Archive for December, 2011

Carlos Quentin didn’t fit into Red Sox’ right field plans, and some Ryan Madson news

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

According to a major league source, the Red Sox weren’t engaged in talks for outfielder Carlos Quentin, whom the White Sox traded to the Padres Saturday for pitching prospects Simon Castro and Pedro Hernandez. One of the major concerns regarding Quentin from the Red Sox’ perspective, according to the source, was the 29-year-old’s ability to patrol right field in Fenway Park.

Quentin, who is entering his last year of arbitration eligibility (projecting by MLB Trade Rumors to earn approximately $7.5 million for 2012), has battled injuries throughout the past four seasons. The outfielder’s injuries have ranged from hamstring to shoulder to foot to wrist. While he has hit at least 21 home runs in each of the last four seasons, the San Diego native also hasn’t played in more than 131 games in any of his six major league seasons. He is coming off a 2011 season in which he .254 with an .838 OPS and 24 homers in 118 games for the White Sox.

The Red Sox’ right field scenario currently includes newly-acquired Ryan Sweeney from the left side of the plate, along with holdovers Darnell McDonald and perhaps converted infielder Mike Aviles from the right side. Ryan Kalish, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, figures to enter the mix once cleared to play the outfield sometime early in the season.

As’s Alex Speier points out, even with the departure of Josh Reddick and J.D. Drew, the Sox’ offense won’t have to be reliant on the right field production in ’12 (judging by ’11). As Speier writes:

Right field was one of the foremost positions from which AL teams received offense in 2011 (the .768 OPS of AL right fielders ranked behind only first base (.791) and DH (.771)). But for the Sox, it was, relative to the league, the team’€™s worst position.

Sox right fielders combined to hit .233 (worst among 14 teams in the AL) with a .299 OBP (also last), .353 slugging mark (13th) and .652 OPS (13th). The team received just 40 extra-base hits from the position (13th).

Despite the team’€™s pitiful production from the position, the Sox still finished first in the majors in runs (875), runs per game (5.4) and OPS (.810).

Also of some interest to Red Sox fans …

According a major league source, the Sox weren’t heavily in on the perceived top remaining closer on the free agent market, Ryan Madson, at the time Boston acquired reliever Andrew Bailey. The team sensed, according to the source, that Madson’s price wasn’t going to come down to a level which would elicit heavy interest from the Sox. Multiple big league execs surmise that Madson’s agent, Scott Boras, is looking for a deal similar to that of Yankees set-up man Rafael Soriano. Soriano’s deal with New York paid him $35 million over three years, with the opportunity to opt out after any of the seasons.

New Sox closer Andrew Bailey insists he’s ‘healthy and strong’

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

New Red Sox reliever Andrew Bailey spoke to the media Wednesday after the announcement of his trade from the A’s.

Bailey has had some injury issues, but he said he’s in good shape as he prepares to step into Jonathan Papelbon‘s closer role.

‘€œObviously, stay healthy is number one. That’€™s the key to success,” he said. “Then, don’€™t shy away from who you are. I’€™m not going to blow by you at 98-99. I’€™m not that kind of guy. I sit in the low 90s, rely on control and getting ahead of guys. The motto I live by is, ‘€˜Strike one is the best pitch in baseball.’€™ As long as you stick with that, you’€™ll be fine.”

A New Jersey native who now makes his home in Connecticut, Bailey said he’s looking forward to returning to the region.

‘€œI’€™m very excited,” he said. “This is where my family and I live in the offseason. I was born and raised in New Jersey and spend the offseasons in Connecticut. You can’€™t get much farther than Oakland to the East Coast. I’€™m definitely excited to play baseball on the East Coast and for the Red Sox.’€

Following are more highlights from the interview.

On pitching in Boston: “Obviously, pitching — and closing, for that matter — is bigger in Boston. Obviously, the market’€™s a lot bigger, but I think I’€™ll be fine with that. The last three years have been great, being able to close against the teams I’€™m going to be closing against in the same league. It’€™s not like I’€™m going to different territory or a new league that I need to know all the hitters. It’€™s the same guys I’ve been facing for the last three years, just with a different uniform on. The only things I can work on are one, obviously, staying healthy, and two, sticking to my guns and being who I am. Just because I’€™m wearing a different uniform doesn’€™t mean I’€™m going to change on or off the field. That’€™s kind of what my thoughts are now.”

On joining the Red Sox: “It’€™s obviously looking good. These guys have been around for a while and have competed in the highest games of Major League Baseball. I’m looking forward to, obviously I’ve got to learn from them. They’€™ve been there. Some of the questions from before — How am I going to do down the road? — that’€™s what teammates are for. If I have questions about how to get people out or whatever, I’€™m not a guy that’€™s going to be — if I have questions I’€™m going to ask them. And I’€™m going to do what’s best for the team. Whatever role that’€™s in, I’€™ll be fine.

“Obviously, with the starters and the rest of the bullpen guys, I’€™m looking forward to it. Most baseball guys are alike or at least I hope so. I think I’€™m pretty easy to get along with, so I’€™m liking the way it’€™s shaping up. I think it’€™s going to be a fun year.”


Ben Cherington talks Andrew Bailey, Daniel Bard and the Red Sox’ right field situation

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington spoke via a conference call regarding his team’s trade of Josh Reddick, Raul Alcantara, and Miles Head to Oakland for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney. The following is a transcript of the conversation:

(What does this acquisition mean for Daniel Bard?)

Bard will prepare for spring training as a starter, as you guys know. We want to give him every chance to do that. We just want to see how things go in spring training. Ultimately Bobby and Bob McClure will help us make that decision. When we talk to Daniel about preparing for spring training as a starter we did it with the intent of helping him succeed in that role. That’s still our intent. We do believe he can do it, but we’ll see how things go in spring training.

(What the Red Sox liked about Bailey)

Andrew is a proven, top-quality closer in the American League. He’s done it for three years in the American League, and saw a lot of success. He’s converted a very high percentage of his opportunities. He’s got good stuff. We really like his make-up for Boston and everything we’ve learned about him over the past few weeks as we’ve been working on this only strengthened our conviction that he can fit really well into our team and in our clubhouse. As we were looking to upgrade our pitching staff, we were looking at all sorts of things, starters, relievers, we found a trade we liked with Houston a while back for Melancon and we found one we liked this time around for Bailey, and also Ryan Sweeney.

(Any concern about Bailey’€™s medical history?)

We had a chance to look into Bailey’s medical history and get to know a lot more of what he went through. He had Tommy John surgery about five years ago and he’s fully recovered from that. He had some elbow symptoms in 2010 and had a relatively minor procedure after the 2010 season. He then came to spring training in 2011 and perhaps ramped up too quickly and had a little bit of a setback and appeared to be some scar tissue breakup and some minor soft tissue injury. This past spring training he was able to recover from that, get back to pitching and perform well. His stuff and his performance were solid down the stretch and he was systematic for the rest of the season after he came back. We are very confident he’ll come into camp ready to go and ready to help our team in 2012.


Five quick thoughts on the Red Sox trade for Andrew Bailey

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

A major league source has confirmed that the Red Sox have traded outfielder Josh Reddick, first baseman Miles Head and right-hander Raul Alcantara to the A’s for closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney. A few quick reactions to the trade:

1) The Red Sox have built a solid back-end of their bullpen, with further reinforcements such as Ryan Madson unlikely. Both Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon, along with — in all likelihood — either Daniel Bard or Alfredo Aceves (one of whom is likely to end up in the rotation, the other in the bullpen) and Bobby Jenks (whom the Sox expect to have back) creates late-innings depth, particularly if Matt Albers and/or Felix Doubront and/or Franklin Morales can further lengthen the group.

The Sox have seen Bailey — a two-time All-Star — show the kind of stuff to be one of the elite closers in the American League. He’ll almost surely be the end-of-game option for the Sox as well. Though there have been health questions about him in recent seasons, the other pitchers with closing experience and/or potential (Melancon, Jenks, Bard/Aceves) permits the Sox to be insulated (at least on paper) should he be sidelined.

2) The Sox still have money to spend. They won’t be spending a ton, but in adding Melancon and Bailey through trades, the Sox acquired two solid late-innings arms who will cost less than a third of Jonathan Papelbon next season. As such, the team still has some money to either sign or trade for a starter. That will be their primary offseason need going forward.

3) In exchanging Reddick for Sweeney, the Sox parted with a major league outfielder with upside in Reddick in exchange for a player whose on-base skills and ability to play all three outfield positions will fit into the club’s short-term needs. Right now, Sweeney and Darnell McDonald wouild be the Sox’ right field combination, though the Sox are still looking at right-handed outfield bats. Regardless, the Sox were likely going to get to a point where they had to trade either Reddick or Ryan Kalish at some point given the potential positional redundancy of the two. In a best-case scenario for the Sox, Kalish would be ready to be an everyday big league outfielder by the middle of 2012. Reddick would have been that for them right now, but the upgrade to Bailey with the anticipated availability of Kalish in the not-too-distant future made this deal feasible.

Sweeney, a former second-round pick, is a career .283/.342/.378/.720 hitter. The Sox believe that his swing and approach will both play well at Fenway Park.

4) Alcantara was the clear second component of the deal. When the Sox were scared away from the Rich Harden trade this summer, it was because they couldn’t stomach the prospect of losing Alcantara as the second piece in the deal.

It’s almost impossible to say what the 19-year-old will be. He’s a relatively raw right-hander with a big arm. He dominated in the Gulf Coast League (0.75 ERA in 48 innings) and faced adversity after a mid-year promotion to Lowell (6.23 ERA in 17 1/3 innings). His fastball/breaking ball combination suggest at least long-term big league bullpen potential, and he has the upside of a starter. Still, he’s likely at least five years from a regular job in the majors, and there’s immense uncertainty about his future. That being the case, he’s precisely the type of player for whom the A’s (whose visions of contention are entirely driven by the long term) should deal, and the type of player for whom the Sox cannot sabotage a deal.

5) Head made a significant jump in his prospect status this year by producing a dominant stretch with Single-A Greenville and then holding his own as a younger player in the Carolina League with High-A Salem. He doesn’t wow anyone with his physique or athleticism (he would be an atypical success story, having to follow a path of someone like a Billy Butler), but the 26th rounder (who signed for $335,000 in 2009) has always left the Sox convinced he can hit.

The first baseman garnered little attention in the Sox’€™ system while hitting .240/.328/.341/.669 with one homer in Short-Season Lowell in 2010. But in Greenville this year, Head asserted himself in a way that ensured he could no longer be overlooked.

The 20-year-old earned a promotion to Hi-A Salem in late-June after leading the South Atlantic League in average (.338), slugging (.612), OPS (1.022) and extra-base hits (41 in 66 games). His consistent results reflect both improved conditioning as well as an improved mental approach to the game.

‘€œLast year, I was getting myself out chasing pitches or swinging at maybe not a hitter’€™s pitch in a hitter’€™s count,’€ said Head. ‘€œThis year, I’€™ve figured out my approach and stuck with it.’€

Still, Head was never going to leapfrog Adrian Gonzalez as the first baseman of the future, so he represented a moveable piece. He hit .254/.328/.405/.733 with seven homers in 63 games with the Salem Sox.

Report: Hideki Okajima agrees to minor league deal with Yankees

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

According to Sports Hochi and The New York Times, Hideki Okajima has agreed to a minor league deal with the Yankees that includes an invite to major league camp.

Okajima, who was taken off the 40-man roster last season by the Red Sox, pitched in 34 games (all in relief) with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox in 2011, going 8-1 with a 2.29 ERA. In 51 innings, the lefty fanned 48 and walked nine. Before being demoted to Pawtucket, Okajima had gone 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA with the Red Sox to begin the ’11 season.

The reliever told in early June that he wished to be traded out of the Red Sox organization after being taken off the 40-man roster

“It was very disappointing,” Okajima said through translator Jeff Cutler on June 3 regarding being designated for assignment. “Having experienced that, right now I’m just working hard on myself to make sure I’m pitching well so I can put myself up for a trade at some point.”

When asked if he wants to be traded, the 35-year-old said in English, “Yes.”

“Being taken off the 40-man, to me, means the team no longer needs me,” Okajima said through Cutler. “So I’m just looking to move on with my career at this point.”

Okajima pitched in 261 games over five seasons with the Red Sox, going 17-8 with a 3.11 ERA while saving six games. In 2007, his first season with the Sox, he made the American League All-Star team while finishing sixth in AL Rookie of the Year balloting.

Time to trade Kevin Youkilis?

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Is it time to trade Kevin Youkilis?

Well, not ideally. We are clearly at the 70 cents on the dollar stage with Youkilis, who had his worst offensive season in 2011, a batting average 41 points below his career number and an on-base percentage 18 points lower than his .391 career mark. Throw in that he played 120 games last season — and 102 the year before — and will be 33 in April and you’ve got kind of a lousy trade chip, no?

But this is where the Red Sox are. I’m not certain they occupy a position of real strength when it comes to trade talks. Has Ben Cherington been cautious in his first three months as GM? You could call it that, I suppose — not sure I would have given up top prospects for Gio Gonzalez (career 1.49 road WHIP) or handed Carlos Beltran a two-year, $26 million deal. No problem with the Sox punting on both.

I have no clue if Cherington (or Larry Lucchino or whoever is calling the shots) is going to be a competent general manager, but I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt for now.

Here’s the problem, though: The Sox have been the third-best team in the AL East each of the last two seasons and right now are no better than the team that walked off the field after Game No. 162 in Baltimore. They’ve basically flipped Jonathan Papelbon for Mark Melancon. Makes sense from a business perspective — no way I’m giving any closer 50 million bucks — but you can’t make the case with any confidence that Melancon has a better year than Papelbon in 2012. What else you got? Nick Punto with his career .327 slugging percentage and intangibles to spare?


Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure on The Big Show: ‘Kick ass and win’

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Asked to articulate his pitching philosophy in an interview on The Big Show, new Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure articulated a fairly straightforward vision: “Kick ass and win,” said McClure, who appeared in 698 games over parts of 19 seasons in the big leagues and who spent the last six seasons as the pitching coach of the Royals.

One of McClure’s initial challenges in that ambition will be to work with a pair of pitchers who spent last season as members of the Red Sox bullpen but who will arrive in spring training competing for spots in the starting rotation. Both Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves face that potential transition, yet their ultimate responsibilities for the 2012 season remain unknown. The remaining moves by the Red Sox this offseason and the performance of the two pitchers in spring training will determine their roles for next season.

That said, McClure believes that bringing relievers into camp as starters can have significant benefit for the pitchers, regardless of the role that they end up serving. Indeed, based on his experience in Kansas City, McClure has seen that the biggest benefit to the pitching staff of a spring conversion project may come to the bullpen.

As a Royals pitching coach, McClure had a pair of relievers — Jaokim Soria in 2007 and Kyle Farnsworth in 2010 — who produced tremendous seasons after spending spring training in the rotation. (more…)

A no-go for Gio in Boston: Red Sox see A’s deal Gonzalez to Nationals

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

The A’s traded left-hander Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals in exchange for a four-prospect package of 23-year-old right-hander Brad Peacock (who reached the big leagues this year) 22-year-old catcher Derek Norris (who spent the year in Double-A), 19-year-old power right-hander A.J. Cole (who spent the season in Single-A) and 24-year-old left-hander Tom Milone (who finished the year in the majors). The trade was first reported by Keith Law of (via twitter)

The deal removes one of the top available starters from the trade market, someone whom the Sox had pursued with the A’s through the end of the process. Indeed, the Sox were one of the last teams with whom the A’s were talking.

Gonzalez is 38-32 with a 3.93 ERA in parts of four seasons. He has emerged as one of the better starters in the American League in the last two years, putting up somewhat similar numbers to fellow southpaw C.J. Wilson (who signed a five-year, $77.5 million deal with the Angels this winter).

In 2010-11, Gonzalez is a combined 31-21 with a 3.17 ERA, with 8.2 strikeouts and 4.1 walks per nine innings, having pitched just over 200 innings and made 32 and 33 starts in those two seasons. He has held opponents to a .229 average during that time, sixth lowest in the AL among pitchers with at least 300 innings pitched over the last two years. Wilson, by contrast, was 31-15 with a 3.14 ERA, 7.9 strikeouts and 3.5 walks per nine innings, a 1.215 WHIP while averaging 214 innings. (more…)

Depth charge: How Red Sox starting depth is shaping up

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Most of the curiosity surrounding the Red Sox rotation this offseason has focused on which high-end pitchers the team might pursue (whether trading for someone like Gio Gonzalez, Matt Garza or Gavin Floyd or a free-agent such as Hiroki Kuroda or Roy Oswalt) or the two pitchers (Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves) who were key bullpen contributors for the Sox last year but who will be stretched out as starters in spring training.

However, the Sox’ efforts this offseason stretch well beyond just the top five starters whom they will feature, at least on paper, at the start of the season. Teams typically need at least seven or eight quality starters to make it through the shifting fortunes of the season and to withstand injuries and performances that fall short of expectations.

Last year, the Sox used 10 starters. They’re not alone. In the last 10 seasons, the Sox have averaged 10.2 starters per year. Since 2005, about 61 percent of teams in baseball have required 10 or more starters to make it through a year (led by a 2006 Royals team that used a shocking 17 starters in their season).

That being the case, the Sox are looking not just at high-end options (such as the free agent and trade candidates listed above), but also depth options that will give the team some stability when injuries inevitably enter the picture.

As the team continues that undertaking, here is a look at pitchers who are currently viewed as depth options in the organization:

GIVENS — the three starters who are certain (barring injury) to enter the year in the rotation, and require little explanation:

Josh Beckett (13-7, 2.89 ERA, 193 IP)
Jon Lester (15-9, 3.47, 191 2/3 IP)
Clay Buchholz (6-3, 3.48, 82 2/3 IP)

BUBBLE — entering spring training, the pitchers who are currently slated to compete for starting jobs:

Alfredo Aceves (10-2, 2.61, 114 IP in the majors): Aceves made four big league starts and two more in the minors. He has a four-pitch mix that suggests the stuff to be a starter, although he was also a remarkably impactful reliever given his unique ability to work several innings at a time.

Daniel Bard (2-9, 3.33, 73 IP): Bard hasn’t started a game since 2007, but his three-pitch fastball/slider/changeup mix makes him the highest-ceiling Sox pitcher in just about any role in which he pitches. That said, there is a great unknown about managing the sort of innings bump that he’d face. (more…)

Bobby Valentine: ‘I can’t wait to meet’ Carl Crawford

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

New Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine checked in with the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday afternoon. Calling from the Red Sox’ new spring training stadium in Fort Myers, Fla., Valentine gushed about the “spectacularly designed and built” JetBlue Park at Fenway South that is still undergoing preparations for its debut in 2012.

One of the Sox players who will play in that park is Carl Crawford. Valentine said he has spoken with Crawford’s agent but has yet to talk directly to the player he criticized during the season while serving as an ESPN analyst.

“Carl’s working his behind off, as he usually does, I guess, in the offseason,” Valentine said. “From what I gather and what I’ve seen from afar and what I’ve learned third-hand, and not first-hand, is that he’s an athlete who loves to work. Speaking to his agent, he is working. We have a face-to-face plan hopefully right after the first of the year, when things settle down for him. He’s going to give me a little time. So, it’s in the planning stages. But you know what? We’re going to have a lot of time when the season starts, too. I can’t wait to meet this outstanding athlete.”

Valentine said in a recent interview that Crawford went from being a five-tool player to using only two of those tools this year. Asked how he planned to get Crawford back to being a complete player, Valentine said: “I wish there was one answer to that, but obviously it’s going to have to come from within, from Carl wanting and feeling and knowing that he’s ready to it. ‘€¦ I think that the support staff, the coaching staff, as well as a lot of the players who, when I have talked to some of the guys, said we really have to make sure that Carl has a better feel this year. We have to make sure that Carl feels at home this year. We have to make sure that Carl can be Carl this year. That’s right on the front burner, as far as I’m concerned.”

As he spoke, Valentine was preparing to leave Fort Myers and drive across the state to visit a couple of Sox players. He explained that he stresses personal interaction over his phone conversations with his new charges.

“Talking on the phone is only one step up from communicating by a letter or Twitter or the Internet,” he said. “There’s nothing like — you know what I mean by this, Lou — talking with your body and your heart and your eyes and your hands, as we Italians do. I think most of the communication has been a cordial one, one that says I’m really looking forward to really establishing a line of communication and really working and really enjoying and and trying to find what I could do to make these guys as good as they can possibly be.

“Some guys talk more than others, some guys got into philosophies of what they think we should do in spring training and how we should do batting orders and who should be the first pitcher out of the bullpen. So, there have been conversations. I don’t want you to think that I am immature enough to believe that any of these telephone or even in-person cordial conversations have done anything other than just begun what has to be a long and very hard road to get to know each other.”

Valentine acknowledged that Tim Bogar will be the team’s new bench coach, and he said a pitching coach has been selected but won’t be announced until an agreement is reached.

“I think that it’s paramount that this group of outstanding pitchers has as good a guy directing them and working with them on a daily basis as possible,” he said. “I’ve basically exhausted all friendships, relationships, lists that I’ve seen of many, many ex-pitchers and pitching coaches that are out there. I think that Ben [Cherington] and Mike [Hazen] and Brian [O’Halloran] and Allard [Baird] and I have gone through the names, have gone through the interviews, and I think that we’ve come to one mind on who that guy’s going to be. And it should be announced as soon as Ben gets the contract signed.”

Following are more highlights from the interview.

On new bench coach Tim Bogar: “The last time Tim thought about talking to me, he was in the same mindset that I think Josh Beckett was when he heard me talk on ‘Baseball Tonight,” because I guess when I was managing Tim in New York, he was traded to the Astros — or he might have been released and then signed by the Astros, but it wasn’t a pleasant situation. Since then, we’ve had a relationship where I’ve seen him the dugout, I’ve seen him on the field. I’ve always admired his passion for the game of baseball and his knowledge of the game of baseball. After talking to him and figuring out what I could do to make him the best that he could be, so that he could be the best coach on this staff, the bench coach was exactly where he needed to be.”