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Red Sox decline option on Craig Breslow 10.31.14 at 2:28 pm ET
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The Red Sox announced that they’ve declined their $4 million option for the 2015 season on left-handed reliever Craig Breslow. The 34-year-old went 2-4 with a 5.96 ERA in 60 relief appearances this season, a marked departure from a six-year stretch that had established him as one of the most consistent left-handers in the game, with a 2.82 ERA while averaging 62 innings and 65 games a year. It was that track record that led the Sox to sign Breslow to the first multi-year deal of his career, a two-year, $6.25 million deal that included the 2015 option.

Breslow proved a pivotal part of the Sox bullpen in 2013, posting a 1.81 ERA in the regular season and then seven scoreless innings in the first two rounds of the postseason before he faltered in the World Series, retiring just one of the seven batters he faced in three appearances, at a time when he was running on fumes. That October run undoubtedly had a lingering toll in 2014, with Breslow frustrated by his inability to perform to his customary levels.

“I’ve never before had to play the last game of such a miserable season,” Breslow said on the final day of the season. “There were a lot of firsts this year. I’ve never struggled like this at any point of my career. I’ve never had a full season that ended up like this, especially one that had significant expectations going on. The best part of this season is that it’s done. …

“I’m not looking for sympathy. I recognize that in my mind, and I think quite pragmatically, 2014 was the complement to 2013. I wouldn’t undo any of that. I would gladly make that sacrifice. As much as this stinks, being able to contribute to a team that won a World Series is something that guys play for 20 years and never get a chance to do,” he added. “I think it’s kind of like I had the ultimate high of highs last year and the ultimate low of lows last year and in 2015 I’ll go back to being the same guy I was for six of the last seven years.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Is there life after 40 for Koji Uehara and big league relievers? 10.30.14 at 6:52 pm ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

A case can be made that Koji Uehara’s one-year deal that included a second-year vesting option, signed as a free agent in December 2012, represented one of the best free-agent deals in Red Sox history. Uehara performed at a level of historic distinction in both the regular season and postseason in 2013, and despite a blip at the end of the 2014 season, he remained an All-Star-caliber closer.

The Sox’ interest in re-signing him was no secret. Still, the fact that the 39-year-old — who will turn 40 at the start of next season — ended up signing a two-year deal counts as a mild surprise.

Should it? Can the Red Sox bank on Uehara, in his age 40 and 41 seasons, performing at something along the lines of what he did as a 38- and 39-year-old?

Uehara is the ninth reliever since 2000 to have back-to-back years at ages 38 and 39 of an ERA that was at least 20 percent better than league average while working at least 40 innings in each season. He joins closers such as Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman along with a number of middle relievers such as Takashi Saito and Darren Oliver. As a group, in their age 38-39 seasons, those nine pitchers logged a total of 1,063 innings with a 2.50 ERA.

Of course, since Uehara hasn’t had an opportunity to pitch beyond his age 39 season, it’s only worth examining his eight predecessors. That group logged a combined 925 innings with a 2.61 ERA in their age 38-39 seasons.

How’d they do beyond that? The results were … mixed. Brian Shouse and Steve Reed were close to done; both pitched just one more season in the big leagues. Russ Springer was a bit better than average (an ERA+ of 107) over the two years, while Dan Plesac enjoyed continued effectiveness (118 ERA+, 3.49 ERA) in his ongoing role as a left-handed specialist.

But four of those eight — the ones who were elite in the first place — remained elite over the first two years of pitching into their 40s: Read the rest of this entry »

Koji Uehara among four Red Sox declared free agents 10.30.14 at 2:09 pm ET
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The conclusion of the World Series marked the pivot from the baseball season to the offseason, and with it, the arrival of the market frenzy. As of today, 121 players have been declared free agents who are eligible to sign with any team beginning on Tuesday, Nov. 4, at 12:01 a.m. Between now and then, during what is referred to as the “quiet period,” players are free to negotiate contract terms with the teams with whom they finished the 2014 season. Players (and their representatives) can also talk to the other 29 teams, but they cannot discuss financial terms until Tuesday.

The Red Sox have four players who have been declared free agents, most prominently, closer Koji Uehara. Joining Uehara are reliever Burke Badenhop, catcher David Ross and right-hander Ryan Dempster, who spent 2014 on the restricted list after electing to sit out for the year as a potential prelude to retirement. Jon Lester, who finished the year with the A’s after being traded by the Red Sox, is also a free agent, as are left-hander Andrew Miller, outfielder Jonny Gomes and right-hander Jake Peavy, all of whom were traded mid-year.

For a complete list of free agents, click here.

Madison Bumgarner leads Giants to 7th game win over Royals, 3rd World Series title in 5 years 10.29.14 at 11:25 pm ET
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Left-hander Madison Bumgarner came out of the bullpen to carry the Giants to their third title in five years. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Left-hander Madison Bumgarner came out of the bullpen to carry the Giants to their third title in five years. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

A World Series that lacked drama through most of the first six games evidently saved its thrills for the winner-take-all Game 7, with the San Francisco Giants emerging to claim a 3-2 victory over the Royals. The Giants are champions for the third time in five years, making them the first team since the 1998-2000 Yankees to win three World Series titles in as few as five years and just the third team in the last 40 years (in addition to those Yankees and the 1972-74 Athletics) to claim three titles in such a brief period. In claiming the win in Kauffman Stadium, the Giants became the first team since the 1979 Pirates to win a World Series Game 7 on the road.

Madison Bumgarner, already the defining force in the World Series after allowing just one run in 16 innings while earning wins in Games 1 and 5, punctuated his MVP performance with five scoreless innings of relief, inheriting a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning and navigating it to the finish line. He gave up a single to the first batter he faced and then retired the next 14 in a row before Alex Gordon drove a two-out single to left-center in the ninth, the ball skipping past the center fielder for an error that permitted Gordon to race to third. But with the tying run 90 feet from the plate, Bumgarner induced a foul pop-up from Royals catcher Salvador Perez that was secured by third baseman Pablo Sandoval to give the Giants their title.

Bumgarner allowed just nine hits and 10 baserunners in 21 innings during the World Series, with his career World Series ERA now at 0.25 over 36 innings, the best mark in World Series history by a pitcher with at least 20 innings in the Fall Classic. He was credited with the Game 7 win, his third of the Series, becoming the 14th pitcher in the history of the World Series with three victories in a single year, and the second (along with Randy Johnson in 2001) since 1968 to accomplish the feat.

UPDATE: Approximately one hour after the conclusion of the game, the official scorer changed the discretionary interpretation of Bumgarner as the game’s victor, and instead gave the win to Giants (and former Royals) reliever Jeremy Affeldt, with Bumgarner receiving credit for a five-inning save. It marked the first five-inning save in playoff history.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Hunter Pence, madison bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval,
Report: Cubs to hire Joe Maddon as manager 10.29.14 at 6:01 pm ET
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Evidently, after all those years managing indoors, Joe Maddon sought sunlight.

According to a report from CBSSports.com, which cited multiple industry sources, the Cubs are expected to hire Maddon to be their manager. Maddon opted out of his deal with the Rays last week after he proved unable to work out an extension with Tampa Bay. The report said that Maddon will become one of the highest-paid managers in the game, and likely the highest paid in the National League.

A subsequent report by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports (via twitter) suggested that there is not yet a deal done between Maddon and the Cubs, and that he continues to talk to other teams. Still, that may simply be a matter of semantics, with the sides waiting until after the World Series to reach (and announce) a formal conclusion to a deal.

The appeal of a deal for both the Cubs and Maddon seems obvious. The Cubs, a team with the top pool of young talent in the big leagues, get a player with a history of having inherited a losing culture and transformed it into a perennial contender with World Series aspirations. Maddon, meanwhile, would secure one of the top salaries in the game and a team upon which he can put his imprint while trying to bridge the divide from potential to success. Indeed, with the Cubs now 106 years into a title drought, the upside of managing in Chicago may be greater than any other job in baseball.

The Cubs do have Rick Renteria under contract. Renteria, who stewarded Chicago to a 73-89 record in his first year as Cubs skipper, has two years remaining on his contract. But evidently, with Maddon becoming available, the Cubs (and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein as well as GM Jed Hoyer) were willing to confront that potentially awkward situation for the sake of securing the services of the two-time AL Manager of the Year.

Read More: cubs, Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein,
Blake Swihart tops Baseball America’s list of top 10 Red Sox prospects 10.29.14 at 10:13 am ET
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Blake Swihart is the Red Sox' top prospect, according to Baseball America. (365DigitalPhotography.com/Portland Sea Dogs)

Blake Swihart is the Red Sox‘ top prospect, according to Baseball America. (365DigitalPhotography.com/Portland Sea Dogs)

Looking for a catcher in the minors to whom to compare Red Sox top prospect Blake Swihart?

“There isn’t one,” said one evaluator.

Swihart — an extremely athletic switch-hitter who shows well above-average defensive tools, the ability to hit the ball very, very hard on a fairly consistent basis (a skill that translates more often to doubles than homers given that he typically hits screaming liners instead of lofting the ball) and runs well heads the list of Baseball America’s Top 10 Red Sox prospects for the 2015 season. (Disclaimer: I authored the list.)

Given the low standards for offense behind the plate, and the fact that he has a chance to be well above-average in every phase of the game, the 22-year-old stands the best chance of perhaps any Red Sox prospect of being a perennial All-Star. Some rough edges remain in his game (as evidenced by the fact that he walked just twice and struck out 15 times in a year-end stretch in Pawtucket after being promoted following a standout run in Double-A Portland), but the combination of a fairly well-defined floor as a big league starter with a ceiling that suggests the potential to be one of the top starting catchers in the game makes Swihart the Sox’ top prospect.

(Note: Mookie Betts had too many big league at-bats to qualify for the list. Otherwise, he would have been the No. 1 prospect. #feats.)

Here’s a look at Baseball America’s full top 10 list, with their 2014 performance lines and links to stories about the prospects on WEEI.com:

1) Blake Swihart, C – Age 22

Triple-A Pawtucket: 18 games, .261/.282/.377, 1 HR
Double-A Portland: 92 games, .300/.353/.487, 12 HR

Other: Threw out 46 percent of would-be base stealers.

Catching On: Blake Swihart’s accelerating development behind the plate

Blake Swihart most difficult Red Sox prospect to trade

Why Blake Swihart looks increasingly like an elite prospect

Blake Swihart taking off the gloves

2) Henry Owens, LHP – Age 22 Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: blake swihart, eduardo rodriguez, henry owens, Rusney Castillo
John Farrell: Notion that Red Sox coaches ‘hate’ Yoenis Cespedes ‘completely unfounded’ 10.28.14 at 9:51 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell, in an interview on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio, made clear his displeasure with a New York Daily News report that cited a Red Sox insider in suggesting that all the members of the Red Sox coaching staff “hate” Cespedes.

“Totally surprised and completely off-guard,” Farrell told the station of his reaction to the report. “It’s unfortunate that a comment like that is made from elsewhere. We had two full months with Yoenis. I think you get a pretty good feel for a player or a person when you’re around them every day for the length of time in a given day that we are. We know him to be one thing, and that is a guy that works well. He became a very good and strong performer in the middle of our lineup. We’re happy he’s here. We’re certainly looking forward to building a lineup with him in the middle of it next year. Completely unfounded and kind of a shame that someone would write something like that because we see him and from what we know of him is completely 180 degrees from what was written.”

Cespedes hit .269/.296/.423 with five homers in 51 games after the Red Sox acquired him from the A’s in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. The 29-year-old is entering his final season of a four-year, $36 million contract that will make him a free agent after the 2015 campaign.

Read More: John Farrell, Yoenis Cespedes,
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