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If the offseason felt long to you, imagine how Stephen Drew must have felt. Today, the shortstop’s extended spring officially came to a close when the Red Sox announced that they signed him to a one-year deal, reportedly worth the prorated portion of the $14.1MM qualifying offer ($10.1MM). The Red Sox, who had a significant need on the left side of the infield and didn’t have to forfeit a pick to sign their own free agent, have been regarded as a frontrunner for months, but there wasn’t a lot of foreshadowing in recent days. On a conference call this afternoon, I asked General Manager Ben Cherington when the talks got more serious between him and agent Scott Boras.
“I would say that talks picked up over the weekend and into the early part of the week,” the GM said. “We know Stephen well. He did a great job for us last year and he’s a very good Major League shortstop and a good teammate and does a lot of good things that we value…We have a high degree of respect for Stephen, what he can do on the field, and what he can do for our team. We’re happy to have him back on the team.”
The signing of Drew will have a reverb effect for other Red Sox players. Xander Bogaerts, who was charged with manning shortstop in 2014, will shift over to third base, bumping the injured Will Middlebrooks out of the starting lineup. Drew’s arrival also backs things up for well-regarded third base prospect Garin Cecchini. When it comes to Bogaerts, Cherington says that after this season, his future could still very well be at shortstop.
“We believe that he can play shortstop well, things have stabilized there. I know he made a couple of errors last night but we believed last year and during Spring Training that he can play shortstop, we still believe that. This move with Stephen is not in any way about a lack of belief that Xander can play short,” Cherington said. “Xander’s ability to play short and third base allowed us to consider different options and alternatives. Stephen just happened to be the one we pursued.”
When asked if Drew’s arrival could signal some sort of position change for Middlebrooks, Cherington was non-committal and said that his main focus was getting the 25-year-old healthy.
As for Drew himself, Cherington confirmed that he’ll be on the Major League roster tonight but won’t be in the lineup against the Blue Jays. Drew will ultimately have a stint in the minors to warm up to big league action, but because of “administrative steps” that need to take place, there’s not an exact timetable for that just yet.
Presumably, Cherington is referring to the fact that Drew needs to pass through optional waivers, which take 48 hours, as the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported earlier this afternoon (Twitter link). Cafardo noted that Drew has consented to head to the minors to pick up 25 at-bats before playing with the big league club.
Five years ago today, Alex Rodriguez admitted and apologized for using PEDs during his tenure with the Rangers. Rodriguez blamed the pressure of trying to fulfill the expectations created by his then-record 10-year, $252MM contract. Two days ago, Rodriguez voluntarily dismissed his federal lawsuit against MLB, the Commissioner's Office, and the MLBPA and will serve his 162-game suspension stemming from his role in the Biogenesis affair. Here's the latest from the American League:
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio (Twitter link) he doesn't expect anything to happen with Stephen Drew before the start of Spring Training; but, out of respect for the shortstop, has maintained a dialogue with agent Scott Boras.
- Cherington also told the pair he is working the phones to add another reliever (via a Bowden tweet).
- The Red Sox's starting rotation, currently flush with experienced hurlers, could take on a much younger and cheaper look in the next 12-18 months, writes the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber. Left-hander Henry Owens headlines the list of Boston's pitching prospects on the verge of reaching the Majors, according to Lauber.
- Having lost out on Bronson Arroyo and entering the second week of February without a truly significant free agent acquisition, the Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck opines it's fair to wonder how much the Orioles really want to win this year.
- Tigers President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters recently, including Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, the Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade set the tone for the other moves he made this offseason. "If that move wasn’t made, you’re really in a position where you’re kind of back to where you were. It was one move that set off our plans in place." One part of that plan has received much scrutiny: dealing Doug Fister to the Nationals. Dombrowski said Fister was expendable because the Tigers have six solid starters with three of them (Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Drew Smyly) under contract for at least the next four years while also proclaiming he'd love to have Max Scherzer "stay as a Tiger for a long time."
- Johnny Damon, whose last MLB appearance was with the Indians in 2012, is open to managing or resuming his playing career, but only on the Major League level, reports the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin.
Top Mets prospect Wilmer Flores will be promoted to the Majors on Tuesday, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports. Flores, an infielder, didn't rank in any major outlets' top 100 prospect lists at the beginning of the season, but he might if those lists were published now — he's hitting .322/.358/.532 in Triple-A (albeit in the excellent hitting environment of Las Vegas), and today is his 22nd birthday. Newsday's Marc Carig notes (on Twitter) that with David Wright on the disabled list, the Mets will likely use Flores at third base. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- Pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith had an August 5 out clause in his minor-league deal with the Red Sox, but he will not exercise it, and will instead stay with Triple-A Pawtucket, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets. Rowland-Smith has a 1.58 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 for Pawtucket this season. His opt-out date had been pushed back to August after he missed most of July following an appendectomy. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets that, now that the August 5 date has passed, Rowland-Smith can opt out of his deal if any team offers him a spot on its active roster.
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington has emerged as one of baseball's best executives, WEEI.com's Mike Salk writes. After an awful 2012 season, the Sox have the third-best record in the Majors, behind only the Pirates and Braves. Salk chalks that up to the addition of more depth, character and chemistry to the roster, as well as to Cherington's hiring of John Farrell as the Red Sox's manager.
- The Rangers are preparing to be without Nelson Cruz now that Cruz has been suspended for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, T.R. Sullivan and William Boor of MLB.com report. The Rangers have promoted outfielders Joey Butler and Engel Beltre, and on Monday they started Beltre along with Leonys Martin and David Murphy, giving the Rangers an all-left-handed outfield. That left three righties — Butler, Craig Gentry and Jeff Baker — on the Rangers' bench, suggesting the possibility of platooning all three outfield spots. "We're going to use the whole roster and continue to play Texas Rangers baseball," says Rangers manager Ron Washington. The Rangers are still trying to trade for an outfielder, but GM Jon Daniels suggests that the waiver rules governing August trades will make it difficult for Texas to pull off a deal.
On this date 12 years ago the Red Sox purchased Jorge De La Rosa from Monterrey of the Mexican League. De La Rosa, now a starter with the Rockies, never pitched for the Red Sox but he did play an important role in their history. Two years after acquiring De La Rosa the Red Sox traded him and three others to Arizona for Curt Schilling. Here are today's Red Sox-related links…
- Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. offer a "glimpse into the future" of the Red Sox in the words of manager John Farrell, Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com reports. Farrell expressed confidence that Bogaerts will be able to handle either third base or shortstop from a defensive standpoint. However, both players are set to open the 2013 season in the minor leagues.
- Bogaerts ranked eighth on Baseball America's list of the game's top prospects and Bradley ranked 31st. Both project to reach the MLB level in 2014, according to BA.
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington knows it takes more than character to compete in the AL East, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. "It has to start with talent," Cherington said. "You can have a bunch of good guys in spring training, but if you're not winning in May, you're not feeling good anymore.'' As others in the Red Sox organization explained to Nightengale, winning and strong clubhouse culture are often closely linked.
- It's finally time for the Red Sox to focus on baseball instead of off-field distractions, Jon Paul Morosi writes at FOX Sports.com. Farrell said he's been impressed with the attention to detail displayed by some newcomers.
Here's the latest news and stories making headlines around the AL East…
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington says that he does not expect Jacoby Ellsbury contract situation to be a distraction at any point this season, according to Alex Speier of WEEI.com. Ellsbury enters his walk year looking to rebound from injuries that have plagued him in two of the past three seasons.
- Adam Lind discusses how last year's Blue Jays coaching staff played a role in negatively impacting his numbers over the course of the season, writes Gregor Chisolm of MLB.com. "This year the coaches will be given the freedom to do whatever they want. They have the trust of Gibby so he can just manage and sometimes the type of personalities we had on our staff last year, they micromanaged a lot and sometimes that can affect the way we play and the way we coach."
- Jair Jurrjens may have suffered financial setback this offseason, but the veteran right-hander remains confident he can be the pitcher the Orioles were looking for when they first offered him a big league contract, says Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun. "If I'm out there and can stay on the mound, I know what I can do. A lot of people know what I can do. I'm just going to come here and show everybody that i'm healthy and I can pitch again."
Mike Napoli’s hip condition led to a restructured contract and what he described today as “a pretty tough offseason.” But avascular necrosis (AVN), the condition affecting both of Napoli’s hips, hasn’t diminished his expectations for 2013. The recently-discovered condition has been symptomless, and was caught at an early stage.
“We’re moving in a good direction and I feel like we’ve got that behind us and are ready to go,” Napoli said on a conference call with reporters this afternoon.
Napoli’s one-year, $5MM contract with the Red Sox includes incentives that can boost the value of the deal to $13MM. The sides readjusted their initial three-year, $39MM agreement after Napoli’s physical revealed that he has AVN.
The 31-year-old said he was initially “shocked” to discover that he had the condition. He played through it in 2012, when he hit 24 home runs, and the Red Sox expect he can be similarly productive this coming season. They’ll rely on Napoli at first base because they want him to stay healthy and they already have ample catching depth.
“There’s no reason Mike Napoli won’t be our primary first baseman in 2013,” Boston general manager Ben Cherington said. “That’s what we’re counting on.”
The Red Sox would be comfortable relying on Napoli as a catcher, Cherington added. That said, the team wanted to add offense at first base given the presence of catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ross and Ryan Lavarnway. On offense, Cherington expects Napoli will see pitches, get on base and hit for power — especially given Fenway Park’s dimensions.
Napoli said he expects playing first base will be easier on his body than catching, and that he plans to be ready on Opening Day. After consulting with many doctors he started taking medication for AVN, which has also affected prominent athletes such as Bo Jackson and Brett Favre.
Napoli remained a free agent after the initial deal caused a delay, and other teams inquired about the possibility of signing him. Agent Brian Grieper of Paragon Sports International said he listened to interested teams and outlined different options to Napoli. However, the Red Sox were patient and supportive throughout the process, Grieper said. While Napoli initially sought a multiyear deal, he wanted to play in Boston instead of returning to the Rangers or signing with another club.
“I had a great two years in Texas and enjoyed my time there,” he said. “The best fit for me was in Boston.”
It took a while, but the unexpectedly lengthy process led to a deal that has both sides looking ahead hopefully at the 2013 season.
Let's catch up on the latest stories and happenings taking place in front offices from around the league…
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington spoke to Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio about the status of free agent Mike Napoli and where the slugger stands with the team. Cherington told Bowden (via Twitter) that Boston is still looking to add offense to the first base position as the club still considers Napoli to be a free agent. He added that the Red Sox will continue to work through the issues of signing Napoli but admits there is no deal at this point (on Twitter).
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo faces the task of improving a 98-win team this offseason and recently took a break from the action to chat with MLB.com's Bill Ladson on the state of Nationals baseball. Rizzo points to the young, talented players on his roster taking the proverbial "next step" as one of the factors for the team's continued success in 2013.
- Dodgers GM Ned Colletti's major concern for his roster isn't about adding more pieces but rather making sure players are fully recovered from various injuries before Spring Training starts, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "We're fine right now if we come into camp, we're in a good spot," Colletti said.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said completing this year’s managerial search relatively early should provide the team with some amount of additional flexibility this coming offseason. The GM can focus on the roster now that John Farrell’s in place as Boston’s new manager. Here are more details from Cherington’s conversation with MLBTR at the 2012 GM Meetings…
- The Red Sox are talking to free agent outfielders while discussing possible trades to address their needs in the outfield, Cherington said.
- Cherington expressed confidence that Jose Iglesias can be an MLB shortstop on a good team. “He has a chance to be an elite defender and his development path has probably made his offensive performance look worse than the hitter he actually is,” the GM said. However, nothing will be given to Iglesias and the Red Sox could go with another option if an appealing alternative emerges.
- “We’ve got some work to do this winter,” Cherington acknowledged.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington appeared on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan radio show this morning to discuss his club, and WEEI.com's Jerry Spar has the partial transcript…
- Cherington said he still believes his team is in playoff contention and can raise their level of play, though he admitted, "it's an unusual position for us to be in. That's the truth. Our approach at the deadline most every year that I've been here in the front office has been pretty clear. We're trying to improve the team. This deadline is going to take more of a nuanced approach, but we're certainly still focused on 2012 and doing everything we can to win as many games as we can this year."
- The Red Sox are talking to other teams about starting pitching, though Cherington sounded doubtful given the "seller's market" for available top arms.
- Josh Beckett has not been asked about waiving his 10-5 rights, nor have the Sox discussed dealing Beckett with another team. "Taking Josh Beckett off this team is not necessarily improving things," Cherington said. "We need to add, we need to improve the rotation, if anything — improve internally or add to the rotation. I think we're sort of stuck in neutral if we start taking guys out of the rotation who are good major league pitchers."
- The team hasn't talked to Jacoby Ellsbury about a contract extension, echoing what Ellsbury's agent Scott Boras said last month. Ellsbury will be a free agent after the 2013 season and it's hard to gauge what an extension for the center fielder would look like, given his injury-plagued 2010 and 2012 seasons sandwiched around a stellar 2011 campaign. Cherington said other teams have inquired about Ellsbury though the Sox have no interest in trading him.
- Cherington said it makes little sense to move struggling veterans as the Sox wouldn't be able to recoup proper value in a trade. "The secondary point, the last thing a GM ever wants to do is sell low," Cherington said. "If we are ever going to consider trading a player, doing it at a time when a guy isn't performing doesn't help your cause." Cherington admitted the Sox have made such sell-low trades before, possibly in reference to the Kevin Youkilis deal.
- Though Carl Crawford has struggled with injuries and performance since joining the Red Sox, he told Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald that he has no regrets about signing with the team in the 2010-11 offseason.
- Team president Larry Lucchino discussed the recent Crawford-to-Miami trade rumors on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan radio show (WEEI.com's Kirk Minihane has a partial transcript). "Dan Jennings, the guy from the Marlins front office who drafted Carl Crawford, was up in Boston scouting, presumably, Carl Crawford and others when Ben [Cherington] let us about the fact that there had been an inquiry," Lucchino said. "And given the encouragement that we offer regarding being bold I'm sure he asked them what they had in mind. That's just par for the course for this time of year. You explore all the possibilities, big ones, bold ones, small ones, incremental ones, whatever you can do."
- Also from Lucchino's interview, he thinks Cherington is "empowered" to make a big move at the trade deadline. "This is a club has been built on bold moves over the years, going back to the Nomar Garciaparra trade as one example," Lucchino said. "There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that Ben Cherington and the entire baseball operations are all pointed to working hard to July 31."
- Manager Bobby Valentine told reporters (including Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal) that he is open to roster improvements though he doesn't "see any gaping holes on our team."