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Manager Ryne Sandberg: Phillies would require ‘wow’ factor in return for Cole Hamels 12.09.14 at 6:54 pm ET
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Left-hander Cole Hamels had a 2.46 ERA for the Phillies in 2014 -- the same mark as Jon Lester had for the Red Sox and A's. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

Left-hander Cole Hamels had a 2.46 ERA for the Phillies in 2014 — the same mark as Jon Lester had for the Red Sox and A’s. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO — Need a top-of-the-rotation left-hander? Beyond Jon Lester, the obvious premium option on the market is Cole Hamels.

The Lester and Hamels markets unquestionably are interrelated. Any of the teams — Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants — that are currently engaged on Lester represent obvious potential trade destinations for Hamels if they lose out on him.

As such, according to a source familiar with the Phillies’ thinking, Philadelphia will wait for a full exploration of the Hamels trade market until after Lester signs. At that point, a prospect bidding war could proceed quickly for the 30-year-old, who will represent a $24 million a year average annual salary as calculated for luxury tax purposes over the remaining four years of his contract, with an option for 2018 at $20 million (with an $8 million buyout).

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said that his team would require an enormous haul in order to deal Hamels, who was 9-9 with a career-best 2.46 ERA in 204 2/3 innings in 2014.

“I know with any of these players that [GM Ruben Amaro] wants a deal that’s going to be good for the Philadelphia Phillies going forward. Anyway that he can help the process and add players that can help us not only this next year but in the future, that’s the goal,” said Sandberg. “There’s no way that Ruben’s going to just give away a player.  I mean, we’d have to be wowed to give up a guy like Cole Hamels, which would be a wow that would help us with the process and go in the direction that we want to go. … I’m just waiting to see through this process to see what comes about. Whether Ruben gets wowed or not is yet to be seen. If not, then he’s on our pitching staff, and we build some more starting pitching depth around him.”

Though Hamels has the right to veto trades to 20 teams (reportedly including the Red Sox), the left-hander has told the team that he’d be open to leaving the Phillies. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, Cole Hamels,
Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans on Jon Lester pursuit: SF ‘probably in the back seat of this deal right now’ 12.09.14 at 4:18 pm ET
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Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans suggested some skepticism about his team's chances of landing free agent pitcher Jon Lester. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans suggested some skepticism about his team’s chances of landing free agent pitcher Jon Lester. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO — While some have viewed the Giants as an emerging favorite in the sweepstakes for free agent left-hander Jon Lester, assistant GM Bobby Evans said on Tuesday that while his club remained engaged with the 30-year-old, he believed that his club is “probably in the back seat of this deal right now,” with Lester seemingly drawn to his significant pre-existing relationships with the Red Sox and Cubs.

“I think that ultimately Jon has a tough decision to make,” said Evans. “You have a player who’s very passionate about his teammates in Boston, he’s very passionate about the relationships he has with maybe two clubs, including the Cubs, so therefore I think it makes it a harder decision. We at some level may be in the back seat right now. That’s understandable because there are some good options for him.”

Evans said that the Giants delegation that met with Lester in the Atlanta area wanted to convey their high regard for the pitcher, the appeal of pitching in their run-suppressing home environment and the opportunity to work with a highly regarded catcher in Buster Posey, who has been part of three championship teams. Still, Evans said that the Giants are mindful that they can’t match Lester’s history with the Red Sox or the members of the Cubs front office.

“I think there are some things that are attractive about our situation, but I think heartstrings can play a role there,” said Evans. “I know that he’s a passionate guy and I think he’s got some strong and deep relationships with really two clubs at this point in Chicago and in Boston. We put our best foot forward and hope there’s an opportunity to draw him to us because we think he’s a game-changer.

“[But] I feel we’re probably in the back seat of this deal right now. I feel like there are some other guys driving this, and probably we’re staying in it but I’m not sure how strongly we’re a consideration considering the other options.”

Evans said that he “wouldn’t expect” a decision from Lester on Tuesday.

“No timeline,” he said. “We want it sooner than later but we understand he’s got a decision to make and it’s not an easy one.”

Source: A’s were ‘locked in’ on deal with White Sox for Jeff Samardzija 12.09.14 at 2:31 pm ET
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SAN DIEGO — According to an industry source, the Red Sox did not appear to be meaningfully in the mix in trade discussions with the A’s to acquire Jeff Samardzija. Instead, according to the source, the A’s appeared “pretty locked in” on the players whom they acquired from the White Sox — infielder Marcus Semien, right-hander Chris Bassitt, catcher Josh Phegley and Double-A corner infielder Rangel Ravelo — rather than trying to spawn a bidding war.

In some ways, that would appear to echo the approach that Oakland took to trading Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays in exchange for infielder Brett Lawrie, right-hander Kendall Graveman, left-hander Sean Nolin and shortstop Franklin Barreto. The A’s consummated that deal without shopping Donaldson to other interested teams; some members of the Red Sox front office, for example, had no inclination that the third baseman was going to be moved and were caught off guard by the deal.

(For what it’s worth: Had the A’s made Donaldson available to the Red Sox, given their need for a third baseman and shortstop, the conversation likely would have started with Xander Bogaerts and grown from there. Whether it would have been in the Sox’ best interests to answer the team’s need for a third baseman while opening a hole at shortstop in a market that is lacking in legitimate everyday options at that position — instead of signing Sandoval (not Donaldson’s equal, but an above-average third baseman) and keeping Bogaerts is a fair and fascinating question.)

While that approach has yielded deals that have been subject to criticism in terms of a perceived light return, some in the industry point to Oakland’s successful track record — including three straight trips to the postseason — in suggesting that the A’s typically have a fairly precise handle on their needs and should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, Jeff Samardzija, Josh Donaldson,
Sources: Red Sox make 1-year offer to free agent Justin Masterson 12.09.14 at 10:51 am ET
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The Red Sox have made a one-year offer to right-hander Justin Masterson. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

The Red Sox have made a one-year offer to right-hander Justin Masterson. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

According to industry sources, the Red Sox are one of multiple teams that have made a one-year offer to free agent right-hander Justin Masterson.

Masterson endured a season-long struggle with health in 2014 that stemmed from torn cartilage in his rib cage and a consequent buildup of scar tissue. The discomfort he felt as a result of that injury resulted in mechanical alterations and injuries, including discomfort in his knee and an impingement in his right shoulder that eventually required a cortisone shot in September. However, the diagnosis of scar tissue towards the end of the year offered something of a unified theory for the right-hander’s health woes, which contributed to a year-long struggle (7-9, 5.88 ERA in 28 games and 25 starts) with the Indians and Cardinals.  He is expected to be healthy for next season.

Given that he suffered a down year in 2014 (a season in which he turned down a three-year, $51 million extension offer from the Indians), Masterson appears to be in search of a one-year deal that would permit him to rebuild his value prior to the 2015-16 offseason — whether for talks about an extension with the club with whom he signs for next year or as a free agent. Because he’s a groundball pitcher, Masterson is less concerned about the home ballpark of the team with whom he signs than is typical of other free agents who sign one-year deals, and his relationship with the Red Sox front office (he was in the team’s minor league system under current GM Ben Cherington and current assistant GM Mike Hazen) and manager John Farrell (the pitching coach with whom Masterson worked upon arriving in the big leagues) represents a draw for him as he wades through his free agent options.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, justin masterson,
John Farrell on Jon Lester: ‘We’re still confident that we can sign Jon’ 12.08.14 at 8:39 pm ET
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Manager John Farrell said that he believes remains in the mix for free agent Jon Lester. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Manager John Farrell said that he believes remains in the mix for free agent Jon Lester. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO — Though there was a report on Monday that the field for Jon Lester appears to be narrowing to the Giants and Cubs, Red Sox manager John Farrell said that his team still believes that it has a shot to bring back the free-agent left-hander.

“I think we’re still confident that we can sign Jon. He’s obviously still going through this free agency process. As we came into this offseason, there were a couple spots in the rotation that we needed to add to and address. We’re in the midst of that right now,” said Farrell. “We’re still optimistic that he’ll be in a Red Sox uniform. There’s a lot of history between the Red Sox and Jon. We obviously have a strong desire to bring him back, and yet hopefully this is coming to a little bit of a head here.”

Farrell said that he’s been in contact with Lester — either through a phone call or texts — three or four times this offseason. While in some respects the Red Sox — and the rest of the baseball industry — must wait on defining the shape of their rotation until Lester makes his decision, the manager did not express any frustration about the lack of resolution.

“Jon’s going to go through his process as he needs to. He’s earned the right to get to this point in his career. And he’s a primary target for a number of teams. That speaks to his abilities as a player and as a pitcher,” said Farrell. “I think we’ll address every other need accordingly.”

Lester is coming off a year in which he went 16-11 with a career-low 2.46 ERA in a career-high 219 2/3 innings while punching out 9.0 batters per nine and walking 2.0 per nine. Farrell said that his dominant performance in his age 30 season showed a pitcher who has figured out how to adapt and remain a top-of-the-rotation contributor.

“He’s made necessary adjustments as any consistent big league has to make adjustments as they go through the league multiple times and year over year,” said Farrell. “That speaks to his work ethic and his awareness of who he is as a pitcher and how he can be most effective.”

That has convinced the Sox to make a heavy play for the left-hander. Whether the team ultimately goes far enough to retain him remains to be seen, but Farrell made clear that the Sox’ preference is to re-sign Lester.

“We’d love to have Jon back in a Red Sox uniform,” he said.

 

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, Jon Lester,
Yoenis Cespedes and the right field (non-)question 12.08.14 at 6:25 pm ET
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Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes

SAN DIEGO — After the Red Sox signed Hanley Ramirez with the intention of making him their left fielder, manager John Farrell talked to Yoenis Cespedes about the possibility of playing in either center or right field. Cespedes said that he was open to such a possibility.

But while that development has been portrayed as something of a reversal, an industry source clarified that Cespedes never actually objected to the idea of changing positions after joining the Red Sox. Instead, when asked if he was open to playing right, he simply said that he was more comfortable in left because it was a position that he had played previously. The source suggested that the 28-year-old never actually resisted the idea of changing positions, but that once his relative comfort in left was established, the team opted to keep him in his primary major league position for the rest of the season while tabling conversation about a potential position place until the spring — after he would have had a chance to adapt to his new environment following his trade from the A’s (with a competitive balance pick) for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes.

Cespedes hit .260 with a .301 OBP and .450 slugging mark in 152 games with the Red Sox and A’s in 2014, including .269/.296/.423 with the Sox after the trade.

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, Yoenis Cespedes,
Red Sox utility man Jemile Weeks clears waivers, gets outrighted to Triple-A 12.08.14 at 3:49 pm ET
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SAN DIEGO — The Red Sox announced that utility man Jemile Weeks (who is out of options) cleared waivers and was outrighted to the roster of Triple-A Pawtucket. The 27-year-old played in 14 big league games with the Red Sox last year after being acquired from the Orioles on Aug. 30 (along with Ivan De Jesus) in exchange for Kelly Johnson and Michael Almanzar. Though primarily a second baseman in the big leagues, the 2008 first-rounder has also played short and center in the big leagues. In addition to second, short and center, he’s also played left field in the minors.

Weeks has a career minor league line of .285/.380/.406. He has a big league line of .260/.322/.360, including a .308/.406/.423 line in 32 plate appearances with the Sox last season.

With the outright assignment of Weeks, the Red Sox now have 39 players on their 40-man roster.

Some early winter meetings Red Sox notes: Taking stock of Yoenis Cespedes, Deven Marrero as trade chips 12.07.14 at 8:18 pm ET
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Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes

SAN DIEGO — With a need to address three holes in the rotation, the Red Sox are inevitably going to be linked to virtually every starting pitcher available this offseason. That will be true of a broad group of free agents — beyond Jon Lester, there’s Max Scherzer, James Shields, Brandon McCarthy and Ervin Santana, among others — but also teams with pitching to shop in exchange for bats. The Sox, moreover, feature at least the appearance of surplus inventory at a couple positions of scarcity, chiefly the outfield (where Yoenis Cespedes has assumed the most prominent spot as potential trade bait given that he remains under team control for just one year) and even at shortstop, where Deven Marrero is in Triple-A but potentially blocked by Xander Bogaerts.

“There aren’t any shortstops out there,” noted one executive.

The Mets have a surplus of starters (with names like Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese and Dillon Gee reportedly on the block), and even after their surprising signing of Michael Cuddyer, they could likely use more offense from their outfield and they are clearly in the market for an upgrade at shortstop. However, according to a major league source, the Mets have no interest in Cespedes (his power is intriguing, but the .301 OBP has been hard for them to look past) and they likewise don’t have interest in Marrero as a solution as shortstop because of uncertainty about whether he will hit enough to be an everyday shortstop, or whether he would represent a player who harbors considerable similarities to current shortstop Wilmer Flores, an adequate defender who hit .251/.286/.378 as a 22-year-old in 78 games last season.

Meanwhile, the A’s have starter Jeff Samardzija — who is one year from free agency — as one of the prizes of the trade market. However, while the A’s have a clear need for a starting shortstop in 2015, one major league source familiar with the team’s thinking said that Oakland has the same reservations about Marrero’s offense as the Mets — chiefly, whether he will hit enough to be an everyday option. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, deven marrero, Yoenis Cespedes,
Ben Cherington: Red Sox in position to build ‘good rotation…that can contend for the AL East’ 12.03.14 at 4:21 pm ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, in an interview on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio, said that the Red Sox remain unsure of the means by which they’ll round out their 2015 rotation, but the team is confident in its ultimate ability to put together a group that will have aspirations to win the division next year.

“I wouldn’t rule out adding two starters. We don’t know what the names are. We don’t know where they’ll come from. We don’t know the cost associated with it,” Cherington told MLB Network Radio. “We’re in a position to be active in the market for pitchers. … Everyone’s got a budget, including us. There is some limit at some point to what you can do. We feel good we’re in a position, whether it’s talent or whether it’s the financial resources, to build a rotation that’s a good rotation and that, along with the rest of the team, can contend for the AL East next year.”

One asset that the Sox have to use in trying to address their rotation is their outfield surplus. Cherington echoed remarks he made at the press conference introducing Hanley Ramirez as the team’s new left fielder in suggesting that the team does face an increasing likelihood of dealing from its positional depth.

“The Hanley signing does increase the likelihood of us making a trade. It doesn’t guarantee it but it does increase the likelihood, and sure enough we’ve had a lot of calls on the outfielders since then,” Cherington told the radio network. “We’ll see what happens in the trade market over the next couple weeks. … We felt like the signing of Hanley put us in a better position not just to address our needs this offseason but to ensure the lineup in the short- and the long-term and to give us the best chance to make sure we have a high quailty defender in both center and right in the short- and long-term.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: andrew miller, ben cherington,
Report: Reds haven’t talked to Red Sox about Yoenis Cespedes 12.03.14 at 10:17 am ET
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With the Reds in the market for a corner outfielder and armed with a wealth of starting pitchers (Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Alfredo Simon and Mike Leake) who are one year from free agency, Cincinnati has been viewed as a natural potential partner for a Red Sox team with multiple vacancies to fill in its rotation and power-hitting corner outfielder Yoenis Cespedes as a player who can be moved. But according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Reds GM Walt Jocketty said that his team has not talked to the Red Sox about Cespedes.

Cueto went 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA in 243 2/3 innings in 2014, finishing second to Clayton Kershaw in Cy Young balloting. Latos made just 16 starts in an injury-riddled campaign, going 5-5 with a 3.25 ERA while punching out 6.5 per nine innings and walking 2.3 per nine. Leake went 11-13 with a 3.70 ERA in 33 starts, while Simon, in his first full season as a starter, went 15-10 with a 3.44 ERA, 5.8 strikeouts and 2.6 walks per nine. Cespedes hit .260 with a .301 OBP, .450 slugging mark and 22 homers in 152 games for the Red Sox and A’s.

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