playing time and the big series with the Yankees. http://audio.weei.com/m/25990910/victor-martinez.htm

Youkilis sheds light on Bay, offseason, corner spots

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

LOWELL — On the same day that news broke of Jason Bay’s departure to New York, reporters caught up with an unsurprised Kevin Youkilis prior to his receiving the Dick Berardino Distinguished Alumni Award at the Lowell Spinners Alumni Dinner.

Asked whether he had previously thought Bay would return to the Sox, Youkilis said he “didn’t” and added that he had a better idea of the negotiations from staying in contact with the left fielder.

“I knew what was going on just by talking to him,” Youkilis said. “You’re never surprised in this game.”

Addressing the offense as is currently constituted, the corner infielder expressed that while it will be different with the loss of their RBI leader, there is still potential for the “thunder” of previous seasons.

“I think [the offense] will be fine,” Youkilis said. “We’re definitely [going to miss] Jason Bay driving in all those runs, but the luxury we have with our team is if you hit in the seventh hole, like Mike Lowell was last year, he was hitting seventh a bunch and he was at the top of the RBIs most of the year until the injuries.

“I think in this lineup it doesn’t matter where you hit,” added Youkilis. “If you have guys like Mike Cameron down at the bottom of the order,  you can drive in just as many runs as the guys hitting three and four. It just depends on how all the guys adapt to it, but I still think there’s a lot of thunder there.”

Bay’s replacement, Mike Cameron, had an average 17 points lower (.250) than Bay’s in 2009 and hit 24 homers to Bay’s 36, but Youkilis applauded the team’s direction in free agency and noted that a stronger pitching staff puts less pressure on an offense that has been considered a weakness since the Red Sox were swept by the Angels in the ALDS.

“I think we’ve got a great team,” Youkilis said. “Signing Mike Cameron was a good addition to the team. I don’t know who’s going to play where right now– I’m not the manager– but I think we have a good offense.”

“Picking up John Lackey was huge, where you don’t allow as many runs,” Youkilis added. “The offense doesn’t have to be as great when you have great pitching. Great pitching always wins championships. We’ve got six starting pitchers again, so if they all can stay healthy, who knows what’s going to happen?”

As for the looming possibility of Mike Lowell being out of the picture come April, Youkilis noted that players are commonly shopped in the final year of the contract and that he would be ready to enter 2010 as  either the team’s regular first or third baseman.

“Going into spring training, I get in shape just to play baseball,” Youkilis said. “I don’t get in shape for a position. I just take ground balls once I get there. There’s nothing I can do in the weight room that would be more beneficial for third or first, so I just go and do all the running and training and all the lifting that I can do just to try to be healthy all year.”

Youkilis, a third baseman by trade, started a career-high 56 games at the hot corner and 77 games at first base in 2009. Considering that he started 110 games at first a year prior, Youkilis felt the effects of constantly swtiching sides of the infield and expressed a desire to have a primary position in 2010.

“You definitely get a little more aches and pains moving back and forth,” Youkilis said. “For me last year, it worked out fine and I had a good season. I don’t think that’s the plan for me to switch back and forth like I did towards the end of the year.”

“For me, sticking at one spot would be nice,” Youkilis added. “That would be a cool thing. It probably won’t happen– I might have to play a little bit of first, I might have to play a little bit of third– but wherever they want me to play, we’ll see.”

The 2007 Gold Glove winner attributed much of his success to the fact that his natural position was occupied in 2006, his first full year in the majors. Now that the position may be freed, Youkilis is prepared to return to third.

“I got moved to first base when because Mike Lowell got traded over here, [Boston] got a Gold Glove third baseman,” Youkilis said. “I’ve always said I’m a third baseman playing first base, so I never lost that feeling of playing third base.”

The 30-year old had a fielding percentage of .974 at third base in the 2009, which would have led the American League had he qualified.

Source: Bay to sign with Mets

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

WEEI.com’s Alex Speier has confirmed via a major league baseball source that free agent outfielder Jason Bay has agreed to a four-year deal with the New York Mets worth $66 million. The deal also includes a vesting option for a fifth year that could bring the worth of the package over $80 million. According to the source, the fifth-year option was part of the original proposal presented by the Mets. The deal won’t be finalized until early next week, as Bay still has to pass the physical administered by the Mets.

WFAN’s Mike Francesa was first to report the agreement. Although the Red Sox were talking internally about adjusting their organizational budget to potentially make another run at Bay, it has been believed that the Mets were the only team with an offer in vicinity of what Bay was looking for.

If Bay does land with the Mets, the Red Sox will receive New York’s second-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft along with a supplemental pick as NY’s first-round pick (No. 7 overall) is protected since no team with a pick within the draft’s top 15 selections is subject to losing it via the signing of a Type A free agent.

To listen to the audio of Francesa’s report click here.

Check back later for more …