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Offseason revisited: Whither, Casey Kotchman? 04.20.10 at 2:18 pm ET
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When the Red Sox signed Adrian Beltre, little thought was given to the acquisition cost beyond the dollars involved in Beltre’s one-year deal for a guaranteed $10 million. But there was another component to the move to get the third baseman that has, at least based on very early returns, been interesting to monitor.

In order to free up the resources for Beltre, the Sox dealt first baseman Casey Kotchman to the Mariners in exchange for Bill Hall, a player to be named (the Sox eventually landing minor-league right-hander Miguel Celestino) and cash to cover most of Hall’s contract (which proved a boon to the Red Sox in terms of their luxury tax calculation).

While the Sox had discussed the possibility of moving Kevin Youkilis to third base to have Kotchman serve as their everyday first baseman in 2010, Kotchman still seemed eminently expendable, and it came as little surprise when he was dealt to Seattle. Kotchman was viewed as an above-average defensive first baseman (though not as good as Beltre at third) but no better than a decent, bottom-of-the-order hitter.

Kotchman struggled badly (.218/.284/.287/.572) in part-time duty for the Sox, and had a .730 combined OPS for three times (Angels, Braves, Sox) in 2008 and 2009. Beltre was viewed as having more thump, representing a player who could potentially deliver average to above-average offense in addition to his stellar glove work.

Yet to this point, Kotchman has been something of a revelation for the Mariners, posting far better numbers than Beltre through the first 2+ weeks of the season:

Beltre: .295/.304/.364/.668, 0 HR, 6 RBI

Kotchman: .286/.367/.595/.963, 3 HR, 12 RBI

Kotchman has more walks (6) and extra-base hits (7) than he does strikeouts (4), suggesting that he’s been in a particularly good run at the plate. While this may be a mere early-season blip on the radar, it is also worth noting that Kotchman is at an age (27) when a breakout season is not inconceivable, particularly given the impressive 2007 season (.296/.372/.467/.840) on his resume in his age 24 season.

That said, it could well just be an example of small sample sizes. After all, before Kotchman went 4-for-7 with two homers in his last two games, Kotchman was hitting just .229/.317/.400/.717. Certainly, that offers a reminder that it would be premature to draw any conclusions about the relative merits of acquiring (or dealing) one player before the end of April.

Read More: Adrian Beltre, Casey Kotchman,
Now Batting Third: Casey Kotchman? 03.23.10 at 11:58 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Seattle Mariners offseason was rightly hailed for some savvy acquisitions, most notably the three-team deal that landed ace Cliff Lee in Seattle and the long-term deal that will keep Felix Hernandez atop the M’s rotation for at least the next five years. There was also the signing of Chone Figgins, which the Mariners believe will fortify their already stout defense.

Indeed, a defensive upgrade was also at the heart of Seattle’s desire to acquire first baseman Casey Kotchman from the Red Sox. Yet while there are few questions about Kotchman’s glove, it was more than a little surprising to see word trickle out of Arizona that the Mariners are considering Kotchman for the third spot in their batting order. From M’s manager Don Wakamatsu, per the Seattle Times:

“It gives us a guy, with [Ichiro] and [Figgins] at top of the lineup, who is not a double-play guy in general, a guy who can move those runners along. And for me, it backs up Milton [Bradley] to the four-hole and gives us a little more depth that way.

“[Kotchman] is a guy that’s not that prototypical power hitter. I think that haunts a guy, too. You try to be something you’re not. We’re asking him to just be a good hitter. He’s always been that.”

Kotchman, of course, endured significant struggles after being relegated to part-time duty after being dealt from the Braves to the Red Sox at the trade deadline. He hit .218/.284/.287/.572 in 95 plate appearances for the Sox, and his numbers in Atlanta before the trade in ’09 — while better (.282/.354/.409/.764) — left the Braves feeling that they were in need of an offensive upgrade in the form of Adam LaRoche.

In fairness, the Sox viewed Kotchman as a fine and underrated player. The team was open to the idea of having him be its everyday first baseman, with Kevin Youkilis moving to third. The team believed that he had untapped offensive potential thanks to an excellent minor league track record, one fine big league season in 2007 and an advanced command of the strike zone.

That said, the Sox also viewed Kotchman as a bottom-of-the-order hitter. All but two of Kotchman’s starts with the Sox came in the bottom third of the lineup. Had he remained in Boston, there is little question that he would have continued to reside there, as Sox manager Terry Francona suggested during the winter:

“I’€™m a big Kotchman fan. I think Kotch kind of goes under the radar because he came over and he didn’€™t play and he didn’€™t say anything and he just kind of went about his business. We can do just fine with Kotch playing first, hitting down toward the bottom of the order and catching everything in sight. I’€™m pretty comfortable with that.”

Now, the Mariners could be seeking more from the former first round pick. While the shape of a lineup may or may not play into what kind of run production a team will have (some mathematical models have shown that if you more or less pick a lineup out of a hat, you’d do little to affect its performance), the fact is that the third spot in the order is typically reserved for the player whom a team perceives to be its best hitter. That being the case, the idea that Kotchman — even accepting that he does have upside — could end up being placed in a lineup spot of such prominence does appear, at the least, surprising.

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A look at new Sox minor leaguer Celestino 03.18.10 at 4:20 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Truth be told, there wasn’t a great deal of information available on Miguel Celestino, the minor league pitcher whom the Red Sox acquired as the player to be named to complete the deal that sent first baseman Casey Kotchman to the Mariners for utility man Bill Hall and cash.

The 20-year-old right-hander went 5-3 with a 4.72 ERA and 48 strikeouts (against 23 walks) in 66.1 innings in Rookie Ball in 2009. Sox scout Matt Dorey was able to get a look at the pitcher during the Mariners’ Instructional League.

The Sox scouted Celestino further over the winter in the Dominican, and saw him throw in a simulated game in Mariners camp on Wednesday. The pitcher has shown a fastball at 90-91 mph that he throws at a good, downward angle because of his size (he is listed at 6-foot-5) and has shown some feel for his changeup, while also including a curve in his mix.

Based on the assessments of Dorey and Sox assistant to the GM Allard Baird, the Sox felt like they had a better feel for Celestino than the other players whom they could have selected from the Mariners’ list. And so, the team decided to take the pitcher, in hopes of having some time to begin to work with him in spring training.

“[Dorey] did a good job of digging in [Instructional League]. He had a report on him that was interesting enough that we wanted to include him in list of players,” said Sox Assistant GM Ben Cherington. “We decided that he was the guy, and wanted to get him into camp a little bit sooner so we could work with him this spring.

“He’€™s a big, strong kid, good body,” Cherington added. “He has a pretty good angle, pretty good sink, good feel for a changeup. We’€™ll see him tomorrow and get a chance to know him.”

Read More: bill Hall, Casey Kotchman, miguel celestino,
Creative Red Sox Accounting 101: Beltre, Kotchman, Hall 01.06.10 at 2:58 pm ET
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Once the Red Sox completed the deals for Marco Scutaro (2 years, $12.5 million), John Lackey (5 years, $82.5 million) and Mike Cameron (2 years, $15.5 million), their budget for 2010 appeared just about tapped. When the team suggested that it was prepared to enter the season with Casey Kotchman as its starting first baseman, it was more than idle chatter – with the team scraping against the luxury tax threshold of $170 million for next year, and with a record payroll under contract, the team seemed to have almost no room to maneuver, barring a budget stretch for an affordable superstar like Adrian Gonzalez.

Yet a harmonic convergence of sorts occurred in order to bring Adrian Beltre to Boston. Over the holidays, the Sox positioned themselves to add another Gold Glove-caliber defender (when healthy) while barely making a mark against the salary cap.

The third baseman volunteered to come to Boston on what one talent evaluator described as a “perfect contract,” a deal that was both affordable and short-term in nature as well as structured in a way to minimize the luxury tax hit. The one-year, $9 million framework represented a relative bargain — a contract that was millions less than what Beltre would have earned had he accepted Seattle’s offer of salary arbitration, and the sort of short-term arrangement that will minimize the Sox’ risk.

The $5 million player option for 2011, meanwhile, is in all likelihood cosmetic. Barring a career-threatening injury, there’s almost no way that the player exercises it, given that Beltre just came off of a season in which a) his offensive productivity was the worst of his career thanks to bone spurs in his shoulder that required surgery; b) he played in the fewest games of his career as a result both of that surgery and an injury to his testicle; and c) he still had the chance to choose between the one-year, $9 million deal with the Sox and, according to FoxSports.com, multiple three-year, $24 million offers. Put simply, the chances that he exercises the player option are virtually nil.

The impact of the player option, however, is that it depresses the average annual value (AAV) of the contract, which determines the value of a contract in calculating luxury tax. So, the Beltre contract is viewed as being worth $7 million, rather than $9 million, in calculating the Sox’ 2010 payroll for luxury tax purposes.

Even then, however, the Sox would not have been able to afford to sign Beltre while remaining in their budget. The team still needed to free more payroll in order to minimize its luxury tax hit, since the Sox must pay 22.5 percent on every payroll dollar they spend over $170 million next year.

That being the case, the Sox sought salary relief by moving Kotchman. Without Beltre, the Sox wouldn’t have moved the 26-year-old first baseman; at the same time, without being able to move Kotchman, Sox sources say that the club could not have signed Beltre.

The arbitration eligible first baseman, after making $2.885 million in 2009, was likely to earn roughly $3.5 million for 2010. By moving him to the Mariners, the net impact of signing Beltre — from a luxury tax standpoint — dropped to about $3.5 million.

But the Sox also structured their deal with the Mariners both to address a need for a bench player and to offer further relief against the luxury tax. The inclusion of the versatile Bill Hall and millions of dollars in cash (along with a player to be named from a list of minor leaguers) will offer the Sox further relief.

Hall is in the last guaranteed year of a four-year, $24 million deal that will pay him $8.4 million next season. The Mariners, according to a major-league source, will pay $7.5-8 million of his salary — essentially sending the Sox the same money that was given to Seattle by the Brewers when the M’s acquired Hall last summer.

Hall’s contract is evaluated for luxury tax purposes as being worth $6 million in 2010, based on its AAV. But the full amount of the cash transfer — call it $7.5 million — will be deducted from the Sox’ payroll as determined for luxury tax purposes. That being the case, Hall will actually reduce the Sox’ payroll in calculating the competitive balance tax by roughly $1.5 million dollars. Overall, then, the Sox were able to sign Beltre and add Hall and a player to be named at a cost (for CBT purposes) of roughly $2 million in 2010.

$7 million (AAV of Beltre’s contract)
-$3.5 million (AAV of Kotchman’s likely contract)
+$6 million (AAV of Hall’s contract)
-$7.5 million (cash transfer from Seattle to Boston)

=$2 million

That math explains how the final shaping of the Red Sox roster took place without blowing out the team’s payroll projections.

Read More: Adrian Beltre, bill Hall, Casey Kotchman,
Bill Hall to Red Sox in Kotchman Deal 01.05.10 at 6:20 pm ET
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A baseball source said that Bill Hall would be going from the Mariners to the Red Sox in the Casey Kotchman deal, describing his inclusion in the agreement between the clubs as “a done deal.” Hall will be sent to the Sox along with a player to be named and cash for Kotchman.

Hall would be a useful role player for the Sox given his ability to play multiple infield (short and third) and outfield positions. And, as a right-handed hitter with pull power, he would be a good complement to a Sox team that features three left-handed outfielders (starters J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury, and backup Jeremy Hermida) along with the right-handed Mike Cameron.

In 2009, Hall had six homers and 24 RBI with a .201 batting average over 76 games before finishing the season in Seattle. With the Mariners, he had two homers and 12 RBI to go along with a .200 average over the final 34 games of the year. Over the course of his eight-year career, Hall has a .251 batting average, along with 104 homers and 379 RBI.

Hall is due $8.4M, the last of a four-year, $24M deal. Were the Mariners to pick up most of his salary ‘€” something they could do with the $7-8M received from the Brewers when they dealt for Hall last summer ‘€” Hall could help the Sox’ luxury tax numbers quite a bit. He would represent a savings of about $1.5 for the purposes of luxury tax calculations. That, along with the roughly $3.5M saved by dealing Casey Kotchman, is what allowed the Sox to sign Adrian Beltre with a minimal luxury tax hit.

The minor-league player to be named in the deal will be just that — the Sox will evaluate a group of Mariners prospects in spring training before selecting one as a player in return.

Read More: Adrian Beltre, bill Hall, Casey Kotchman,
UPDATED: Sox, Mariners Close to Deal on Kotchman at 4:13 pm ET
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The Red Sox and Mariners are close to an agreement that would send first baseman Casey Kotchman to the Mariners in exchange for a minor-league player to be named later, a major-league role player and cash, according to a major-league source. The deal is not yet finalized. News of the general agreement was first reported by ESPN.com.

Kotchman, who is eligible for salary arbitration after having earned $2.885 million in 2009, became expendable with the Sox’ acquisition of free-agent Adrian Beltre. Though the Sox had spent part of the offseason suggesting that the 26-year-old could be their starting first baseman, Beltre’s signing will allow the Sox to keep Kevin Youkilis at first base.

The cash component of the deal has significant implications for the Red Sox, since any cash transferred to them from another club is deducted from a team’s payroll as calculated for CBT purposes. Thus, in moving Kotchman and his 2010 contract (which will be of more than $3 million) and receiving the cash back, the Sox will save more than $5 million off their CBT payroll.

That, in turn, proved crucial for the Sox in providing the Sox with the payroll flexibility to reach an agreement with third baseman Adrian Beltre.

Kotchman, acquired by the Sox last year at the trade deadline in exchange for Adam LaRoche, hit .218 with a .284 OBP, .287 slugging and .572 OPS in 39 games with the Sox. He is a career .269/.337/.406/.742 hitter.

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Peter Gammons on Dale & Holley 12.25.09 at 1:42 am ET
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Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons appeared in studio on WEEI on Wednesday to discuss the state of the offseason and to discuss the upcoming Hot Stove, Cool Music events (on Jan. 9, 2010).

Gammons discussed several offseason topics, among them:

–There’€™s almost no way that the Red Sox can bring back Jason Bay. The offer that Bay received from the Sox is the best one he’€™s received, just as the Sox made the best offer (five years, $82.5 million) that Matt Holliday had received before they moved on to sign John Lackey.

–The Sox and Padres haven’€™t exchanged any names regarding a potential Adrian Gonzalez deal. It will be virtually impossible for the Padres to even think about trading Gonzalez before July.

–The availability of Miguel Cabrera in a trade will likely depend on the Tigers’€™ performance in the early stages of the season. If he does become available, the Sox would be interested, despite the inherent concerns about Cabrera off the field.

Jacoby Ellsbury could see the majority of his playing time in left field, which would help preserve his legs for offense.

Daisuke Matsuzaka is in ‘€œunbelievable shape.’€

–It remains to be seen how the Mike Lowell situation develops following the failed trade to the Rangers. Lowell could become an important contributor as a first baseman/third baseman/DH and right-handed bat. At the same time, the team believes in Casey Kotchman‘€™s offensive potential.

To listen to complete audio of the session, click here. A transcript of highlights is below. For details of the Hot Stove, Cool Music events, click here.

Any chance Jason Bay ends up back with the Red Sox as opposed to in Queens?

I think he’€™d rather be playing in Beirut than Queens. The sad part of this is that sometimes there’€™s so much competition between agents that the players become pawns. I think in Jason’€™s case, it would have been really easy to take 4 x 15 [million dollars] in July, which I thought, actually, at the time was a little bit high as an offer. It was clear that the Red Sox just wanted to get him signed and get him out of the way. While the Mets offer is four [years] for 65 [million], it’€™s so backloaded that I’€™ve been told by Mets people that it’€™s far less than what the Red Sox were offering in present-day value. And he obviously doesn’€™t want to play there. And they’€™re scared of having him play left field there for four years. It’€™s really a shame it’€™s worked out this way. I don’€™t see any way they’€™re going to add anybody else here. They’€™re not going to go above the luxury tax. They’€™re going to hold some money back to acquire a contract in July for whatever they need. It’€™s too bad. I know he wanted to go the free-agent route. But at the same time, he really found a home here. It’€™s really too bad.

It’€™s the same way with Matt Holliday. Scott Boras is brilliant. But I’€™m not sure Matt Holliday has anything comparable to the five [years] times 16.5 [million] that the Red Sox offered him at the winter meetings. I don’€™t think he’€™s going to get a Mark Teixeira contract.

Were you surprised that the Sox moved so quickly to sign Mike Cameron, with Bay and Holliday still out there?

I think they basically had spent five months with Jason Bay and Joe Urbon and just said, ‘€˜Okay, you’€™re not going to move? It’€™s been five months. We’€™re going to move on.’€™ The night before they did Cameron, they went to Boras, they had the five times 16.5, and he said it had to be a Mark Teixeira contract, so they moved on.

I know that defense has been the focus of this offseason. If you go to Baseball Prospectus and believe those defensive [efficiency] ratings, they were the second worst defensive team in baseball. Watching them, I would say that they were. However they configure the outfield, it’€™s going to be very good. I know they’€™d like to find one more right-handed hitting outfielder. And the left side of the infield will theoretically be better. It will be very interesting to see.

My theory is they want to play Ellsbury in left field as much as possible. I thought his improvement, getting to balls inside, I thought he started to make a quantum leap as an offensive player ‘€“ not Grady Sizemore, but not far removed. I think he’€™ll be a better offensive player than Curtis Granderson, for instance ‘€“ quite a bit better of an offensive player than Granderson.

I remember in ‘€™84 or ‘€™85, when the Yankees got Rickey Henderson in a trade with the A’€™s, I was doing a story on him in beautiful downtown Winter Haven. He said to me, ‘€˜The beating you take when you steal 70 to 100 bases a year is incredible.’€™ Now, with Rickey, he went into the bag so hard, head first, he was beating up his hands and legs. He said, ‘€˜It’€™s really hard to play centerfield and run 100 times a year.’€™ Barry Bonds has told me the same thing. That’€™s why he wasn’€™t playing centerfield in Pittsburgh. He was playing left field.

I think Ellsbury really wants to be a great offensive player. Boras is smart enough to know that a Gold Glove is not going to go to arbitration the same way that hitting .300 and stealing 80 bases will. So I think he’€™ll be open to it. He played left field in the Cape League. They’€™ll play Ellsbury in left field 80-100 games a year, rest his legs a little bit, and maybe it will keep him fresher over the course of the season.

One of the things, people all have their opinion about Boras, and he’€™s a tough agent, but he will work with teams if he thinks it’€™s right. Most farm directors will tell you that he’€™s the best agent because it’€™s in his interest and the club’€™s best interest to have his client succeed. So he’€™ll cooperate when it comes to that stuff. Like this year with Oliver Perez, he made Oliver Perez go to Arizona, get the work and lose weight to get in shape. I think he’€™ll understand that with Ellsbury. I think he’€™ll see, ‘€˜Oh boy ‘€“ he might make $7 million next year in arbitration.’€™

Boras told Alex Cora after he signed his two-year deal with the Red Sox to work out to set up for his next contract.

He’€™s very interested in that. More and more agents are realizing that part of their responsibilities back to teams is to get guys in facilities and get them in shape. I know that Vernon Wells is doing it, Carl Crawford, at a training center in Houston. A lot of guys go to Athletes’€™ Performance. My old friend Mike Roberts, who runs the baseball part of API, says that Daisuke [Matsuzaka] is in unbelievable shape and really working hard. He said, ‘€˜Do you think he was embarrassed last summer?’€™ I said, ‘€˜His criticizing the Red Sox was like his way of saving face in Japan.’€™ But he’€™s in tremendous shape.

Before Cameron, they offered the Holliday deal. Did they want Holliday or Lackey more?

I think they looked at it and said it’€™s going to be harder to get a big-time front-line [pitcher], once they knew that the Holliday thing was going to drag out into the middle of January, I think they said, it’€™s going to be easier to find a hitter on the market in June or July than it is to get a frontline pitcher.

I don’€™t think they ever thought he was that interested in coming to Boston. I didn’€™t know the whole thing about his wife going to the University of New Hampshire.

What is the situation with Mike Lowell?

I think Mike got frustrated and it’€™s my understanding he did say, or [agent] Sam Levinson said, it’€™s probably best if he got traded. Okay, that’€™s understandable. But at the same time, Mike wants to play full time. I understand that entirely. I talked to Mike Reinold after he had been down there to see him.

You have to believe a full offseason of rehab will help him. I remember calling Mike after the first of the year last year. He was really worried about being ready for spring training. One of Terry Francona‘€™s great lines was, ‘€˜Tell him we don’€™t need him to be ready for the Boston College game.’€™ I don’€™t know how this all works out. I really don’€™t. They’€™ve been looking for a right-handed hitting outfielder. They may not do that now, if he’€™s coming back.

They want to give Casey Kotchman every chance. I must say, a year ago in spring training, I did a thing on ESPN.com about the five guys I thought would have breakout seasons. Kotchman was one of them.

One of my favorite statistics in looking at young players as they come up, do they have more walks and more extra-base hits than strikeouts? On the major-league level, in the last 50 years, there are only 11 of them ‘€“ Pedroia and Pujols are two of them, by the way ‘€“ that have that. Kotchman’€™s numbers were unbelievable in the minor leagues. It’€™s such a good predictor of guys being really good hitters. Actually, he’€™s not that far from it on the major-league level. Except for the time, he was hitting .330-something in Anaheim in 2008 and got beaned. He struggled after that. Then, he didn’€™t play much here.

He’€™s a great first baseman. I get the impression Tito really wants to play him. I can see him, I talked to [Angels hitting coach] Mickey Hatcher about it a lot during the playoffs, he said if he can just relax, this ballpark was made for him. He’€™s Nick Johnson with defensive skills. So it will be interesting to see what happens with him.

The Sox probably don’€™t believe as much as Mike Lowell believes that he’€™s going to be a better, more mobile player.

You just never know who gets hurt, what happens. I remember the year he came over from the Marlins, people saying, writing, scouts saying, he’€™s done. He’€™s lost his bat speed. ‘€¦ And of course it turned out that he played great for them. Playing first, third, being a right-handed DH, maybe he ends up being an important part of the team. Who knows?

The thumb injury isn’€™t that dramatic ‘€“ plenty of guys come back from this. So why did Texas blow this up?

I don’€™t think Max Ramirez is any loss to Red Sox Nation.

I guess [the Rangers] got cold feet, having to spend $3 million. I don’€™t see it. I think they’€™re being a little bit silly here.

He has to be a little bit better in terms of the hip. Alex Rodriguez‘€™ operation was really minor. It can’€™t be compared to Lowell’€™s. But Chase Utley‘€™s, I still think he’€™s one of the five best players in the National League, but he was not quite the same defensive player this year after having the hip operation. I’€™m sure he will be this year. He’€™ll be the same guy again.

I think it takes some time. I didn’€™t understand that these operations didn’€™t exist a dozen years ago. It started in Europe and this is a very new technology. Mike’€™s a little bit older and a little different body type than Utley. It’€™s something that’€™s new. I have to believe it will be better.

It was tough at the end. The playoffs, he couldn’€™t move at all. I understand that. But he’€™d also been playing everyday for a full season.

What can be expected of Mike Cameron at this point in his career?

I think a great deal of energy. He is a really good defender. The only thing that worries me is that he’€™s so fearless that with all the things that jut out in Fenway that he’€™ll run into something. But I think he’€™ll hit 25 home runs, he’€™ll steal 20, 25 bases and be a really good outfielder. He is in great shape and he’€™s completely fearless. He will strike out a lot.

To me, he’€™ll probably hit seventh or eighth in the order. He hits left-handed pitching ‘€“ he has in the past ‘€“ pretty well. He’€™s a guy that good teams want him. The Yankees tried to trade Melky Cabrera for him the year before and the Brewers changed their minds on it.

He’€™ll be a good player. It’€™s one of those years, they make the deal with Florida [for Jeremy Hermida], they have Kotchman around, they have a couple of guys who people have loved for years. If all of a sudden one of them breaks out the way David Ortiz did, or even Kevin Millar did really here, then they get one or two pretty good players in terms of depth.

Where do you see the Adrian Gonzalez situation being right now?

I don’€™t think that Jed will even think about trading him until July. One of the things he found when he went out there, he’€™d always said all those years when he was with the Red Sox, they didn’€™t do deals based on how they thought the public would react, as we know ‘€“ trading Nomar, some other things. They did what they thought was in the best interests of the team.

They have to think about selling tickets in San Diego. Adrian Gonzalez is from there, he’€™s Mexican-American, he’€™s the most marketable player they have. This is a new ownership. They can’€™t afford for their first move to be trading their most important player. Now, if they’€™re 25 games out on July 1st, that may be a different story.

Another problem they have in making trades is that they played really well the last two months. I’€™ve always likened it to a college basketball game where a team is down 40 points and they rally to lose by 10, so everybody says, ‘€˜Wow ‘€“ they played great in the last 10 minutes.’€™ But actually, they’€™re going to be back to losing by 30 the next time they play that team. My guess is that’€™s what the Padres will be. They have to get much more athletic in the outfield. They’€™re playing [Kyle] Blanks in left field, which is going to be a problem. I don’€™t think he’€™ll even think about it for a while. I think they’€™ll go into this next season, then see where they’€™re at, and then talk.

I was talking to Jed a couple days ago. He said he was amazed reading some of the names that they supposedly exchanged. Because they hadn’€™t. The Padres now have the Red Sox’€™ assistant general manager and their scouting director. They know the difference between Casey Kotchman and Michael Bowden.

Are you surprised the Sox went five years with John Lackey, and how do you think it affects the Josh Beckett situation?

I was surprised. I understand that one of the things they really felt about Lackey the last year and a half is that he really developed feel ‘€“ changing speeds a lot better than he used to. He used to be a head-on guy. But I think it’€™s going to make it difficult.

I can come up with, okay, Beckett’€™s career ERA in Boston is 4.05. The last two years in the postseason he’€™s allowed 18 runs in 30 innings. Blah, blah. But the staff views Josh Beckett as the captain of the pitching staff. He’€™s a model guy who’€™s a leader, he cares about whether the team wins or loses. I think that’€™s going to be a tough negotiation. I do think they’€™ll make every effort to keep him. I really do.

If he has a normal season, the negotiations will start at five years.

I think that will provide for some interesting negotiations.

For Beckett, it’€™s a win-win ‘€“ Beckett is now clearly the top guy in next year’€™s free-agent market.

My guess is that Cliff Lee goes out on the market, but yeah, [Beckett] should be the No. 1 guy after Lee. If he has a really good year, and in fairness, I understand part of his reputation was that he was a great October pitcher, and he hasn’€™t been a good October pitcher the last two years, but he’€™s also been hurt. Okay, now, like A.J. Burnett, he has a history of some injuries.

At the same time, if he comes back and is healthy for a whole year, puts up 33 starts, doesn’t have a pull or a shoulder problem or hip problem, whatever different things he’€™s had, then in my mind, there’€™s no reason he won’t win 18-20 games, and as we’ve seen with Lackey and Burnett, that’€™s $16, $17, $18 million a year.

Who won the Halladay trade?

I think Seattle did really well. They’€™ve built that team up. Jack Zduriencik has done a great job with the defense. But I love Halladay pitching in Philadelphia. Jayson Stark, I don’€™t remember the numbers, but he had some great numbers on what the Toronto Blue Jays have been the last two years without Roy Halladay starting. It’€™s incredible. They have been like a .430 winning percentage team. In Philadelphia, with pretty good defense, a team that scores a lot of runs and a team that’€™s a lot of fun to play for ‘€“ that team, it’€™s crazy, they’€™re really fun ‘€“ he’€™s in the National League, I think that helps.

I’€™m a big Javy Vazquez guy. It’€™s hard not to like him. He’€™s one of the most likeable people. I know that Ozzie Guillen felt he was a National League pitcher, he wasn’€™t tough. I think that kind of drove him out of New York, although he did have some shoulder problems that he never talked about that one year with the Yankees. I know the Red Sox really wanted him before the Wagner signing. That will be very interesting to see, too.

One thing I’€™m impressed about by the Yankees is by bringing in Granderson and Vazquez, they’€™ve gone out to add to Rivera and Jeter, they’€™ve added incredible people. There’€™s nothing wrong with that. I think the character of the team has really evolved. To me, Melky Cabrera is a nice fourth outfielder. I understand Liberty Broadcasting, or whoever owns the Braves, in getting rid of Soriano and Vazquez, they’€™ve taken $16 million off their payroll. That deal wasn’€™t about getting players. I read today on MLBtraderumors.com, there was talk about Frank Wren yesterday saying we’€™re going to get a major bat. It turns out to be Troy Glaus.

Will Miguel Cabrera be out there?

I think a lot of it will depend on how the Tigers play for the first couple of months. It’€™s a different situation, because the owner there loves his city and he’€™s watched it die. He doesn’€™t really care about how much money he loses. It’€™s not just the pizzas ‘€“ he’€™s got casinos around Detroit. There was a lot of talk about a fire sale in Detroit this year. Jim Leyland called me [to say], ‘€˜There’€™s not going to be a fire sale. The owner’€™s not going to allow that.’€™

But, if they get off to a bad start, they’€™re not going to be able to move Dontrelle Willis. They’€™re not going to be able to move a couple of other pitchers. If they’€™re 12 games out on June 15, I could see Cabrera getting moved, and I could see the Red Sox being very interested. He’€™s got a huge contract, but he’€™s also a monster bat. Just don’€™t put him at third.

No reservations about bringing him to Boston, on or off the field?

I think there are always going to be issues off the field with Miguel. He’€™s a great kid. He just gets into these issues. But there are a lot of people who were with the Marlins who will tell you Miguel Cabrera was nowhere near the problem that Dontrelle Willis was. Dontrelle is a great guy.

The Marlins, there was a couple times when he was confronted by other players, but they really liked him. They traded him because they got Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Casey Kotchman, Cliff Lee, Curtis Granderson
Terry Francona on D&H: ‘I’m a Big Kotchman Fan’ 12.17.09 at 2:38 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona appeared on the Dale & Holley Show to discuss his excitement for the shape that the 2010 Red Sox are taking. In the aftermath of the signings of John Lackey, Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro this offseason, Francona suggested that the team is positioning itself to win consistently. He also suggested that he thinks the club, as currently constructed, doesn’t need any further changes, and that he would be comfortable with Casey Kotchman as his everyday first baseman.

A transcript of highlights from the interview is below. To listen to the interview, click here.

On Mike Cameron:

He’€™s a good kid. I know you heard this yesterday, but I go back a long way with this guy. It’€™s kind of come full circle. He was a nice kid. Now that he’€™s a 37-year-old, he’€™s a good teammate. That’€™s for sure.

You scared 17, 18 year olds, telling them they’€™d end up working in 7-Elevens?

I don’€™t remember that word for word. My guess is, it wasn’€™t the hitting part. My guess is it was a day that we were taking infield, and we didn’€™t even complete infield because, you’€™re dealing with 18-year-olds, it was raining. We had to quit taking infield because we ran out of balls. I think that’€™s the day that statement came out.

Cameron is a 37-year-old ‘€“ why can he play everyday at this stage of his career?

He’€™s kept himself in great shape. If you just look at him, that’€™s not a problem. We didn’€™t sign him until he’€™s 41. And we have some protection. We have Hermida if he’€™s banged up or needs a day. He’€™s a pretty good fit right now. Sometimes, that’€™s almost as important as the guy you’€™re getting, is how he fits in. We’€™ve talked a lot this winter about wanting to improve our defense. We’€™re trying to get better. Rather than go out and chase every bat that’€™s available and playing softball, I think we sat down a lot and talked about pitching and defense and trying to be better than the other team. And I think we all feel pretty good about that right now.

Have you decided on your centerfielder for 2010?

No, I actually just hung up with DeMarlo [Hale, the bench coach and outfield instructor] a minute ago. What I think I need to do, and I kind of explained this real quick yesterday, is I need to sit down with Theo ‘€“ it’€™s been a busy few days for him ‘€“ with DeMarlo. I have some ideas on this, but I want to talk with Jacoby and Cameron a little more about this, and then we’€™ll figure it out. I have some ideas, but I really want to talk to everyone involved before we do this.

Are you comfortable with either of those guys in left field or right field?

We don’€™t need them to play right field. I think you’€™re maybe talking about left or center. And, yeah ‘€“ they both can do both. We’€™d like to put ourselves in what we think is the best position, and take a little bit of time to think about it and also to talk to everyone involved. But either way, we’€™ll be okay because both of these guys can catch the ball.

You said that you always want more pitching. Did you think you would be able to land the best available free-agent pitcher this offseason?

No. I really didn’€™t. It’€™s funny. I kind of alluded to it yesterday, because every time Theo asked me in the meetings ‘€“ in fact, one time he asked me and then stopped and said, ‘€˜I know your answer’€™ ‘€“ every time he asked me about somebody, I’€™d always come up with a pitcher. It’€™s the way I think we can be good not only in the short term, but also sustain it in the long term. What we found out in ‘€™06 was, as many things as went wrong, when we lost our pitching we couldn’€™t overcome it. That was a horrible feeling. I guess maybe, you’€™ve heard me say it before, when you think you have enough [pitching], go get more. I guess I’€™m always going to feel that way. We made a good staff a lot better. I’€™m glad for that.

Were you active in the recruiting of these guys?

Not really. I guess Theo knew my history with Mike Cameron, but I think sometimes, Theo has a great way of doing this, when things need to get done, he does it quietly and gets them done. When too many people get involved, things have a tendency of getting out there. When he needs to get it done, he goes out there and does it. I respect that a lot.

You have to feel that Ellsbury-Cameron-Drew gives you as good a defensive outfield as there is in the league.

Yeah, we’€™re pretty excited about that. We banged our heads against the wall and tried to figure out ‘€“ how can we get better? How can we get more consistent? It’€™s easy to say we can get six guys who can hit 30 home runs. But by catching the ball, having it end up where it’€™s supposed to, and having really good pitching, we felt like that was our best way to get better. We just didn’€™t do a good enough job consistently last year defensively.

What does Scutaro bring to your lineup and the shortstop position?

This is quietly a really good signing for us. You saw what happened last year. We had so much fluctuation at shortstop for a lot of different reasons. And then when we got [Alex Gonzalez], and it really settled things down. Now you have a guy who’€™s going to be really consistent catching the ball, and you add some really strong on-base skills, he’€™s a good baserunner, he’€™s just a really good ballplayer. From day one, we’€™re going to have a guy who we can run out there everyday. Whether we hit him at the top of the order or the bottom of the order, he’€™s going to get on base. He’€™s going to be a good addition. I think the fans are going to respect and enjoy this guy really quickly.

How does Scutaro compare to the ‘€™09 version of Alex Gonzalez defensively?

That’€™s going to be interesting. Anytime you’€™re comparing someone to Alex Gonzalez defensively, that’€™s quite a compliment right there. Gonzie, like you kind of alluded to and I agree with the assessment, he made plays that made you kind of scratch your head. Now, he lost some range, but he’€™s still so good defensively. Marco, if you look at some of the defensive metrics, actually rates above Gonzie in some of those. Now, those aren’€™t perfect. But I think the point is, this kid’€™s pretty good defensively. He may not be as flashy as Gonzie ‘€“ I don’€™t know that anybody is ‘€“ but he’€™s going to be a very good defensive shortstop.

Can you compare who Scutaro was for most of his big-league career to who he’€™s been in the last couple years? How has be become a full-time player?

I think that’€™s a better question for him. He came up with Cleveland, he was a good utility player, and then somebody finally gave him a chance to play. Maybe it was out of necessity. Maybe somebody saw something. But we’€™ve all seen what he’€™s done as an everyday player. He’€™s taken his skills, and he’€™s actually become better. Some guys can’€™t do it. They play everyday and they can’€™t do it for some reason ‘€“ whether it’€™s physical or mental. He’€™s gotten better. He’€™s at a little bit of an older age. But again, we got him for two years, and we’€™re all excited. He’€™s going to be a good part of our team.

Have you figured out who will play first and third?

I know that you’€™re kind of alluding to Mikey Lowell. Out of respect to him, we kind of need to let this play out. I’€™m sure Mikey’€™s name comes up a lot the last couple winters. It’€™s probably not the most comfortable situation. One way or the other, something will resolve itself, and then we’€™ll have a lot to talk about, one way or the other. Just out of respect to Mikey, it’€™s probably better for me to leave that alone right now.

Youkilis will play anywhere ‘€“ do you think he’€™d prefer first base or third base?

I think if he had his choice, he’€™d be a third baseman. I think he views himself as a third baseman. He’€™s kind of referred to himself as Happy Gilmore a few times. Now, he’€™s a tremendous first baseman, but I think that his first and true love is third base.

Do you like your team better today than you did two days ago?

Yeah. Because I get to talk to Theo and the guys, I can see some of these things coming. But I’m probably more comfortable with our team than maybe a lot of other people are. I think people are maybe clamoring for more moves. I’m a big Kotchman fan. I think Kotch kind of goes under the radar because he came over and he didn’t play and he didn’t say anything and he just kind of went about his business. We can do just fine with Kotch playing first, hitting down toward the bottom of the order and catching everything in sight. I’m pretty comfortable with that.

Read More: Casey Kotchman, john lackey, marco scuatro, mike cameron
Will They Hit? A Look at the New (Current) Red Sox Lineup at 1:15 pm ET
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Gone are the Days of Thunder at Fenway Park … at least for now.

The newly reshaped Red Sox will not be confused for the group that typically bludgeoned opponents into submission in previous years, most notably from 2003-05, when the team cleared 900 runs a year with seeming ease. Nor will next year’s bunch — as currently constructed — be confused for the 2009 edition of the Red Sox. As of this moment, the Sox have effectively replaced Jason Bay, Mike Lowell and a revolving door at shortstop with Mike Cameron, Casey Kotchman and Marco Scutaro.

As general manager Theo Epstein articulated Wednesday, this has been part of a strategy in which the Sox have focused over $100 million this offseason in an effort by the Sox to shut down other teams’ offenses.

John Lackey is a big part of that. So, too, is outfielder Cameron — long viewed as one of the best defensive outfielders in the game — and shortstop Scutaro, who even if a tick below Alex Gonzalez defensively, is still likely an upgrade over what the Sox fielded at the position over the full course of 2009 (Nick Green, Julio Lugo, Jed Lowrie, Gonzalez).

“I know a lot of emphasis, a lot of talk, was centered on our offense last year. What’€™s lost in the mix is our run prevention needs to improve as well. We were one of the worst defensive clubs in baseball last year and we think Mike is a very important piece [in improving],” said Epstein. “I think there are a couple of parts that will allow us to throw a really good team defense out there which will help our pitching staff, help our run prevention.”

Even so, defensive upgrades aren’t helpful if you can’t outscore your opponent. Even Zack Greinke, the best pitcher in the majors in 2009, went just 16-8 due to non-existent run support from the Royals. All of that raises the question: what can be expected from the Red Sox offense in 2010?

Barring a move to add a bat — and by all indications, Adrian Gonzalez isn’t walking through that door anytime soon, at least this offseason — there is little question that the Sox’ offense will take a bit of a hit. The move to replace Jason Bay with Cameron in left is a defense-first move. So, too, is the team’s willingness to move Mike Lowell to Texas so that Kevin Youkilis can cross the diamond from first to third, thus resulting in Casey Kotchman — at least for now — being penciled in as the Sox’ starting first baseman.

Cameron hit .250/.342/.452/.795 last year with the Brewers, almost perfectly in line with his career line of .250/.340/.448/.788. He has, in the words of GM Theo Epstein, “serious juice” in his bat, resulting in 20-25 homers almost every year. The he strikes out about once a game, Cameron works deep counts, meaning that he plays into the Sox’ typical gameplan of driving starters out of games early.

“We think he’s an underrated offensive players,” said Epstein. “He gets his 20 to 25 home runs a year, a very consistent performer. He’€™s a threat out there. He’€™s not somebody that pitchers can take lightly. He’€™s got serious juice. Primarily a pull guy, he fits perfectly into Fenway Park and as he said could put some dents in the wall or over. And he sees a lot of pitches. Mike takes his walks, and I know he strikes out a lot but that doesn’€™t scare us. We have a lot of productive hitters here who have struck out a lot. Strikeouts are OK as long as they come, as they often do, with walks and home runs. And in Mike’€™s case, they certainly do.”

The Sox also feel that Kotchman has potential to be a solid if unspectacular offensive contributor. In 2007, at the age of 24, he hit .296/.372/.467/.840, numbers that resulted in him being the centerpiece of the Angels’ deal for Mark Teixeira the following year. He is still just 26 and entering his prime years.

Even though he struggled in a part-time role with the Red Sox last year, and his power is not what you would ordinarily expect from a first baseman, Kotchman has been a tough at-bat in the past, and the Sox believe that he can build on his career .269/.337/.406/.742 line. The Sox are comfortable with the idea of having him be their starting first baseman next year.

“He’€™s a good example of a player who has a chance to go out and build some value by playing,” said Epstein. “He didn’€™t get an opportunity to play here, but he’€™s outstanding defensively, he’€™s somebody who’€™s a tougher out than the numbers indicate. He can hit really good pitching. He’€™s really tough to get to swing and miss. We think there’€™s a lot of offensive potential there. If we end up with him playing a lot of first base against right-handed pitching, we have a chance to duplicate or build off what he did in 2007 for example, that’€™s a great solution.’€

Even so, there is no doubt that a lineup featuring Kotchman and Cameron rather than Bay and Lowell will take a hit. Even so, any offensive decline for the Sox might be softened by the addition of Scutaro, who — even if he fails to replicate his 2009 career year (.379 OBP, .789 OPS) with the Blue Jays, and instead comes closer to his career norms (.337 OBP, .721 OPS) — will represent a huge upgrade over the Sox’ offensive struggles from the shortstop position in 2009.

Last week, before the agreement to trade Lowell (still waiting to be finalized) and the signing of Cameron, we looked at what the Red Sox lineup might look like in 2010 with or without Bay. Plugging Cameron into the lineup reveals a fairly similar outcome — that the Sox, if Kotchman, Scutaro and Cameron can perform at their career average levels, will be a slightly but not significantly worse offense club in 2010 than they were in 2009.

Assuming that every Red Sox lineup holdovers — Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and J.D. Drew — performs at his 2009 level next year, and that Cameron, Kotchman and Scutaro performed at their career averages, the Red Sox starting nine would project (according to the amazing baseballmusings.com Lineup Analysis tool) to score 5.646 runs per game. Over a full year, that would project to a whopping 915 runs.

That is not quite the production that the Sox would get with Bay, Lowell and the team’s season-long shortstop output. Such a group would project to score 5.735 runs a game, or 929 runs over the full year, according to the same Lineup Analysis tool. (Note: this total is greater than what the Sox actually scored for a couple reasons: 1) It features a full season of Victor Martinez behind the plate, rather than the Sox’ actual team, which featured Jason Varitek and George Kottaras for two-thirds of the season. 2) It assumes that the Sox regulars all play 162 games; days of rest and time on the disabled list will push this expectation down.)

If the Sox remain unchanged, then it would seem fair to expect some drop in run production. The team, which scored 850 runs, might be conservatively estimated to score about 850 runs (though there is a decent chance that, with a full season from Victor Martinez, some improvement in David Ortiz’ year-long totals, and continued improvement from Jacoby Ellsbury, that number could be higher). The lineup would still feature a bunch of tough outs, and would likely be one of the best handful of offenses in the American League.

That, the team believes, would be more than enough to win given the improvement in the team’s run prevention.

And if it doesn’t? Then the team feels like, after preserving all of its top prospects, it would be in a position to add a bat once the season is underway.

“I think we like the pieces that we have right now,” said Epstein. “I think generally speaking it’€™s easier to add a bat during the season, so I think our pitching staff is going to be extraordinarily deep, so if we do go into the season with a mix similar to what we have right now, and if the need for a bigger bat does develop, I think that’€™s something we can address during the season. By no means am I saying we’€™re done, but I also don’€™t feel so rushed to go out there and do something dramatic.”

Read More: Casey Kotchman, Jacoby Ellsbury, marco scutaro, mike cameron
Mike Cameron and the New-Look Red Sox 12.14.09 at 10:49 pm ET
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At the start of the offseason, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said that his club could achieve its most dramatic improvement through better defense and run prevention. Boston has now moved aggressively to act on those fronts.

In the wake of the news that the reports suggesting that the Sox and John Lackey had reached agreement on a five-year deal for $82.5-85 million, Mike Cameron came to terms with the Sox on a two-year deal. FoxSports.com reported the deal to be worth $15.5 million. Cameron’s arrival spells the end of Jason Bay’s career with the Red Sox, as the Sox will now field a more athletic, defense-oriented outfield that has the chance to chase down just about any fly ball.

Cameron is a career .250 hitter with a .340 OBP and .448 slugging mark. The three-time Gold Glove winner is viewed as an above-average to excellent centerfielder whose tremendous lateral range allowed him to patrol the expansive lawns of the Mets’ Shea Stadium and Petco Park in San Diego. Though the 36-year-old’s range is likely in a state of some decline, Cameron keeps himself in tremendous shape, and so remains a legitimate option in centerfield.

He has spent little time in the outfield corners, and so it is conceivable that his acquisition could mean a move of Jacoby Ellsbury to left field (on days when both start), giving the Sox a group in Ellsbury, Cameron and J.D. Drew that would be considered one of the top defensive outfields in the game.

Clearly, Cameron is not Bay’s offensive equal. Few are — Bay has been one of the most productive outfield regulars in the game over recent seasons.

But regardless of how one viewed Bay’s defense in left field — and assessments among talent evaluators range from average to slightly below average to well below average — the Sox will offset some of that drop-off with a clear improvement in their defense. With Cameron and Marco Scutaro now signed as free agents, the Sox now have gone from one of the worst defensive teams in the majors to a potentially above-average one, with the opportunity to become elite in that category should the team complete the trade of Mike Lowell to Texas and either sign Adrian Beltre or move Kevin Youkilis from first to third, with Casey Kotchman playing first base next year.

“Everyone I’ve talked to believes [Cameron] to be one of the top defensive centerfielders in the league,” said former Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler, who played with Cameron in Milwaukee in 2008. “He’s going to make the Red Sox defense a whole lot better.”

Read More: Casey Kotchman, jason bay, Kevin Youkilis, marco scutaro
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