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How Carl Crawford could transform the Red Sox 12.09.10 at 1:14 am ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — As soon as an executive of another team heard about the Red Sox‘ deal with outfielder Carl Crawford (reportedly a seven-year, $142 million pact), the reaction was immediate.

“Holy [expletive],” he said. “Think about that lineup.”

It’s all hypothetical now, of course, and it is still more than 100 days until Opening Day. But the acquisition of Crawford to join fellow newcomer Adrian Gonzalez has astonishing potential. The team will feature a pair of dynamic jackrabbits with sneaky pop in Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury. The two could combine for 100 steals. Crawford has averaged 50 steals a season over the last eight years; Ellsbury averaged 60 steals in 2008-09. The Sox now feature six of the last eight AL stolen base champions, and a pair of players with the potential for a speed element unlike any other in the game.

‘€œI don’€™t know another player who looks so much like myself. It’€™s crazy sometimes,’€ Crawford said of Ellsbury before the season. ‘€œI think he’€™s almost exactly like me. When I see him, I see myself.”

Dustin Pedroia is among the best offensive and all-around second basemen in the game, a player who was on pace for a 20-homer/20-steal season in 2010 before breaking his foot with a foul ball.

The team also features tremendous middle-of-the-order pop. Gonzalez and David Ortiz both launched more than 30 homers last year. With a return to health, Kevin Youkilis is a threat to hit 25-30 homers, and he ranks perennially among the AL leaders in slugging and OPS. J.D. Drew has averaged 22 homers a year for the Sox over the last three years.

The Sox scored 818 runs last year, second in the American League. With the additions of Crawford and Gonzalez to replace the departed Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre, as well as returns to health for the likes of Ellsbury, Youkilis and Pedroia, 900 or more runs would appear to be in reach.

The Sox can round out their lineup with a shortstop who had an above-average OPS for the position last year in Marco Scutaro and a catcher who represents an upside gamble in Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Meanwhile, the team also has the potential to offer a superb defensive unit. Crawford is one of four Gold Glovers who would project to be a part of the team’s Opening Day roster, joining Youkilis (whose Gold Glove was at first base rather than third), Gonzalez and Pedroia.

With the acquisition of Crawford, the team could address one of its foremost deficiencies of 2010, namely its poor outfield production and poor outfield defense.

The Sox ranked last in the American League in outfield batting average (.245), second-to-last in OBP (.317) and third to last in OPS (.729). Crawford, meanwhile, hit .307/.356/.495/.851 with 19 homers, 90 RBI and 47 steals. At 29, he is in his prime.

Meanwhile, with Ellsbury and Mike Cameron both limited by injuries, the Sox’ outfield defense suffered while being patched together. According to FanGraphs.com, the Red Sox had the third-worst outfield defense in the majors, as rated by UZR, having cost the Sox 23.4 runs more than a group of league-average outfielders. Crawford, meanwhile, rated as the third best defensive outfielder in the majors, having saved 18.5 more runs than an average defensive outfielder.

And so, the Sox have managed to build in the course of the past two offseasons a potential juggernaut, a rotation anchored by a pair of developing young aces (Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz), a ferocious lineup and a strong defense. It is not a team without holes ‘€” the Sox still have yet to overhaul their bullpen ‘€” but in the span of a few days, a team that finished last year with 89 wins has sent shock waves throughout the division and the baseball industry.

‘€œGood move. … Boston has the money, and they had a need,’€ Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said when asked about rival Theo Epstein‘€™s big move. ‘€œGood player. Great player.’€

Read More: carl crawford, Hot Stove, lineup,
Red Sox agree to terms with Carl Crawford 12.08.10 at 11:50 pm ET
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According to a major league source, the Red Sox have reached an agreement with outfielder Carl Crawford, as first reported by the Boston Globe. Multiple reports peg the value of the agreement at seven years and $142 million, suggesting that only a physical and some final contract language stand in the way of the biggest deal ever inked by the current Red Sox ownership group.

The $20.3 million average annual value surpasses the $18 million a year that Jayson Werth will receive in his fresh seven-year, $126 million deal from the Nationals. The 29-year-old Crawford was widely considered the top position player in free agency and had reportedly drawn interest from the Angels and Yankees, among others. That said, the Sox had some pause about whether to go to as many as seven years for Crawford, and for a team the team was more enamored of the idea of signing Werth for a shorter term.

But once Werth went for seven years — more than the Sox would have considered — the team made its play for Crawford, resulting in the team’s second blockbuster of the last week. That followed the Sox’ acquisition of slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in a trade with the Padres on Sunday.

The Sox explored other market alternatives. The team had been interested in Werth before he signed his deal with the Nationals. The club also kicked the tires on the possibility of trading for Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran, but those talks never became serious, according to multiple sources. Meanwhile, the team had shown interest in outfielder Magglio Ordonez as a right-handed slugger who might fit on a shorter-term deal.

But the prize of the outfield market all along was Crawford, a player whose impact the Sox have often remarked upon.

“I think he’€™s a game changer,” Sox manager Terry Francona said on the Dale & Holley Show last month. “He’€™s that guy that can change a game defensively, offensively. When he gets on base, he gives you a headache. He has a little bit of that Johnny Damon in him where, he’€™s swinging and I’€™m not sure he knows where the ball is going, but he fouls off six or seven and then he’€™ll rifle one into right field or bounce one and beat it out. He has a way of changing the game. It frustrates the heck out of you. Sometimes you can do everything right, and if he gets on base you can’€™t throw him out.”

For much of the offseason, there was an industry-wide expectation that Crawford might prefer to go to a less intense baseball climate. The Angels and Rangers had both expressed interest in the outfielder, and some believed that he might prefer to play in those cities.

But Rays manager Joe Maddon, who witnessed Crawford’s emergence into an All-Star over the last five seasons, insisted that Crawford will face no problem heading to the Red Sox.

“First of all, they’€™re going to love him. He’€™s going to be embraced. There’€™s going to be a love-fest. He’€™s going to make all types of play, and do all kind of stuff where the Boston fans will fall in love with him immediately, so I don’€™t think there will be any type of negative pressure coming his way to perform,’€ Maddon said on Tuesday.

‘€œHe’€™ll stay to himself, although Carl has come out of his shell a little bit the last couple of years. Going to the playoffs, World Series, being an All-Star MVP, all that kind of stuff, I think he’€™s kind of blossomed in that regard. He might surprise you ‘€¦ He’€™s going to feed off the energy.’€

In nine seasons with the Rays, Crawford hit .296/.337/.444 with 409 stolen bases and 765 runs. He hit .307/.356/.495/.851 with a career-high 19 homers in 2010.

Rob Bradford and D.J. Bean contributed to this report.

Read More: carl crawford, Hot Stove, Red Sox,
Epstein: Red Sox already got their big bat 12.08.10 at 9:17 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Red Sox GM Theo Epstein met with reporters to discuss the state of affairs for his team on the last night of the winter meetings. There was little activity to report, and the GM said he was not expecting to have any deals in place on Wednesday night.

Among the topics discussed:

–Epstein said that the team has already made its big move for offense with the trade of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

“I think we got our big bat through trade, for the most part,” he said. “Still looking for good players but the Gonzalez acquisition put us in a little bit of a different spot in terms of our need to do something. We’€™re still looking for the right player and the right fit.”

With Gonzalez in tow, the Sox have been able to operate with relative freedom in terms of time constraints. They have already made the central acquisition of the offseason that will dictate the team’s other moves.

“We don’€™t have to force things in pursuing players,” said Epstein. “In any negotiation, it’€™s a tough spot to feel like you have to make something happen, and if you don’€™t the alternative is unacceptable. Starting from a stronger position allows you to be patient, maybe see more possibilities, see things for how they are than how you want them to be.”

–The Sox did not have a representative at a workout for free agent Magglio Ordonez. Epstein said that he was under the impression that the workout was for just one club. His agent, Scott Boras, had said earlier in the day that the Tigers were at the workout.

–Epstein said that “for the right player,” the Sox would make a multi-year offer in trying to add a right-handed outfielder.

–He said that the team has some offers out to free agent position players, though the team is not close to a deal on that front. On Tuesday, Epstein had said that the club had also made offers to “a number” of relievers.

–The Sox have talked with left-hander Rich Hill this offseason about the prospect of bringing him back, saying that the club was “very interested in signing him. I think he’s very interested in being here.”

Hill was with the Sox for the final weeks of the season, but was outrighted from the 40-man roster at the end of the year and elected free agency.

–The Sox met in person during the Meetings with left-hander Andrew Miller, for whom they traded in November and then non-tendered earlier this month. The Sox have interest in signing him, but it remains to be seen whether they reach a deal.

–The market for middle relievers has been somewhat stagnant, with teams and players not yet matching up. That, Epstein suggested, is unsurprising, but he expects that dominoes in that market might soon start falling.

“Most players don’€™t want to be the first to sign for fear of getting more later,” said Epstein. “But they don’€™t want to wait too long and have fewer options with less resources out there. The teams, it’€™s the reverse. It’€™s one big dance. Teams and players will match up soon, I’€™m sure.”

–The Sox remain undecided about whether they will select a reliever in the Rule 5 draft. If they do, it would be a reliever. The Sox also feel that if any of their players are taken through the Rule 5 process — which requires a team to pay $50,000 for a player’s rights and to keep him on the major league roster all year or else subject him to waivers and then, if he goes unclaimed, offer him back to his original team for $25,000 — they will end up getting them back.

–Epstein revealed that the Sox tried last year to get a club option year attached to the one-year, $10 million deal to which they signed Adrian Beltre, who was asking for a five-year contract at this time a year ago. The club did not receive such a provision, which is why Beltre is now a free agent.

–Former Red Sox scout Jerry Stephenson, a member of the Impossible Dream team in 1967, was named Scout of the Year by the program’s Advisory Board. Stephenson was an advance scout for the Dodgers from 1974-95 before joining the Sox to serve in the same role from 1996-2009. Stephenson passed away earlier this year; his award was accepted posthumously by his son, Brian Stephenson, a West Coast Supervisor of Amateur Scouts for the Dodgers.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Hot Stove, rich hill, rule 5
Scott Boras holds court at the winter meetings 12.08.10 at 1:55 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Agent Scott Boras spoke to a throng of reporters about his stable of high-profile clients, including several of interest to the Red Sox. Among them, he discussed free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, free-agent outfielder Magglio Ordonez, rehabbing Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran, about whom the Mets have been listening to trade inquiries.

MAGGIO ORDONEZ

Boras said that Ordonez is “100 percent,” and that he held a workout — organized by Boras Corp. trainer Steve Odgers — for interested teams to show them that he is in good shape. The agent suggested that with Jayson Werth off the market, the interest in Ordonez has spiked as he represents a potential middle-of-the-order outfielder.

“We had a chance to illustrate where his baseball abilities are at, just to show that he’s 100 percent,” said Boras, who noted only that the Tigers were at the workout. “Magglio is a guy that has gotten a lot of interest from a lot of teams now that Jayson has signed. He’s a middle of the [order] guy. He’s had a great average, been a productive guy, he’s a veteran player and he’s a winner. There are a lot of things about Magglio Ordonez where he fits a broad base of teams. Once Jayson signed, a lot of the teams interested in Jayson are now interested in Magglio.

“When a player has an injury, we send the medicals to the clubs. They’€™ve had a great deal of time. Most of the teams understand, it was certainly something that took him off the field for six to eight weeks because it was a fracture of the ankle. But the fracture itself was just minor. It was something that really had to heal. There was no need for any intervention by a surgeon. It’€™s just really something where he can wait it out, get it back and now he’€™s back to 100 percent.”

Ordonez, said Boras, will be looking to play a corner outfield spot and perhaps serve on occasion as a designated hitter.

CARLOS BELTRAN Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Adrian Beltre, adrian gonzalez, Hot Stove, Jacoby Ellsbury
Noon Hot Stove Live Chat with Lou Merloni 12.08.10 at 12:04 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — WEEI.com’s Lou Merloni will be checking in with the latest from the Winter Meetings at noon. Check in to talk all things Red Sox and hot stove.

Hot Stove live chat

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Sources: Red Sox not looking to move Daisuke Matsuzaka 12.08.10 at 10:37 am ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — According to multiple major league sources, the Red Sox have shown no active desire to move starter Daisuke Matsuzaka to this point of the winter meetings.

While the Sox have both Tim Wakefield and Felix Doubront available as potential rotation alternatives, the Sox currently view it as likely that Doubront could contribute to the 2011 team as a reliever. The Sox lack other reliable rotation alternatives in the upper levels of their minor league system, and so if they moved Matsuzaka in a trade, they would likely need to jump into an extremely shallow free agent pool to find further depth. The Sox have typically made a point of having seven solid big league starting options for any season, given the likely attrition of starting depth over the course of the season.

Several talent evaluators believe that it is possible that Matsuzaka — a study in unpredictability as a member of the Red Sox — could thrive if moved to the AL West or the National League, where bigger ballparks and less ferocious lineups would be more forgiving of his flyball tendencies. Even so, Sox manager Terry Francona suggested on Tuesday that the Sox continue to value the right-hander.

“if I sat here and told you I could figure him out, I’d be lying,” said Francona. “But if he’s pitching out of your four or five hole, you have a chance to have a really good staff.”

Matsuzaka also has a complete no-trade clause in his contract that permits him to veto any deal.

He was 9-6 with a 4.69 ERA last year, throwing 153 innings in 25 starts. He struck out 7.8 per nine innings while walking 4.3 batters per nine. But he also had several stretches in which he looked dominant, suggesting that his stuff was better than his numbers (even if the results were an accurate barometer of his performance). Towards that end, it would be possible that the Sox would be selling low if they dealt the right-hander.

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hot Stove,
Epstein: Red Sox have made offers to ‘a number’ of relievers 12.07.10 at 6:30 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said that his team has made “a number” of offers to free-agent relievers of both the right- and left-handed variety, and that while he had suggested some discomfort with the price of free agents in years and dollars, “for the right player, I’ve come to grips with it.”

“We’€™ve had offers out on a few guys for a while now,” said Epstein. “Before we got down here, we had a few instances. Those haven’€™t gone anywhere. We’€™ve made a few other offers here as well.”

Epstein said that the team’s only formal offers to free agents have been relievers, meaning that the team has yet to make an official bid on any of the right-handed hitters and/or outfielders on the market. He also suggested that, while he stated a preference for a right-handed hitter, the team would prefer “a good player,” and that it is a preference rather than a mandate to add a right-handed lineup member.

“I think our lineup as currently constituted has pretty good balance. It’€™s not like we have six or seven left-handed hitters in there. That said, there are a few right-handed hitters out there, a few left, some switch-hitters as well,” he said. “The Gonzalez acquisition has been beneficial to this process here at the winter meetings. It’€™s really allowed us to focus. The big ideas, three-team trades to add impact talent that may be unrealistic, we don’€™t have to spend much time with now, except for the ones that have a chance. Now we can focus on areas of need and really make sure we’€™re thorough and that we take advantage of the opportunities that are real and there for us. We’€™re in on some position players thorugh trade and free agency, and on a lot of relievers, mainly through free agency, but also a couple trade opportunities.”

Epstein did not anticipate any deals getting done tonight, suggesting that the team was not yet “into the final negotiating phase” with any players.

Other items from the GM’s session:

–While manager Terry Francona said earlier on Tuesday that Jacoby Ellsbury is still feeling some discomfort in his back, Epstein said that the outfielder’s recovery is proceeding on schedule, and that he will be healthy for spring training.

“He was deemed asymptomatic a couple of weeks ago. I’€™m sure there are still some things he can do to create soreness, like with rotation and whatnot, but that’€™s normal,” said Epstein. “My understanding is that a fracture of the rib like this will still show up as a slight line on a scan for another couple months, but that’€™s a natural part of the process. Then you’€™re healed before the line will completely disappear on the scan. He’€™s been asymptomatic and very enthused about where he is in the offseason while getting ready for a normal season.”

–Epstein also said that Mike Cameron is recovering well. If he is at full health, Epstein said, the 37-year-old will play regularly. Still, he acknowledged that it is uncertain exactly what Cameron will be ready to do when he arrives in spring training.

“Depends on his health, that’€™s the first hurdle. He’€™s doing well right now,” Epstein said of his role. “If he’€™s able to carry a regular load, I think he’€™ll be out there a lot. If he’€™s limited early, we can limit his role early, then it depends on what we do with the rest of the club the rest of the winter. …

“I think he’€™s gonna be ready to play. It’€™s a question of, are their any limitations, is he full go? Does he need more days off than he has in the past? That’€™s a sensitive area and it takes a while to heal, but he’€™s absolutely on the right path.’€

–Epstein said that Felix Doubront would be stretched out on a starter’s program at the beginning of spring training, but that if he makes the big league team, it will most likely be as a member of the bullpen.

–The Sox are currently set up to have a number of compensation draft picks. The team already will get a pair of picks for Victor Martinez, who signed with Detroit, and they could get two more for Adrian Beltre and another for Felipe Lopez. With that wealth of picks (likely to fall in the first 50 picks), Epstein was asked, would it make it easier for the Sox to sacrifice their own first-round selection by signing a Type A free agent.

“I think it’€™s one factor, out of many, in making that ultimate decision. It depends on the player, the need, the contract, how many extra picks you’€™re getting,” said Epstein. “Just because you have those extra picks doesn’€™t mean you give away your first rounder, but you can’€™t sit here and ignore that fact, either.”

He did make clear that the Sox would not face any draft budget constraints that would create a situation with diminishing returns from the passel of early picks.

“Those are some of the best dollars that we spend, in this industry, is getting talented players in the draft,” he said. “So we budget accordingly when we get extra picks.”

Read More: draft picks, felix doubront, Hot Stove, Jacoby Ellsbury
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