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Dodgers, Giants informed they are out of Jon Lester sweepstakes 12.09.14 at 9:56 pm ET
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SAN DIEGO — The field is narrowing.

According to a major league source, both the Giants and Dodgers have been informed by Jon Lester that he is no longer being considered as possible landing spots.

Giants assistant general manager Bobby Evans — who told reporters earlier Tuesday that his team was “in the backseat” when it came to the services of Jon Lester — informed the media Tuesday night that Lester had informed San Francisco that it was no longer being considered an option by the free agent pitcher.

Later in the evening, the LA Times reported that the Dodgers were also no longer being considered by Lester.

It is believed that Lester is making a decision between the Red Sox and Cubs.

Check back for more …

Source: Still not at stage for Jon Lester to receive final offers; Red Sox meet with agents 12.09.14 at 5:35 pm ET
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SAN DIEGO — According to a major league source, as of Tuesday evening, Jon Lester‘s representatives were not at the point where they were prepared to offer their client a presentation of final offers from the four teams involved.

The source goes on to clarify that Lester’s agents, Sam and Seth Levinson of ACES, met with the Red Sox earlier Tuesday. With the involvement of ownership groups from all teams slowing the process, there was still a strong possibility no decision would be made the pitcher until Wednesday.

In the mix for Lester’s services with the Red Sox are the Dodgers, Giants, and Cubs.

Source: Jon Lester’s decision could be pushed to Wednesday 12.09.14 at 3:36 am ET
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SAN DIEGO — According to a major league source, Jon Lester‘s decision as to which team he will sign with may drag on into Wednesday.

It was originally believed that the time it would take for Lester to pick a team wouldn’t stretch beyond Tuesday. But, because of the involvement of ownership for multiple interested teams, the process has been slowed.

The source suggests that there is still the possibility that an agreement is in place Tuesday, although it would likely be later in the day.

As of Tuesday morning, the Red Sox were very much in the mix for Lester’s services, with the Cubs, Giants and Dodgers also making strong plays for the free agent pitcher.

Monday, Red Sox manager John Farrell expressed optimism regarding the return of his ace pitcher, telling the assembled media at the winter meetings, “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. 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.”

Multiple sources continue to suggest that Lester likely won’t take the highest offer if he deems another team to be a better fit.

For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

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Ben Cherington on Jon Lester: ‘I haven’t been told we’re out, so I assume we’re not out’ 12.08.14 at 9:28 pm ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

SAN DIEGO — Striking a measured tone, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington met with the Boston media Monday night at the winter meetings to discuss the latest in regards to his team’€™s pursuit of free agent pitcher Jon Lester.

Cherington, who said he had no scheduled meetings with Lester’€™s agents Monday night but did expect to talk to them at some point, couldn’€™t offer any clues as to what path Lester might take, simply saying he expected the pitcher to choose a team soon.

As for a report earlier in the day that suggested the Red Sox were not one of the finalists for Lester (which the pitcher’s agent, Seth Levinson, called “absolutely untrue”), Cherington said, “I haven’t been told we’re out, so I assume we’re not out.”

Here are some of the highlights from the get-together with GM:

The latest on Lester

“With regards to Lester, we respect that he’€™s got a decision that’€™s going to be made and we assume that will be sometime soon. We’€™ve been involved and had a chance to talk to him at length on numerous occasions. It sounds like he’€™s getting closer to a decision. Aside from that, I don’€™t know any more than that. I think we’€™ve never looked at it like Plan A, B, C, D. We’€™ve looked at it like we need to build a rotation so we have to be in all sorts of stuff and we have been on all sorts of stuff all offseason, or to this point in the offseason. There’€™s probably, between free agent possibilities and trade possibilities, 15, 20 starting pitching scenarios we’€™ve talked about and worked on so obviously not all those are going to land and more of those won’€™t land than will land. We just have to stay involved and keep working and work as hard as we can to get the ones to land that make the most sense. I don’€™t see it as a Plan A, B or C. I see it as we’€™re trying to build a good rotation and we’€™ve got to look at every possibility to do that.”

Did you expect Lester’€™s decision to come sooner than it has?

“You know, I guess there was some speculation earlier in the offseason that it might get done sooner, before the winter meetings, so here we are in the winter meetings. On the other hand, as you guys know, most bigger deals don’€™t happen before the Winter Meetings, so probably not surprising that we’€™re here.”

Are you being held up making other moves because of Lester’€™s process?

“No, we really don’€™t. I think we’€™re in a position where we have position player strength and depth. We have resources, we have some financial flexibility. There’€™s all sorts of different ways to build the pitching staff. We’€™ve been able to pursue all kinds of things. Don’€™t feel constrained, other than just trying to find a deal that makes sense. That’€™s the constraint ‘€“ it’€™s not one guy or the other. We’€™re just still working towards deals that make sense.”

Does your budgeted number for the free agent change?

“You have to to some degree. That number can move over time. All sorts of things can factor into what you’€™re going to do whether trade or free agent. It’€™s not necessarily static, circumstances can change which might lead you to change your position even in the context of an offseason, if one thing happens it might affect another so yes there has to be a line. Every team does that. I think it can be different for every team. I don’€™t believe one thing has to make sense for everyone, something might make a lot of sense for one team and not as much for another based on their particular situation. You have to figure out what makes sense for us.”

Regarding the reported meeting between principal owner John Henry and Lester

“There was a report that there was a meeting with John Henry. We’€™d like to be able to do some of these things without that kind of thing getting out but that got out. We’€™ve had opportunity we’€™ve needed to meet with Jon and meet with Seth and give them all the information we can give them.”

Source: Jon Lester likely to make decision Tuesday 12.08.14 at 2:16 pm ET
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SAN DIEGO — According to a major league source, Jon Lester is expected to make his decision as to where he will sign Tuesday.

There was some thought the process would be finalized as early as Monday night, but the interest of the teams involved (Cubs, Red Sox, Giants, Dodgers) continues to evolve.

Check back for more from the winter meetings …

Will Middlebrooks: ‘I’m curious to see what’s going to happen’ 12.05.14 at 10:29 pm ET
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PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic — Will Middlebrooks knew he could give the company line when addressing a small group of media at the David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Classic Friday — just working on getting ready for 2015.

But Middlebrooks understands that when your team signs a player to man your position for at least the first portion of a five-year, $95 million deal, there’s no such thing as turning a blind-eye.

Pablo Sandoval is the Red Sox third baseman, leaving Middlebrooks searching for some clarity.

“I’€™m not really sure what the future holds,” he said. “I know the cliche thing to say is that I’€™m just going to focus on next season and getting healthy. But, of course I want to know what’€™s going to happen. I want to know if I’€™m going to have a job or not. I understand the moves they had to make. From the organization that we are, we have to win next year, everyone knows that. So of course we had to make some moves. I was hurt last year, and have been hurt a lot, and you can’€™t rely on that.”

What is has left is an uncertain offseason for Middlebrooks, who continues to train in the Dallas area.

He has yet to play in more than 94 big league games, coming off a ’14 campaign in which his final totals included 63 games, a .191 batting average and just two home runs.

“It’€™s not going to be pleasant,” he said of his dip down the organizational depth chart. “It’€™s not enjoyable to be replaced, but, like I said, I understand. I’€™m trying to look at the big picture from the organization, too. But then selfishly I say, ‘€˜What about me? What’€™s going to happen to me?’€™ I want to stay in Boston. I want to play in Boston. Everybody wants to play in Boston, or this type of market. There doesn’€™t seem like there’€™s a place for me now, so I have no idea what’€™s going to happen. All I can do is just get ready, have a good spring and see what happens.”

In terms of finding major league playing time in 2015, Middlebrooks knows his best chance might come as part of another organization. Third base is a relatively thin position throughout baseball, especially when looking for players who can hit with some kind of pop. (It should be noted that San Francisco was in scouting Middlebrooks in September, preparing for the possibility of Sandoval moving on.)

“I don’€™t want to go anywhere. I came up here,” he said. “And I know it’€™s pretty rare for someone to stay in one place their whole career, I understand that. But I’€™m still going to try to. Am I fitting this mold right now? I don’€™t really fit in the mix right now. But it’€™s a long time until April. I just have to worry about me right now and just try and be the best Will Middlebrooks I can be.”

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington did call Middlebrooks the day after Sandoval signed, although there wasn’t much the GM could relay that would add peace of mind to the 26 year old.

“It’€™s kind of blurry right now,” said Middlebrooks of his immediate future. “He can’€™t give me a definite answer. They don’€™t know. I’€™m not in the front office and I don’€™t know what their plans are, but obviously there are still some holes to fill. I’€™m not saying I’€™m going to be the mix of it, but I could be. I’€™m sure that’€™s a possibility.”

One avenue Middlebrooks is open to exploring is playing a new position, such as first base. Although Mike Napoli is entrenched at first through 2015, it would seem to be a better opportunity than what he is facing with Sandoval blocking him across the diamond.

“Absolutely,” said Middlebrooks when asked about being willing to make a position switch to first. “We haven’€™t talked about that. I would imagine that is a possibility. But right now we have a really good first baseman. If I happen to move into a utility role and help out wherever needed, that’€™s fine. I would love to stay here. I want to play here. But it’€™s a business and there’€™s that of things. I’€™m curious to see what’€™s going to happen.”

As for the notion that playing winter ball might have enhanced his stock within the organization, Middlebrooks points to the fact his hand hasn’t fully healed as proof that not participating was the right call.

“It’€™s moving in the right direction,” said Middlebrooks of the right hand injury. “It’€™s not where I want it to be. I think it was a good idea that we didn’€™t go play Winter Ball, because even at this point I feel I wouldn’€™t be in a game. I could go out and take BP. Would it be sore? Yeah. Could I play? Yeah. But this isn’€™t September or October in the big leagues. It wouldn’€™t be good for me.”

David Ortiz makes plea to Red Sox to ‘step up’ for Jon Lester 12.05.14 at 1:51 am ET
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PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic — The priority for David Ortiz at his annual golf tournament is to play the role of host for those helping support the event.

But there have been times he uses the occasion to get a message across via the small gathering of media attending the fundraiser. Last year, for example, the Red Sox designated hitter threw down the gauntlet to the team that he was intent on getting a new deal done before the 2014 season rolled around.

This time around, Ortiz lacked any sort of pointed remarks. (“€œI’€™m under contract,”€ he said. “I don’€™t have to talk about it.”€) Instead, there was just a plea. He wants Jon Lester back with the Red Sox.

“Yeah,”€ said Ortiz when asked if he was optimistic that Lester would return. “€œMost of the time we come through. I know it’€™s a tough situation because my boy Lester, he’€™s got a lot of people in his head right now talking to him. I always wish him the best, but hopefully we end up having him. We need him.”

Ortiz explained he hadn’€™t spoken with Lester throughout the offseason (just ‘€œtweeting at him’€), but reiterated an understanding of the pitcher’€™s mindset.

Now, with the pitcher on the cusp making his decision ‘€“ one which is appearing to be finalized around the time of next week’€™s winter meetings in San Diego ‘€“ Ortiz is presenting one last pitch.

“This is a guy who loves Boston, so if I’€™m the Red Sox I do whatever it takes to keep a guy like that because that’€™s a guy who brings everything he has every day to the field,”€ he said. “Not only that but he cares about the city.

“He was devastated when he got traded, and I know that. I can personally tell you that. But this is a business, and I know he understands that. So now is the time for us to step up, man up, and try to make the guy happy.”

Lester appears to be choosing between the Red Sox, Giants, Cubs and Dodgers, with some in baseball believing the Yankees are also lurking. Ortiz just so happens to seemingly be one of the people saying New York is, ‘€œgoing to go out and get some pitching, I guarantee it.’€

Also in attendance for the first day of Ortiz’€™s event was third baseman Will Middlebrooks, along with free agent reliever Craig Breslow. The lefty pitcher has drawn interest from more than a handful of teams, but figures to sign only after fellow southpaw Andrew Miller kicks off the relieving market.

Other notable participants in the event include Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre, Hanley Ramirez, Robinson Cano and Pedro Martinez. Newly-acquired Pablo Sandoval is also expected to make an appearance.

“That was something that absolutely surprised me,” said Ortiz of the signing of both Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. “It’€™s more offense. More good defense. That’€™s how you start winning and putting a good team together.”

What it would mean for Red Sox’ draft if they went after James Shields, Max Scherzer, Ervin Santana or Francisco Liriano 12.01.14 at 12:48 pm ET
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Now that the smoke has cleared somewhat after the shock and awe signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, it seems like a good time to delve into some of the deal’€™s minutiae.

Here is some clarification as to what the signings (and potential signings) mean for the Red Sox‘€™ draft in 2015:

– The Red Sox first-round pick ‘€“ No. 7 overall — is protected (since it is in the top 10).

– The Giants and Dodgers don’€™t get the Red Sox actual picks after that. (A change with the new CBA.)

– The Red Sox lose their normal second-round pick and the compensation pick they hauled in at the end of the second pick from the A’€™s in the Jon Lester trade.

– The Giants and Dodgers each get a compensation pick after the first round. Those picks are awarded in reverse order of standings of all the teams who lost players who received qualifying offers.

– If the Red Sox sign another player with a qualifying offer attached — such as James Shields, Ervin Santana or Francisco Liriano — they would lost their third-round pick (and so on).

It’s interesting to note that the draft pick acquired in the Lester deal basically gave the Red Sox a freebie when it came to signing a qualifying offer free agent.

Also, now that the cost of signing a Shields, Scherzer, Santana or Liriano would just be a third-rounder, does that change the dynamic in how the Red Sox’ approach those free agents differ from other teams? While teams pursuing Shields likely won’t be discouraged by his qualifying offer existence, both Liriano and Santana could potentially be hit hard by the qualifying offer tag (as Santana experienced go-round before signing a one-year deal in March).

An example how such a chain of events might shape a team’s approach to qualifying offer free agents came last year when the Orioles were willing to sign Nelson Cruz only after committing to Ubaldo Jimenez (sacrificing their first-round pick). The O’s deemed Cruz worthy of sacrificing the value of a second-round pick, which became a reality after the Jimenez signing.

The soon-to-be 32-year-old Santana (211 and 196 innings, respectively, over the past two seasons), and the 31-year-old Liriano (4-0, 1.23 ERA in his last seven starts; 3.38 for the season) both carry uncertainty, and aren’t viewed as top-of-the-rotation options. But they also may represent the kind of starting veteran presences the Red Sox might not be averse investing a few years in.

It should be noted that the remaining free agents with qualifying offers attached are: Liriano, Santana, Melky Cabrera, David Robertson, Shields, and Scherzer. (Nelson Cruz reportedly agreed to a deal with the Mariners Monday.)

Shane Victorino: ‘I should be the starting right fielder’ 11.27.14 at 11:12 pm ET
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Shane Victorino is optimistic he will hit the ground running when spring training rolls around. (Getty Images)

Shane Victorino is optimistic he will hit the ground running when spring training rolls around. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Through all the uncertainty that has encompassed the Red Sox‘ offseason, Shane Victorino has taken solace in his own run of certainty.

Monday, for the first time since undergoing back surgery, the outfielder will swing a bat. It is the latest step forward in a rehabilitation process that has left Victorino as confident as ever heading into his third season with the Red Sox.

“Everything feels great,” Victorino said from Hawaii, where he had been over the last week or so to help run his charity event for the Shane Victorino Foundation (helping children in need). “There hasn’t been any setbacks. I was cleared to start swinging a few weeks ago but I was coming to Hawaii so they didn’t want me to do any swinging or rotating until I got back [to his home in Las Vegas]. Once I get back Monday I’ll probably start therapeutic swinging just to get the motion of what’s going on. It’s going in the right direction. I’m moving, running, lifting with no setbacks. Here and there, there are your normal fatigue of muscle areas, but beyond that there hasn’t been anything to have me slow it down.

“From what I know we’re all systems go if everything go as planned. As of now, all systems are go. We have no intentions of taking it slow going into spring training. That might be a mindset that changes, but as of right we’re focused on being ready for the first day of spring training and doing everything from the start to when things pick up.”

So with his health trending in the right direction, the next question involving Victorino involves his role in an unbelievably crowded outfield.

There’s Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Yoenis Cespedes, Hanley Ramirez, Daniel Nava, Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt. Yet, as far as Victorino is concerned, there should be one constant that provides some outfield certainty heading into 2015 — the soon-to-be 34-year-old playing right field at Fenway Park.

“If you think there’s somebody better in right, be my guest,” he said. “Obviously health will dictate that. But if I’m healthy if there’s a better outfielder in right field then show me and go out there and do it. I’m not saying that in a cocky or arrogant way. It’s just how confident I am to know I should be the starting right fielder. There are things to come into play and situations to be discussed. I plan on being healthy and out there and ready to go. Like I said, it’s my job. I don’t think there’s anybody can tell me differently. If they feel there is from an organization’s standpoint it is what it is. As I’ve said, whatever uniform it may be I’m going to go out there and give 100 percent and be the best I can be. Obviously I want it to be a Red Sox uniform and be a right fielder, but I can’t control decisions that are made from up top.”

Victorino — who is on the final season of a three-year, $39 million deal — then added regarding the perceived outfield competition, “It’s part of the business. Yeah, some of the things that are discussed in terms of contracts and length of contracts, as a player or as a fan who follows what’s going on you sit there and say less than a year ago they weren’t going to do these kind of things. Teams do change. But as I said, that’s their decision. That’s a business decision. It’s not our decision to worry and ponder about. As a baseball player I’m focused on being healthy and be ready to go. I’m not worried about what guys are getting and what contracts are signed. You worry about those kind of things then that takes another element away from your focus of being the best player you can be.”

It’s not a stretch to identify Victorino as the team’s best all-around outfielder when healthy. In 2013, he provided Gold Glove defense while finishing with 15 home runs, 21 stolen bases, a .294 batting average and an .801 OPS in 122 games.

Last season, however, back and hamstring issues limited Victorino to just 30 games, leading to the season-ending operation. It was a nightmare that began on the third day of spring training and has left the former switch-hitter (now hitting exclusively righty) having to stake claim to his former lot in life once again.

Yet, as far as the outfielder is concerned, if all things go as planned health-wise the days leading into the ’15 season shouldn’t be approached any differently than those heading into his team’s world championship-winning campaign two years before.

“I never try to impress anybody. I’m not out there to impress anybody,” he said. “Do I want to get myself as close to game motion and process? Yes, that’s what spring training. But I always say it’s not about the results of spring training and what happens there. It’s about being ready for April 5, to be ready for that first game in Philly. That’s what I’m focused on. I plan on being ready to go on Day 1 in spring training and be as healthy and at 100 percent as best I can.”

John Henry isn’t averse to blowing through luxury tax threshold, ‘hopeful’ about Jon Lester agreement 11.25.14 at 8:04 pm ET
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John Henry

John Henry

John Henry offered some clarity Tuesday as to where the Red Sox might go from here when it comes to their offseason approach.

Following the press conference to introduce new left fielder Hanley Ramirez, the Red Sox principal owner said that he was not averse to blowing through the $189 million luxury tax threshold this offseason.

The comment was notable considering the Red Sox would need to reach such financial heights if they were to commit to signing a top-tier free agent pitcher, such as Jon Lester. The last time the team went past the threshold was 2011.

(The team’s payroll currently stands at approximately at $182 million.)

“The way it’s structured we can blow through one year,” Henry said. “Again for next year we have tremendous flexibility so we could go could through for one year and not overly affect us.”

In regards to Lester, Henry made it clear that the pursuit of the free agent pitcher is a top priority for the Red Sox, responding to the question of whether or not he was optimistic about signing the lefty with, “I am. I’m hopeful.”

When asked about the email sent to WEEI.com by one of Lester’s agents, Seth Levinson, saying that the Red Sox had shown “great respect” during the ownership group’s visit to the pitcher, Henry said, “I don’t know that it sends a signal. I guess the signal it sends is there’s never been a problem between Jon and the organization either way. He’s been a huge part of what we’ve accomplished here, and I think when we went to see him a large part of our presentation was finishing that legacy. We’re hopeful he can do that.”

Henry did add regarding how the Lester market is unfolding, “I don’t think we have any idea what the market is with regard to any other team.”

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