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After covering five postseason games in St. Petersburg, Florida and two exhibition games at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com is convinced there is a greater passion for the game in Montreal than in Tampa Bay. The Rays aren’t heading north of the border anytime soon; but, in Morosi’s view, this weekend’s big turnout in the Expos’ former home showed that Montrealers feel a greater connection to the team they lost than Tampa Bay fans do for the team they still have.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- The Orioles are still trying to make a trade to give them some flexibility, writes Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com. Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette confirmed to reporters, including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko (via Twitter), submitting the Opening Day roster does not prevent him from making moves. “Once you submit your roster it’s like the regular season,” said Duquette. “You can make moves anytime after you get your roster submitted.” Baltimore will need to make a roster move after its first contest, as Chris Davis will have completed his 25-game suspension for Adderall use.
- The Red Sox didn’t trade Lars Anderson or Ryan Lavarnway at the peak of their value and they have rebuffed whatever advances the Phillies have made toward Blake Swihart in a Cole Hamels deal. Despite outside pressure from some fans, GM Ben Cherington has always erred on the side of patience, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. “The reason that you fight back against trading a young player you believe in,” Cherington said, “is that, when it does happen, when it works the way you hope it works and the way you think it might work at the major-league level, it’s really impactful. If we think a guy has a good shot to be successful in Boston, we are going to have a presumption to try to keep them.”
- The Rays appeared to be in learn-now, win-later mode early in the offseason, but they also made several present-day improvements to put themselves in position to win in 2014, opines Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays now believe they have put together a team that is deeper offensively, more athletic, and improved defensively. The pitching situation also appeared to be improved, though the Rays currently have three starters on the shelf.
- The New York Post’s Joel Sherman posits the Yankees coud miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season and finish with a losing record for the first time since 1992, but their long-term future looks more encouraging that it has in a decade.
Despite the glut of outfielders the Red Sox have, GM Ben Cherington thinks it’s possible that all of them could still be with the organization when the season starts, Ian Browne of MLB.com writes. “Good chance,” said Cherington. “I think, as I said before, look, one of the things that we knew needed to be better was the sort of total output from the outfield in 2015. In order to win more games, we needed to get more out of the outfield — the whole team, but the outfield certainly was one area.” There has been a great deal of speculation about Shane Victorino as a trade possibility, but publicly the Red Sox have repeatedly said that they’re willing to roll with the group they have, even if there aren’t enough spots to accommodate everyone. More from Boston..
- Though the news of Cherington’s extension didn’t come out until manager John Farrell got his new deal on Saturday, it actually happened eight or nine months ago, Browne writes. Owner John Henry declined to discuss the length of the pact, however, only referring to it as a “long-term deal.”
- Henry told reporters, including Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com, that Larry Lucchino is “in charge and continues to be in charge” of the organization. Henry shot down reports of inner turmoil earlier this week as well when he spoke with Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
- The Yankees probably had the biggest need for Yoan Moncada, the Dodgers probably had more money to offer, and the Padres offered a clearer path to playing time, but he is still a strong fit for the Red Sox’s plan, Ben Carsley of Just A Bit Outside writes.
- With the Moncada signing, the Red Sox basically paid to get a No. 1 pick, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe writes.
GM Ben Cherington and the Red Sox at some point agreed to a contract extension beyond 2015, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reports. When Cherington agreed to the deal isn’t known, and neither are its terms. Cherington received a contract upon becoming GM in 2011, but he is now signed to a new deal that hadn’t previously been made public.
“I’m under contract. I have a contract,” said Cherington at a press conference today to discuss manager John Farrell’s new deal. “We understand that contracts for people in uniform are important and need to be discussed. … I have a contract. I’m in good shape. There’s no issue. Glad to be working with [principal owner John Henry] and the rest of the group.”
Since Cherington became general manager, the Red Sox have had two losing seasons out of three, but Cherington’s moves to remake the team following an ugly 2012 season helped the Red Sox to a 2013 World Series win and Cherington to a Sporting News Executive of the Year award. This offseason, his big acquisitions have included Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley, and he signed Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo late last season.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington indicates he wouldn’t hesitate to deal for a starter who is under contract for just one more year, according to Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com. “I think there’s actual some real value in a guy who’s not signed long-term, if they fit in the rotation, because it gives you a chance to get to know him and see if it could be a fit…I don’t think we’d necessarily need a negotiation wind-down to consider (a deal for one).” Here’s more from around the Majors.
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said he has received calls on every one of the M’s young relievers as well as shortstops Brad Miller and Chris Taylor, according to Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times (on Twitter).
- Dan Uggla intends to make a comeback and five teams are interested, agent Terry Bross tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).
- Padres GM A.J. Preller is hard at work at the Winter Meetings, but he’s also taking the long view of the winter, writes Corey Brock of MLB.com. “The offseason is a long offseason, and it doesn’t end with the Winter Meetings,” Preller cautioned. “In an ideal world, we get something done this week that improves the team. But, ultimately, it may not be this week or this month.“
- When asked if he’s talking trade with the Rangers, Padres GM A.J. Preller said “Honestly, we haven’t talked players yet today,” according to Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego (via Twitter).
- The Pirates are working multiple angles, as Tom Singer of MLB.com writes. “And it’s not just the top-tier free agents,” GM Neal Huntington said. “It’s also the guys who could be traded; a lot of pitchers are in their free-agent walk years, and there are various ongoing conversations in the industry. We’re engaged on a bunch of different fronts.”
- Trading Dillon Gee would give the Mets flexibility this offseason, opines Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. The Mets could still shop Jon Niese or Bartolo Colon, but GM Sandy Alderson says that he likes Niese’s left arm and team-friendly contract, and that he isn’t trying to trade Colon.
- The Marlins are trying to fill one void without creating another, writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com.
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.