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Mookie Betts Rumors
While Red Sox chairman Tom Werner recently implied that the team is likely to do some significant spending on the free agent market this offseason, a source tells Alex Speier of WEEI.com that adding two top-tier pitchers isn’t in the club’s offseason blueprint. The team will likely pursue one ace-caliber pitcher, but the feeling within the organization is that there’s enough talent to fill out a championship-caliber rotation. Joe Kelly and Rubby De La Rosa appear to have spots penciled in, and Clay Buchholz has had a resurgence of late. Beyond those three, the Sox have Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Eduardo Rodriguez all in line to compete for rotation spots. It’s still believed that the team will pursue Jon Lester most aggressively, Speier writes, though he also spoke with Rays manager Joe Maddon about the Tampa skipper’s former right-hander, James Shields.
Here’s more on the 2013 World Series champs and their attempt to get out of the cellar in 2015…
- Webster, Workman and Ranaudo have failed to impress in extended looks at the Major League level this season, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. MacPherson has a hard time envisioning GM Ben Cherington heading into the 2015 campaign with two or three unproven arms in the rotation following the struggles that many of the team’s young prospects endured in 2014. Only De La Rosa has shownthe ability to be a piece of next year’s rotation, he concludes. MacPherson spoke with both manager John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves about the struggles that Boston’s young pitchers have endured thus far.
- In a second piece, Speier writes that Mookie Betts has gone “from blocked to building block,” noting that his versatility and upside may have led to him supplanting Xander Bogaerts as the club’s most untouchable asset in trades. Of course, Dustin Pedroia remains under contract at second base and the team has an enviable outfield logjam, so interest in Betts will likely be high, but Speier opines that Betts should be retained, as his versatility would allow the Red Sox to pursue upgrades at a number of positions in the future, knowing that Betts could be moved around the diamond and still thrive.
- Koji Uehara told reporters, including Speier’s colleague Rob Bradford, that the life on his splitter still isn’t there. As Bradford notes, Uehara has experienced a late-season downturn like this before, as he struggled greatly at an oddly similar juncture near the end of his tenure with the Rangers in 2011. The displaced closer adds that he’s not thinking about where he’ll play in 2015 or regaining the ninth inning, but rather trying to finish the season on a high note before “see[ing] what happens in free agency.”
The Red Sox are planning on having Will Middlebrooks play winter ball this offseason in an attempt to get him back on track, and they’re telling teams that they won’t simply give the soon-to-be 26-year-old away, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. Middlebrooks may seem a good buy-low candidate, as the former top prospect has followed a strong rookie campaign with a .213/.264/.375 line over a pair of injury-plagued seasons in 2013-14, but it sounds as if the Red Sox aren’t ready to give up on him.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington spoke with reporters before tonight’s game, and Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com has some highlights from the session. Cherington says that “barring something unforeseen,” Rusney Castillo will join the Major League club this month. He also said that the club will continue to have Mookie Betts focus on center field, noting that having three plus center fielders isn’t a bad thing if Castillo, Betts and Jackie Bradley all pan out. “We believe we’re better off having more than one major league center fielder,” said Cherington. “In the long run, in terms of long-term control, hopefully we have three at the upper levels.”
- While there’s been an unthinkable amount of ink dedicated to the Phillies’ Ryan Howard problem, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the Yankees have a similar issue on their hands with Mark Teixeira. Sherman reports that while the Phillies have aggressively shopped Howard, the Yankees haven’t even tried to move Teixeira, knowing that he would be nearly impossible to jettison due to his injuries, his no-trade protection and the $45MM he’s owed in 2015-16. Teixeira, who turns 35 next April, has batted just .213/.316/.404 in 493 plate appearances over the past two seasons.
- Rays bench coach Dave Martinez is interested in the Astros’ managerial opening, writes MLB.com’s Adam Berry. Martinez, who was on a short list of candidates for the last Astros managerial search, called the opening a “great opportunity” but made it clear that his current focus is on helping the Rays. “I interviewed for them a couple years ago, and they had good baseball people, very creative minds over there, and I kind of like that whole situation over there,” said Martinez. “Right now, my concern is being the bench coach for the Tampa Bay Rays and hopefully we win as many games as possible this month.” As Berry points out, Martinez is a good fit with the Astros after watching the way in which longtime Rays manager has Joe Maddon has built a rapport with an analytically inclined front office. Martinez noted that he got along well with Astros owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow in his previous interview, adding that he thinks Houston has a very bright future.
- Brandon Morrow wants to pitch in the rotation in 2015 and beyond, he tells MLB.com’s Gregor Chisolm. As Chisholm notes, Morrow may soon have the opportunity to dictate where that could happen, as his $10MM club option is likely to be declined by the Blue Jays after another injury-plagued season. Morrow doesn’t seem to fit into Toronto’s rotation moving forward, with R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris all at the Major League level.
The Red Sox have fewer wins than the Royals since the start of the 2012 season, but having losing years before and after a World Series victory has its advantages, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. They’re going to have a very valuable top draft pick next year (if the season ended today, they would pick in the top ten, just as they did in 2013) and a bigger international signing pool. Meanwhile, they retain the financial edge they have over other teams — they’re already reloading for 2015 with the acquisitions of Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig, along with the impending addition of Rusney Castillo, all of whom will have significant salaries going forward. Here are a couple more quick notes out of Boston.
- The Red Sox placed Mookie Betts, Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa on revocable waivers today, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets. All are valuable young players, so it’s a strong possibility they’ll be claimed, at which point the Red Sox will pull them back. It probably isn’t likely any of them will be traded.
- With Cespedes and Craig in the fold and Castillo soon to join, manager John Farrell says the Sox will hunt for pitching this offseason, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier tweets. Boston, of course, dealt Jon Lester and John Lackey at the trade deadline, although it remains possible that the Red Sox could re-sign Lester when he becomes a free agent this winter.
4:00pm: The Red Sox have officially announced the move. To clear space on their active roster, they’ve optioned pitcher Rubby De La Rosa to Triple-A Pawtucket.
The Red Sox drafted Betts in the fifth round in 2011, and beginning in 2013, he quickly cut his way through the minors, hitting well at each level. The 21-year-old second baseman and outfielder hit .345/.437/.520 in 359 plate appearances in 2014 split between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket.
Betts is ranked the No. 51 prospect in the game by MLB.com, No. 61 by ESPN’s Keith Law and No. 75 by Baseball America. BA’s Prospect Handbook 2014 ranked Betts the Red Sox’ seventh-best prospect, praising his speed, athleticism and ability to control the strike zone. With Dustin Pedroia at second base, the Red Sox will likely find playing time for Betts in the outfield, where the team has struggled this season.
The Red Sox should be willing to trade staff ace Jon Lester and any number of other non-core veteran players, opines Dan Szymborski of ESPN.com (Insider piece). Just as the club acted rationally in dealing away Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett two years ago, Szymborski says that Boston should face reality and take the opportunity to swap out some current pieces for future talent with an eye toward competing next year.
Here’s the latest out of Boston:
- One area of apparent excess — as it was before the season started — is the rotation, which just welcomed back Clay Buchholz. But while the club is currently carrying seven starters on its roster, that does not mean that it is simply biding time for a deal, reports Sean McAdam of Comcast SportsNet New England (via Twitter). Maintaining the full staff was not related to an effort to move Jake Peavy, in particular, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier reports.
- Nevertheless, southpaw Felix Doubront, who is being moved to the pen, took questions today about the possibility of being dealt. As Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com reports, Doubront acknowledged that a trade could have some positive repercussions, as it might deliver a more steady starting role — which is his clear preference. He did emphasize that he would his move to a relief role and a hypothetical departure in stride. As Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports, Doubront’s approaching arbitration eligibility is also in limbo, as he would stand to increase his value as a starter. “Arbitration is just about numbers,” said Doubront. “I’m going to try to get better numbers and still win money. For the moment, that’s the only thing I can do, the only thing I can focus on and be positive: Get better numbers in this position.”
- When the pitching logjam is finally removed, Boston will likely dip into its minor league ranks for a right-handed bat, writes Speier. The club is in no apparent rush, but when it makes a move, the two obvious options are mid-season free agent signee Ryan Roberts, who has put up good numbers since being outrighted, and skyrocketing prospect Mookie Betts. As Speier notes, it is remarkable that a promotion of the 21-year-old is even under consideration.
In his 65th game of the season, J.J. Hardy launched his first home run of 2014 off Yankees reliever Jose Ramirez. Hardy, who will turn 32 years old in August, has hit at least 22 home runs in each of the last three seasons. He’s in the final year of a three-year, $22.5MM contract with the Orioles. Despite the power outage, he hasn’t been a total loss at the plate with a .288/.317/.354 line entering today. Aside from home runs, Hardy is best known for superb defense at shortstop, so he should have suitors lined up regardless of his offensive value. Obviously, a return to his previous home run bashing ways will improve his leverage as a free agent.
- Mookie Betts may be moving closer to a major league promotion, speculates Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. Red Sox manager John Farrell mentioned Betts unprompted when asked about recent signee Andres Torres, saying “I know Mookie Betts is swinging the bat well.” Betts natural position is second base, but he’s been learning the outfield due to the presence of incumbent Dustin Pedroia. According to leaderboards available at FanGraphs, Red Sox outfielders rank third to last in baseball with a .233/.310/.339 line. A shot in the arm appears justified.
- Rather than trade for an elite slugger like Giancarlo Stanton, the Mets may employ a strategy similar to the Rays and Athletics, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. To further reinforce Martino’s point, one Mets official asks “what big bat is out there to trade for?” With the Marlins in the playoff race, Carlos Gonzalez on the disabled list, and Matt Kemp underperforming his contract, there aren’t many places to look for franchise altering bats. Instead, it might be easier to find and develop hidden values like Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, and Ben Zobrist. Mets fans who are waiting to turn Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler into a superstar are liable to be disappointed.
- The Cubs are the only team jumping into the trade market with both feet according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. GMs are cautious about pulling the plug too quickly, which keeps negotiations from moving forward until the deadline approaches. League wide parity and the second Wild Card have conspired to allow most teams to dream of contention. There’s also the annual game of roster chicken. Says one AL executive, “Everyone overvalues their prospects and they wait because they are always convinced the prices are going to come down.”
- Former big league lefty Alex Hinshaw is once again drawing the interest of major league teams, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith. The 31-year-old is now pitching for the Independent League Wichita Wingnuts, with 18 strikeouts in eight and two-thirds innings. He last spent time in the majors in 2012, when he threw 28 innings for the Padres and one-third of an inning for the Cubs. Walks plagued Hinshaw, as evidenced by his 6.04 ERA, 11.44 K/9, and 6.67 BB/9.