|Kelly Shoppach agreement spells likely end for Jason Varitek with Red Sox||12.13.11 at 11:22 am ET|
The writing had been on the wall for some time. Whenever he was asked about Jason Varitek this offseason, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said that he would inform the 15-year veteran if the team decided to go another direction. Now, it appears that the Sox have decided to go in another direction.
According to a major league source, the Red Sox have reached an agreement with catcher Kelly Shoppach on a one-year, $1.35 million deal. (The deal was first reported by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.) The contract is guaranteed.
Shoppach, taken with the Sox’ top pick in the 2001 draft, hit .176 (fifth lowest in the majors among the 355 players with 200 or more plate appearances) with a .268 OBP, .339 slugging mark, .607 OPS (325th in the majors) and 11 homers in 87 games with the Rays last season. It marked the third straight season in which the 31-year-old has seen declines in his average, OBP, slugging percentage and OPS since a career-best 2008 season in which Shoppach hit .261/.348/.517/.865 with 21 homers for the Indians.
However, Shoppach had far better numbers against left-handed pitchers. He hit .241 with a .344 OBP, .444 slugging mark, .788 OPS and seven homers against southpaws. Moreover, he threw out 41 percent of potential base-stealers last year, the top caught stealing percentage in the American League.
Shoppach made his big league debut with the Sox in 2005, playing nine games in the majors and going 0-for-15. He was traded that offseason to the Indians as part of the deal that resulted in the acquisition of center fielder Coco Crisp. Shoppach spent four years with the Indians before being traded to the Rays prior to the 2010 season.
The Sox had expressed a desire to have a veteran in spring training who would compete with Ryan Lavarnway for the job of a complement to expected starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Shoppach appears to be that catcher, something that would appear to render Varitek expendable. Moreover, the guaranteed deal for Shoppach also increases the likelihood that the Sox can return Lavarnway to Triple-A so that he can get regular playing time behind the plate to complete his minor league development. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox prepared to cut ties to Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield||12.07.11 at 4:38 am ET|
DALLAS — It was not a definitive verdict. Red Sox GM Ben Cherington did not say that a pair of franchise linchpins would not be back.
But he came close. The words did not represent a significant departure from previous statements this winter, but nonetheless, Cherington made it sound like it is increasingly likely that knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (after 17 years with the Sox) and catcher Jason Varitek (15 years into his Sox tenure) may have seen the end of their days in Boston.
“We’re not ready to commit to anything. I have spoken to both and plan to talk to them both again. Certainly we’ll do so before we make any final decision,” said Cherington. “I have a great deal of respect for both and feel like the best thing for the team and the best thing for them is, if there’s not a real role on the team, I’m not sure it’s fair, I’m not sure it’s the right thing for them or the team. We haven’t gotten to that point yet. I’ll talk to them when we get closer to that.’
Varitek, who turns 40 in April, hit .221 with a .300 OBP, .423 slugging mark and 11 homers in 68 games in 2011. Wakefield, 45, went 7-8 with a 5.12 ERA last season, making 23 starts and pitching 154 2/3 innings, his most since 2008. Wakefield remains seven wins short of the Red Sox’ all-time career wins record.
|Ben Cherington on M&M talks Bobby Valentine, Theo Epstein, rabid Sox fans||12.02.11 at 12:41 pm ET|
Cherington took the hosts through the process of how Valentine was selected, explaining why he was added to the list of candidates late.
“I met with Bobby, I think it was the first week of November, third or fourth, somewhere around there,” Cherington recalled. “I had a couple-of-hours meeting with him where we really just talked baseball, talked about the managing job, talked a little bit about our team. That was the first time I had met him. And I was impressed. He struck me clearly as a really smart guy, engaging, passionate guy, cared a lot. And he really wanted another shot at managing in the big leagues. And he was particularly interested in Boston, he fit and the chance to win and all those things.
“After that meeting I began to think about it more, but still focused on the candidates that we were bringing in formally. I think a couple of things happened as the process moved forward. No. 1, we got to know a lot of candidates and really enjoyed that process. Everyone we talked to would be capable of being an excellent manager. Certainly, Dale Sveum‘s going to get that chance in Chicago.
“But we did feel as we moved deeper into the process that experienced mattered. I think [it was] when we went from thinking about our next manager in sort of a theoretical sense to thinking about it in more of a practical sense and a real sense. It’s not just philosophy and qualities and the sort-of softer subjects, but the guy’s got to hit the ground running and know how to navigate the land mines that exist in a clubhouse and put our team in a position to be good right away. We did start to emphasize experience more as we got deeper into the process.
“As that happened, we talked to Gene Lamont. And as we were doing that, I was doing more research and doing work on Bobby and getting to know him better through other people. At that point we decided to include him in the process formally. And as I said yesterday, there was an interest on our part to sort of shorten the window that he was included as a public candidate because of the position he was in at ESPN and the potential conflict there. I just thought it would be uncomfortable for everyone, including Bobby and certainly ESPN, to have him out there publicly acknowledged as a candidate while he was doing that job.
“So, there was a variety of factors for it. In the end we felt that Bobby and Gene were the best two candidates for the job and worked a lot on it, again over Thanksgiving thought a lot about it, that weekend after Thanksgiving. And ultimately, I can’t remember exactly when it was, but sometime Monday I recommended to ownership that we offer him the job.”
Cherington said that while Sveum was a solid early candidate, in the end he might not have been the right fit for the Sox this year.
“I don’t think so,” Cherington said, explaining: “As we got deeper into it and we actually got into formal interviews and talked about X’s and O’s and talked about what actually would you do in this situation and this situation, what would you do on May 15th when this happened — those sorts of questions, the real questions — it sort of came to light for me that experience really did matter in this particular situation for this team at this moment. Given where we are, that became more important. So, I do feel like we were going to be sort of headed in that direction. And ultimately that’s why Gene and Bobby ended up being the finalists.”
|What the arbitration offers mean for the Red Sox and David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Dan Wheeler||11.23.11 at 10:32 pm ET|
The Red Sox offered salary arbitration to free agents David Ortiz and Dan Wheeler, while declining to offer it to free agent catcher Jason Varitek prior to a midnight deadline to make such an offer to free agents. In doing so, the Sox guaranteed that should either Ortiz or Wheeler sign with other teams, they will receive draft picks as compensation for their departures.
In the case of Ortiz, a Type A free agent, the Sox will receive two draft picks should he sign with another team. The fact that a team would have to part with a draft pick in order to sign Ortiz might also dampen his free agent market, since other teams might be reluctant to give Ortiz a multi-year deal while also parting with a pick that would likely come from either the first or second round. The Sox are now the only team that can offer Ortiz a contract without losing a draft pick for signing him; added to the acknowledged mutual interest in continuing their relationship, the Sox’ offer now increases the likelihood that such an outcome will occur.
Of course, Ortiz (who turned 36 last week) could also accept salary arbitration, in which case he would likely be in line for an increase over the $12.5 million salary he received in 2011, coming off a year in which he hit .309 with a .398 OBP, .554 slugging mark, .953 OPS, 29 homers and 96 RBI in 146 games. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox free agents could yield draft pick haul||10.31.11 at 2:16 pm ET|
The departure of valuable free agents can be an important part of an organization’s renewal.
If teams offer salary arbitration to their top free agents only to see them reject the offer and sign with other teams, they can receive draft pick compensation. The top class of free agents — known as Type A free agents — as determined by a formula from the Elias Sports Bureau net two top picks (usually either a first- or second-round pick from the team that signs the player, as well as a sandwich round pick between the first and second rounds). A second tier of free agents — Type B — net a team a sandwich-round pick.
The Sox have acquired a number of key prospects through compensation picks, including: Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price (both part of the trade for Victor Martinez), Bryce Brentz, Anthony Ranaudo and others.
While revised draft rules are currently under negotiation between the owners and the Players’ Association, those rules are not expected to impact this year’s class of free agents. Instead, the “old” rules of draft pick compensation are believed by multiple sources to apply to this year’s free agent class.
That, in turn, may have played a part in a Red Sox option decision today. Reliever Dan Wheeler is a Type B free agent. The Sox held a $3 million option on his contract for the 2012 season. While that isn’t unreasonable for a right-handed reliever with a strong track record (especially prior to the 2011 season) in the AL East, the Sox declined the option. Now, they have the option to offer Wheeler arbitration and get a draft pick if he signs with another club.
MLBTradeRumors.com offered a full list of Type A and Type B free agents here. Among the Red Sox players who have filed for free agency, here are the notable ones who could entitle the club to draft pick compensation:
Type A — David Ortiz
Type A — Jonathan Papelbon
Type B — Dan Wheeler (team option)
Type B — Jason Varitek
The Sox have been talking to Ortiz during the exclusive negotiating window between teams and their own free agents. As of this weekend, WEEI.com reported on Sunday, there had been no contact between the Sox and Papelbon.
Wheeler was 2-2 with a 4.38 ERA, 1.115 WHIP, 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.5 walks per nine. The Rhode Island native started the year poorly, carrying an ERA of 11.32 when he landed on the disabled list for the first time of his career in the first week of May. After returning, he was one of the Sox’ most effective relievers, with a 1.53 ERA from mid-May through the beginning of September. However, a forearm injury rendered him ineffective and then unavailable for most of September (another of the many causes of the Sox’ September collapse), leading to his season-ending numbers.
As for Varitek, the Sox did not offer him arbitration when he was a Type B free agent last year, based on the expectation that he would accept (coming off a $3 million salary in 2010, the second year of a two-year, $8 million deal). This year, Varitek is once again a Type B, though he had a lower base salary ($2 million), which could have an impact on whether or not he is offered arbitration, insofar as — if he accepted — he would be in line for a lower salary this year than had he accepted arbitration a year ago.
The Sox also declined their option on Scott Atchison, who would have earned $200,000 over the major league minimum. He remains on the club’s 40-man roster, however, after going 1-0 with a 3.26 ERA in 17 big league games spanning 30 1/3 innings. The 35-year-old right-hander is out of options, but fell just short of arbitration eligibility. That being the case, the Sox can set his salary for 2012.
|Jason Varitek on WAAF: ‘I believe this team liked each other’||10.19.11 at 11:23 am ET|
Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek defended his teammates and lashed out at the unnamed sources who have been revealing clubhouse details during an appearance on Wednesday’s Hill-Man Morning Show on WEEI sister station WAAF.
During his hour-long appearance, Varitek said the team disharmony was not at the level that has been reported, nor did the team tune out manager Terry Francona.
“Did this team respect Terry Francona? I would say yes,” Varitek said. “Everybody has their own respect for their own manager, yes. ‘¦ I honestly can’t speak for anyone. But, yes, he is your boss. What I believe in is you’re going to have coaches you don’t like, you’re going to have management you don’t like, you have players you don’t like, but I’m still going to play with that utter respect. This is my elder. This is the way I was brought up, the way I was raised. No matter what, I’m going to respect them and treat them with that same respect.
“Whether guys are going to go in a foxhole with somebody, at this point it doesn’t matter. Because you have to function. He’s still our boss. It doesn’t matter what happens. He makes the lineup, we go out and play. He makes the lineup, we go out and play. And with him, whether or not guys would go in a foxhole or have that much respect, you have to. You don’t get to that many wins and those things going on.”
Added Varitek: “What I disagreed with was that this team didn’t like each other. I believe this team liked each other. Whether [Francona] lost this team or didn’t lose that team and he felt that way, that’s the way he felt. Whether he does or doesn’t, and feels like he loses this team, those things, in my opinion, it always comes back to us. Because when it comes down to it, whether his chain of command, he’s our manager, we have directions, we have to perform. We didn’t perform.”
|Dustin Pedroia on The Big Show clears the air on Red Sox clubhouse||10.12.11 at 4:46 pm ET|
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia interrupted his vacation in Mexico to call into the Big Show and discuss the Boston Globe article that portrayed the Sox clubhouse as an environment rife with dysfunction, in which teammates lapsed into apathy about the performance of the club as the season slowly drifted away.
Pedroia took issue with the characterization of the Sox clubhouse, suggesting that it featured numerous leaders, and pointing the fault for the team’s epic collapse to poor play on the field.
Pedroia suggested that he was “upset” about the portrayal of the clubhouse, and that he was “[hurt]” by the suggestion that manager Terry Francona‘s job had been compromised by personal problems.
That said, Pedroia vowed to put behind him the brutal disappointment of the end of the season. He suggested that he wants to remain in Boston for the duration of his career even with the departure of Francona, and he said that the team would feature renewed resolve entering 2012.
“We’ll come back motivated, I promise you guys,” said Pedroia.
To listen to the complete interview, click here. A transcript of the conversation is below:
On the Boston Globe article on Red Sox clubhouse dysfunction:
I’m pretty upset about it. A lot of the stuff that was said was pretty much not fair. It hurts, man. It’s not good.
We’re all baseball players. I showed up to work every day ready to beat the other team. So did everyone else. We’re a family. We had the best record in baseball up until Sept. whatever, and then we ran out of gas. That doesn’t have anything to do with Tito or Theo or any players or what went on in the clubhouse. The leadership was there. We had guys that cared. We didn’t play well in the end. That’s it. Read the rest of this entry »
|Ryan Lavarnway: ‘This is what you dream about as a kid’||09.28.11 at 12:44 am ET|
BALTIMORE — Ryan Lavarnway had long since proven his credentials as a hitter. For three years as a Red Sox minor leaguer, the 24-year-old had demonstrated that he had the makings of a legitimate big league hitter, thanks to both a sound, disciplined plate approach and a compact swing that produced more consistent power than any other Sox minor leaguer.
Even so, there had been skepticism at times about his defense. He was viewed by some as wooden behind the plate — even though he’d worked hard for years to improve his behind-the-plate athleticism. There were questions about his ability to control the running game, even though he’d thrown out 37 percent of attempted base stealers while making just one throwing error in 2011, the top marks among Sox minor league catchers. And then there were the questions about whether he was up to the task of being a signal caller who could earn the trust of a pitching staff.
“It was rumored he wasn’t great defensively but he was a good hitter,” Sox catcher Luis Exposito, Lavarnway’s teammate last year in Double-A and this year in Triple-A, said before the game. “For me, he’s definitely, from what I’ve heard and seen, developed into a good catcher. He’s done the work he’s needed to do. He’s developed himself into this situation where he’s the guy tonight.”
And so he was. Lavarnway, who enjoyed a stint as the Sox DH at the end of August and also spent a few innings behind the plate in the late innings of some games, made his first big league start as a catcher on Tuesday night, at a time when both Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia had been injured. Read the rest of this entry »
|Closing Time: Beckett helps Red Sox breathe easier after win over Rays||09.16.11 at 10:43 pm ET|
Before Friday’s game, Rays skipper Joe Maddon — a veteran of a 1995 Angels team that endured one of the biggest pennant race collapses in big league history — noted that when a team is feeling the weight of a meltdown, all it needs is for one or two players to lift the weight off the whole team.
Josh Beckett proved to be that player for the Red Sox Friday, giving Boston its first quality start in nine games while also giving the Red Sox a chance to collect a sorely needed 4-3 win over the hard-charging Rays. The win put the Sox back up by four games in the wild card race, and ensured that Boston will have no worse than a two-game pad in the standings when the Rays leave town.
Beckett shined in his first outing since spraining his ankle 10 games ago against the Blue Jays. The righthander allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits while striking out seven and walking just one over six innings. With the win, Jon Lester can approach Saturday’s start as a chance to stick a dagger in the Rays’ playoff hopes, rather than as a game that the Sox must approach with desperation.
Here’s a look at what else went right (and what went wrong) for the Red Sox on Friday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX Read the rest of this entry »
|Jason Varitek proves he still the most trusted on the Red Sox||09.01.11 at 1:09 am ET|
Captain Jason Varitek is proving to be somewhat of an ageless wonder for the Red Sox. And certainly, he among the most trusted on the team. Just ask Josh Beckett, Jarrod Saltalamacchia or the manager Terry Francona.
He proved to be both ageless and trusted on Wednesday night as he came up with a key double on a hit-and-run play to tie the game after the Yankees had the momentum with a four-run sixth. His execution of that play in the bottom of the sixth with Josh Reddick at first base – called for by Francona – was a great example of what Varitek is all about.
Just get the job done.
“The hit-and-run [double], it’s perfect, it goes down the line, climbs up the wall, goes past the outfielder, and Red is running like crazy and that was a big play in the game,” Francona said. “Then the home run. We’ve gotten a lot of offense from our catching. It’s really been terrific. It’s come from two guys but still we’re getting the offense.”
Phil Hughes, after walking Reddick, was looking to get Varitek off-balance, not hard to do since the Red Sox catcher tends to fly open. Well, fly open he did, getting his front foot up and down before the late-breaking curveball even arrived at the plate.
But even though his timing was off, Varitek didn’t miss a beat – keeping his bat back while his legs and backside were already gone, and driving a double down the left field line and off the top of the sidewall, scoring Reddick. The pool cue shot knotted the game, 5-5.
“It’s just the other things, like today, it was a hit-and-run and trying to get a guy over,” said Varitek, who added a two-run homer in the eighth for insurance. “You’re trying to do the little things and I was able to accomplish both and one ball happens to go out of the park. We had a hit-and-run, it’s something we practice. Tito does a lot with me, and has over the years. It’s one of the first this year but it came at the right time.”
Varitek now has 10 home runs to go with his 32 RBIs and .240 average. At 39 years, 142 days, he became the oldest Red Sox player to homer since Ellis Burks at 39/210 on April 8, 2004. Varitek and Saltalamacchia also became the first pair of Red Sox catchers with double figures in homers since Bob Tillman (14) and Jim Pagliaroni (11) in 1962. Read the rest of this entry »
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