Boston Red Sox Rumors
Perhaps the most intriguing "what if?" scenario in recent baseball history is what if Alex Rodriguez has joined the Red Sox (rather than the Yankees) prior to the 2004 season. The Deal, the latest instalment of ESPN's "30 For 30 Shorts" series, explores the near-trade that would've sent Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Brandon McCarthy from the Rangers to the Red Sox in exchange for Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra and Jon Lester. A-Rod even agreed to restructure his contract and take less money to make the deal work, though this was what eventually scuttled the trade, as the MLBPA wouldn't allow the agreement due to the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. Only a few weeks later, Texas instead traded Rodriguez to the Yankees and the rest is history.
Here's the latest in a very newsworthy day from around the AL East...
- Derek Jeter's impending retirement underscores the Yankees' lack of shortstop depth, MLB.com's Bryan Hoch writes, as it seems that Jeter's eventual replacement isn't currently on New York's roster. The Yankees could sign one of the quality shortstops available in next winter's free agent class, Hoch notes, or Stephen Drew exists as a current option that could be signed to play second or third for a year and then take over at short in 2015.
- Scott Boras, Drew's agent, has recently been looking to get his client an opt-out clause after the first year of a new deal. While some see Boras' demands as a longshot, Fangraphs' Mike Petriello notes that the opt-out could fit into the Yankees' plans, making Drew an even more obvious upgrade for the club's infield.
- The Red Sox haven't offered Drew a contract for longer than one year, John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports (via Twitter). Drew would like at least a one-year contract and an option, a source tells Tomase.
- The Orioles continue to be in contact with Kendrys Morales' representatives and are still interested in the free agent slugger, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets.
- It seems as if the Orioles prefer Ervin Santana to Ubaldo Jimenez, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun writes, as he has heard more tying the O's to the former free agent hurler than he has the latter. "I know the Orioles have talked to his people, but I didn’t get a sense that he was atop their list," Connolly says. There were whispers earlier this week that the O's were upping their pursuit of Santana or Jimenez. In the same piece, Connolly answers a number of Orioles-related questions from fans on Twitter.
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.
One prominent American League player told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he believes players put quite a bit of pressure on Alex Rodriguez to withdraw his lawsuit against the union. “It didn’t go over too well and Alex heard about it a lot. Nobody ever understood it. He did the right thing by dropping it,” said the players. Someone who knows A-Rod well believes that he's planning on resting up his hip for the year and coming back strong. Cafardo doesn't doubt that the third baseman can make a comeback, but he wonders if the Yankees might just eat the remainder of his contract and cut him loose. Here's more from today's column..
- There is mutual interest between the Pirates and Kendrys Morales, but the Bucs may prefer to find their first baseman via trade. Cafardo cites the Mets’ Ike Davis, the Blue Jays' Adam Lind, and the Rangers' Mitch Moreland among the possibilities.
- There's lots of competition for Suk-Min Yoon out there and while the Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Diamondbacks are among the interested clubs, one National League GM says that the pitcher could go to anyone.
- The Mariners' interest in Nelson Cruz has not waned but the number of years remains the sticking point in talks.
- The Mets remain the best bet to land Stephen Drew, but he still receives text messages from Red Sox teammates hoping that he'll return.
- The Dodgers still have an outfield surplus with Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and Yasiel Puig in tow, but they don't appear to be in any hurry to break it up.
Johan Santana will throw for interested teams at some point soon, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com tweets. When he does, the Twins will be in attendance. Yesterday, Santana himself indicated that he had begun throwing off a mound, the latest step in his recovery from shoulder surgery. Here are more notes on free agents, all of them pitchers.
- Brian Burres threw for teams on Thursday, and he will throw again on Monday in Florida, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes has learned. Burres last appeared in the big leagues in 2011 with the Pirates. He spent 2012 in the Giants' system, and 2013 in Taiwan.
- The Red Sox continue to "check in on" reliever Joel Hanrahan, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports (via Twitter). Hanrahan's agent told MLBTR yesterday that Hanrahan would host a showcase for interested teams in March. Hanrahan is making his way back after a 2013 season mostly lost to elbow troubles.
- The Red Sox watched Ryan Madson on Friday in Arizona, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets. Like Hanrahan, Madson is a once-dominant reliever trying to make his way back after dealing with elbow problems. The Phillies are among the teams that have shown interest in Madson, who last appeared in the big leagues in 2011 as a Phillie.
Current Cubs president of baseball operations and former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein covered a range of subjects in a fascinating interview on WEEI's Hot Stove Show on Thursday (audio link; transcript). In addition to discussing the two clubs he has headed from a baseball ops perspective, Epstein emphasized the impact of changes to the CBA. The new system has both reduced teams' abilities to reap draft picks from outgoing free agents, Epstein said, and made it difficult to pay for hard-to-sign talent in later draft rounds. Here's more from around the league, including other notable talking points from Epstein:
- Discussing his current club's reported pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka, Epstein noted that the pitcher likely cost the Yankees more in real terms than the team's $175MM contract and release fee commitment, once the collective bargaining tax is accounted for. The signing, said Epstein, "reflects the dynamic that there are many, many teams with lots and lots of dollars to spend and very few places to spend them, very few players who represent sound investments for the dollars."
- "There are lots of teams demanding talented, prime-age players, and supply is really a trickle," Epstein continued. "Fewer and fewer players of that ilk are reaching free agency. ... You're going to see these prices that cause people to shake heads. ... Because of the TV deals, the teams that have them have a lot of money and not a lot of attractive players to spend the money on." Indeed, as I explored earlier tonight, some teams' desires to use free cash to enhance the value of their player assets (i.e., control and contract rights) could result in increasingly robust contracts for some younger players that remain years away from free agency.
- One player that seems suitable for an attractive, long-term investment is Yoenis Cespedes of the Athletics. Fresh on the heels of today's extension of teammate Coco Crisp, Cespedes said that he, too, hopes to ink a new pact, tweets John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 28-year-old slugger, who still has two years remaining on the deal he signed out of Cuba, said that he hopes to play for the A's for his entire career. Of course, given his relative youth, upside, and high profile, Cespedes figures to command a much higher price than the $22.75MM over two years just given to Crisp. It remains to be seen whether the A's will be willing to dangle a sufficient guarantee to get a deal done.
- Turning back to the aforementioned Tanaka, Yankees GM Brian Cashman told ESPN Radio today (via ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand) that the club views its new acquisition as "a really solid, consistent number three starter." Cashman noted that, though the club scouted Tanaka extensively, uncertainty remains as to how he will transition to the big leagues. "If we get more than that," Cashman said, "all the better. He's got a great deal of ability."
- Two arbitration hearings took place today, after none occurred last year. Andrew Cashner of the Padres and Vinnie Pestano of the Indians both made their cases to their respective panels. Cashner and the Padres are quite close in filing numbers ($2.4MM against $2.275MM), while Pestano ($1.45MM) and the Indians ($975K) left a larger absolute and relative sum to chance.
- Glancing in at MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker, 16 cases remain unsettled as hearings begin to take place. By my count, just over $23MM remains at stake between the player filings ($79.325MM total) and team counters ($56.15MM). Only the Indians, with Justin Masterson, Michael Brantley, and Josh Tomlin (in addition to Pestano), have more than one outstanding arbitration case.
It's hard to believe that Roberto Alomar isn't even the best player with an "A" name born on February 5th, but those are the breaks when you share a birthday with the legendary Hammerin' Hank Aaron. Happy birthday to both Hall of Famers, as Aaron celebrates his 80th birthday while Alomar turns 46 today. Here's some news from around the baseball world...
- In his latest article for his Gammons Daily site, Peter Gammons opines that several of the free agents whose markets are hurt by being tied to draft pick compensation (such as Ubaldo Jimenez, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew) may have been better served by accepting qualifying offers from their former teams and using those one-year deals as pillow contracts to multiyear deals next winter. The qualifying offer issue isn't nearly as big a problem facing the game, Gammons believes, as the issue of smaller-market teams having fewer avenues to signing amateur and international talent. "The system rewards a top five market like Houston for losing, and punishes the Rays, Indians and Athletics for being highly competent small markets," Gammons writes.
- Also from Gammons, he notes that Scott Boras, Drew's agent, "is invested" on getting the Red Sox to re-sign the shortstop to a three-year deal that includes an opt-out clause. Such a clause would create a possible pillow contract situation for Drew, and also possibly clear room for prospect Deven Marrero to soon take over at short in Boston (Marrero also happens to be a Boras client).
- Six teams were interested in right-hander Chaz Roe when he elected free agency earlier today, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link). Roe has narrowed his choice down to two of the six clubs.
- Athletics director of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was recently promoted to the role of assistant general manager, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle profiles Zaidi's impressive (and unconventional) rise up the ranks. The 37-year-old Zaidi is highly regarded around baseball, and he's credited within the A's organization as being a key figure in the club's use of platoons and the signing of Yoenis Cespedes.
- The Twins "have expressed zero interest" in signing Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson reports (Twitter links). It's possible the Twins could still make a move, Wolfson notes, as the club did heavily scout Diaz last year. The Twins were one of several teams linked to Diaz last offseason but their interest had cooled due to Diaz's asking price.
- Ken Davidoff of the New York Post shares his predictions on where the seven top remaining free agents on the market will land.
- The fates of Jimenez, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett and Bronson Arroyo could impact the Red Sox, as teams that come up short in signing any of the free agent hurlers could approach the Sox about a trade for their excess starters, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes. This scenario wouldn't include the Blue Jays or Orioles, however, as the Red Sox aren't interested in sending pitching to division rivals.
Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio spoke with multiple agents and executives over the weekend and got contradictory takes on the reasons for so many top free agents remaining unsigned (ESPN Insider required and recommended). Agents told Bowden that they (and the MLBPA) feel that the heightened media coverage resulting from social networking has damaged players' market values. Reports from media members about how teams value players and whether or not they've made offers to players could be violations of the CBA, those parties told Bowden. Meanwhile, executives said to Bowden that the market is simply full of players with baggage (draft pick compensation, PED usage, inconsistent performance) and added that agents entered the offseason with unnatural expectations for their clients.
Here are just some of the highlights from a jam-packed column from the former Nationals and Reds GM...
- Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are the two most likely candidates from next year's crop of free agent starting pitchers to sign an extension, Bowden writes. Despite the fact that Scherzer is a Scott Boras client (Boras prefers his clients to test the open market), Scherzer seems to want to remain loyal to the Tigers. However, Bowden notes that an extension would still need to be somewhere close to Scherzer's market value, which Bowden pegs at a whopping $196MM over seven years.
- The Red Sox have made a two-year offer to Stephen Drew, one source told Bowden. The value of that reported offer is unclear, as is the date on which it was made.
- The Nationals have discussed Jose Lobaton trades with the Rays as they look to add a backup catcher for Wilson Ramos. Lobaton figures to be expendable for the Rays, as they project to have a strong defensive tandem of Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina behind the dish. Shedding Lobaton's $950K salary would seem to be more beneficial to the tight-budgeted Rays than most teams, particularly if they don't have a roster spot for him.
- The Dodgers are pushing for an infielder over another starting pitcher and hope to have a deal done within the next 48 hours. Los Angeles isn't likely to bid on any of the remaining free agent starters unless they're willing to take a short-term deal, as Dan Haren did to play near his hometown.
- Kendrys Morales is the most likely free agent to be this year's version of Kyle Lohse, writes Bowden. He notes that the Orioles -- who still have about $15MM to spend -- and Mariners remain interested in the switch-hitting Scott Boras client. Both are still in on Nelson Cruz as well. MLBTR readers seem to agree with the Morales/Lohse comparison; in the poll I conducted earlier this morning asking which Top 50 free agent would be the next to sign, he drew the fewest votes.
- The Royals and Indians are both highly unlikely to be able to lure back their respective free agent pitchers, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. The Blue Jays are a likely landing spot for both pitchers.
Here are today's minor moves and outright assignments from around the league...
- The Rangers announced that they've signed right-hander Armando Galarraga to a minor league deal. Galarraga will report to minor league camp but did not receive an invite to Major League Spring Training. The 32-year-old righty is most famous for missing a perfect game by one out after a blown call at first base back in 2010. He split last season between the Triple-A affiliates for Colorado and Cincinnati, posting a 3.64 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 121 innings of work.
- The Rangers also announced a minor league deal with Taiwanese outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin, but they will be converting the 25-year-old to a pitcher. The former Red Sox prospect has a career .253/.349/.339 batting line in the minors.
- Red Sox right-hander Brayan Villarreal has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, the team announced. The hard-throwing 26-year-old was designated for assignment last week in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Grady Sizemore. Villarreal was acquired from the Tigers as part of the three-team Jake Peavy trade this past summer and walked the only batter he faced in a Red Sox uniform. He allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings for Boston's Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket and has been invited to Major League Spring Training.
- As can be seen in MLBTR's DFA Tracker, Chaz Roe (Rangers), Everett Teaford (Royals) and Emilio Bonifacio (Royals) are still in DFA limbo.
As the NFL season comes to an end, ESPN's Jayson Stark writes that, contrary to popular belief, there's more parity in baseball than football. True, the Red Sox and Cardinals were this year's World Series teams, but five MLB teams made the playoffs in 2013 who didn't make it the year before, including the upstart Pirates and Indians. Meanwhile, every team except the Mets and Astros has had one or more winning seasons in the past five years, whereas six NFL teams haven't had any in that span. Here are more notes from around baseball.
- Kenley Jansen isn't worried about being the last arbitration case for the Dodgers, writes Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. "I leave all that to my agent," says Jansen. "I know what my No. 1 goal is, and that’s to get ready for the season." Jansen filed for $5.05MM, and the Dodgers countered with $3.5MM. Jansen mentions that he is excited that three former closers -- Brandon League, Brian Wilson and the newly-signed Chris Perez -- will join him in the Dodgers' bullpen.
- The Rays have added plenty of depth this offseason, including new infielder Wilson Betemit, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. Logan Forsythe, Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez can all play the outfield as well as infield, so there might be a way for Betemit to earn a bench job out of camp. Topkin also suggests that the Rays could re-sign free agent outfielder Sam Fuld if Fuld doesn't find a Major League contract elsewhere.
- The Red Sox, meanwhile, have lots of depth on their pitching staff, but perhaps not enough at third base or center field, writes Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. That could mean trouble if Will Middlebrooks or Jackie Bradley Jr. struggle. The Red Sox did recently sign Grady Sizemore, but he and Bradley both hit left-handed, and there isn't likely to be space for both on the team's active roster. Shane Victorino could also play center, but an outfield of Jonny Gomes, Victorino and Daniel Nava wouldn't be ideal from a defensive perspective.
The MLBPA has spoken to Major League Baseball COO Rob Manfred about their concerns over team executives talking about whether or not they're negotiating with free agents, which is a violation of the collective bargaining agreement, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. Some players are also upset at the slow pace of the free agent pitching market, and while Rosenthal says the union could consider filing a grievance, such an action would be hard to prove given that teams have already spent close to $2 billion on free agents this offseason.
Here's some more from around baseball on Super Bowl Sunday...
- The Braves will have to make some tough decisions about which of their young core players they want to extend while keeping their payroll in check, Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes (subscription required). The experience of many of Atlanta's best young players is another issue, Baseball Prospectus' Ben Lindbergh tells Bradley, since "most of them have established themselves. (The Braves) possibly might have already missed the window of getting a good deal.”
- The Red Sox are wary about making too long a commitment to 38-year-old David Ortiz given how aging designated hitters can so quickly decline, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. Ortiz is under contract through 2014 and recently said he would like another year added to his contract. While Ortiz's age is a concern, Lauber notes that if the Red Sox don't extend Ortiz and he has another big season, the Sox will then be forced to sign him through at least 2016 to keep him in Boston.
- Jon Lester is another Red Sox player mentioned in extension rumors, and John Tomase of the Boston Herald looks at the somewhat shaky history of left-handed starters who sign expensive contracts into their 30's. Since Lester has said he would give the Red Sox a hometown discount, Tomase thinks a five-year, $100MM extension could work for both sides.
- The Rays are still having talks about trading catcher Jose Lobaton, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Lobaton looks like the odd man out behind Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina, though Topkin notes that the team could still bring Lobaton to Spring Training in case one of their regulars gets injured. If another team develops a catching need later in the spring, as well, the Rays can explore moving Lobaton then.
- Also from Topkin's piece, the Rays have focused on adding depth this offseason to give themselves plenty of roster flexibility and options heading into Spring Training.
- The Indians believe that Joe Smith was their biggest bullpen loss this winter, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes, not former closer Chris Perez. The Tribe rebuilt their bullpen and hope that John Axford can cinch the closing job, Vinnie Pestano returns to his old form and that young arms Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen continue to deliver quality relief innings. Pluto notes that the Indians hope Shaw turns into a new Smith, and the club sees Allen as a future closer.
- Baseball America's Matt Eddy recaps the week's minor league transactions.