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Red Sox acquire infielder Jonathan Herrera for Franklin Morales, Chris Martin 12.18.13 at 2:36 pm ET
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Major league sources have confirmed the report by Ian Browne and Thomas Harding of MLB.com that the Red Sox have acquired versatile infielder Jonathan Herrera from the Rockies in exchange for relievers Franklin Morales and Chris Martin.

Herrera, who turned 29 in November, has split his big league time between second base (181 games), shortstop (114) and third base (43), while also seeing a pair of games in the outfield. The switch-hitter posted a career-best .292 average along with a .336 OBP and .364 slugging mark over 81 games in 2013. He’s hit for a higher average (.272 vs. .248) and posted a better OBP (.337 vs. .295) against right-handers as compared to his performance against lefties in his career, making him a potential depth fit behind the right-handed trio of Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks. Though he’s spent his career with the Rockies, as a line drive hitter, he’s benefited little from Coors Field, with a .266/.331/.340 career line at home and a similar .265/.320/.325 line on the road. The second-year arbitration eligible infielder (who is in line for a modest raise over the $900,000 he earned last year) remains under team control for two more years. His offensive performance against righties, solid defense at shortstop with average range at the position, slightly above-average running speed and his successful big league experience in a utility/part-time role convinced the Sox that he represented a good fit for the roster, a somewhat more polished version of players like Pedro Ciriaco and Brock Holt. He does, however, have a minor league option remaining.

To acquire Herrera, the Sox sacrificed a pair of pitchers who represented potential relief depth options for them. Morales was acquired from the Rockies in exchange for cash in the middle of the 2011 season. At times, he showed the potential to impact the Sox staff as both a starter and reliever thanks to an impressive mid-90s fastball and a curveball and changeup that generated swings and misses. But he missed significant stretches of 2012 and 2013 with injuries, and his struggles to throw strikes in 2013 (he issued 5.3 free passes per nine innings in the regular season, while giving up three hits and two walks to the nine batters he faced in the postseason) led to a steadily shrinking role. With Andrew Miller and Craig Breslow representing more reliable left-handed options, Morales — who has one year before he reaches free agency — became expendable. In parts of three years in Boston, over 93 games (10 starts), he went 6-7 with a 3.90 ERA, 8.6 strikeouts and 3.8 walks per nine innings.

Martin, a 6-foot-7, 27-year-old right-hander, represented one of the most intriguing stories in the Red Sox system in recent years. He left baseball for multiple years in college as a result of injuries, but discovered in a recreational league that he had the ability to dial a fastball in the 90s. The Sox acquired him from the independent American Association, and in three seasons, he moved up to Triple-A, with a particularly impressive performance in 2013, when he posted a 5-3 record with a 2.25 ERA, 9.2 strikeouts and 2.0 walks per nine innings for Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. He threw eight shutout innings (recording six saves) in the Dominican Winter League this offseason.

He combines a fastball that he can throw at up to the mid-90s with a slider and cutter, leveraging the ball down in a fashion that made home runs rare (he allowed just 10 in more than 220 minor league innings). Martin projects as a middle innings reliever — with the ceiling of a setup man — who could be major league ready as soon as 2014. For more on Martin’s improbable road to the cusp of the big leagues, click here.

Shane Victorino expected to be ready for spring training after right thumb surgery 12.16.13 at 8:56 pm ET
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The Red Sox announced that right fielder Shane Victorino underwent successful nerve release surgery on his right thumb on Monday, and that the Gold Glove winner is expected to be ready to participate in spring training. The procedure was performed by Dr. Thomas Graham in Cleveland.

Victorino suffered what was described at the time as a jammed thumb on Sept. 18. He was out of the Red Sox starting lineup for four of the final nine games of the regular season, but recovered to start 14 of the Sox’ 16 postseason games, with his only two missed contests coming due to back tightness in the World Series. He hit .216 with a .333 OBP and .314 slugging mark in October, becoming the first player ever with the game-winning hit in three different clinching contests in one postseason.

Still, the possibility that he might need surgery was something of which the team and player were aware. But given that the procedure requires a relatively short recovery period, a decision was made to see if the thumb would heal on its own. When it did not, the decision to undergo surgery was made.

Victorino, who turned 33 on Nov. 30, signed a three-year, $39 million deal with the Sox last offseason. He hit .294 with a .351 OBP and .451 slugging mark along with 15 homers in 122 games despite the fact that, for the first time in his major league career, injuries forced him to bat almost exclusively from the right side (rather than switch-hitting) over most of the final two months of the season.

Red Sox sign right-hander John Ely, re-sign Miguel Celestino 12.14.13 at 12:48 am ET
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The Red Sox announced that they signed right-hander John Ely and re-signed right-hander Miguel Celestino to minor league contracts that include invitations to big league spring training.

Ely, 27, missed all of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery following a trade from the Dodgers to the Astros. In 25 big league appearances between 2010-12, he’s 4-13 with a 5.70 ERA, 7.2 strikeouts and 4.0 walks per nine innings. However, his minor league track record suggests a pitcher whose fastball-changeup combination can be effective enough to make him a big league starting depth option. In 2012, while pitching in one of the most hitter-friendly environments in the minors (Triple-A Albuquerque), he went 14-7 with a 3.20 ERA, 8.8 strikeouts and 1.9 walks en route to winning Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year honors.

The Sox also announced the re-signings of Celestino and Brandon Snyder. Snyder, who played in 27 big league games for the Sox last year, had already announced his re-signing about three weeks ago. Celestino, a 24-year-old whom the Sox originally acquired in 2010 as a player to be named later in a trade that sent Casey Kotchman to the Mariners, was a six-year minor league free agent. The 6-foot-6 right-hander, who moved from the rotation to the bullpen last year, may have the best velocity of any pitcher in the Red Sox system, regularly sitting in the high-90s, but he was hit hard as a reliever in Double-A Portland last year, going 1-9 with a 6.12 ERA, 8.8 strikeouts and 4.5 walks per nine innings. Still, the lanky reliever possesses the sort of power arsenal that makes a potential big league future a possibility, even if not a likelihood for a pitcher whose ERA has gotten progressively worse at every stop he’s made in the Red Sox system.

Former Red Sox outfielder Ryan Kalish signs with Cubs 12.13.13 at 10:38 pm ET
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Outfielder Ryan Kalish, who became a free agent when the Red Sox elected not to tender him a major league contract for the 2014 season, signed a minor league deal with an invitation to big league spring training with the Cubs. Kalish, 25, had spent his entire professional career with the Sox after they drafted him in the ninth round in 2006. He appeared a potential everyday fixture for the Sox when he made a strong debut as a 22-year-old in 2010, hitting .252 with a .305 OBP, .405 slugging mark, four homers and 10 steals (in 11 attempts) in 53 games at the end of 2010. However, he spent most of the next three years dealing with a host of serious injuries that required four major surgeries — one on each shoulder and two on his neck, most recently a fusion of his neck vertebrae in August.

When he was non-tendered, Kalish told WEEI.com that he understood the Sox’ decision, and harbored nothing but goodwill towards the organization for whom he’d played.

“At this point in my life, I’m in a place where I just have a lot of love for everybody that has been with me along this path. That includes the Red Sox and everything we’ve been through together. Honestly, I don’t feel much right now except for just a mutual respect between myself and the team and [Sox GM Ben Cherington],” Kalish said by phone at the time from California, where he is rehabbing under Dr. Robert Watkins, who performed his most recent neck surgery. “There’s uncertainty with me, which I understand, because of my health questions. I’m not taking it bad at all. It’s just a new adventure along this path and it’s just so fresh. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ben Cherington on David Ortiz talks: ‘Our hope certainly is that he finishes his career in a Red Sox uniform’ 12.13.13 at 4:18 pm ET
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On the day that David Ortiz said that his agent is talking with the Red Sox about the possibility of a contract extension, GM Ben Cherington (during a conference call to discuss the re-signing of first baseman Mike Napoli) didn’t want to discuss specifics of the team’s negotiations with the designated hitter, but he did allow that his hope is that if the 38-year-old plays beyond 2014, that he remains with the organization for whom he’s been a lineup centerpiece for the last 11 seasons.

“As a policy we prefer not to talk about our conversations directly with players and private conversations with players,” said Cherington. “What I can say is that we have incredible respect for David and as I’€™ve said before and I’€™ll reiterate our hope certainly is that he finishes his career in a Red Sox uniform. So at some point there will be a conversation about that. I don’€™t know when that will be. It’€™s early December and there are still things we’€™re looking to do this offseason, working on different ways to improve the team. The door will always be open to David and I’€™m sure at the appropriate time there will be an appropriate time to have the conversation and I hope he’€™s in a Red Sox uniform the rest of his career.”

Cherington certainly did not rule out the possibility of talking with Ortiz about an extension before the expiration of his current two-year, $26 million contract (with incentives that increased the value of the deal to $30 million).

“The door is always open if David wants to have a conversation,” said Cherington, “but I’€™m not going to get into the specifics of anything. Our expectation is that at some point at the appropriate time, we’€™ll talk about ways to keep him in a Red Sox uniform, but that’€™s all I am going to say about it right now.”

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Mike Napoli: Returning to Red Sox ‘an easy decision’ 12.13.13 at 3:59 pm ET
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Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli suggested that there were “a lot of teams” that expressed interest in him as a free agent this offseason, and he also said that there were three-year offers on the table. But ultimately, the 32-year-old had no doubt that he wanted to find an acceptable deal that would allow him to return to the Red Sox, something that he accomplished with a two-year, $32 million two-year, $32 million contract that became official on Thursday night and that both Napoli and Red Sox GM Ben Cherington discussed in a conference call on Friday.

“Ultimately it came down to I told my agent I wanted to come back to Boston and play there. We were able to get something worked out,” said Napoli. “Coming into spring training last year, getting to know the guys, the front office, coaches, everybody. There’€™s a strong bond there. I made a lot of great friends and I love the city of Boston, just being there, the people there, it’€™s just how I am, how I grew up, the type of people that are there. It was an easy decision for me I just had to get something worked out where I could come back there and it all worked out.”

Napoli suggested that this offseason proved far easier than the one that followed the 2012 season, when he hit the open market and landed a three-year deal with the Red Sox only to have the discovery of a degenerative hip condition result in the revision of the deal to a one-year, $5 million pact (with incentives that pushed its value to $13 million). The fact that his offseason was resolved in early December represented a point of satisfaction.

“After going through what I went through last year, it was definitely a relief just to go through this and it was easier than last year,” said Napoli. “Ultimately I’€™m happy to be back. I wanted to be in a place to be comfortable and in a place where I could win.” Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox right-hander Edward Mujica takes physical; could earn up to $1 million in bonuses for closing 12.07.13 at 12:25 am ET
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According to industry sources, right-hander Edward Mujica, with whom the Red Sox agreed to a two-year, $9.5 million deal on Thursday, took his physical on Friday and is expected to be introduced by his new team in the coming days. Mujica — who was an All-Star closer with the Cardinals in 2013, recording 37 saves before a late-season slump (which coincided with a groin issue) resulted in his into a setup role, has incentives built into his contract that would reward him should he emerge as the Red Sox’ closer in either 2014 or 2015.

Mujica will earn $125,000 for reaching 20 games finished and for every five games thereafter up to 55 games (25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55), meaning that if he closes for the Sox — whether in place of Koji Uehara (should the dominant closer suffer an injury in 2014) or succeeding him (Uehara is under contract only through next season) — he would stand to receive up to $1 million in bonuses.

With Mike Napoli back, what can the Red Sox do? 12.06.13 at 11:45 pm ET
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With Mike Napoli back in the fold for the Red Sox on a two-year, $32 million deal — in a week where the Sox also added catcher A.J. Pierzynski on a one-year, $8.25 million contract and reliever Edward Mujica on a two-year, $9.5 million pact — the Red Sox are nearly maxed out in terms of payroll commitments if they want to stay below next season’s luxury tax threshold of $189 million.

Based on those three deals, the Sox currently look like a team that — assuming it wants to maintain a contingency fund of about $9 million in case of injuries and in-season deals — has north of $187 million committed to its roster when factoring in all of the elements that count towards the luxury tax threshold (average annual value of contracts, minor leaguers on the 40-man roster, benefits, money transferred to the Dodgers).

But that doesn’t necessarily mean their offseason work is done.

Certainly, the team could stand pat and have a full roster. But more likely, the team will look to continue getting stronger, particularly in its group of position players.

How?

First, there’s the possibility that the Sox could exceed the luxury tax threshold. A team source recently acknowledged that, while the team’s strong preference is to remain under it for the coming season (the first in which teams have the possibility of a revenue sharing rebate, which is diminished by exceeding the luxury tax threshold), the incentive is not quite as powerful for the coming year as was anticipated. Because the Sox — thanks to the Dodgers blockbuster of 2012 — were able to restructure their payroll and get under the luxury tax threshold in both 2012 and 2013, the penalties associated with going over the $189 million payroll mark in 2014, both in terms of the luxury tax rate for dollars over that figure and in terms of the amount of the rebate that would be lost by exceeding the threshold, would be diminished. So, there’s at least a possibility that the team might be willing to go over $189 million. Read the rest of this entry »

David Ortiz on Robinson Cano leaving the Yankees: ‘That’s great news for us’ 12.06.13 at 6:39 pm ET
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David Ortiz said that he wasn’t shocked to hear of the 10-year, $240 million agreement between Robinson Cano and the Mariners. Instead, his surprise came at the idea that the pillar in the middle of the Yankees‘ lineup was allowed to leave New York.

“That’s what the players are getting — young, talented players with the skills that he has, that’s what they’re getting. I couldn’t believe the Yankees let that walk away,” Ortiz said on the Bradford Files podcast. “He’s the face, as long as he played for the Yankees, he was the face of that ballclub. He was backing up everybody. Once I saw them not getting close to what he wants and signing [catcher Brian McCann] and [Jacoby Ellsbury], I definitely knew that he was going to go somewhere else.

“That’s great news for us. That’s great news,” Ortiz added. “This guy hurt us. He is the guy that, you’re never going to forget about him because he puts up some monster numbers. He puts up some monster numbers. Now let’s see how everything goes with him on the West Coast.”

Ortiz had nothing but praise for Cano.

“Well-deserved. Well-deserved. I’m telling you, I knew he was going to get something around that because he’s one of the best players in the game right now and that’s where the best players are at,” said Ortiz. “The way he makes the game look, it’s ridiculous. It’s just impossible. He makes the game look so easy. … Now, we’re not going to be able to see him that much, thank God. He’s going to the West Coast. Wishing him the best. He’s a good friend of mine, and like I said, well deserved.”

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Mike Napoli vs. Curtis Granderson in an inflationary market 12.06.13 at 3:59 pm ET
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A year ago, Mike Napoli had a three-year, $39 million deal in hand with the Red Sox before the uncertainty generated by his diagnosis with a degenerative hip condition led to the deal’s revision into a one-year, $5 million deal that got pushed up to $13 million with incentives.

But Napoli did a number of things in 2013 to put him in position to seek something along similar lines: He remained healthy, played the second most games of his career (139) and he went from being a bat-first catcher whose defensive skills were in question to a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman, he went from a down year in 2012 (.227 with a .343 OBP and .469 slugging mark and 113 OPS+) to one very much in line with his career line in 2013 (.259/.360/.482 with a 127 OPS+).

There are still concerns in some places about the long-term risks associated with his hip condition. But given that the medical issue remained stable in 2013, it went from a dramatic uncertainty to a somewhat more normal/typical injury concern that accompanies most free agents. All of that explains why the free agent felt that it was reasonable to seek a deal that was at least comparable to the one he initially secured from the Red Sox last winter.

Yet in a fast-moving free agent market that has seen a number of landmark contracts already, Napoli’s asking price may be rising by the day. The early movement of Jacoby Ellsbury on a seven-year, $153 million deal to the Yankees and Robinson Cano on a 10-year, $240 million deal to the Mariners has spearheaded a robust market for position players, at a time when teams got a windfall of additional tens of millions — something that appears to be pushing contracts up rather rapidly. Read the rest of this entry »

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