Archive for December, 2012

Why is this draft pick so important to Red Sox?

Friday, December 28th, 2012

The Red Sox might value their second-round draft pick too much to take a run at free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche. (AP)

So, just how important is this pick the Red Sox are clutching so tightly?

It has been referenced numerous times that besides the years and money, one of the biggest reasons for the Red Sox shying away from some of the more notable free agents is a hesitancy to surrender their second-round draft pick.

In case you weren’t up to speed …

Heading into the free agent period, there were nine players extended qualifying offers, which would have guaranteed them each a one-year, $13.3 million deal for 2013. All nine turned down that chance. By offering the qualifying offer, each of the players’ 2012 teams were assured draft pick compensation if their player signed with another team. For the signing team, it would also mean it would be forced to surrender a first-round draft pick, unless the organization possessed a pick in the draft’s top 10 selections, allowing the team to give up a second-round pick. That would be the case with the Red Sox, who own the draft’s No. 7 overall pick in ’13.

Thus far, Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton, and Nick Swisher are the members of the group who have signed with other teams, costing the signing team a draft choice. David Ortiz and Hiroki Kuroda chose to sign with their ’12 teams.

That leaves Michael Bourn, Kyle Lohse, Rafael Soriano and Adam LaRoche as the aforementioned free agents who have yet to sign. Of particular interest to the Red Sox may be LaRoche, who could be a fall-back if Mike Napoli’s situation isn’t resolved. The Red Sox have shied away from LaRoche in part to his desire for a three-year deal. But perhaps just as problematic is the draft pick it would cost to sign the first baseman.

For the here-and-the-now crowd, the importance of holding onto the draft pick is hard to grasp. But there are some slap-in-the-face reminders about how necessary compensation draft picks can be for a team:

- The last time the Red Sox signed a big-time free agent — Carl Crawford after the 2010 season — they were forced to surrender the 24th pick in the 2011 draft to Tampa Bay. That pick turned out to be top pitching prospect Taylor Guerrieri, who is believed to be on track to join the long list of Rays’ top-of-the-rotation stable of young pitchers.

- The draft pick surrendered by the Yankees when they signed Mark Teixeira (24th overall in 2009) turned out to be Mike Trout.

- While the Red Sox missed out on Guerrieri, that same draft they hauled in pitchers Matt Barnes and Henry Owens due to the compensation as a result of Victor Martinez signing with the Tigers, and catcher Blake Swihart and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. with the picks siphoned from Adrian Beltre joining the Rangers.

- Other examples of prospects reeled in by the Red Sox via free agent compensation are infielder Kolbrin Vitek and pitchers Brandon Workman and Anthony Ranaudo, who were both taken as a result of the Sox parting ways with Billy Wagner and Jason Bay after the ’09 season. Clay Buchholz (Pedro Martinez) and Jacoby Ellsbury (Orlando Cabrera) are also both results of draft pick compensation.

But, it should be noted, this isn’t a first-round pick. It isn’t yet determined — because of the number of picks handed out to teams — exactly where the Red Sox will be selecting, so let’s take a guess — No. 44.

Using this pick as the (hardly carved in stone) jumping off point, here are some reminders about the No. 44 pick:

2012: Travis Jankowski. A speedy outfielder was taken out of Stony Brook University by the Padres. Still too early to evaluate.
2011: Michel Fulmer. Taken out of high school by the Mets (as compensation for Pedro Felciano), this pitcher spent last season in Single A.
2010: Nick Castellanos. The Tigers took this third baseman out of high school after receiving compensation for Brandon Lyon. He totaled a 1.014 OPS in Single A before being moved up to Double-A midway through last season.
2009: Tanner Scheppers. Made his major league debut for the Rangers last season, appearing in 39 games as a reliever. He was compensation for Milton Bradley.
2008: Jeremy Bleich. A pitcher out of Stanford, he is reinventing himself as a lefty reliever after labrum surgery.
2007: Neil Ramirez. Having been picked out of high school by the Rangers, he turned in a 7.66 ERA in Triple-A last season.
2006: Caleb Clay. The Nationals signed Clay to a minor league contract in November after spending ’12 as a reliever for Double-A Portland.

The best success story out of the 44th slot is Reds’ superstar Joey Votto (2002), with Chris Bosio and Jon Lieber serving as runner-ups. Since 1980, 15 of the No. 44 picks have made it to the major leagues.

The Sox’ pick could very well land somewhere other than No. 44, but identifying the spot allows for at least somewhat of a sample size. There is also the years of financial control the team would have over the player if it did hit on the right pick, allowing roster flexibility for years to come. And, as commenter ‘Josh’ points out: “It isn’t just the pick, though. It is also the roughly $1.2 million (last year’s slot) in draft pool dollars. That is basically the difference between the No. 7 and the No. pick.”

For the right free agent, the draft pick conversation becomes a bit murkier. For an addition that is viewed as something more of a complementary addition, it makes the case for holding onto the pick a whole lot easier to digest.

Should the Red Sox be willing to surrender their second-round pick for Adam LaRoche?

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Dustin Pedroia on possible extension: ‘I want to be a Red Sox my whole career’

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Dustin Pedroia

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, in an appearance on WEEI’s Red Sox Hot Stove show on Thursday night, said that as far as he knows, the team has not talked with his agents, Seth and Sam Levinson of ACES, about a possible extension this offseason. However, he was aware of reports that the Sox would like to talk this offseason about the possibility of an extension to his six-year, $40.5 million deal that runs through 2014 (with an $11 million option for 2015).

“I don’t think [extension talks are as of yet] anywhere. I haven’t talked to my agents that much,” said Pedroia. “I saw [the report that the Sox would like to discuss an extension]. That definitely, it made me smile. Obviously, I want to be a Red Sox my whole career and play in that city, turn this whole thing around to get back to where we were my first couple years there. I’m going to leave that up to [GM Ben Cherington] and everybody else, and my agents. I try to stay out of it. I think the Red Sox know I’m an emotional guy. My agent definitely does. I try to let them do their job and me, stick to being a psycho on the baseball field.”

Pedroia characterized the 2012 season, when the Sox went 69-93, as a “horrible year,” and acknowledged that, at times — particularly after the Red Sox’ trade of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto — he wondered whether he remained in the team’s future plans, and if he truly did want to be a Red Sox for his career. But, in the end, he realized that he does want to be at the heart of the restoration of the franchise to contender status, and that he believes he is positioned in both talent and commitment to do so. (more…)

Why Stephen Drew, Scott Boras are bullish on 2013

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Stephen Drew is eager to spend 2013 as Dustin Pedroia's double-play partner in Boston. (AP)

It was a mostly dreadful way in which to arrive at free agency.

On June 12, 2011, Stephen Drew looked ready to assert himself as one of the best shortstops in the game, if he hadn’t done so already. A 3-for-4 game that day with a pair of doubles pushed his statistics to a fairly gaudy level, particularly considering his position. Through roughly 40 percent of the season, he was hitting .295 with a .373 OBP, .457 slugging mark and .830 OPS. Though he had just four homers (a surprisingly low output given that he averaged 16 homers in each of the previous three years), he was on pace for more than 50 extra-base hits and nearly 100 RBI, numbers that solidified the impression of him as an under-the-radar shortstop who was nevertheless one of the top offensive performers at his position.

Two things conspired to jeopardize that standing.

First, he went into a bit of an offensive tailspin over the next five-plus weeks. He hit .171 with a .205 OBP, .279 slugging mark and .484 OPS, dragging his overall line to .252/.317/.396/.713 — still better-than-average marks at his position (where the average NL shortstop hit .261/.314/.374/.688 in 2011), but short of the elite level where he’d resided for the previous three-plus seasons.

And then, on July 20, Drew suffered a brutal fracture of his ankle while sliding into home plate, an injury that wiped out the rest of 2011 and then most of the first three months of 2012. And even upon his return to the Diamondbacks lineup last June 27, Drew now suggests, despite criticism by Arizona managing general partner Ken Kendrick last summer that he took too long to return from his injury, that he ultimately re-entered the Diamondbacks lineup before he was completely healthy.

“Going through it was kind of crazy. As a player, I never had an injury like that. It was just a major injury,” Drew said on Thursday on a conference call to discuss his addition to the Red Sox. “I came back a little too soon because they wanted me out on the field. I was doing the best I could to come back as fast as possible.” (more…)

Potential Red Sox 2013 draft pick: Indiana HS LHP/OF Trey Ball

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

WEEI.com will continue to offer insight and analysis regarding options that might be available to the Red Sox when it comes to the 2013 MLB draft. For the first time since 1993, the Red Sox have a top-10 selection and will be drafting seventh. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Red Sox to make a selection.

TREY BALL

Left-hander Trey Ball is committed to the University of Texas. (New Castle High School)

Position: OF/LHP

School: Newcastle (Ind.) High School

Born: June 27, 1994

Height/weight: 6-foot-6, 175 pounds

Bats/throws: L/L

2013 class: Senior

Committed to: Texas

Achievements: 2012 All-Area Code Team, 2012 Baseball America High School All-America third team, 2012 ESPNHS High School All-America third team, 2012 Under Armour All-American, 2012 Perfect Game Underclass first team, 2012 ESPNHS Preseason All-State, 2012 All-North Central Conference, 2011 Perfect Game Underclass high honorable mention, 2011 Area Code Games, 2011 All-North Central Conference

What he brings: Scouts view Ball as a top-tier pitching talent. He has a very smooth and easy delivery to the plate. His fastball sits consistently in the 90-93 mph range while his changeup drops to the 78-80 mph range. Ball also has a developing slider that sits in the 80- 84 mph range. His delivery consists of a high leg kick and a three-quarter arm slot that is reminiscent of a left-handed version of Roger Clemens.

Offensively, Ball possesses a smooth swing with power potential. He hits well to the opposite field and runs the 60 in 6.67 seconds.

Notes: Ball is desirable because he is considered a two-way player. He is a pitcher who can both pitch and hit well. At this young stage in his development it is unknown if he will make the transition into being a major league pitcher or take a role in the field.

He is a very good runner. Scouts have been impressed with him and have taken note with how effortless he makes the game appear.

Links:

http://espn.go.com/blog/high-school/baseball/tag/_/name/trey-ball

http://minors.mlblogs.com/tag/trey-ball/

http://www.prepbaseballreport.com/profiles/IN/Trey-Ball-1023784659

http://www.perfectgame.org/players/playerprofile.aspx?ID=286352

Some things we learned after talking to John Farrell, Red Sox assistant GM Brian O’Halloran, new closer Joel Hanrahan

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

Joel Hanrahan has been named the new Red Sox closer. (AP)

The Red Sox held two conference calls Wednesday afternoon, one with assistant general manager Brian O’Halloran (GM Ben Cherington was traveling), and another with newly acquired closer Joel Hanrahan.

Here are some things we learned from the two media sessions (along with another phone conversation WEEI.com had with Red Sox manager John Farrell).

1. Farrell kept in contact with Andrew Bailey throughout the trade talks involving Hanrahan, as was first revealed by O’Halloran:

“I spoke with John earlier, and he has spoken with both Bailey and Hanrahan, so I don’t mind sharing with you that John plans to go into the spring with Hanrahan as the closer,” the assistant GM said. “He talked to Andrew. We see Andrew as playing a very important role in the back end of our bullpen as well. There will be plenty of opportunities for him to help us win games in key situations late in the game, and we know he’s very capable both of closing and pitching in other high-leverage situations at the ends of games. It’s not too often you get a chance to add a two-time All-Star closer to the mix, so we’re excited to do that with Joel. We think it will strengthen the group and make everybody better out there.”

And when Farrell eventually broke the news to Bailey he isn’t currently viewed as the Red Sox’ closer?

“In talking to Andrew and explaining to him what our approach was, it was by no means a reflection on him personally. But the fact we were able to add a very good closer to our bullpen it really has a chance to deepen a strong group that emerged last year. … [Bailey] was a pro about it. He understood. He has strong belief and confidence in himself, which we like. He was a pro about it. He will be in an important role for us late in the game.”

2. Evidently, the June interleague series between the Red Sox and Pirates in Pittsburgh  – in which Hanrahan picked up a pair of saves — left quite an impression on the Sox.

“It definitely made an impression on me,” said O’Halloran. “I hadn’t seen very much of him. I’d seen him just a little bit here and there prior to that, and that was pretty impressive. If you go back and look at the video of that, it was not fun to be in the batter’s box against Joel Hanrahan for our hitters. We’re excited to have him on our side. Obviously the track record is lengthy the last few years as a closer. But that did absolutely make a strong impression on us.

“Certainly have had our eye on him since he’s moved to that role at the back end of the pen have been very impressed by him. Those types of guys don’t usually become available very often. There was nothing in the past to lead us to believe we could have acquired him. We’ve certainly always liked him and believed he could pitch successfully in our division.”

During that series, Hanrahan threw 27 of his 35 pitches at 97 mph or better, facing David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury.

What does Hanrahan remember about the series?

“The biggest thing was my wife’s family was all in town,” said the reliever, whose wife’s family is from Brockton and Avon. “They’ve all been diehard Red Sox fans for the longest time, and then I came into the picture. They were there that weekend, probably like 35 of them, they had their Pirates shirts with the Red Sox hats and didn’t really know what to do. They were confused fans. It was a big series there. The Pirates were in a good spot, I think we might have been in first or second place that time of year. The stadium was sold out over the weekend. I got that strikeout of Adrian Gonzalez to end the game, and when people look back at me as a Pirate, that’s the one that stands out the most to them.

“It was a fun weekend. The Red Sox came into Pittsburgh and people thought they were going to boss the Pirates around that weekend, and I think we took two out of three from them. It was just a good time. It was fun.”

3. Both Hanrahan and the Red Sox believe they have identified what caused the pitcher’s bout of wildness during September of last season.

O’Halloran: “Obviously we looked at that very closely. We do think there are some reasons that we saw the uptick in walks. We’re going to talk to Joel, and John’s already started that process, and Juan Nieves and Gary Tuck and John will get together with Joel and throw out anything that they see and help him with that. It’s not something we’re concerned about long-term. We believe we’re going to get the guy that’s been a great closer for two years. We did pay close attention to that and look into that, but we felt very comfortable and confident that he’s going to be a really good closer for us going forward.”

Hanrahan: “I had some issues with my legs. I hurt my hamstring early on in the year, and then I had a sore ankle for a while that kind of went under wraps. I was wearing a tight ankle brace that restricted my movement, and that had something to do with it. It’s nothing I was concerned about. There’s times when you pick and choose who you want to walk when you walk someone as well. I don’t think the walks are going to be a concern. I feel good going to spring training, and that’s going to be the main thing.”

4. Hanrahan knew, with the Pirates holding just one more year of control, the likelihood was that he would be pitching for a different team in 2013.

“I knew the trade rumors were going to be blowing around this winter,” he said. “They were getting thrown around last year and throughout the year when a couple of guys got hurt. I knew the possibility was pretty likely that there was a chance I’d get traded. I’d heard the different teams, with the Red Sox, the Tigers, the Dodgers. I had heard those rumors and knew they were talking about it. When I found out the news Friday or Saturday, I just kind of felt like the Red Sox were going to be the team, I got excited, because the Red Sox have a great history and tradition. It’s a huge sports city in Boston. My wife’s family is from that area. It was nice to have some familiarity with it, get it out of the way, and focus this next six weeks on getting ready for spring training as a Red Sox.”

5. Besides Hanrahan, O’Halloran offered some other updates.

With the Stephen Drew acquisition also being announced Wednesday, the assistant GM was asked about how the Red Sox viewed the shortstop’s physical well-being. Drew had dealt with a broken ankle before coming back to play for Arizona and Oakland in 2012.

“He was one of the better everyday shortstops in baseball for quite a stretch there and then he had the really bad ankle fracture that he suffered in 2011 and it took him the full year to get back out playing which is understandable,” O’Halloran said. “It’s a really really difficult injury. But he played well down the stretch and he also helped out Oakland in their stretch drive into the playoffs after the trade. We brought him in for a physical exam and our folks were very pleased with his progress and it’s obvious to them how hard he had worked given the nature of that injury, how hard he had worked to strengthen it. We feel that he’s going to be fully healthy for us and is going to make us a better team, we’re excited to have him.”

Then there was the latest regarding Mike Napoli, who still remains in limbo after concerns popped up following his physical with the Red Sox. It has now been 23 days since the two sides agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal for the infielder. The news, however, was there was no new news.

“I can’t comment on that specifically, nothing new from what Ben said the last time he spoke with you guys,” said O’Halloran, referencing Cherington’s update on a week before when there was no new developments. “We do continue to talk to a number of free agents ongoing, as Ben alluded to previously.”

How Red Sox view Joel Hanrahan, Brock Holt

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

Joel Hanrahan

In Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt, the Red Sox acquired a pitcher whom they consider an elite closer along with a middle infielder with a nice range of skills who serves as a solid complementary/depth option for the major league roster.

Hanrahan, 31, was an All-Star closer for the Pirates in the last two years, during which he recorded 76 saves (in 84 attempts, good for a 90.4 percent success rate) with a 2.24 ERA. During that time, opponents had just a .205 batting average against the right-hander, including a .187 mark in 2012.

While his walk rate spiked from 2.1 per nine innings in 2011 to 5.4 in 2012, the Sox — who scouted the right-hander heavily in September — did not see diminished stuff. His fastball remained a 96 mph offering, and his slider remained a wipeout pitch, capable of getting swings and misses in volume. Hanrahan did struggle with both command and results in the final month of the season, the Sox felt that hi struggles reflected the fact that he was pitching in uncompetitive situations, both because the Pirates had spiraled rapidly out of contention and because Hanrahan was pitching primarily in non-save situations, much as was the case when Jonathan Papelbon pitched in non-save situations.

In a best-case scenario for the Sox, Hanrahan gives the team an elite closer who can help the team to create a deep bullpen, with Hanrahan the closer behind setup men Andrew Bailey, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara (and, if he is not traded, Alfredo Aceves), along with left-handed options Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales and Craig Breslow, along with a wild card in Daniel Bard.

While the Sox had a relative wealth of talented arms last year, the absence and then struggles of Bailey and the inconsistency of Aceves resulted in a number of Sox losses in the late innings. The team was just 35 of 57 in save opportunities, a poor 61 percent conversion rate.

While Hanrahan is eligible for free agency after 2013, if he performs at an elite level, the Sox would consider making him a one-year qualifying offer either to bring him back to Boston on a short-term deal or in order to secure a draft pick if he signed elsewhere. (However, the limited market this winter for free agent Rafael Soriano — caused in no small part by the fact that he would cost a signing team a draft pick — serves as a cautionary tale for the idea of draft pick compensation.)

(more…)

Why Red Sox are interested in Joel Hanrahan, but not Rafael Soriano

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

The Red Sox have some interest in Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan. (AP)

Opportunity might be knocking for the Red Sox.

If the Red Sox’ interest in Pittsburgh closer Joel Hanrahan was born out of desperation to upgrade their closers role, you would have been hearing Rafael Soriano’s name connected with the team by now. But according to a baseball source, the Sox haven’t discussed making a play at the free agent reliever.

Sure, there is the issue of surrendering a draft pick if Soriano is signed (since the Yankees offered the righty a qualifying offer) — a notion that seems to be scaring teams away. But with the success of the 33-year-old in the American League East, if there was over-the-top anxiety about finding somebody to finish off games for the Sox, a conversation might at least be started regarding to short-term deal for Soriano.

So why are the Red Sox interested in Hanrahan?

The Pirates are fielding offers for the 31-year-old, although a source tells WEEI.com Alex Speier that asking for the likes of Felix Doubront would be a conversation-killer. Hanrahan made $4.1 million in 2012, and will be eligible to become a free agent after the 2013 season, opening the door for Pittsburgh’s willingness to talk.

It is the second straight offseason Pirates general manager Neil Huntington has at least entertained the idea of dealing his closer.

“Obviously, we’d love Joel to be in a Pirate uniform as long as it can possibly happen. There’s a number of factors that go into that. We’ve got to weigh each one accordingly,” Huntington told WEEI.com last November. “We recognize where our window is. We also recognize that we’re not going to be able to keep everybody in Pittsburgh, in a Pirate uniform, for the duration of their career.

“If there’s a deal out there that makes sense, we need to be open to it. That said, we’re not going to look to move him, but if somebody comes in and can fill multiple pieces for us or can fill a hole longer term for us, regardless of who it is — take the name off the back of the jersey — we always have to be willing to think about how we fill multiple pieces to be a better team for longer.”

The Red Sox simply view this as an opportunity to take advantage of the market while dealing from a position of semi-strength, and not flat-out desperation. They still have a closer in Andrew Bailey, and another reliever who has previously closed in Koji Uehara who could serve as a serviceable backup plan. And there would seem to be depth beyond Uehara, with Junichi Tazawa, Alfredo Aceves, Mark Melancon, Franklin Morales and Daniel Bard (assuming he bounces back).

But one could make a case that Hanrahan’s a next-level kind of guy. Soriano without the price tag.

Hanrahan hasn’t changed all that much since he introduced himself to the Red Sox in 2011, when 27 of his 34 pitches thrown over two appearances were clocked at 97 mph or better. According to MLBAnalytics.org, he hit at least 96 mph on nearly half of his pitches in ’12, a rate that didn’t drop off in the second half (hitting 98 mph 19 times in September).

His numbers would have been relatively the same as previous seasons, as well, if not for two bumpy September outings. Hanrahan still ended up holding hitters to a batting average of .187 while finishing with a 2.72 ERA, striking out 67 in 59 2/3 innings.

Any concern revolved around the closer’s increased walk total, which jumped up to 36, 20 more than the year before. Some in baseball worry about possible arm issues, while others will temper any concern by pointing out that the majority of Hanrahan’s wildness came in the season’s final month, when appearances were spotty due to the Pirates’ late-season struggles.

If Bailey is healthy, the Red Sox could certainly live without Hanrahan. But lessons should be learned regarding the importance of making certain the end of your bullpen is top-notch. An argument could be made that if the Brewers (29 blown saves), Angels (22), White Sox (20) and Dodgers (19) had better game-enders they would have been playing in the playoffs.

And it is no coincidence that since 2005, only one World Series winner (’06 Cardinals) hasn’t found a way to total at least 45 saves. The Giants’ last two title teams have collected 53 and 57 saves, respectively. The Red Sox? They went 35 of 57 in save opportunities last season. Again, it’s why if not for the cost of the draft pick, going after Soriano would make arguably as much sense as any of the Sox’ other $13 million acquisitions.

What should Red Sox do?

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Add it all up and it’s why Hanrahan has now entered the conversation.