|Red Sox Notes: What to do with Wakefield?||01.15.10 at 8:43 am ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona, prior to the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner on Thursday, said that he has not considered putting Tim Wakefield in the bullpen. Even though the rotation would currently appear to run five deep with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz, the days when the knuckleballer would be hustled into a relief role seem like a thing of the past.
“I haven’t thought about that a lot. He’s a starter,” said Francona. “How that slots out, we don’t know yet.”
That said, Francona didn’t have a blueprint for Wakefield. He avoided committing to a timetable for the pitcher’s start to the season, though he did put the knuckleballer in a separate category from John Smoltz (in 2009) and Wade Miller (in ’05), pitchers who were held back by months at the start of the season.
“I would be surprised if he’s real far behind, if any,” said Francona.
–While Jeremy Hermida suggested that he is “excited to play some real baseball” now that he has moved from the home of the empty orange seats in Florida to the packed houses of Fenway, his role appears ill-defined. The Sox believe that the 26-year-old retains significant offensive potential, and that he will probably reach it with some club.
Whether or how he might do so in Boston this year remains unknown. Francona was admittedly uncertain about the outfielder’s job description for the coming year.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. Good question, bad answer. He’s a left-handed hitting outfielder,” said Francona. “We could always move Jacoby [Ellsbury] to center when [Mike] Cameron doesn’t play. J.D. [Drew] has missed games in right, we know that. So there is a fit there.
“But I can’t sit here today and say Jeremy Hermida does this. On one hand, I hope he gets an opportunity to play enough because I think he can do some things offensively. On the other hand, if he’s playing everyday, something went wrong somewhere else. But there’s a lot to like about what he can do. But I can’t sit here today and tell you where he’ll actually fit.”
–Francona seemed either amused or bemused that Daisuke Matsuzaka, just a few years removed from being evaluated as one of the best pitchers in the world, has become an afterthought in his rotation. The right-hander, he noted, is just two years removed from a season when, “by hook or by crook,” he won 18 games with a sub-3.00 ERA.
There is little doubt that Matsuzaka’s 2009 season, when he went 4-6 with a 5.76 ERA in just 59.1 innings, represented a profound disappointment, not just for his numbers and his lack of availability but also due to his ideological clashes with the team over proper forms of preparation. But ultimately, the team believes that both the pitcher and his club will benefit from the pitcher’s pride to prove that he is still an effective pitcher.
“He’s almost at times fallen off from people’s thinking. He won 18 games the year before. It’s kind of out of sight, out of mind,” said Francona. “He’s supposed to be pretty good. If he’s pitching in that four hole, or that fourth game of the season, he’s going to match up.”
Sox officials were indeed surprised by Matsuzaka’s claim in a Japanese magazine that he had tried to pitch through a leg injury that caused his mechanics to suffer. But with the pitcher showing the commitment to spend the offseason working out at Athletes’ Performance in Arizona, the Sox believe that they are in a good position with the right-hander, and they are more focused on how he fares going forward than on any head-scratching statements about the past.
–Francona has been in touch with Jed Lowrie, whom he described as “cautiously optimistic” about the recovery of the left wrist that required surgery and sabotaged his 2009 season. The manager believed that the infielder had begun swinging, though it will be difficult to gauge the switch-hitter’s health until he is subject to daily activity in spring training. In some respects, only game activity will offer insight into Lowrie’s health, since he appeared to be recovering well last summer until he aggravated the wrist on check swings in games.
–Francona said that Mike Lowell’s situation would remain unresolved until he proved that he is healthy in spring training.
|Checking in on Wakefield and Chapman||11.10.09 at 11:51 am ET|
CHICAGO — Executives are in meetings all morning here at the O’Hare International Airport Hilton, leaving me in a desolate work room with just my computer and a free 10 oz Diet Pepsi that would have cost me $4 upstairs (no lie).
The schedule will allow for access to all the general managers starting at 4:30 p.m. EST, which will surely spawn a flurry of Tweets and the like starting about 5:30 p.m.
One thing I forgot to pass on Monday was that in my conversation with Tim Wakefield, he passed along what a difference the surgery on his back had meant. He said that the limp which he had been saddled with for the past few months was instantly gone once he could get out of his hospital bed.
“I feel great” Wakefield said. “I’m getting more strength in my calf and my hamstring. As a matter of fact, the doctor came in soon after surgery and I was doing laps around the nurses station with my wife with my IV without limping. It was that instantaneously.
“Dr. (Lawrence) Borges did a phenomenal job. He even said to me that he was surprised that I was pitching because the fragment they took out of my back was pretty big.”
I did run into one National League executive who was toying with the idea of watching Cuban free agent pitcher Aroldis Chapman in the Dominican Republic. (He is reportedly in Costa Rica right now. Ed. Note: Chapman’s representatives clarified that the pitcher is currently in the United States, and has no plans to pitch in the Dominican.) The executive reiterated that while the talent for Chapman was off the charts (95-102 mph fastball), there was some growing concern regarding his make-up, which is not the norm for pitchers coming over from Cuba.
If you remember, one of the selling points for Jose Contreras when the Yankees and Red Sox were going toe-to-toe for the pitcher’s services was that he had pitched in the most pressure-packed of environments under the watchful eye of Fidel Castro and the Cuban government.
The 21-year-old Chapman, who will make a boatload of money from somebody (although maybe not as much as he is asking for), is perceived as somewhat immature, a notion that wasn’t displaced after a drama-filled World Baseball Classic outing. Unlike Contreras, there are conflicting reports whether the lefty flamethrower is even ready to begin his career in the big leagues.
All the concerns aside, with his upside, and the dearth of free agent pitching, Chapman figures to be one of the offseason’s biggest prizes and elicit some more good lobby talk as the meetings march along.
Be back later once access picks up …
|Details of Wakefield’s Contract||11.09.09 at 8:23 pm ET|
The incentive structure of Tim Wakefield’s new two-year deal with the Red Sox is fairly intricate. While he will receive a guaranteed $5 million, the specific clauses could increase the value of the deal to approximately $5 million per season. Here are the details of the 2010-11 deal:
Base salary is $3.5m in 2010 and $1.5m in 2011.
Bonuses in 2010: Wakefield receives $50,000 each for starts 11-15; $75,000 each for starts 16-25; and $100,000 each for starts 26-30. (Max potential earnings: $5 million.)
Escalator clause for base salary in 2011: Wakefield’s 2011 base salary can increase, based on the number of innings he throws in 2010. If he throws 130 innings this coming season, his 2011 base salary increases to $2 million; he throws 160 innings in 2010, he would earn a $3.5 million base.
Bonuses in 2011: Wakefield’s potential bonuses for 2011 will depend on the base salary:
If the base salary is $1.5 million (after fewer than 130 innings in 2010): $100,000 each for starts 11-15; $200,000 each for starts 16-25, and $250,000 each for starts 26-30. (Max potential earnings: $5.25 million.)
If the base salary is $2 million (if he throws at least 130 innings but fewer than 160): $75,000 each for starts 11-15; $150,000 each for starts 16-20; $200,000 each for starts 21-30. (Max potential earnings: $5.125 million.)
If the base salary is $3.5 million (provided Wakefield throws at least 160 innings in 2010), the bonuses are the same as in 2010: $50,000 each for starts 11-15; $75,000 each for starts 16-25; and $100,000 each for starts 26-30. (Max potential earnings: $5 million.)
|Wakefield talks about new deal||at 4:35 pm ET|
CHICAGO — Speaking from his Florida home, Tim Wakefield explained that while there was some initial concern regarding the Red Sox not picking up his option and proposing a two-year deal, he understands the value in it from both sides.
“I was surprised and a little disappointed at first because they told me they wanted to cut my guarantee, but in the long run they’re at least guaranteeing me another year,” he said. “That’s a huge positive because they know I want to break the records and retire as a Red Sox, so I’m very grateful for that.”
The two-year deal Wakefield has agreed upon will pay the 43-year-old a guaranteed $3.5 million in 2010 with the opportunity to have that jump up to $5 million if he makes 30 starts. The second year will guarantee him $1.5 million, a base that could increase to as much as $3.5 million depending on how many innings he throws in 2010, and that will also feature bonuses that could increase the value of the second year of the deal (regardless of the base) to approximately $5 million if the right-hander makes 30 starts.
Altering his previous arrangement — which presented the Red Sox with a $4 million team option following every season Wakefield played in — guarantees that the knuckleballer will be under contract for the next two seasons, setting the stage for him to go after both the record for most wins by a Red Sox pitcher (192) — which he is 17 shy of — and 200 overall wins. Wakefield currently stands at 189 wins for his career.
“I guess a little more relaxed,” said Wakefield of the construction of his new deal. “I didn’t mind going year to year because the reason why we set it up was to make it an easy decision to them, but also giving me an opportunity to get paid a fair amount. It wasn’t about going after more money. We wanted to do what was fair to the organization. Now, that deal was to avoid what has happened the last couple of days.
“I completely understand where the Red Sox are coming from based on the back surgery I had in the offseason and the fact I had some shoulder fatigue in ’08. But it all worked out. It worked out where I think they were happy to cut back on the guarantees, but I still have the opportunity to make almost as much as I did, if I stay healthy, than I did with the original options.”
|Wakefield, Sox Agree on New Two-Year Deal||at 2:23 pm ET|
The Red Sox have chosen not to pick up Tim Wakefield’s $4 million option for the 2010 season; instead, the team and the pitcher have come to terms on a two-year deal. The new contract will pay the 43-year-old a guaranteed $5 million — $3.5 million in ’10 and $1.5 million in ’11 — with the opportunity to earn various incentives that could bring the package’s total worth to approximately $10 million over the two years.
It is believed that if Wakefield meets all of his incentives, he would fall approximately $1 million short of matching what he would have made if the options were picked up in each of the next two seasons. Wakefield originally signed a one-year deal with recurring team options of $4 million every season — a one-of-its-kind contract — during the 2005 season, with the deal becoming effective starting for the 2006 season.
Wakefield underwent surgery on a herniated disc in his back last month, but is expected to be ready to be fully ready for spring training.
The new deal could allow Wakefield to accomplish his goal of breaking the record for most wins in a Red Sox uniform by a pitcher (192), which is currently shared by Cy Young and Roger Clemens. The knuckleballer will enter ’10 with 175 wins as a member of the Sox. He has also stated a goal of reaching 200 wins, which could be accomplished in the coming season. His current career win total stands at 189.
|Options Abound for the Red Sox||10.21.09 at 2:13 pm ET|
The Red Sox hold (or, in some cases, held) options for the 2010 season on seven members of the club. If exercised, the players (in most cases) can be retained for next year. If declined by the team, then the players become free agents. Here is a quick look at those players, as well as the timelines for decisions about the options:
Josh Beckett (team option): His $12.1 million option for 2010 vested when he made his 28th start of the season on Sept. 7.
Alex Gonzalez (mutual option): The club has until five days after the World Series to make a decision about whether to exercise its $6 million option for next year. If it declines the option, it must pay a $500,000 buyout. Since it is a mutual option, if the Sox do pick up the option, Gonzalez would then have two days to decide whether to accept or decline the chance to return to Boston on that one-year, $6 million deal. If he declines the option, he also voids the buyout.
Victor Martinez (team option): The Sox have until five days after the World Series to make their decision on Martinez’ $7 million option for next year. Insofar as G.M. Theo Epstein has already proclaimed Martinez the team’s primary catcher for 2010, it would appear that the catcher/first baseman need not concern himself with the possibility of a $250,000 buyout.
Takashi Saito (team option): Based on his 2009 earnings, the Sox could have retained Saito on a one-year, $6 million deal with a potential $1.5 million in incentives for 2010. Instead, the team attempted to outright him, resulting in the right-hander declaring himself a free agent, thereby removing the possibility of an option. Saito remains open to the possibility of returning as a free agent. Indeed, the attempted outright assignment was done precisely so that Saito could become a free agent who was could re-sign with the Sox this offseason.
Jason Varitek (team and player options): The Sox have until five days after the World Series to decide whether to exercise their $5 million club option on Varitek for next season. If the Sox decline their option, then Varitek would have five days from the time of being notified of the club’s decision to decide whether or not to exercise a one-year, $3 million (with the possibility of another $2 million in incentives) player option.
Billy Wagner (team option): The Sox formally agreed not to pick up Wagner’s $8 million option for the 2010 season at the time that he agreed to waive his no-trade clause. Instead, the team is on the hook for his $1 million buy-out. The real intrigue with Wagner revolves around whether he will be offered arbitration, and if he is, whether he will accept it. As Wagner told Rob Bradford, he anticipates that the Sox will make the offer and he will decline it in order to become a free agent and pursue the opportunity to close elsewhere.
Tim Wakefield (team option): The Sox have until five days after the World Series to exercise their recurring $4 million option on Wakefield. Barring any setbacks following his “successful” surgery today, the Sox would appear likely to retain the services of a player who likely ranks as one of the top two free-agent bargains in Red Sox history.
|Postseason Roster Updates: Wakefield, Baldelli, Shortstops||10.04.09 at 3:13 pm ET|
After Sunday afternoon’s game, Red Sox manager Terry Francona will announce the team’s plan for its starting rotation. In all likelihood, Jon Lester will be announced as the Game 1 starter and Josh Beckett will be slated for the second game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. There’s no real surprise on either count. There are, however, some slightly more challenging roster issues that continue to confront the Sox as they look to figure out the 25 players who make the roster against the Angels.
It was a difficult decision based on Tim Wakefield’s stature within the organization, but a fairly straightforward one based on his physical condition. The knuckleballer’s All-Star first half, in which he went 11-3 with a 4.31 ERA, yielded to utter disappointment in the second half, as he was able to make just four starts while going 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA. He is unable to field his position due to weakness in his leg, the result of a herniated disc that is impinging the sciatic nerve.
As a result, the Sox confirmed the obvious in deciding that Wakefield will not be part of the first round playoff roster. Even so, the team asked Wakefield to hold off before undergoing surgery to repair the disc, given the possibility that an injury could lead the club to seek a start from the knuckleballer later in the postseason. One need look only to the 2007 playoffs, when a shoulder injury to Wakefield forced the Sox to use Jon Lester as a starter, for precedent about the need to have available starting depth. Though his immense struggles to get to the mound, Wakefield has shown that he is capable of enduring a long layoff yet still pitching well enough to permit his team a chance to win.
“I think it’s kind of obvious the situation he’s in. He’s been trying to go out there kind of on one leg. What we did also talk to him about was not shelving his season. We know one day you can feel good about your pitching and then something happens. Wake has that ability, whether it’s two weeks from now, to throw a pretty good game. He’s on board with that, which we appreciated a lot,” said Francona. “He’s not going to be there in the first round. That doesn’t mean something couldn’t happen … It’s been very difficult for him physically. We didn’t just want to shut him down either. He could still play a role.”
Wakefield declined comment, except to say that the decision was “fine. I’ll be ready.”
A somewhat more unexpected event is the emergent possibility that the Sox might be without Rocco Baldelli in the first round. Because the Angels feature a pair of southpaw starters — Scott Kazmir and Joe Saunders — it seemed reasonable to expect a role for the Sox’ right-handed outfield reserve off the bench. The team remains hopeful that Baldelli will be available, but following a strained left hip flexor on Friday, his status is in question.
Baldelli will undergo tests on Monday. The Sox are hopeful that, because their series against the Angels might not employ one of their left-handed starters before Saturday’s Game 3, the reserve outfielder might still be able to make the playoff roster.
“We’ll see where it goes. It’s a big bat to have,” said Francona. “[The injury] doesn’t take him off [the playoff roster]. It certainly could. It hasn’t yet. I think we’re going to treat it aggressively and see where this goes. Potentially, they don’t throw a lefty until the third game.”
Alex Gonzalez erased any doubts about his hand when he lined a solo homer into the Monster seats on the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the second inning on Sunday. If there were any questions about how his hand had recovered from the swelling, that answered them.
Gonzalez’ health is crucial, given that reserve Nick Green remains “stuck in neutral,” in Francona’s words, in his efforts to return from a back injury that — much like Wakefield — has created weakness in his leg.
“He just can’t support the squatting part when he’s hitting and fielding a groundball,” said Francona.
That would appear to rule Green out of the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, Chris Woodward remains away from the team to be with his wife following the birth of the couple’s third child. The team is unsure when the utility infielder will be back with the club.
Almost by default, that would leave Jed Lowrie as the primary candidate for the backup infield spot. Of course, there are worse fates. The Sox point out that Lowrie has postseason experience by virtue of his time as the starting shortstop last October, and the team has few concerns about his defensive abilities or his ability to hit right-handed. The Sox have been pleased with how Lowrie has looked at the plate in the last couple of games in which he’s had to hit left-handed, and so he would appear likely to be on the postseason roster for the Division Series.
Manny Delcarmen was rendered unavailable to pitch this weekend after he got into a car accident on I-93 on Saturday. The right-hander reported today that he feels better than he did on Saturday, when he faced significant stiffness in his back and neck, but the team had been hoping to see him pitch before making a final determination about whether he might be on the playoff roster. Delcarmen said that he was fortunate that he was driving his Hummer, rather than his wife’s Nissan Murano, or else the injuries he incurred while trying to avoid the car that careened in front of him could have been far worse.
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