Boston Red Sox Rumors

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Quick Hits: Kepler, Hanley, Giants Pen

Twins prospect Max Kepler has progressed greatly since signing out of Germany as a teenager, as Parker Hageman of writes in an interesting look at the 22-year-old. “His [development] was limited out of Germany,” said VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff. “Played a lot more soccer games than he did baseball games before he was signed. It takes patience and we have a lot of that in our organization, thankfully.” Kepler, who joined the Minnesota organization for a $800K bonus, is one of an increasingly promising group of European prospects who have come to North American baseball in recent years. He has been outstanding in his first run at the Double-A level, slashing .334/.420/.558 with nine home runs and 16 stolen bases over 431 plate appearances.

If you’re interested in the topic of European baseball, be sure to keep an eye out for today’s MLBTR podcast, which discusses it extensively. In the meantime, here are a few more stray notes from around the league:

  • Whatever the Red Sox do with Hanley Ramirez the rest of the way in 2015, opines John Tomase of, finding him a new home this winter should be at the top of the to-do list of president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. Ramirez has had a deleterious effect throughout the organization, Tomase argues, suggesting that relying on the veteran at first carries too much risk. Yesterday, we polled MLBTR readers on the matter. The current results: a virtual dead heat between “move him to first” and “deal him away.”
  • Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at the Giants‘ upcoming offseason bullpen questions. It could be time for the club to say goodbye to southpaw Jeremy Affeldt, he writes. The 36-year-old has struggled this year, the last of a three-year, $18MM contract he inked to return to San Francisco. Closer Santiago Casilla, meanwhile, can be brought back with a $5.5MM option or cut loose through a $1MM buyout. While it’s an open question whether he should be given the ninth inning, says Schulman, Casilla still seems likely to be retained at that price.

Hanley Ramirez To Play First Base For Red Sox In 2016

Hanley Ramirez‘s days as a left fielder — or even an infielder who plays on the left side of the diamond — look to be coming to a close, as he told the Boston media today that he will transition to first base for the 2016 season (via the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman, on Twitter). Ramirez, in fact, said he may play there a bit before the end of the current season. He worked out at the position today and said he’s looking forward to the transition.

While position changes aren’t exactly the normal sort of thing we cover at MLBTR, Ramirez’s new defensive home will have a significant impact on the Red Sox’ roster construction. For one thing, it allows the team to move forward with a future outfield alignment of Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo. It also lessens the likelihood of the Sox searching for a first baseman this winter, which many had previously believed to be one of the team’s greatest needs behind improving the pitching staff (both in the rotation and in the bullpen).

The move does seem to further diminish the chances that the Red Sox will receive some positive value out of Allen Craig, whom the team acquired in the July 2014 trade that sent John Lackey to the Cardinals. Craig was outrighted off the 40-man roster earlier this season and went unclaimed due to his recent struggles and relatively sizable contract. Since heading to Pawtucket, he’s shown strong on-base skills but little in the way of power, slashing .272/.369/.341 with three homers. Boston still owes him $21MM through the end of the 2017 season.

Also impacted by the switch will be rookie first baseman Travis Shaw, who is currently hitting .329/.376/.600 with six homers in 93 plate appearances. Those numbers don’t line up with the 25-year-old’s minor league track record, but his excellent numbers to date did seem to have him in line to be a candidate for regular duty at first base next season in the absence of a move to solidify first base. Shaw played quite a bit of third base in the minors this season, so he could still be a 25-man roster candidate next Spring in a bench capacity at the very least.

Boston will hope that moving Ramirez from the outfield to first base restores some of the lost production in his bat. The 31-year-old is hitting just .254/.296/.435 on the season, and that overall line conceals how great his struggles have been for much of the year. Ramirez got off to a blistering start, batting .293/.341/.659 with 10 homers in the month of April. Since that time, he’s batted a paltry .244/.284/.376 with nine homers in 82 games. Additionally, he’s been arguably baseball’s worst defender. No qualified fielder at any position has posted a mark worse than Ramirez’s -19 Defensive Runs Saved, and his -16.7 Ultimate Zone Rating is also the worst in baseball (narrowly edging out teammate Pablo Sandoval‘s -16.1).

One can still imagine, of course, scenarios in which new Boston president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski attempts to unload the remaining $68.25MM on Ramirez’s four-year, $88MM contract this winter. Although in order to do so, he’d almost certainly have to take on another undesirable contract, as there figure to be few takers for a player that’s been below replacement level in 2015 and is owed $22.75MM annually through the 2018 season.

AL East Notes: Sabathia, O’s, Sox, Buchholz, Kelly, HanRam

Yankees lefty CC Sabathia will not need surgery and hopes to limit his absence to an approximately two-week layoff, Bryan Hoch of reports (Twitter links). It had been feared that his balky right knee could end his season. The southpaw also said that he’d be amenable to working in relief when he comes back, if requested, saying he is open to “helping the team any way I can.”

  • This August has apparently been heavy on waiver claims, with one general manager telling Peter Gammons of that he’s never seen this many claims made. “The Orioles seemingly claim everyone,” said the unnamed GM. Of course, Baltimore has yet to pull off any deals this month (or end up being awarded any claimed contracts).
  • The Red Sox head towards 2016 as “almost an entirely blank slate,” writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. Many pieces of next year’s roster remain to be determined by new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, he explains, to say nothing of the front office and coaching staff.
  • One interesting decision for the Red Sox has been somewhat surprisingly underplayed thus far, says Rob Bradford of, who writes that the team faces a difficult decision on Clay Buchholz and his $13MM option. It’s entirely unclear what Dombrowski thinks, of course, and elbow issues have the remainder of the season in question for the righty. Buchholz has been quite good this year, of course, but isn’t set to resume a throwing program for another week. Even if he doesn’t return to the hill this year, says Bradford, that option still seems like a reasonable risk. The 30-year-old, meanwhile, denies that he views a return as necessary for his own contract situation. “I’ve been assured by a couple of different doctors that if the Red Sox or any other team needed any kind of word on how they should view it they would definitely call and talk to whomever they need to talk to just to reassure I’m 100 percent healthy even without throwing,” he said. “Time is the best doctor for this sort of thing from the information I gathered from Dr. Andrews. What I’m looking to do is just start playing catch.”
  • Especially after a strong recent run, righty Joe Kelly remains an “intriguing” (albeit uncertain) piece for the Red Sox, writes Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. Senior club analyst Tom Tippett rightly noted recently at the SaberSeminar in Boston that evaluations of trades are always changing. In this case, he said, “if we can figure out how to turn Joe Kelly into a number two or three starter with all those great tools he has, it might look very good a few years from now.”
  • Another major Red Sox question mark, of course, is Hanley Ramirez. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe argues that Ramirez should not be considered an option at first base, arguing that he either needs to improve in left field or hit the trade block. But sources tell Cafardo that Ramirez has not put in extra work on his outfield defense since Spring Training, though there appears to be consideration regarding injuries and wear and tear that account for that to some extent. Of course, the trade route doesn’t look terribly promising either, though Cafardo suggests that some kind of bad contract swap could be explored.
  • Interestingly, though Ramirez was spotted today working with a first baseman’s mitt and receiving instruction from David Ortiz and coach Brian Butterfield, Lauber tweets. Needless to say, it’s far too soon to reach any conclusions even as to what kinds of possibilities the club could pursue, underscoring the uncertainty that Lauber highlighted in the above-linked piece.
  • If you’re interested in a discussion of all those moving pieces, be sure to check out last week’s MLBTR Podcast with Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald, who did a nice job of setting up the fascinating offseason to come.

Cafardo On Dombrowski, De Aza, Buchholz, Lackey

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe runs down the candidates for the Red Sox GM job.  Frank Wren, who has a history with new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, is believed to be the favorite for the gig, but there are many other candidates who could be in the mix.  Cafardo runs down several intriguing names, including ex-Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd.  For what it’s worth, O’Dowd told Cafardo that he enjoys his current job as an MLB Network analyst and has no idea whether Dombrowski would consider him for a position.  Here’s more from Cafardo….

  • In addition to the Dodgers, the Giants also had interest in acquiring Red Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza after he cleared waivers, but they felt the asking price was too high, Cafardo writes.  Boston acquired De Aza from the Orioles in early June and one has to imagine that the NL West clubs were drawn to him, in part, because he would have served as a highly-affordable rental.  The Red Sox were on the hook for only $1MM of his salary after acquiring him from Baltimore.
  • Ben Cherington probably would have picked up the $13MM option on the injury-prone Clay Buchholz, but Cafardo isn’t sure if Dombrowski will do the same.  One AL GM told Cafardo that Buchholz would likely be in line for “around $15MM on a three-year deal” if he were to hit the open market.
  • Cafardo doesn’t buy the theory that the Red Sox hired Dombrowski quickly in order to give him more time to trade Pablo Sandoval or Hanley Ramirez.  To deal either of the struggling sluggers, Boston “would have to eat major money and that may not be in the cards.”
  • Sources close to Cardinals hurler John Lackey tell Cafardo that the veteran wants to stay in the National League because he’s had an easier time pitching there.  St. Louis has interest in a reunion, though not on a lengthy contract since Lackey turns 37 in October.
  • Tigers adviser Scott Reid has been mentioned as someone Dombrowski could bring with him to the Red Sox, but at this time, Dombrowski has not asked permission to speak with Detroit executives.  Many of those execs also received promotions after Dombrowski’s departure, so it’s not clear if they can be lured away.
  • Agent Alan Nero believes there will be a ripe market for Korean first baseman Byung-ho Park. “We’re just preparing for the process right now,” Nero said. “We believe there’s going to be a lot of interest as there was with [Jung Ho] Kang. Major league teams certainly covet right-handed power.” The Red Sox have been scouting the Nexen Heroes star for most of the season and Cafardo suggests that they could platoon him with left-handed-batter Travis Shaw. Even though Park could carry a notable price tag via the posting system, that could be cheaper for the Sox than going after the likes of Chris Davis or Justin Morneau on the open market.

This Date In Transactions History: 8/23/15

The non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone but there are still plenty of moves that go down in the month of August.  Historically, we’ve seen some significant transactions go down on the date of August 23rd.  Could we see some moves of note today on MLB Trade Rumors?  While we wait to find out, let’s take a look back at the last few years..

  • One year ago today, the Red Sox signed Cuban sensation Rusney Castillo.  The seven-year deal could be worth up to $72.5MM in total, assuming that the outfielder does not opt out before 2020.  The buzz around Castillo was building momentum all through the summer, but the size of the deal took many around baseball by surprise.  Owner John Henry has acknowledged that missing out on Jose Abreu may have played a role in Boston’s aggressive pursuit of Castillo, but Red Sox exec Allard Baird recently defended the signing and stressed that Boston did its homework on Castillo.  The 28-year-old hasn’t lived up to the expectations of the contract so far but he has looked strong since his latest recall from Triple-A.
  • On this date in 2013, the Nationals sent David DeJesus to the Rays for a player to be named later.  Of course, DeJesus’ stint in Washington amounted to little more than a layover.  The Nats acquired DeJesus in a waiver deal with the Cubs on August 19th and sent him packing just days later.  In total, DeJesus went 0-for-3 with a walk in his brief tenure with the Nationals.  DeJesus would enjoy a lengthier stint with the Rays before a late July deal this season sent him to the Angels.
  • On the same date as the DeJesus deal, the Nationals also shipped Kurt Suzuki to the A’s for minor leaguer Dakota Bacus.  Suzuki’s time in Washington was fairly short, though not as quick as DeJesus’ stint.  The catcher, who was sent to the Nationals in August of 2012, found himself back in Oakland just one year and 20 days later.  After helping the A’s reach the postseason, Suzuki had his $8.5MM option declined in the offseason.  The catcher would go on to sign a one-year deal with the Twins that winter and he later inked a multi-year extension in the midst of his first All-Star campaign.
  • On this date in 2009, the Red Sox signed Xander Bogaerts as an amateur free agent.  While he’s regarded as a possible up-and-coming star today, Bogaerts did not have a great deal of hype around him when he was signed as a 16-year-old.  The Red Sox inked the Aruban shortstop for a paltry $410K signing bonus.

AL East Notes: Dombrowski, Red Sox, Orioles

Now that Dave Dombrowski is on board as the Red Sox‘s chief decision maker, his No. 1 objective will be to acquire an ace for the rotation, Jim Bowden of (Insider subscription required) writes.  Fortunately for Dombrowski, this year’s market for top-end starters will be strong with options such as David Price, Johnny Cueto, and Zack Greinke, if he opts out of his deal with the Dodgers.  Failing that, Bowden wonders if Boston could parlay its young talent into landing an ace like Sonny Gray or Chris Sale.   Here’s more from the AL East..

  • There’s a team interested in working out a trade for recently DFA’d Orioles outfielder David Lough, Roch Kubatko of tweets.  There should be a resolution on his situation today, he adds.  If no trade is worked out, Lough will likely be outrighted to Triple-A.  To keep track of Lough and everyone else in DFA limbo, check out MLBTR’s DFA Tracker.
  • Jonah Keri of Grantland reflected on Ben Cherington’s time in Boston and his missteps with the Red Sox.  Cherington whiffed on deals for Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval this offseason while largely neglecting the team’s pitching needs.  Later, despite his reluctance to give a long-term deal to a pitcher, Cherington locked up hurler Rick Porcello to a sizable contract.  Still, despite his mistakes, Keri gives Cherington a good deal of credit for building the team’s farm system.
  • Ryan Hannable of reflected on Dombrowski’s trade history and wondered if he’ll trade away the Red Sox‘s prospects to win in the here and now.

Quick Hits: Dodgers, Stanton, Astros

Even though they’re likely to make the postseason, the Dodgers are one of the 10 most disappointing teams in baseball, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. From the mouth of one NL executive, “they have done the near impossible – they have a $300 million payroll and yet they haven’t gone all in for 2015.” Of course, they still have time to find a patch or two for their beleaguered bullpen. While they aren’t my vote for most disappointing, it’s fair to wonder why they’re only 1.5 games up on the Giants.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Of Sherman’s 10 disappointing teams, the Nationals, Tigers, and Red Sox are likely to receive the most attention. Boston struggled from day one. In retrospect, nobody was surprised by the shoddy pitching staff. However, the vaunted offense never arrived after March. The Nationals and Tigers are surprising candidates. Detroit is only four games out of the second Wild Card, but they packed up shop at the trade deadline by cashing in on Yoenis Cespedes, David Price, and Joakim Soria. The Nationals are viewed as the more likely of the two to reach the postseason, but they’re 4.5 games behind the Mets and 9.5 back from the Cubs. However, they do have better roster cohesion and only one team to leapfrog in the standings.
  • The Marlins also appeared on Sherman’s list, and slugger Giancarlo Stanton expects to see “big changes” over the offseason, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Meanwhile, club president David Sampson mentioned a non-personnel change that could be coming for 2016. The fences may be lowered and moved in prior to next season. Miami is a tough park for home runs, but run scoring is roughly neutral. Closer walls could help Stanton and others bash even more home runs.
  • The Astros and Dodgers are among the most forward thinking teams in the game, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The Dodgers obviously have a much larger war chest, but money doesn’t solve every problem. Per Los Angeles president Andrew Friedman, “more resources help you, at least in theory, more in the free-agent market. You look back over time, and it’s very hard to invest wisely. So coming from the Rays, you were almost insulated from making those mistakes in the free-agent market.” Both clubs are emphasizing the value of young, cost controlled stars. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow also commented on the process of discovering marginal advantages over other teams and hoping to hide them for as long as possible. The article itself is well worth your time with excellent quotes from several executives.

Cherington On Ramirez, Donaldson, Sandoval

Ben Cherington, who recently stepped down as GM of the Red Sox, spoke at Saberseminar in Boston on Saturday (joking that the forum was “a progressive event that even invites the unemployed“) and was unusually candid about his work with the Sox and about being an executive for a big-league team. Here’s a bit of what he had to say, via Alex Speier of the Boston Globe and Tim Britton of the Providence Journal (Twitter links: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9).

  • Cherington says he misjudged how Hanley Ramirez would transition from the infield to the outfield. “We didn’t know what he would be defensively,” Cherington says. “We made a bet based on the history of what players look like going from middle infield to outfield. … It hasn’t gone well.” Ramirez has rated as well below average in left field, and his defensive struggles this season have coincided with a decline on offense, arguably making Ramirez one of MLB’s worst position players while still in the first year of his contract.
  • Cherington adds that the Red Sox contacted Billy Beane and the Athletics about trading Josh Donaldson last offseason, only to be told the A’s weren’t interested in dealing Donaldson. They did, of course, ultimately trade him to Toronto, and Cherington says he credits the Blue Jays for their persistence.
  • Instead, the Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval to play third, a move that hasn’t worked out thus far. Cherington says he didn’t necessarily expect the run-scoring environment at Fenway Park to be a boon for Sandoval, but instead was mostly focused on filling what had been a “black hole” at third. Sandoval has hit fairly well at home this season, batting .304/.347/.451. But he’s batted just .216/.271/.337 on the road.
  • Some of Cherington’s mistakes as GM came as a result of rushing decisions, he says.
  • One of the most crucial aspects of being a GM is interacting with team ownership, Cherington says, noting that it’s a sensible and necessary part of the job.
  • Cherington seems happy with the state in which he left the Red Sox’ farm system, saying that there are prospects who can turn out to be special players and also areas of organizational depth.
  • One decision Cherington says he won’t rush is determining the next step in his career. Instead, he’ll take his time in making that decision.

Red Sox Notes: Dombrowski, Buchholz

Former Braves GM Frank Wren might be the front-runner for the Red Sox’ open GM position, but ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes looks at other potential candidates for the job now that the Sox have hired Dave Dombrowski to be their president of baseball operations. Given the Sox organization’s strong interest in analytics, some of Edes’ potential candidates, like former Cubs GM Jim Hendry and former Dodgers exec Ned Colletti, seem to me to be somewhat unlikely. Edes notes that Hendry worked with Dombrowski in the Marlins organization, however, and that past ties often help determine who gets hired. Here’s more on the Red Sox.

  • Tim Britton of the Providence Journal looks at Dombrowski’s five best trades as GM of the Tigers and Marlins. Dombrowski’s 2007 acquisition of Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis for a package headed by Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin unsurprisingly tops the list, which also includes his less-remembered but still very helpful deals for Carlos Guillen and Placido Polanco in Detroit and for Mike Lowell in Florida.
  • Clay Buchholz, currently on the 60-day DL with a right elbow strain, is not currently throwing, Tom Layman of the Boston Herald writes. “He feels good enough to throw, but we are evaluating him daily to see where he’s at,” says interim manager Torey Lovullo, who adds that Buchholz has not had a setback. Lovullo says the Red Sox haven’t determined that Buchholz will be shut down for the season. It seemingly wouldn’t be surprising if he didn’t pitch again this season, however. There’s only a bit more than a month left, it takes time to be able to pitch enough innings to start, and the Red Sox are out of the playoff race.

AL Central Notes: Zobrist, Medlen, Shapiro, Dombrowski, Norris

Recently-acquired Royals utilityman extraordinaire Ben Zobrist says that he’s very much open to a return to Kansas City,’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports“Certainly, this had been one of the teams I liked the look of,” he said. “And now, since I’ve been here, it’s a place I want to stay longer. Being here has certainly done nothing but make this [team] go up on my list.” Of course, the versatile and still-productive 34-year-old figures to be as widely pursued on the winter’s free agent market as he was at this year’s trade deadline. Zobrist was already playing well before the trade, but has slashed an outstanding .357/.446/.600 in his first 83 plate appearances with his new club.

Here’s more from Kansas City and the rest of the AL Central:

  • The Royals will hand the ball to Kris Medlen for his first start with the club on Monday, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. Medlen, 29, has returned nicely after a long layoff for multiple Tommy John surgeries, tossing 14 1/3 innings of 2.51 ERA ball with 14 strikeouts against five walks. His average fastball velocity is as good as ever. Medlen is owed just $5.5MM next year and can be controlled with a $10MM option ($1MM buyout) in 2017. So far, that’s looking like a nice risk for the Royals.
  • Indians president Mark Shapiro declined to comment on recent reports indicating that he could be a candidate to take over the Blue Jays‘ presidency, Zack Meisel of the Plain Dealer reports. The long-time Cleveland executive, still just 48 years old, could conceivably be enticed by the possibility of gaining “power and resources,” the Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes writes in an interesting piece.
  • There was a creeping sense of suspicion when he was not approached to discuss a new deal over the summer, former Tigers GM (and newly-minted Red Sox president of baseball operations) Dave Dombrowski tells MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (audio link). Dombrowski maintained, however, that he remains unaware what precisely led Detroit to release him from its contract when it did.
  • Just-added Tigers lefty Daniel Norris could end up missing the rest of the year with an oblique injury, Chris Iott of reports. Manager Brad Ausmus says that Norris is likely to miss at least a month. The 22-year-old, added as the key piece of the David Price trade, figures to be a key piece of the Tigers rotation next year and for the foreseeable future. He recently joined the MLBTR Podcast to discuss that deal and his approach to the game.