Boston Red Sox Rumors
Happy birthday to long-time Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who turns 42 years old today. Varitek played all 1546 of his career Major League games in a Boston jersey, posting a .776 OPS and collecting two World Series rings along the way. Varitek retired prior to the 2012 season and, since September 2012, has been working as a special assistant to Sox GM Ben Cherington. Here's the latest out of Fenway Park...
- David Ross tells WEEI.com's Rob Bradford that his good friend and former teammate Brian McCann had an interest in joining the Red Sox as a free agent last winter. "Early on I did (think McCann would come to Boston). I knew he wanted to come here, a lot. I had just told him what it was like here and that interested him," Ross said. Once McCann said that the Yankees had made him a big offer, however, Ross stayed out of the recruiting process out of respect for letting McCann handle his own business, plus the fact that "the Red Sox weren’t even close to what he got, so it really was a no-brainer."
- Also from Bradford's piece, he reports that the Red Sox had interest in Eric O'Flaherty last offseason. O'Flaherty underwent Tommy John surgery last May and isn't expected to pitch until midseason, but the veteran southpaw still drew interest from several teams last winter before signing a two-year, $7MM deal with the Athletics.
- Several Red Sox players contacted the players' union about their displeasure that players who had been suspended for PED use last season (namely, Jhonny Peralta) were eligible to play in the postseason, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. Players on other teams voiced similar concerns, and the revised joint drug agreement states that players who have been hit with a PED suspension during a season aren't allowed to participate in that same season's playoffs.
- While John Lackey resurrected his career in 2013 and has pitched well in two 2014 starts, it may be premature for the Red Sox to explore an extension for the right-hander, Chris Villani of the Boston Herald opines. Lackey is under contract in 2015 for a league minimum salary (a condition of his contract after undergoing Tommy John surgery) and since Boston has a number of good young pitchers in the minor league pipeline, Villani believes the Sox can afford to wait to see if Lackey is truly back to form before considering another contract.
Free agent closer Joel Hanrahan will host a showcase for teams next week, reports ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). In a second tweet, Crasnick lists the Mets, Yankees, Angels, Rangers, Rockies, Royals, Athletics, Red Sox and Rays as teams that are believed to have interest in Hanrahan. He adds that somewhat curiously, he hasn't heard much buzz on the Tigers or Phillies being interested, though that could always change.
The 32-year-old Hanrahan underwent Tommy John surgery and also had his flexor tendon repaired and bone chips in his elbow removed on May 16 of last season. He opened the year as Boston's closer after being acquired in an offseason trade that sent Mark Melancon to the Pirates, but he allowed eight runs on 10 hits (four homers) and six walks with just five strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings for the Red Sox before landing on the disabled list.
Prior to that season, Hanrahan had averaged 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings over a five-year stretch between the Nationals and Pirates. The Bucs acquired Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge from the Nats in a deal that sent Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan to Washington, and Hanrahan blossomed into a two-time All-Star closer with Pittsburgh. Always one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in the game, Hanrahan's 96.5 mph average fastball from his 2011-13 peak ranked seventh in the game among qualified relievers.
The changing rules and increasing number of extensions in the game are serving as a detriment to the Yankees, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. Tighter rules regarding performance enhancing drugs are preventing players from performing well into their 30s, and many would-be free agents are locked up through their decline years and therefore unavailable to the Yanks in free agency. MacPherson looks at New York's misses in the draft over the years, pointing out that they'll need to turn that trend around if they're to improve a "crumbling foundation ... that can't be rebuilt the way it once was." Amazingly, he highlights that among Yankees position players with at least 20 plate appearances, only Yangervis Solarte is under 30 years of age.
Here's more out of the AL East...
- Scout.com's Kiley McDaniel looks at the story of how Yankees right-hander Shane Greene went from an unknown junior college arm to a big league pitcher. Yankees Florida area scout Jeff Deardorff had known Greene's family since Greene was nine years old, having lived down the street from them. Greene underwent Tommy John surgery his freshman year of JuCo, and afterward began asking Deardorff to watch him throw. Deardorff eventually conceded and was shocked to see his arm speed and velocity. He called scouting director Damon Oppenheimer to add Greene to the team's pre-draft workout, and the Yankees selected Greene in the 15th round having seen him throw just twice. McDaniel does an excellent job of telling Greene's story, and I would recommend taking the time to read the entire article.
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington appeared on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show, and WEEI's Meredith Perri has some highlights. Cherington discussed John Lackey, his outfield and Jon Lester's extension process. Cherington said Lackey is understanding of the clause in his contract that will cause him to earn the Major League minimum next season after a serious arm injury and is one of the most accountable players in the game. Cherington expects Lackey to pitch beyond the 2015 season.
- The GM also said that recent salary hike for free agent pitchers has made the Lester negotiations more difficult, but there's always a chance for a deal to get worked out when both sides have interest -- which they do. Cherington does not, however, make it sound like a slam dunk: "...[W]e want Jon Lester to be here. We will work as hard as we can to try to make that work, but there’s things that other teams might do that we just won’t do."
- WEEI's Rob Bradford looks at Koji Uehara's incredible run as the Red Sox' closer, noting that statistically speaking, his time in the ninth inning stacks up with the best runs of the great Mariano Rivera's career. Bradford spoke with Rangers GM Jon Daniels about Uehara, with Daniels saying that Texas made a very similar offer to Boston's following the 2012 season, but Uehara elected for a fresh start in Boston. Daniels, unsurprisingly, calls Uehara a "tremendous bargain" for Boston.
Last week, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that several Blue Jays players were willing to defer their salary in order to help the team bring Ervin Santana on board, and it was later reported by Sportsnet's Shi Davidi that the group of Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey were the five who were willing to do so. Last night, Rosenthal added to the story, reporting that Santana was so close to heading to Toronto that the MLBPA had already approved the deferrals. Rosenthal again speculates on the possibility of Rogers Communications imposing a payroll limit on the 2014 Blue Jays, which would help explain their quiet offseason (which was previously examined by our own Mark Polishuk). Elsewhere in the AL East...
- The Boston Herald's Gerry Callahan opines that while Jon Lester is clearly the No. 1 starter for the Red Sox, he's not elite and isn't worth the money he could make on the open market. Callahan writes that another team will "get stupid" with Lester, offering him something in excess of $130-140MM, and if talks get to that point, then Boston would be wise to emulate the A's or Rays instead of the Dodgers or Yankees, and let their high-priced star walk.
- In a second column from Rosenthal, he looks at a number of topics that also pertain largely to the AL East, beginning firstly noting that we shouldn't expect to see the Yankees pursue any outside help after injuries to Mark Teixeira or David Robertson. The Yankees feel that both injuries will be short-lived, and therefore aren't looking strongly at Ryan Madson and/or Joel Hanrahan, nor are they considering trades for first basemen.
- Also of interest to Yankees fans will be Rosenthal's look at the rise of Yangervis Solarte -- a minor league signing who has experience an unlikely rise to prominence in the Majors. Solarte's agents, Chris Leible and Peter Greenberg of the Legacy Agency, recall that their initial representation of Solarte was merely a favor to his uncle, Roger Cedeno. At one point this offseason, the Yankees dropped out of the bidding for Solarte, who was highly sought after. However, he was recommended by three different scouts, and Leible encouraged him by advising that his best ticket to the Majors was in a utility role.
- Rosenthal also looks at the long road back to the Majors for Evan Meek, who signed a minor league deal with the Orioles this offseason only after calling his former Pirates manager (and current O's bench coach) John Russell and asking for a look. He ultimately auditioned for seven or eight clubs, but chose to go to Baltimore.
- Lastly, Rosenthal notes that the extension for Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar was "almost certainly" his own call rather than that of his agents at Miami Sports Management. He writes that Escobar seems to prefer even minor levels of security and would rather have his new guarantee than risk waiting until free agency to sign, even if the outcome could have been something along the lines of Omar Infante's four-year deal with the Royals this offseason.
6:50pm: Roberts would earn at a rate of $200K if he ends up back in the minors, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
4:21pm: Roberts can also earn $250K worth of incentives, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link).
1:17pm: The Red Sox have officially announced the deal, and Roberts will be in uniform and active for tonight's game. To make room on the 40-man roster, Steven Wright was transferred to the 60-day DL. Brock Holt was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket to clear a spot on the 25-man roster.
12:57pm: The base salary on Roberts' deal is $1MM, an industry source tells Speier (Twitter link).
10:26am: WEEI.com's Alex Speier writes that although BHSC has deleted the tweet announcing the deal, an industry source has confirmed to him that there's an agreement between the Red Sox and Roberts, pending a physical.
9:24am: Infielder Ryan Roberts has agreed to a Major League contract with the Red Sox, according to Roberts' agents at the Beverly Hills Sports Council (on Twitter). The 33-year-old Roberts previously opted out of his minor league deal with the Cubs at the end of Spring Training.
Roberts will provide some third base depth for the Red Sox with Will Middlebrooks currently on the disabled list. The veteran infielder, often referred to as "Tat-Man" due to his plethora of tattoos, enjoyed his best season back in 2011 with the Diamondbacks. He slashed .249/.341/.427 with 19 homers and 18 stolen bases that year, and though his rate stats suffered in 2012, he was still able to post double-digit homer and stolen base totals.
Roberts is a career .245/.321/.392 hitter that has thrived against left-handed pitching to the tune of a .261/.341/.444 batting line. He has extensive experience at both second base and third base and is generally regarded as a solid defender. He spent the 2013 campaign with the Rays, appearing in 60 games at the Major League level and another 32 at Triple-A.
While much has been made of CC Sabathia's decline over the past year, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News writes that it doesn't matter if Sabathia is a true "ace" anymore. Feinsand points to promising starts from Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda in opining that the Yankees can be just fine with Sabathia as a contributor who takes the ball every fifth day. He adds that Sabathia's second start would be perceived a lot differently were it not for one seeing-eye single as well.
Here are some more links pertaining to the game's Eastern divisions...
- MLB.com's Anthony DiComo tweets that he doesn't get the sense that the Mets are all that interested in Joel Hanrahan, Ryan Madson or any other free agent closers (e.g. Kevin Gregg). Likewise, Matt Ehalt of the North Jersey Record hears from a source that the Mets' plan is to look at internal options for help at this time (Twitter link).
- Cork Gaines of Rays Index examines the Rays' roster and points out that it's not going to change dramatically over the next few years. While there's a strong likelihood of a David Price trade next offseason, much of the team is controlled through at least the 2016 season. Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce are exceptions to that rule, but each is controllable through 2015. It's unlikely, Gaines writes, that the Rays will feel pressured to make any big additions next winter, with the possible exception of the bullpen.
- Both Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi head to Kansas City to square off against the team that traded them, MLB.com's Dick Kaegel points out. Kaegel, who feels the trade has worked for both clubs despite Shields' impending free agency, spoke with Odorizzi, calls the opportunity to return to Kansas City alongside Myers "special" and says he's looking forward to the experience.
- In the wake of today's agreement between the Red Sox and Ryan Roberts, ESPN's Buster Olney recalls that multiple scouts told him during Spring Training that the Sox would need to add a third baseman if they weren't planning on promoting Garin Cecchini (Twitter link). Boston added Roberts today after Will Middlebrooks hit the disabled list.
Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira has been placed on the 15-day DL with a hamstring injury, the club announced today. Needless to say, that is not the start to the year that he or the team had hoped for as the 33-year-old works back from wrist surgery. The injury has revealed some roster issues in New York, which will move Kelly Johnson from third to first for the time being and call up catcher Austin Romine to take the open active roster spot. While the team was surely uninterested in carrying three backstops, the move was dictated by 40-man constraints. As Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News notes on Twitter, the Yankees have no infielders among the portion of the MLB roster that is not already active, meaning that the team would have had to remove another player to make room for Russ Canzler or another minor league call-up option. Here's more from the American League:
- Though Jon Lester and the Red Sox have tabled extension talks for the time being, owner John Henry says he remains hopeful that a deal will be struck, WEEI.com's Meredith Perri reports. "It won't be easy to come to a deal," said Henry, "but we're going to work very creatively, both sides, and hopefully there will be a deal." But Henry cautioned that the team would not spend at all costs to keep the 30-year-old lefty. "It's not surprising that given where the market is right now, it's just something we haven't been chasing the market this way," said Henry. "Some teams have. Jon wants to come back. ... We're going to do as we did with [Dustin Pedroia] last year -- everything we can to bring him back. He's an important part of this club, but we're not going to do what some clubs might do."
- The recent extension of Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis is another move towards stability in the team's core, writes MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince. Having already locked up Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes, but not starter Justin Masterson, Cleveland now has added price certainty and control over that group and maintains control over 16 players on its current 25-man roster through at lest 2016.
- Speaking of Kipnis, I asked MLBTR readers last night how his new deal stacks up to the similar extensions just reached by the Braves with Andrelton Simmons and the Cardinals with Matt Carpenter. As of this moment, Simmons is leading the way with just under 40% of the vote, with Kipnis (32.25%) and Carpenter (28.06%) also getting significant support.
We'll keep track of the day's minor moves here:
- The Mariners have signed lefty Clay Rapada and added him to the roster at Triple-A Tacoma, according to Rainiers announce Mike Curto (on Twitter). Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune first reported (via Twitter) that Rapada was working out for the team. The left-hander has a 4.06 ERA in 94 big league innings but has never been able to hold down a consistent big league job despite dominant numbers against left-handed hitters; Rapada has held lefties to a minuscule .164/.255/.231 batting line in his career. However, righties have roughed him up at a .345/.464/.611 clip.
- Catcher Chris Gimenez has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Round Rock, according to the Dallas Morning News' Evan Grant (Twitter link). Gimenez, who has been outrighted previously, has 72 hours to accept or reject the assignment. He was claimed off waivers by the Rangers last week but quickly designated for assignment when the club promoted Daniel McCutchen to the Majors.
- The Cubs have outrighted reliever Alberto Cabrera to Triple-A after he cleared waivers, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). The 25-year-old righty was designated on Saturday.
- Outfielder Michael Taylor has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 28-year-old will take up residence in Sacramento for the fifth straight year since joining the Oakland organization.
- Brian Bogusevic has accepted an outright assignment from the Marlins, reports Cotillo (via Twitter). Bogusevic, a 30-year-old outfielder who was acquired over the offseason for Justin Ruggiano, could have elected free agency since he has previously been outrighted.
- The Red Sox have released outfielder Scott Cousins, Cotillo also tweets. Cousins, 29, has seen bit action in parts of four MLB seasons. The news was first reported yesterday by Mike Andrews of SoxProspects (via Twitter). According to Andrews, longtime minor leaguer Juan Carlos Linares was also among the players cut loose from the Boston system.
- Pitcher Armando Galarraga is working on securing a visa after receiving an offer from the Taiwanese club Brother Elephants, his agent tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Cotillo tweeted earlier this morning that the former big leaguer was close to a deal to move to Taiwan. In 542 career MLB innings, Galarraga has a 4.78 ERA with 5.7 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9.
- Outfielder Dave Sappelt has been released by the Phillies, tweets Cotillo. Sappelt himself said on Twitter that he appreciates the club carrying him while undergoing offseason surgery. The 27-year-old has seen limited action in three big league seasons.
- The Astros have outrighted reliever Raul Valdes to Triple-A, according to the PCL transactions page. Though he lacks an extensive MLB track record at age 36, Valdes still has an intriguing recent stat line and looks to be a good bet to see time in Houston at some point. His ERA was a ghastly 7.46 last year, but he put up 9.5 K/9 (against just 2.1 BB/9), good for a 3.10 SIERA. Valdes posted numbers more line with those peripherals in 2012 and even during limited action this spring.
- Likewise, Hiroyuki Nakajima has been outrighted to the top affiliate of the Athletics, also via the PCL transactions page. The move is not surprising, given that Nakajima had only been added to the 40-man in the first place to fill it up to allow for the team to designate Taylor for assignment, according to a report from John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group (via Twitter).
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The Red Sox are no strangers to White House visits over the last decade, though David Ortiz marked yesterday's team trip to Pennsylvania Avenue by taking a memorable selfie alongside another famous face. Here's some more news from Boston...
- With Felix Doubront set to become eligible for arbitration after the season, MassLive.com's Jason Mastrodonato thinks the young southpaw could be an extension candidate if he pitches well in 2014. Mastrodonato notes that Doubront's status becomes particularly important given that Jon Lester and Jake Peavy are both free agents after the season, though Doubront isn't focusing on contract negotiations. "When that moment comes, we’ll talk. You want to stay away from that, for my own good," Doubront said. "If you think about that, mentally it makes things bigger. You just want to stay on the same page. We’ll see what happens after this season."
- Lester's impending free agency was discussed by ESPN's Buster Olney in a radio interview on WEEI's Mut & Merloni Show (partial transcript from WEEI.com's Arjuna Ramgopal). Olney feels the middle ground between Lester and the Red Sox falls in the range of a five-year, $110-$120MM contract and while both sides will "have to go out of their comfort zones," Olney feels Lester will have to budge a bit more. “It’s going to be because Jon Lester makes it happen, the way that Dustin Pedroia made it happen last year. The Red Sox, philosophically, are not going to box themselves in." The Sox and Lester recently tabled their extension talks, though they could be re-open negotiations during the season.
- Xander Bogaerts' rise from an anonymous 16-year-old from the baseball non-hotbed of Aruba to one of the game's top prospects and the Red Sox Opening Day shortstop is chronicled by Sports On Earth's Jorge Arangure Jr. Boston was able to find Bogaerts due to the organization's wide-ranging scouting process, and Bogaerts took it from there, quickly advancing through the Red Sox academy and minor league system.
The Diamondbacks lost yet another arm to Tommy John surgery yesterday, as Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona reported (via Twitter) that right-hander David Hernandez will miss the 2014 season and undergo the operation. The 28-year-old Hernandez, acquired from the Orioles in the Mark Reynolds trade, emerged as one of the NL's best setup men from 2011-12 before stumbling in 2013. However, though he finished with a pedestrian 4.48 ERA last season, Hernandez had seemingly righted the ship in September, as he allowed just one run with 16 strikeouts against four walks in 14 innings in the season's final month. Arizona has also seen starters Patrick Corbin and Daniel Hudson fall to Tommy John surgery recently (twice, in Hudson's case).
Here's more out of the NL West...
- Chase Headley admits to MLB.com's Corey Brock that this could be his final season with the Padres, but says he's trying not to think about that at this point. Headley tells Brock that later on in the season, it will probably begin to set in, but he's learned not to worry about trade rumors either, should those arise. Headley recalls the 2012 trade deadline: "It wasn't if you're getting traded, it's when and where. I did my best to try and block that. I think I've learned from it and am better for it now."
- From that same piece, Brock spoke with Padres GM Josh Byrnes and former Padres GM Kevin Towers (now the GM of the division-rival Diamondbacks) about the 2005 draft. in which San Diego selected Headley 66th overall. Headley thought he might end up with the Red Sox, where Byrnes was an assistant GM, as the two sides had a good deal of contact prior to the draft. Byrnes said there was "a lot of debate" about Headley, and he met with him several times, coming away impressed. However, Towers and the Padres liked what they saw. "Before then, we were having a hard time developing position players, and Chase was sort of the poster child for what we wanted," Towers tells Brock. "Chase had the great pitch recognition, a sweet spot for contact on his bat and he was a switch-hitter."
- Byrnes also spoke with the San Diego Union-Tribune's Kevin Acee about his time as the Padres' GM and stated that he actually prefers the challenge of building a team creatively than having seemingly unlimited funds as the Dodgers do: "Honestly, I prefer to do it this way. There are a lot of things that go into how we put it together and how we need to succeed." Byrnes went on to discuss scouting, player development and trades for players like Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. Asked if he thought it would be more satisfying to reach the playoffs with a team built through those means than through a large payroll, Byrnes did not hesitate to say yes.