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Red Sox sign Jonathan Papelbon and Jacoby Ellsbury, avoiding arbitration 01.18.11 at 2:02 pm ET
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According to a major league source, the Red Sox agreed to deals with both closer Jonathan Papelbon and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. In so doing, they avoided going to arbitration with their only two arbitration-eligible players, thus keeping intact GM Theo Epstein‘s record of never having gone to an arbitration hearing — a contentious process that pits player against team — in his nine years as general manager.

Papelbon, who is arbitration eligible for the third time, will receive a $12 million salary for the 2011 season, while Ellsbury, in his first year of arbitration eligibility, agreed to a $2.4 million deal. Ellsbury would be eligible for $50,000 bonuses for 600 and 700 plate appearances.

Papelbon, who turned 30 in November, had his worst season in the major leagues in 2010, going 5-7 with a 3.90 ERA. He had 37 saves, but also blew a career-high eight saves, a mark that also was the highest such total in the American League. Even so, Papelbon’s career numbers (188 saves, 2.22 ERA, 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings) rank him among the best closers of all time among pitchers with his service time, thus leading to the significant raise over the $9.35 million he received in 2010. Only three relief pitchers in major league history have ever had deals with an average annual value of more than $12 million: Yankees great Mariano Rivera, who has signed two deals with an AAV of $15 million; Phillies closer Brad Lidge, who is entering the final year of a three-year, $37.5 million deal ($12.5 million AAV); and Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez, who is entering the final season of a three-year, $37 million deal ($12.33 million AAV).

Ellsbury, whose season was effectively lost due to the rib fractures he suffered, hit .192 with a .241 OBP, .244 slugging percentage and .485 OPS in just 18 games in 2010. However, his career marks of .291/.344/.405/.749 with 136 stolen bases, put him in line for a significant raise over his 2010 salary of $496,500.

Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com (via twitter) was the first to report the agreements.

Read More: arbitration, Hot Stove, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonathan Papelbon
Epstein: Scutaro the Sox shortstop ‘until something changes’ 01.14.11 at 10:52 pm ET
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Speaking after the Hot Stove Cool Music roundtable, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said that, as things currently stand, Marco Scutaro will be the shortstop for the 2011 Red Sox. That said, he also suggested that Jed Lowrie will be an important contributor, and that his performance will help to dictate his role and how much he plays at short.

“We have two really talented shortstops on the roster at different phases of their career, and they’€™ll both end up helping this club win,” Epstein said. “How it shakes out in terms of playing time will be up to [manager Terry Francona] ‘€” and, ultimately, the players will determine their own roles. If we’re a better team with one guy playing two-thirds of the time and the other guy playing one-third of the time and moving around, that’s what we’ll be. If it looks like we’ll be a better team with a more traditional arrangement or a time share, that’s what we’ll do. Players, ultimately, make those decisions for you.”

Scutaro played in 150 games last year, 132 at short (he was relegated to second base at the end of last season by a neck injury that affected his ability to throw). In the first season of his two-year, $12.5 million deal, he hit .275/.333./.388/.721 with 11 homers. Lowrie missed the first half of 2010 while recovering from mono, but in 55 second-half games, he hit .287/.381/.526/.907 with nine homers.

Based on Lowrie’s strong performance down the stretch, the Sox do view him as an important part of the 2011 roster, though Epstein did say that Scutaro is currently slated to be the primary shortstop.

“Scutaro signed here to be the shortstop,” Epstein said. “He should be healthy when he comes to camp, and he’€™s going to play a lot of shortstop. But we’re not good enough that we can’t use every available resource that we have. Jed Lowrie is someone who can play a good shortstop, can play a number of positions, and can help this team win. He’s going to see some time at shortstop. But Marco was our shortstop last year, and, until something changes, that’s how it’€™s going to be.”

Read More: Hot Stove, Jed Lowrie, marco scutaro,
Was Brian Cashman on board with Yankees signing Rafael Soriano? at 3:49 pm ET
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Buster Olney of ESPN.com suggested (via twitter) that the Yankees‘ decision to sign reliever Rafael Soriano to a three-year, $35 million was driven more by ownership than by New York’s baseball operations department. And based on what Brian Cashman has said about his beliefs in bullpen construction in the past, it is not hard to fathom that he might have been uncomfortable with the idea of handing out the fifth-largest average annual value ($11.67 million) ever conferred upon a reliever — and for a pitcher who will not even be asked to handle the ninth inning for the Yankees, who have a certain Mariano Rivera on the roster (at $15 million per year for the 2011 and 2012 seasons) as a closer.

In spring training, Cashman talked about the first long-term deal to which the Yankees signed Rivera. After having gone to arbitration in 2000 (with Rivera “losing” when an arbitrator sided with the Yankees in granting the closer a $7.25 million salary), the two sides avoided a repeat of that forum in Feb. 2001. Rivera and the Yankees agreed to a four-year, $39.99 million deal, the first of four multi-year deals to which Cashman has now signed the future Hall of Famer.

Cashman was asked whether, in 2001, he had any reservations about Rivera’s ability to remain healthy or consistent in his performance given the widely held view that relief performance is extremely volatile on a year-to-year basis. His explanation touched on how he envisioned building bullpens and, indirectly, why a signing such as the reported deal with Soriano might run counter to Cashman’s philosophy.

“Back then, the evolution of the game, the knowledge of the volatility of relievers didn’€™t exist then. There wasn’€™t the evidence of the ups and downs that had been studied to the point that I can remember thinking about it back then. Back then, if you had a good arm, had success, give him a multi-year contract and he should continue doing well,” Cashman explained. “Versus now, you’€™re a lot more hesitant. How I go about building my bullpens, I’€™m essentially pulling guys. You draft guys with good arms, if they fail as a starter you throw them in the ‘€˜pen. You know what? You’€™d be surprised how it can work out for you.”

There was a time when the Yankees invested heavily in middle relievers. They shocked the industry with a four-year, $22.25 million deal for Steve Karsay from 2002-05. They gave Kyle Farnsworth $17 million for three years from 2006-08.

But in recent years, Cashman had made a point of building more economical bullpens, something he mentioned before the 2010 season.

“I’€™ve had a pretty cheap bullpen the last few years to set up Mariano. A couple years ago, we had Edwar Ramirez and [Jose] Veras. [In 2009], we had [Dave] Robertson and [Joba] Chamberlain. We had Phil Hughes,” he said. “We don’€™t have, like we used to, the Karsay, the Farnsworth contracts, the Paul Quantrills where you go out and get them to sign for three- or four-year reliever contracts, because it’€™s volatile.”

Now, however, the Yankees have a new reliever under contract for up to three years — unless, according to reports, Soriano exercises his right to opt-out of the deal after either 2011 or 2012. It is a deal in which the Yankees are getting a pitcher who, over the last two years, has been undeniably one of the best in the game, one who led the A.L. in saves and had a sub-2.00 ERA in 2010 despite pitching in a division of relentless lineups.

Even so, it represents a clear departure from the way in which the Yankees had been building bullpens in the past, and the way in which Cashman suggested he wanted to build bullpens.

Read More: brian cashman, Hot Stove, New York Yankees, rafael soriano
Report: Tigers sign Brad Penny 01.11.11 at 10:33 am ET
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According to a report from Buster Olney of ESPN, the Tigers have agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with Brad Penny. The veteran right-hander posted a 3-4 record with a 3.23 ERA for the Cardinals in nine starts in 2010. He missed four months of the 2010 season with a right shoulder strain.

This is a return to the American League for Penny, who struggled for the Red Sox in 2009, recording an ERA of 5.61 in 24 starts before being released by the club in August.

Read More: Brad Penny, Hot Stove,
Red Sox lose Max Ramirez to Cubs on waivers 01.10.11 at 3:10 pm ET
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The Red Sox announced that catcher Max Ramirez had been claimed on waivers by the Cubs. Ramirez, who was claimed from the Rangers last week, was placed on waivers in order to clear a spot on the team’s 40-man roster for reliever Hideki Okajima, whose deal became official on Monday.

Ramirez spent the majority of the 2010 season at Triple-A Oklahoma City, hitting .286/.373/.381 in 56 games. He hit .217/.341/.348 in 28 games for Texas. Ramirez has hit .298/.396/.476 in the minors over his seven-year career between Braves, Indians, and Rangers affiliates. The 26-year-old was out of options, so the Sox would have had to expose him to waivers had he not stuck with the major league roster out of spring training.

Okajima, 35, had a 4.50 ERA in 56 appearances last year. He joined Dick Radatz as the only Sox pitchers ever to make 50 or more appearances in each of their first four major league seasons.

Read More: Hideki Okajima, Hot Stove, max ramirez,
Source: Okajima will make $1.75 million in 2011 at 1:20 pm ET
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The Red Sox‘ deal for left-hander Hideki Okajima is official, according to a major league source. Under terms of the contract, Okajima will receive a base salary of $1.75 million, with incentives that could push the value of the deal to $2.3 million.

Okajima will receive $50,000 if he pitches 70 innings (a plateau he has not reached in the majors). He will receive $125,000 each for appearing in 60 games (a threshold he’s reached in three of his four big league seasons) and another $125,000 if he pitches in 65 games (something he’s done twice with the Sox). If he sets a career-high by appearing in 70 games, he would receive $250,000.

The deal was first reported by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.

Okajima, an All-Star in 2007 and a key member of the Sox bullpen from 2007-09, had a career-worst 4.50 ERA in 56 appearances for the Sox last year, struggling with injuries at various points of the 2010 season before a strong September. That led the Sox not to make him a free agent rather than tender him a contract that would have made him arbitration eligible. In doing so, the Sox were able to negotiate his contract down from the $2.75 million he received last season.

For a closer look at Okajima, click here. For complete Red Sox coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.

Read More: Hideki Okajima, Hot Stove,
Full slate of Red Sox offseason fan events 01.08.11 at 1:25 pm ET
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It’s one month until Truck Day, when the Red Sox will load team equipment for Fort Myers to signal the end of the season of baseball dormancy and the imminence of games. But the coming weeks will feature plenty of reminders that the baseball season is fast approaching.

January is filled with a busy slate of Red Sox organizational events throughout New England. Those looking to whet their baseball appetites can attend the following: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Hot Stove,
Report: Joe Torre in talks about job in MLB Commissioner’s Office at 10:53 am ET
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According to the New York Daily News, which cited sources familiar with the talks, Joe Torre is in talks with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig about the possibility of becoming MLB executive vice president of operations. That position has a number of responsibilities, including oversight of the VP of on-field operations and rules, a position whose former occupant, Bob Watson, frequently was at odds with Red Sox manager Terry Francona over matters ranging from the dress code for managers to the enforcement of time of game regulations.

Whomever takes over the role of executive VP of operations would be responsible for hiring Watson’s successor. Watson resigned after the 2009 season due to health concerns.

Torre has already done some work with the Commissioner’s Office, having served on a special committee for on-field matters that included managers, GMs and owners.

Read More: Bob Watson, Bud Selig, Hot Stove, Joe Torre
Brian Cashman says Yankees won’t pursue Rafael Soriano 01.07.11 at 2:37 pm ET
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Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told the Journal News that his team would not be willing to sacrifice its 2011 first-round pick to sign any of the free agents who remain on the market. With Adrian Beltre having signed with the Rangers and Carl Pavano reportedly close to an agreement to return to the Twins, the only two remaining Type A free agents (who would require a signing team to sacrifice a pick) are a pair of relievers who spent 2010 with the Rays: Rafael Soriano and Grant Balfour.

Some reports had suggested that the Yankees could pursue Soriano as a setup man. Agent Scott Boras told ESPN.com earlier in the week that Soriano — who led the AL in saves in 2010 — would be willing to set up in New York.

But while Soriano may have been willing to entertain such a notion, Cashman essentially ruled it out by stating that the Yankees would not part with the pick needed to sign the right-hander.

“I will not lose our No. 1 draft pick,’€ Cashman is quoted as saying. ‘€œI would have for Cliff Lee. I won’€™t lose our No. 1 draft pick for anyone else.’€

The Yankees have been fairly quiet this offseason since Lee turned down New York’s offers to sign with the Phillies. Cashman re-signed shortstop Derek Jeter and closer Mariano Rivera, and he has signed left-handed reliever Pedro Feliciano and catcher Russell Martin.

But the Yankees have not reached any deals for the cream of this year’s free agent crop. Still, Cashman suggested that it was premature to panic about the 2010 AL wild card winners.

‘€œWe’€™re going to show up in Tampa, and we’€™re going to have a team that we’€™re proud of,’€ Cashman told the Journal News.

Read More: brian cashman, Hot Stove, rafael soriano, Yankees
Report: Rangers to pass on Rafael Soriano, boding well for Red Sox draft 01.06.11 at 12:30 pm ET
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According to FoxSports.com, the Rangers won’t pursue free agent closer Rafael Soriano this offseason. The team’s agreement with Adrian Beltre on a six-year, $96 million deal represented its run prevention upgrade. Soriano, meanwhile, “isn’t a target of the Rangers right now,” according to the report.

That is potentially good news for the Red Sox, since Soriano is the only remaining Type A free agent on the market who received a higher ranking from the Elias Sports Bureau than Beltre. As such, if the Rangers sign Soriano, Texas’ first-round pick would go to the Rays as compensation for the loss of Soriano, with the Sox getting the Rangers’ second-round pick, around the No. 80-85 pick in the draft.

But, so long as Soriano lands somewhere other than Texas, the Sox will get the Rangers’ top pick, the No. 26 overall selection in a draft that is considered to feature exceptional depth of potential impact players, particularly in terms of the quality of college pitchers.

There are still three unsigned Type A free agents who are unsigned: Soriano, Carl Pavano and Grant Balfour. But Beltre had a higher Elias rating than either Pavano or Balfour, according to this list compiled by MLBTradeRumors.com.

The Sox are also currently positioned to receive the first-round pick from the Tigers (No. 19 overall) thanks to Detroit’s signing of free agent Victor Martinez. Though Detroit has not been connected to Soriano this offseason, Soriano was also rated higher in the Elias ratings than Beltre, meaning that if the Tigers signed the 2010 AL leader in saves, their first-round selection would go to the Rays, with their second-rounder going to the Sox.

Read More: Adrian Beltre, Hot Stove, rafael soriano, texas rangers
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