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Tim Kurkjian on M&M: ‘I don’t think Jackie Bradley Jr. is going to be their center fielder’ 12.10.13 at 12:30 pm ET
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Tim Kurkjian

Tim Kurkjian

ESPN baseball writer Tim Kurkjian joined Mut & Merloni at the winter meetings in Orlando and talked about the Red Sox’ approach to the offseason.

The Red Sox lost center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury via free agency to the Yankees, and there’s been speculation that youngster Jackie Bradley Jr. will inherit Ellsbury’s former position. Kurkjian isn’t so sure that will happen right away.

“I don’t think Jackie Bradley Jr. is going to be their center fielder,” Kurkjian said. “And that’s not ’cause he’s not ready or he can’t play. I just think … to go in with three relatively unproven guys [along with Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks]. We know Bogaerts is going to be a great player, because we saw him in September and October — he was terrific. Middlebrooks is still questionable to me. The guy is unbelievably strong. But is he going to make contact enough to hit 30 homers in the big leagues and be able to play third base. And is Jackie Bradley Jr. ready to hit in the big leagues?

“I think the Red Sox are going to look at this situation and say, ‘I don’t know if we can win the division — the way the Yankees have upgraded, and Tampa Bay’s pitching — with young guys at three crucial spots.’ So I still think they’re out looking for a center field situation — not a five-year situation, but maybe something that could help Jackie Bradley along.”

Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp‘s name has been bandied about, but concerns about his physical status seem to be scaring off teams.

“The Dodgers, from what I’m told, are looking to move Matt Kemp,” Kurkjian said. “This isn’t a case where the Red Sox are pursuing him, but from what I’m told, the Dodgers have made him available and are willing to pick up a sizable portion of that contract.

“If you’re the Red Sox, however, you have to a) only have to pay $10 million of that contract a year, and you have be certain that he’s healthy. He’s got an ankle and a shoulder. You know you can’t play this game if you’re hurt. It’s too hard to play when you’re healthy. Then you get hurt and try to play, it’s impossible. Especially at a defensive position like that, and an athletic guy like him. So I would be wary of Matt Kemp’s health, and I wouldn’t go anywhere near him until I’m certain that his ankle and his shoulder are OK.”

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Johnny Damon on M&M: Jacoby Ellsbury ‘will do great in New York’ 12.04.13 at 12:28 pm ET
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Johnny Damon is mulling whether to return to the Red Sox after his former club claimed him on waivers on Monday. (AP)

Johnny Damon, like Jacoby Ellsbury, starred with the Red Sox before leaving for the Yankees as a free agent. (AP)

Johnny Damon appeared on Mut & Merloni on Wednesday and discussed the Yankees’ reported signing of Jacoby Ellsbury while revealing details of his own departure from Boston.

Ellsbury, who won two World Series with the Red Sox, reportedly agreed to a seven-year, $153 million contract with New York on Tuesday night. Damon, after spending four seasons as Boston’s center fielder and claiming a World Series with the Sox, also signed with the Yankees once his Boston contract expired in 2005.

“I respect the way [Ellsbury] plays. I know there were tons of comparisons with me when he came out of college, and there’s plenty of comparisons now, too,” Damon said. “I know he’s a good kid, he needs to stay healthy, I think he will do great in New York.

“I’m sure if Boston wanted to do six, seven years, he probably would have stayed. But Boston’s looking out for themselves. Sometimes when you get burned by certain contracts, like the [Carl] Crawford thing, it scares you some, and rightfully so. Boston is going to continue to make the right decisions.”

Asked about what Ellsbury will go through as he switches sides in the rivalry, Damon said: “I think the toughest thing for Jacoby is going to be going back to Boston, and everything leading up to it. What do you think the fans are going to do — are they going to cheer you or are they going to boo you? He’s going to answer that question so many times, and probably every time he goes back for the next seven years. I think that was the hardest thing.

“Everywhere you go people are Red Sox fans. I’ve been on deserted islands and a Red Sox fan popped up and started telling me how big of a fan they are. Red Sox fans are avid and passionate and it’s incredible. Jacoby’s going to find out how many Red Sox fans are out there now, just telling him how they respected his game, but also, ‘How could you go to the Yankees.’ But seven years, [$]153 [million], that’s a lot of loot.”

After signing with New York before the 2006 season, Damon said he had something to prove when he played against his former team.

“For me, it was about trying to show them that first year,” he said. “I was so upset that I didn’t re-sign with Boston. I bought a house, they told me to buy a house, I did, and then they don’t sign me, and I’m kind of like, ‘Oh, boy, this is not good.’ … This was after the World Series. I talked to Theo [Epstein] and he said I would be there for a long time. Then again, Theo the next year said, ‘You’re having too good of a year. You’re overpricing yourself to keep playing in Boston.’ … And I wasn’t going to take a few pitches looking to get the average down and get the numbers down.

“Unfortunately, I did have a great year. But if I had a worse year they would have just let me go and said he’s done. I had too good of a year, and I ended up going to New York.”

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Mike Lupica on D&C: ‘Mystified’ by Yankees’ ‘dumber contract’ with Jacoby Ellsbury at 10:02 am ET
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Mike Lupica

Mike Lupica

New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to discuss Jacoby Ellsbury‘s reported deal with the Yankees, as well as Robinson Cano’s free agency situation.

On Tuesday night, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported that New York signed Ellsbury, the former Red Sox outfielder, to a seven-year, $153 million contract. This figure seems exorbitant considering that Ellsbury, 30, frequently has struggled to stay on the field, and his best season was in 2011.

“Jacoby Ellsbury has been on two World Series-winning teams, I love watching him play baseball, has anybody ever thought of him as being one of the top five players in baseball?” Lupica said, adding: “And now you’re paying him like one of the very best players in baseball, even though he’s three or four years past the best numbers he’s ever put in the books?”

The deal, orchestrated by agent Scott Boras, is similar to what Carl Crawford received from the Red Sox in 2010. Crawford, an outfielder who relies on his speed like Ellsbury, got seven years and $142 million from the Red Sox entering his age-30 season.

“You know that Boras came into this thinking, ‘I’m going to get him more than Carl Crawford,’ but the Carl Crawford deal is universally analyzed as one of the dumbest the Red Sox ever made in all of recorded history,” Lupica said.

After his breakout campaign in 2011, Ellsbury struggled with injuries in 2012, and, to a lesser degree, in 2013. He missed 116 games in the last two seasons. Additionally, Ellsbury missed almost all of the 2010 season.

“I’m just more mystified that you’re taking a fragile player, who depends on his legs, who played [134] games last year, we don’t even have to go back to where he missed [almost] a whole season,” Lupica said.

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Scott Boras addresses Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew and NASA 11.13.13 at 5:47 pm ET
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Scott Boras (AP)

Scott Boras represents Red Sox free agents Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew. (AP)

ORLANDO — When Scott Boras executed his annual get-together with the media at the general managers’ meetings on Wednesday, there were few surprises. A few witty lines, yes. But no real surprises.

The agent for free agents Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew sang the praises of both his clients, while not offering any insight into how far along in the process the pair might be in terms of finding a team for 2014.

“I think every free agent wants to get their deal done yesterday,” Boras said. “There’s kind of a tide that works in this process, and every once in a while you have clubs that make quicker decisions than others, and a lot of that has to do with exhausting trade possibilities along with their plan and design with their owners. Really, it has to do a lot with the math the teams have to do to make the strike. Historically, there’s always a few that jump quicker. But for the most part a lot of teams respond to the pursuit of the player when they know that pursuit of the player has a timetable.”

Added Boras: “It’s hard to find talent in the marketplace that could replace them. There aren’t too many free agents I think you can acquire other than a Jacoby or a Stephen that certainly would be available to take their spots.

“It’s far more than normal for elite players these days just because the revenue structure of the game invites a lot more applicants and the rareness of the talent has a lot to do with the volume of interest. I won’t give you specific numbers, but it’s more than normal.”

Specifically regarding Ellsbury, this is what Boras had to say:

On how the market is unfolding: “We’re just looking at all the teams that have expressed interest. He’s going to take a good long look at all of them and decide what his preferences are from there. Frankly, I’m kind of here to collect that now. I’ve not had the discussion with him about all the teams involved yet.”

On Ellsbury’s power potential: “Ells conditioned himself and did things to become what he needed to become to help this style of team, and that was stealing bases, being a leadoff hitter and being on base, and, frankly, getting on second base as much as possible. And that’s really what he geared himself to. And he played a good portion of the season with a very, very swollen wrist and hand. The fact of the matter is Jacoby Ellsbury’s compensation is going to be based on all five of his tools. The fact in today’s game, having players that skilled at that position creates the value. It’s not just power. He hits the ball in the gap. If he hits the ball out and does it 18 times vs. 10 times, I’m not sure it has any difference in his value.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Buster Olney on M&M: Stephen Drew should accept Boston’s qualifying offer 11.06.13 at 4:32 pm ET
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ESPN’s Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox’ offseason and the impending free agent frenzy.

Buster Olney

Buster Olney

With Boston not offering catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia a qualifying offer, many have speculated that the Red Sox and free agent Brian McCann could be a match.

“Generally speaking, I can’t see them going absolutely nutty for a 30-year-old catcher who’s going to transition to DH,” Olney said. “And if the Yankees or the Phillies or the Rangers are going to go six [years] for [$]120 [million], I don’t think the Red Sox would chase them.

“However, if there are a number of offers that are within range of each other, and the Red Sox are one of those teams, there a lot of reasons why the Red Sox would consider it,” Olney said, adding, “Just knowing Brian, he was a great team guy, he fits totally into what the Red Sox built in 2013. I do think that if he feels like he can go to a good situation, and yeah it might cost him some money, I absolutely think he’d be open-minded about that.”

If Boston signs McCann, it would almost certainly spell the end of Saltalamacchia’s four-year run with the Red Sox.

“I got to believe he’s going to be somewhere else,” said Olney, who added that Saltalamacchia’s benching in the World Series could factor into the decision. “You don’t one week go from saying, ‘You know what, we’re going to play our backup catcher,’ and then say, ‘We’ll give you $50 million.’ ”

Boston did make the one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer to shortstop Stephen Drew.

“When you talk to GMs of other teams, they just cant see other teams coming close to giving Stephen Drew a $14.1 million salary that would be close to a qualify offer,” Olney said, adding, “I think in the end, the smart play for Drew is going to be to accept a one-year deal with the Red Sox, we just don’t know if that’s something that Scott [Boras] would necessarily do.”

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Ken Rosenthal on D&C: ‘Bombshells’ coming in Biogenesis case; Red Sox ‘need more pitching’ 07.16.13 at 10:50 am ET
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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning, and the Fox Sports baseball reporter, before chiming in on a handful of Red Sox-related issues, offered insight on the ongoing Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug issue and the expected suspensions for a number of players, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun.

“There will be bombshells. The question is the timing,” Rosenthal said. “Baseball cannot rush into this. They have to have everything in order. And whether that takes two more days or two more weeks — or two more months, for that matter, which I doubt — remains to be seen.

“Just from yesterday, I didn’t get the sense that it was imminent in talking to some people. But who knows? What’s complicated about this is baseball can’t miss. They have to have everything in order before they announce the suspensions, then make sure the suspensions are solid enough that when they’re appealed — and they will be appealed — they hold up.”

Rosenthal went on to explain that these punishments will be due to “just cause,” not traditional suspensions under the joint drug agreement — 50 games for a first positive test of a banned substance, 100 games for a second positive test and a lifetime ban for a third.

As such, MLB needs to make sure it has its ducks in a row. Since the case has been so public — due solely to leaks — the suspensions will be announced before the appeals are heard, as opposed to after an appeal, as is usually the case for a positive test.

“Baseball has to prove just cause,” Rosenthal said. “It’s not a positive test. They have to make a case for just cause, and will they have it? We’ll see.”

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Scott Boras: Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox will wait for offseason to discuss contract 07.15.13 at 3:55 pm ET
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NEW YORK — Agent Scott Boras, at the All-Star Game at CitiField where he has 11 clients participating, said that he does not expect to discuss the possibility of a contract extension for client Jacoby Ellsbury with the Red Sox and GM Ben Cherington during the season.

“Ben and I work together very well. He wants to focus on finishing the season and so do we,” said Boras.

Still, Boras believes that when Ellsbury does arrive at the end of the season — and becomes eligible for his first foray into free agency — the center fielder will be in excellent position to enjoy the rewards of the market. Ellsbury, who was hitting just .244 with a .303 OBP and .335 slugging mark through his first 44 games of the year, has seen his production take off since late-May. In his last 44 games, he’s now hitting .371/.433/.511 with 23 steals in 24 attempt, pushing his season line to a robust .305 average, .368 OBP and .422 slugging mark with an AL-leading 36 steals.

That’s a fairly drastic difference. What, Boras was asked, was responsible for the difference?

“Health. Jacoby’s shoulder was really something that, remember, Jacoby Ellsbury is a very durable player. He just has to make sure that people don’t run into him. The only time in his career he’s not been durable has been when someone ran into him, which has happened twice. And last year he came back early and played where his shoulder strength was not there,” said Boras. “We’re starting to see that. I’m starting to see where this is starting to turn and he’s starting to drive the ball with authority in the gap, the opposite way, and that shoulder’s getting stronger as we go. And he’s always been a tremendously strong, elite athlete as far as running, quick twitch, first step in the outfield. He’s just a rare player. With each month of this season, his batting averages are going up, his numbers are there, his on-base percentage … Look, it’s no secret that the Red Sox are where they are. Jacoby’s had a big part of that.”

Aside from his landmark 2011 season, in which Ellsbury had career highs in average (.321), homers (32) and slugging (.422) while finishing as the runner-up in the AL MVP vote, this has been perhaps Ellsbury’s best season. Even though he has just three homers this year, Ellsbury in his recent stretch has been impacting the ball with regularity, a slightly upgraded version of the dynamic player of 2008-09 (based on his improved extra-base hit frequency and OBP).

The performance, in turn, should position Ellsbury to capitalize in free agency, regardless of how many homers he hits. After all, Michael Bourn parlayed a 2012 season in which he hit .274/.348/.391 with speed (42 steals), Gold Glove defense and virtually no power (nine homers, 45 extra-base hits) into a four-year, $48 million deal.

“Whatever Jacoby does from the top of the lineup relative to home run power is not, that’s helpful but the main issue is that most players who are of Jacoby’s type, they don’t even know — it’s never there. They’re four, five home run guys. Jacoby, you know it’s there,” said Boras. “There may be years where he hits 20 home runs. There may be another year that he hits 20. And there may be years when he hits 10. The reality of it is you’re going to pay him for the melding of his power, but what you’re really paying him for is the ability to score runs and the ability to get on base and the ability to provide up-the-middle defense.”

Still, with another Boras client (Jackie Bradley Jr.) looming in the Sox system, there’s a sense that the Sox already have a successor to Ellsbury should he depart in free agency. But Boras saw a different possibility looming for Boston beyond 2013.

“I’m sure in the Red Sox board room,” he joked, “Ben [Cherington] is sitting there going, ‘Wow, we just can’t have Jackie and Jacoby and [Shane] Victorino in that outfield. They would be just too good defensively. It would provide too much production and speed. That would be such a horrible problem for us.’ “

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