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Hot Stove: A’s reiterate interest in Manny Ramirez 01.30.12 at 10:39 am ET
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A’s assistant general manager David Forst, during a Q&A with fans at a team event Sunday in Oakland, said the team would consider signing Manny Ramirez.

“We’re open to it,” said Forst, backing up a comment from owner Lew Wolff last week. “We do have other things going on, and we expect other additions between now and Opening Day. We have never been in a situation where we had too many good players.”

Ramirez, who started last season with the Rays but abruptly retired after failing a drug test, must serve a 50-game suspension for his second violation of baseball’s policy on banned substances before he can suit up.

The former Red Sox slugger would turn 40 on or about the day he would be eligible to play.

“I think at this point it’s probably still speculation,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said, adding: “There’s probably some momentum to it, but certainly not anything that I’m in position right now to comment on.”

Read More: Hot Stove 2011, Manny Ramirez,
Hot Stove: Kevin Millwood signs with Mariners 01.23.12 at 8:32 am ET
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Right-handed pitcher Kevin Millwood agreed to a minor league deal with the Mariners, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday night.

Millwood signed with the Red Sox last May and pitched in Pawtucket until asking for and receiving his release on Aug. 7. He then signed with the Rockies and pitched in nine games, going 4-3 with a 3.98 ERA.

A 15-year veteran, Millwood has a 163-140 career record with a 4.10 ERA.

Millwood is reunited with managed Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis, who coached Millwood with the Indians.

Read More: Hot Stove 2011, Kevin Milwood,
Hot Stove: Carlos Pena reportedly has one-year deal to return to Rays 01.20.12 at 11:26 am ET
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Carlos Pena reportedly has agreed to a one-year deal to return to Tampa, where he played from 2007-10 before signing a one-year deal with the Cubs last season. ESPN reports the deal is worth $7.25 million.

Earlier in the day, Yahoo! Sports baseball writer Tim Brown tweeted: Tampa Bay Rays are in pretty deep on Carlos Pena. Would be a great fit, of course.

Pena, who grew up in Haverhill and attended Northeastern University, has played 11 major league seasons with six teams — including an 18-game stint with the Red Sox at the end of the 2006 season. In 1,226 career games, he’s hit .239 with a .352 on-base percentage and .486 slugging mark. He has 258 home runs and 730 RBIs.

His best season came in 2007 with the Rays, when he hit .282/.411/.627 with 46 home runs and 121 RBIs.

Last year in Chicago, Pena hit .225/.357/.462 with 28 home runs and 80 RBIs.

Read More: Carlos Pena, Hot Stove 2011,
Hot Stove: Mariners sign Hisashi Iwakuma 01.06.12 at 6:51 am ET
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Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma agreed to a one-year $1.5 million deal with the Mariners, with another $3.4 million in incentives.

“Seattle really wanted to get me,” the right-hander said in a conference call Thursday through an interpreter. “That was the most important thing.”

Iwakuma went 107-69 in 226 games with Kintetsu and then Rakuten in the Japanese League. he was named the league’s top pitcher and MVP in 2008.

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Five quick thoughts on the Red Sox trade for Andrew Bailey 12.28.11 at 5:52 pm ET
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A major league source has confirmed that the Red Sox have traded outfielder Josh Reddick, first baseman Miles Head and right-hander Raul Alcantara to the A’s for closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney. A few quick reactions to the trade:

1) The Red Sox have built a solid back-end of their bullpen, with further reinforcements such as Ryan Madson unlikely. Both Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon, along with — in all likelihood — either Daniel Bard or Alfredo Aceves (one of whom is likely to end up in the rotation, the other in the bullpen) and Bobby Jenks (whom the Sox expect to have back) creates late-innings depth, particularly if Matt Albers and/or Felix Doubront and/or Franklin Morales can further lengthen the group.

The Sox have seen Bailey — a two-time All-Star — show the kind of stuff to be one of the elite closers in the American League. He’ll almost surely be the end-of-game option for the Sox as well. Though there have been health questions about him in recent seasons, the other pitchers with closing experience and/or potential (Melancon, Jenks, Bard/Aceves) permits the Sox to be insulated (at least on paper) should he be sidelined.

2) The Sox still have money to spend. They won’t be spending a ton, but in adding Melancon and Bailey through trades, the Sox acquired two solid late-innings arms who will cost less than a third of Jonathan Papelbon next season. As such, the team still has some money to either sign or trade for a starter. That will be their primary offseason need going forward.

3) In exchanging Reddick for Sweeney, the Sox parted with a major league outfielder with upside in Reddick in exchange for a player whose on-base skills and ability to play all three outfield positions will fit into the club’s short-term needs. Right now, Sweeney and Darnell McDonald wouild be the Sox’ right field combination, though the Sox are still looking at right-handed outfield bats. Regardless, the Sox were likely going to get to a point where they had to trade either Reddick or Ryan Kalish at some point given the potential positional redundancy of the two. In a best-case scenario for the Sox, Kalish would be ready to be an everyday big league outfielder by the middle of 2012. Reddick would have been that for them right now, but the upgrade to Bailey with the anticipated availability of Kalish in the not-too-distant future made this deal feasible.

Sweeney, a former second-round pick, is a career .283/.342/.378/.720 hitter. The Sox believe that his swing and approach will both play well at Fenway Park.

4) Alcantara was the clear second component of the deal. When the Sox were scared away from the Rich Harden trade this summer, it was because they couldn’t stomach the prospect of losing Alcantara as the second piece in the deal.

It’s almost impossible to say what the 19-year-old will be. He’s a relatively raw right-hander with a big arm. He dominated in the Gulf Coast League (0.75 ERA in 48 innings) and faced adversity after a mid-year promotion to Lowell (6.23 ERA in 17 1/3 innings). His fastball/breaking ball combination suggest at least long-term big league bullpen potential, and he has the upside of a starter. Still, he’s likely at least five years from a regular job in the majors, and there’s immense uncertainty about his future. That being the case, he’s precisely the type of player for whom the A’s (whose visions of contention are entirely driven by the long term) should deal, and the type of player for whom the Sox cannot sabotage a deal.

5) Head made a significant jump in his prospect status this year by producing a dominant stretch with Single-A Greenville and then holding his own as a younger player in the Carolina League with High-A Salem. He doesn’t wow anyone with his physique or athleticism (he would be an atypical success story, having to follow a path of someone like a Billy Butler), but the 26th rounder (who signed for $335,000 in 2009) has always left the Sox convinced he can hit.

The first baseman garnered little attention in the Sox’€™ system while hitting .240/.328/.341/.669 with one homer in Short-Season Lowell in 2010. But in Greenville this year, Head asserted himself in a way that ensured he could no longer be overlooked.

The 20-year-old earned a promotion to Hi-A Salem in late-June after leading the South Atlantic League in average (.338), slugging (.612), OPS (1.022) and extra-base hits (41 in 66 games). His consistent results reflect both improved conditioning as well as an improved mental approach to the game.

‘€œLast year, I was getting myself out chasing pitches or swinging at maybe not a hitter’€™s pitch in a hitter’€™s count,’€ said Head. ‘€œThis year, I’€™ve figured out my approach and stuck with it.’€

Still, Head was never going to leapfrog Adrian Gonzalez as the first baseman of the future, so he represented a moveable piece. He hit .254/.328/.405/.733 with seven homers in 63 games with the Salem Sox.

Read More: Andrew Bailey, Hot Stove 2011, josh reddick, miles head
Time to trade Kevin Youkilis? 12.27.11 at 10:45 am ET
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Is it time to trade Kevin Youkilis?

Well, not ideally. We are clearly at the 70 cents on the dollar stage with Youkilis, who had his worst offensive season in 2011, a batting average 41 points below his career number and an on-base percentage 18 points lower than his .391 career mark. Throw in that he played 120 games last season — and 102 the year before — and will be 33 in April and you’ve got kind of a lousy trade chip, no?

But this is where the Red Sox are. I’m not certain they occupy a position of real strength when it comes to trade talks. Has Ben Cherington been cautious in his first three months as GM? You could call it that, I suppose — not sure I would have given up top prospects for Gio Gonzalez (career 1.49 road WHIP) or handed Carlos Beltran a two-year, $26 million deal. No problem with the Sox punting on both.

I have no clue if Cherington (or Larry Lucchino or whoever is calling the shots) is going to be a competent general manager, but I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt for now.

Here’s the problem, though: The Sox have been the third-best team in the AL East each of the last two seasons and right now are no better than the team that walked off the field after Game No. 162 in Baltimore. They’ve basically flipped Jonathan Papelbon for Mark Melancon. Makes sense from a business perspective — no way I’m giving any closer 50 million bucks — but you can’t make the case with any confidence that Melancon has a better year than Papelbon in 2012. What else you got? Nick Punto with his career .327 slugging percentage and intangibles to spare?

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Read More: alfredo aceves, ben cherington, Daniel Bard, felix doubront
A no-go for Gio in Boston: Red Sox see A’s deal Gonzalez to Nationals 12.22.11 at 4:55 pm ET
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The A’s traded left-hander Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals in exchange for a four-prospect package of 23-year-old right-hander Brad Peacock (who reached the big leagues this year) 22-year-old catcher Derek Norris (who spent the year in Double-A), 19-year-old power right-hander A.J. Cole (who spent the season in Single-A) and 24-year-old left-hander Tom Milone (who finished the year in the majors). The trade was first reported by Keith Law of ESPN.com (via twitter)

The deal removes one of the top available starters from the trade market, someone whom the Sox had pursued with the A’s through the end of the process. Indeed, the Sox were one of the last teams with whom the A’s were talking.

Gonzalez is 38-32 with a 3.93 ERA in parts of four seasons. He has emerged as one of the better starters in the American League in the last two years, putting up somewhat similar numbers to fellow southpaw C.J. Wilson (who signed a five-year, $77.5 million deal with the Angels this winter).

In 2010-11, Gonzalez is a combined 31-21 with a 3.17 ERA, with 8.2 strikeouts and 4.1 walks per nine innings, having pitched just over 200 innings and made 32 and 33 starts in those two seasons. He has held opponents to a .229 average during that time, sixth lowest in the AL among pitchers with at least 300 innings pitched over the last two years. Wilson, by contrast, was 31-15 with a 3.14 ERA, 7.9 strikeouts and 3.5 walks per nine innings, a 1.215 WHIP while averaging 214 innings. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Gio Gonzalez, Hot Stove 2011,
Red Sox among four teams interested in closer Francisco Cordero 12.20.11 at 5:36 pm ET
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When the pistol fired on the free-agent shopping season, it was the market for closer’s that got off to the earliest jump. Jonathan Papelbon became the first prominent game-ender to move, signing a four-year, $50 million with the Phillies, and since his contract, Joe Nathan got $14.5 million over two years from the Rangers,  Heath Bell (3 years, $27 million) has signed as a free agent, Matt Capps got $4.75 million for one more year with the Twins and the Mets signed both Frank Francisco (two years, $12 million) and Jon Rauch (one year, $3.5 million). Meanwhile, there were three notable trades involving late-innings relievers, with Huston Street being sent by the Rockies to the Padres, Sergio Santos going from the White Sox to the Blue Jays and Mark Melancon heading from Houston to the Red Sox.

All of that movement has significantly narrowed the field of potential destinations for those remaining on the market. That undoubtedly has been the case for Francisco Cordero, the most established closer on the free-agent market this offseason.

At season’s end, Cordero — who had a 2.45 ERA and 37 saves for the Reds in 2011, in a year when his strikeout rate fell to a career-low 5.4 per nine innings — received contact from eight to 10 teams, according to his agent, Bean Stringfellow. Since then, that number has been whittled to four.

The Red Sox, according to multiple industry sources, have shown interest in the 36-year-old closer. The Angels and another team have also been in dialogue with the pitcher, as have the Reds, who have said on multiple occasions that they were interested in bringing back the pitcher who averaged 71 appearances per year for them over the course of the four-year, $45 million deal that ran from 2008-11. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: bean stringfellow, Cincinnati Reds, francisco cordero, Hot Stove 2011
Hot Stove: Jason Kubel reportedly agrees with Diamondbacks 12.19.11 at 9:18 am ET
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Days after losing Michael Cuddyer to the Rockies, the Twins appear to have lost another free agent outfielder to the National League West, as multiple outlets are reporting that Jason Kubel has agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal with the Diamondbacks.

Fox SportsKen Rosenthal indicates the deal also includes an option for 2014.

Kubel, 29, has spent his entire career in Minnesota, hitting .271 with an on-base percentage of .335 and slugging percentage of .459 in 753 games over seven seasons. He hit .273/.332/.434 with 12 home runs and 58 RBIs in 99 games during an injury-shortened 2011 season.

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Red Sox GM Ben Cherington: Sox ‘can kind of let the market come to us’ 12.16.11 at 5:04 pm ET
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Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, in an appearance on “Inside Pitch” on the SiriusXM MLB Network Radio, discussed his efforts to build depth in his pitching staff while dealing with what he characterized as less payroll flexibility than the team had in other recent seasons. As the Sox explore both free agent and trade options, Cherington acknowledged that the Sox have been in contact with a pair of free agents, starter Joe Saunders and closer Ryan Madson.

“We’€™ve had conversations with the agents for both guys as well as several other free agent options. We’€™ll continue dialogue,” said Cherington. “We don’€™t have as much room in our payroll as we’€™ve had in previous years, but we’€™re trying to figure out ways to improve our pitching staff. Maybe we have to be a little more creative this winter in doing that than in some other winters, but we’€™re not ruling out anything. We’€™ll certainly continue dialogue with a handful of free agents and then obviously also the trade front.”

Cherington added that the team recognizes the need to build significant starting depth. It’s efforts this offseason are focused in that direction, rather than on top-of-the-rotation options.

“We’€™re still focused on adding to the pitching staff, looking at free agent options and looking at trade options in order to do that,” said Cherington. “We feel pretty good about where we are at the top of our rotation. We’€™re looking to build depth and quality depth. When you look back at 2011, that’€™s really where our problem ended up being. We just ran out of depth. We were running into situations late in the season where we were just hoping to get into the fifth inning with a starter, and that makes it hard to win. We placed so much of a burden on the bullpen. So that’€™s really been our focus of this offseason.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: ben cherington, brad arnsberg, Hot Stove 2011, joe saunders
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