Archive for October, 2011

Hot Stove: Yankees sign CC Sabathia to record-setting extension

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Yankees ace CC Sabathia won’t be testing the open market. Instead, the Yankees moved aggressively to ensure that the mountainous left-hander will remain in slimming pinstripes for years to come.

Sabathia had the right to opt out of the final four years and $92 million of the seven-year, $161 million deal he signed with the Yankees prior to the 2009 season. However, instead of exercising that right, he agreed upon a one-year, $25 million extension that includes a $25 million team vesting option for 2017 that includes a $5 million buyout. The result of the deal is that Sabathia will now earn a guaranteed $24.4 million per year over the next five seasons, the largest average annual value for a multi-year deal in major league history.

Sabathia, who turned 31 in July, has been dominant for the Yankees during his three seasons in New York. He has made 101 starts (tied for third most in the majors), logged 705 innings (fourth in the majors), has a 3.18 ERA (14th in the majors and fifth in the AL, min. 400 innings), 59 wins (second in the majors) and a .720 winning percentage (second). He has been as consistent as virtually any starter in the majors over the last five years, making between 33 and 35 starts each year, winning 17-21 games every year, logging at least 230 innings and striking out at least 197 batters in each season.

“My goal the whole time was to be able to finish my career as a Yankee,” Sabathia said in a video posted on Twitter. “I look forward to seeing everybody out at the ballpark next year.”

Hot Stove: Blue Jays decline option on Jon Rauch

Monday, October 31st, 2011

The Blue Jays announced that they will exercise their option on third baseman Edwin Encarncaion, but will decline to pick up reliever Jon Rauch‘s option making him a free agent, per MLB trade rumors.

The 32-year-old Rauch struggled in his one season in Toronto as he allowed 11 home runs in just 52 innings pitched. Rauch has a decent track record and is only one season removed from a 21-save season with the Twins in which he posted a 3.12 ERA in 59 appearances.

Red Sox free agents could yield draft pick haul

Monday, October 31st, 2011

The departure of valuable free agents can be an important part of an organization’s renewal.

If teams offer salary arbitration to their top free agents only to see them reject the offer and sign with other teams, they can receive draft pick compensation. The top class of free agents — known as Type A free agents — as determined by a formula from the Elias Sports Bureau net two top picks (usually either a first- or second-round pick from the team that signs the player, as well as a sandwich round pick between the first and second rounds). A second tier of free agents — Type B — net a team a sandwich-round pick.

The Sox have acquired a number of key prospects through compensation picks, including: Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price (both part of the trade for Victor Martinez), Bryce Brentz, Anthony Ranaudo and others.

While revised draft rules are currently under negotiation between the owners and the Players’ Association, those rules are not expected to impact this year’s class of free agents. Instead, the “old” rules of draft pick compensation are believed by multiple sources to apply to this year’s free agent class.

That, in turn, may have played a part in a Red Sox option decision today. Reliever Dan Wheeler is a Type B free agent. The Sox held a $3 million option on his contract for the 2012 season. While that isn’t unreasonable for a right-handed reliever with a strong track record (especially prior to the 2011 season) in the AL East, the Sox declined the option. Now, they have the option to offer Wheeler arbitration and get a draft pick if he signs with another club.

MLBTradeRumors.com offered a full list of Type A and Type B free agents here. Among the Red Sox players who have filed for free agency, here are the notable ones who could entitle the club to draft pick compensation:

Type A — David Ortiz

Type A — Jonathan Papelbon

Type B — Dan Wheeler (team option)

Type B — Jason Varitek

The Sox have been talking to Ortiz during the exclusive negotiating window between teams and their own free agents. As of this weekend, WEEI.com reported on Sunday, there had been no contact between the Sox and Papelbon.

Wheeler was 2-2 with a 4.38 ERA, 1.115 WHIP, 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.5 walks per nine. The Rhode Island native started the year poorly, carrying an ERA of 11.32 when he landed on the disabled list for the first time of his career in the first week of May. After returning, he was one of the Sox’ most effective relievers, with a 1.53 ERA from mid-May through the beginning of September. However, a forearm injury rendered him ineffective and then unavailable for most of September (another of the many causes of the Sox’ September collapse), leading to his season-ending numbers.

As for Varitek, the Sox did not offer him arbitration when he was a Type B free agent last year, based on the expectation that he would accept (coming off a $3 million salary in 2010, the second year of a two-year, $8 million deal). This year, Varitek is once again a Type B, though he had a lower base salary ($2 million), which could have an impact on whether or not he is offered arbitration, insofar as — if he accepted — he would be in line for a lower salary this year than had he accepted arbitration a year ago.

The Sox also declined their option on Scott Atchison, who would have earned $200,000 over the major league minimum. He remains on the club’s 40-man roster, however, after going 1-0 with a 3.26 ERA in 17 big league games spanning 30 1/3 innings. The 35-year-old right-hander is out of options, but fell just short of arbitration eligibility. That being the case, the Sox can set his salary for 2012.

Hot Stove: Derek Lowe reportedly traded to Indians

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Veteran right-handed pitcher Derek Lowe was traded Monday from the Braves to the Indians for lefty pitching prospect Chris Jones, according to a report from ESPN’s Buster Olney.

The report notes that the Braves will pay $10 million of Lowe’s $15 million salary for 2012, the last year of Lowe’s contract.

Lowe went 9-17 with a 5.05 ERA in 34 appearances this season. The former Red Sox reliever and starter is 166-146 with a 3.94 ERA in 15 major league seasons, which also includes stints with the Mariners and Dodgers.

From the ‘Do as I say and not as I did’ department: Phil Plantier is the new Padres hitting coach

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

According to FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, former Red Sox outfielder Phil Plantier has been named hitting coach for the Padres. The 42-year-old Plantier had been the hitting coach and manager for the Padres’ Single-A Lake Elsinore Storm for the 2011 season. In ’10 he was the minor league hitting coordinator for the Mariners.

In case you forgot, Plantier was one of the most highly touted prospects in the Red Sox system in the late 1980s and early ’90s, eventually making it to the majors in ’91, finishing eighth in American League Rookie of the Year balloting.

After a lackluster ’92 season in which the lefty slugger batted .246 with just seven homers while striking out 83 times in 108 games, Plantier was traded to San Diego for reliever Jose Melendez. The New Hampshire native turned in his best year in his first season with the Padres in ’93, mashing 34 home runs while totaling an .843 OPS.

But Plantier’s major league career would soon fizzle out at the age of 28, ending with a stint the Cardinals in ’97.

Still, what Plantier truly left behind for all Red Sox fans was memories of one of the most outrageous batting stances in team history (as our good friend Batting Stance Guy demonstrates in the following video at the 3:40 mark).

How David Freese almost became a member of the Red Sox

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Cardinals third baseman David Freese capped off a remarkable postseason by earning World Series MVP honors after hitting .348 with three doubles and seven RBIs as the Cards beat the Rangers in seven games. Freese also had an incredible performance in Game 6 as he kept the Cardinals alive with a game-tying two-run triple in the ninth inning when they were down to their final strike and later hit the game-winning home run in the 11th.

Freese also was named MVP of the National League Championship Series, making him the sixth player to win both honors in the same season.

A native of Missouri, Freese is now a hometown hero after a circuitous route in which he gave up the game for the year — as well as a scholarship offer from the University of Missouri —  before enrolling at an area junior college.

Freese later attended the University of South Alabama, and that’s when Jason McLeod, the Sox former director of amateur scouting, took note.

As the blog Inside the Padres recounts, McLeod tried to sign Freese to a contract before the draft for a bonus of $90,000. As a fifth-year senior, Freese would have been eligible for such a deal.

But the Jaguars reached the College World Series regional playoffs, extending their season through the so-called closed period. The deal was ultimately rejected by the commissioner’s office, making Freese once again eligible for the draft.

McLeod’s mentor, Bill Gayton, also had his eye on Freese, and the Padres drafted him in the ninth round, 10 spots before McLeod was set to make his selection. As McLeod tells writer Tom Krasovic in the post, his mistake was not taking Freese earlier in the draft. The difference in bonus money for Freese was over $80,000.

The Sox wound up taking Ryan Kalish, who reached the big leagues at age 22 in 2010, hitting .252/.305/.405 with four home runs and 11 doubles in 163 at-bats. Kalish had surgery in September to repair a bulging disc in his neck ending a disappointing injury-marred 2011 season.

Kalish played just two weeks for Triple-A Pawtucket before suffering a partial tear of the labrum in his left (throwing) shoulder while diving for a ball. Kalish was able to return in August, but he developed neck pain during his rehabilitation, which ultimately prompted the surgery. If he is able to recover in time for spring training, Kalish could be part of the competition in right field with Josh Reddick.

While Kalish remains full of potential, the 28-year-old Freese reached his this past season when he claimed the starting job at third base with the Cardinals and hit .297/.350/.441 with 10 home runs and 55 RBI in addition to his postseason dramatics.

As it turns out, the Padres also missed on his potential. They traded him for Jim Edmonds, who hit .178 in 2008 before the team released him in May. Of course, so did the other 29 teams that let Freese last until the 273rd pick in the draft.

Transcript of Larry Lucchino on D&C: ‘You guys might want to live in September 2011 forever, but we don’t’

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino joined the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning to defend his boss, John Henry, talk about the Theo Epstein/Ben Cherington situations, and update the masses on the Red Sox’ managerial search.

Lucchino also discussed how the team is dealing with misbehavior by the pitchers in the clubhouse. Josh Beckett has been identified as one of the key participants, but he has yet to step forward and address the issue like some of his teammates. Lucchino said he has spoke with the veteran right-hander.

“I think he is on the same page, just less willing to deal with the media right now,” Lucchino said. “He craves his privacy I think a little more. But he was a highly motivated guy when I spoke to him. I think he feels like we as a team have something to prove, they as a pitching staff have something to prove. And I think you will see a highly motivated Josh Beckett. I know you will next year.

Asked if Beckett apologized, Lucchino said: “I didn’t ask for an apology. But we spoke about what the circumstances were. I should let Josh speak for himself when he decides to do that. Let’s just say he appreciated that there were some things going on in the clubhouse, but he felt that they were dramatically blown out of proportion by the media.”

Pushed on the matter, Lucchino said he was tired of rehashing the September collapse.

“I don’t want to play the blame game,” he said. “I don’t want to go back. You guys might want to live in September 2011 forever, but we don’t. We want to move forward. I probably made a mistake simply by indulging you guys in the conversation about that. It’s time to move forward. It’s not time to dwell on who drank a beer or had a piece of fried chicken. If you believe that that was the cause of the collapse in September, I think you’re mistaken.”

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An eye for a … GM job? Remembering Theo Epstein’s debt to Ben Cherington

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

In some respects, it seems appropriate that Theo Epstein stepped aside as the general manager of the Red Sox to clear the path for Ben Cherington to claim the same role. After all, Epstein remained in the debt of his longtime colleague and friend after having once nearly broken his face.

In the early days of Epstein’€™s run as Red Sox general manager, the team’€™s baseball operations department — which resides in the basement of Fenway Park, separated from somewhat more traditionally corporate departments — skewed young and a bit wild. Members of the front office, when not leaving the premises altogether to play hoops, were known to take respites from work by playing whiffle ball or football inside their office.

Yet that was just the tip of the iceberg. There were also boxing matches in full gear. And, in one memorable instance, there was golf.

Epstein struck a ball with a wedge, trying to clear a cubicle and drop the ball into the kitchen. However, the uncooperative orb went astray and then took a turn reminiscent of the Larry Bird vs. Michael Jordan McDonald’€™s commercial sequence. The ball ricocheted off a support column running from floor to ceiling, flew threw an office door, bounced off the desk and jumped into the face of the unsuspecting Cherington.

A bellow from Cherington’€™s office prompted his co-workers to congregate at his door, where they saw blood pouring from the face of their colleague (then still the Red Sox farm director). His eye had averted catastrophe — narrowly — but Cherington required stitches for the wound, and the episode became a footnote.

That incident probably wasn’€™t what CEO/President Larry Lucchino had in mind when he said that he couldn’€™t imagine the Red Sox without Cherington nor could he imagine Cherington without the Red Sox. Nonetheless, colleagues joked in the aftermath of the incident that Cherington had guaranteed employment with the Red Sox for life.

However, those familiar with the incident also note that Cherington never had to cash in that card. Instead, his work in virtually every phase of the team’€™s baseball operations brought him to the point where, as Epstein said, it was impossible to imagine a more qualified person to take over as general manager of the Red Sox.

Joe Maddon: Francona exit ‘reeks of a set-up’

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Speaking from his home in Huntington Beach, Calif., Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon came out in defense of Terry Francona on Wednesday, declaring the treatment of the former Red Sox manager after he parted ways with the organization to be “almost criminal.”

“Terry did nothing wrong. Terry is wonderful. Terry as a manager is excellent, and as a person he is even better than that,” Maddon told WEEI.com. “So to have people saying this stuff is really disappointing.

“It’s almost criminal. It reeks of a set-up. It smells bad. I feel badly for the guy. I don’t know him really well, but I know him. I know the players and how they think about him. it’s a shame that he has to go through this.”

When asked to identify which piece of the drama surrounding the Sox since their historic September collapse was most shocking, Maddon again brought up Francona.

“The biggest surprise is how anybody could say anything bad about Terry Francona,” the Rays’ manager explained. “That just blows me away. It’s not just a manager defending a manager, but this is a guy who has done wonderful things for that organization and that city. Somebody else who was a good teammate should have said something earlier. Of course it’s Terry’s responsibility ultimately, but if everybody is doing their job that stuff is squashed well before it got to that point. That’s just true. For me, to have Terry in any shape or form be victimized or become this polarizing figure just makes no sense. That’s the part that I find disturbing. I do consider Boston a wonderful baseball town with a great history and a lot of intelligence about the game. That part to me makes no sense. There’s a great disconnect there for me, and that’s the disappointing aspect that I’ve been reading about.”

When asked about his thoughts about listening to an offer from the Red Sox if they did ask permission from the Rays to talk about the vacant managerial position, Maddon insisted there would be no need to enter into any such discussions.

“Honestly, I love where I work and who I work with,” said the 57-year-old Maddon, who is signed through 2012. “I did interview for the job several years ago and I was really excited about that opportunity. But right now, at this point in my life, there’s no other place I would rather be than the Tampa Bay Rays. I mean that sincerely. Ownership. Front office. Players. Coaching staff. I can not ask for a better situation. There isn’t a better situation. And it isn’t always about money. For me it isn’t always about money. I really am humbled by that thought, but at the end of the day I am a Ray and I want to be a Ray.”

Maddon, however, does think there is an ideal candidate for the Sox currently in the Rays organization – Tampa Bay bench coach Dave Martinez.

“I know that he is ready in the dugout, for sure,” Maddon said of the 47-year-old Martinez, who has served as the Rays’ bench coach for the past four seasons. “He’s got a really good grasp of the game. He utilizes information well. His preparedness is very good. His ability to get what he needs to across to the players is very good, also. For me he’s been invaluable because I do trust him with a lot on a daily basis. He takes a lot off my plate. I know he’s able to do those things, and do them during the course of a game. So that stuff I have no doubt about.

“The other side, the media side, the handling of all the other things a manager has to do, I think he has to go into that like anybody going into Boston for the first time. Even an inexperienced guy would have to deal with a learning curve there, too, if you haven’t been in that size of a market. I’m not saying he can’t do it. I think he can do it. I’m just saying that would be the part he would probably have to work at the most. The stuff on the field, in the dugout, the clubhouse, all that stuff, he is very good at.”

Jack Sands on D&C: Tony La Russa likely to manage in 2012, but not for Red Sox

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Jack Sands, the agent for Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, joined the Dennis & Callahan Show last week to discuss the future of his client. Sands, a Boston-based attorney who has also represented managers Jim Leyland and Larry Bowa, said that there was a time when La Russa contemplated the possibility of managing the Red Sox.

“Tony loves Boston,” said Sands. “Many years ago, he was really thinking this might be a place he might like to come to. … When he first came over to St. Louis, he really was an American League guy. He loved the DH. But now, he loves the double switches. We’ve seen what’s happened in the playoffs. He loves working that bullpen. So I seriously doubt that he would come back to the American League at this point.”

Now, however, while Sands does expect La Russa to return as a manager in 2012, he does not think that the 33-year veteran will leave his current job with the Cardinals or the National League. As for returning to manage again in 2012, Sands suggested that even if the Cardinals — who are currently down, 3-2, in the best-of-seven World Series against the Rangers — win a championship this year, he cannot see La Russa retiring.

“I would say no for one reason. If he comes back next year, he’ll end up moving up the ladder and being behind Connie Mack for second place in wins all-time by a manager.He’s never going to catch Connie, of course, but I think that’s something he’d like to have,” Sands said of his client, who has a career 2,728-2,365 (.536) record, and who has won two of the five Fall Classics in which he’s managed prior to this year. “I don’t [passing John McGraw, second all-time with 2,763 wins] is at the top of his list in terms of reasons why he’d want to come back. He really has enjoyed his time in St. Louis. I think there’s probably a pretty strong shot he’d come back. (more…)