Shane Victorino Rumors
The lack of a contract extension between the Red Sox and Jon Lester now presents the possibility that this could be Lester's last Opening Day with the team, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. Lauber adds that the season will now be rife with speculation regarding Lester's contract situation and opines that a strong performance out of the 30-year-old lefty could make the Red Sox regret not presenting Lester with a "Scherzer-like offer" (six years, $144MM) when all is said and done. Of course, that deal would hardly represent the discount to which Lester has previously referred.
Here are some more notes on Lester, the Red Sox, and the AL East...
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports appeared on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning and discussed a number of topics, including Lester. Rosenthal pointed to a column he wrote last week in which he said he felt that Lester should end up around five years and $115MM. He adds that the Red Sox won't be able to get a Dustin Pedroia-like extension very often: "Pedroia’s deal is ridiculously club-friendly, and if the Red Sox think they’re getting that deal out of every player they’re out of their minds."
- The Red Sox announced today that Shane Victorino will open the season on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain, and Jackie Bradley Jr. will begin the year with the big league club. On the Dennis & Callahan show, Rosenthal talked about Victorino's importance to the club, noting that if he misses a significant chunk of time this season, it could lead many to wonder what might've been if the team hadn't let Jacoby Ellsbury go. However, as Rosenthal plainly states, Boston was simply never going to approach the kind of money that Ellsbury got from the division-rival Yankees.
- Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith spoke with Rays GM Andrew Friedman about the club's transformation from a perennial 90-loss team to a divisional powerhouse despite one of the game's most modest payrolls. "We have to act decisively but with a smaller margin for error than most clubs, and so we can’t box ourselves in," said Friedman. "We need to react more quickly when circumstances change or opportunities present themselves." Nicholson-Smith's piece is full of excellent quotes from the Rays' GM and reminds how far the team has come since the days of Gabe Gross, Akinori Iwamura and Andy Sonnanstine, who were all on the Opening Day roster as recently as 2008.
- Some scouts have expressed concern over David Robertson's fastball, George A. King III of the New York Post reported last night. Robertson's heater was sitting between 88 and 90 mph late in Spring Training. King notes that Robertson's fastball typically improves as the season goes on, but a look at his velocity charts (per Fangraphs) shows that he's been inconsistent at best over the past two seasons, and his end-of-season velocity hasn't been much better than his Opening Day heat. As MLBTR's Mark Polishuk noted in his recent review of the Yankees' offseason, the team did little to address the bullpen this offseason and is relying on a group of largely unproven relievers.
The Twins have devoted only 22.5% of their 2013 payroll to pitching (MLB average is 49.8%) and haven't exceeded the league average since 2005. Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes perhaps no statistic better illustrates the Twins' dry spell in developing pitching prospects. "It’s not by design. It’s not like we said, 'Let’s spend less on pitching and go another way,'" said Twins assistant GM Rob Antony. "When we’ve spent a lot on a contract, more often than not, it’s on players we already have, that we know. We know how they fit in the clubhouse, and we know their health situation. It makes you a little more comfortable with the investment." Miller notes several pitching investments have been wasted because of injuries including this year's highest-paid pitcher Nick Blackburn ($5.5MM), who was removed from the 40-man roster as he recovers from wrist surgery. One investment that does seem to be paying dividends is Kevin Correia, who signed a two-year, $10MM free agent contract last December. The right-hander tossed eight shutout innings and lowered his ERA to 2.31 in the Twins' 5-0 win over the Rangers. In other news and notes from the American League:
- After a four-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees, the seat is becoming hotter for Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman calls this a big test for Gibbons while Keith Law of ESPN.com says it's too early to think about firing the skipper (Twitter links).
- Before the game, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos met with the media, including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, and said he doesn't expect Jose Reyes back until the beginning of July "just to make sure that we do this correctly and we don’t have any setbacks." In the meantime, the plan is use Munenori Kawasaki and Maicer Izturis because Anthopoulos said the costs of going outside the organization for a Reyes replacement "don’t line up for us with what our alternatives are."
- Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg reiterated his team's ability to afford David Price in an interview with WFAN (partial transcript provided by the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin). "We can; I don't know if we'll have any team around him other than him and (Evan) Longoria."
- In the same interview, Sternberg said he expects the Rays' next TV contract to be "big relative to the size of our attendance" but "mid-sized market" compared to other teams.
- The Red Sox prefer to give Shane Victorino some time to work out his back issues rather than trying to bring Jackie Bradley back too soon, tweets the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo. Victorino underwent an MRI yesterday, which revealed inflammation in his lower back. Bradley, meanwhile, is 7-for-31 with 10 strikeouts and five walks since being optioned to Triple-A.
Baseball, like the rest of the country, has its mind on yesterday's tragedy at the Boston Marathon. SI.com's Tom Verducci explores the role of the national pastime -- and, especially, Boston's own Red Sox -- in dealing with an event of such magnitude: "Every tragedy is ... an unwelcome reminder that life goes on for the survivors. Baseball, which, unlike any other sport, is there for us virtually every day, is entwined with what is the comfort and curse of that daily challenge. However small, however unimportant baseball seems today, the Red Sox remain a part of daily life in Boston. These Red Sox, win or lose, now play for a broken city. Whatever comfort or distraction they provide in the best of times assumes a different weight in these worst of times."
- Verducci went on to discuss the Sox' early-season pitching renaissance, crediting the club's deal with Toronto to bring back former pitching coach John Farrell as manager. In particular, starters Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have been outstanding thus far, combining for a 5-0 record and 0.88 ERA.
- While only a side note, Verducci used interesting terms to describe the Boston free agent acquisition strategy, which resulted in the signing of players like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, David Ross, and Jonny Gomes. "The analytically-minded Red Sox ... disregarded the Carmine computer program to put an emphasis on extroverted, high-motor guys who fit the Boston fishbowl."
- As the Red Sox face the Indians tonight, Victorino reflected on his free agency decision between the two clubs over the winter, writes Alex Speier of WEEI.com. The 32-year-old outfielder said that there were things he liked about Cleveland but he ultimately chose Boston because of their winning tradition.
- Outfielder Curtis Granderson is as eager for his return as are the Yankees, writes Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News. While he says he will go about his business the same way regardless of his pending free agency, Granderson acknowledged that it makes it hard to remain patient knowing that he will be reaching the open market after this season.
- The difficulties facing the Blue Jays in filling in for Jose Reyes may be daunting, but they are not unique, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. With the Jays finding the asking price high on possible trade targets, they seem likely to use patches rather than make a big move. If that is the case, writes Nicholson-Smith, Toronto will be following the path of other clubs that lost their shortstops early in recent seasons.
- The Blue Jays' lineup was missing one quality everyday bat even before Reyes went down, writes Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail. GM Alex Anthopoulos is not only working the phones for a Reyes stop-gap, but is interested in what Blair describes as a "significant transaction that might require several moving pieces." With Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie potentially capable of manning alternative positions, Blair says Toronto may be looking for an impact bat that it can shoehorn into the lineup rather than targeting a specific position.
- The Rays' offensive struggles make a Wil Myers call-up enticing, but the club should nevertheless stay patient, writes Jonah Keri for Grantland. Keri wonders whether the club might pursue an Evan Longoria-esque early-career extension for the young outfielder, which would resolve service time concerns if the Rays want to call him up.
- Meanwhile, we heard earlier today (in an Insider piece) that ESPN's Buster Olney believes that Rays ace David Price would likely command less than Giancarlo Stanton on the trade market. Of course, the Rays would surely bring back an impressive haul if they were to make the reigning AL Cy Young winner available. Olney's "educated guess" at the top potential suitors for Price are the Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Rangers.
The Orioles made a surprising playoff run in 2012, but SB Nation's Rob Neyer can see why people question their ability to repeat. He argues that the Orioles were merely average in terms of runs scored and runs allowed in 2012, and expecting players like Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold to perform better than they have in years is going to invite critics. Here's more out of the AL East...
- Shane Victorino inked a three-year, $39MM deal with the Red Sox this offseason, but he told Andy Martino of the New York Daily News that he turned down a bigger offer from the Indians to join the Boston-New York rivalry. Victorino says that Cleveland offered $44MM over four years, but his previous experiences playing at Fenway Park and the intensity of the fans swayed him to leave some money on the table.
- Scott Boras was "blindsided" by Robinson Cano's decision to switch agents yesterday, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Cano, who still must pay Boras the commission on 2013's $15MM salary, had signed a representation agreement with Boras as recently as March 20. Brodie Van Wagenen, who will be Cano's primary baseball representative with CAA/Roc Nation Sports, said he wouldn't publicly discuss a new opening for Cano to sign a contract, but noted that Cano loves New York and would like to stay.
- There are still roadblocks to getting a new deal with the Yankees worked out for Cano and his new representatives, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman wonders about conflicts of interest surrounding Jay-Z -- a lifelong Yankee fan who will perform at Yankee Stadium this year -- negotiating against the team. He also wonders whether or not the Yanks will want to give another player that's on the wrong side of 30 a $200MM contract.
Indians CEO Paul Dolan explains his team's thought process following a 68-94 season in 2012 and says that a total rebuild was not an option, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. "None of us wanted to think about tearing it down. Our goal is to put together a team to win a World Series. Another goal is to avoid 20 years of losing, which some smaller-market teams have endured." The Indians did trade outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, but rather than also dealing veterans like Asdrubal Cabrera, Chris Perez and Justin Masterson, the team spent heavily on free agents like Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher. Here are more notes from Pluto's interview with Dolan.
- Dolan expresses "a high degree of confidence" in team president Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti, even though the Indians haven't had a winning season since 2007.
- Dolan also confirms that the Indians offered a four-year, $43MM deal to outfielder Shane Victorino, who ended up going to the Red Sox for three years and $39MM.
- Dolan says he didn't want to worry much about the possibility of Bourn's four-year, $48MM deal turning out badly, but the Indians' history with long-term contracts gives him pause. "We've not had good luck with some of our longer deals," he says. That includes pacts with Travis Hafner, Jake Westbrook and Kerry Wood.
- Pluto notes that season-ticket sales are up since the signings of Bourn and Swisher, but Dolan says that the Indians "will lose money" in 2013. Dolan views the team's offseason spending splurge as an investment in its future.
The Nationals had their eye on left-hander J.P. Howell for quite some time but the Dodgers swooped in on him earlier today. After losing three lefties in Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Burnett, and Michael Gonzalez, the Nats could still add a southpaw, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Here's more out of the AL and NL East..
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters, including Anthony Rieber of Newsday, that he isn't interested in signing a reliever. "I cannot talk about players on the free-agent market," Cashman said. "But I am not looking for bullpen help, I can tell you that."
- Free agent Joe Saunders says that he wants to return to the Orioles in 2013 but is ultimately leaving the process in the hands of his agent, writes Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun. Saunders also has interest from the Angels, Mets, Twins, and Mariners and says that he wants to play for a contender.
- Shane Victorino, who signed a three-year, $39MM deal with the Red Sox this winter, says that a return to the Phillies was his first choice, writes Matt Gelb of the Phildelphia Inquirer.
The Red Sox remodeling project continued today, as they announced they have signed Shane Victorino to a three-year contract. The 32-year-old, a client of John Boggs & Associates, slipped this year to a .255/.321/.383 line for the Phillies and Dodgers, but still did well in free agency, obtaining a $39MM guarantee.
Victorino will play right field for the Red Sox, who previously signed Mike Napoli to play mostly first base, Jonny Gomes to play left field, and David Ross to help behind the plate. With Jacoby Ellsbury returning to play center field, Boston's outfield appears set, so the door is likely closed on free agents Cody Ross, Nick Swisher, and Josh Hamilton. As Speier explains, Victorino "fits the profile that the team seeks of an above-average defensive outfielder capable of playing both right and center at Fenway Park."
As MLBTR's free agent tracker shows, the Red Sox have already committed $120.2MM to four free agents.
WEEI's Alex Speier first reported the agreement; Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe previously labeled the Red Sox the frontrunner; Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports pegged the dollar amount. Photo courtesy of U.S. Presswire.
The latest from around the AL Central...
- Despite the fact that the Twins are looking to give Trevor Plouffe some competition at third base, Ian Stewart isn't a match with the team, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune's La Velle E. Neal III (on Twitter).
- Ben Revere's name has surfaced as a possible trade candidate, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Revere became the Twins' projected center field starter with the trade of Denard Span to the Nationals, so Morosi believes Minnesota might need to get a center field back in order to move Revere.
- The Indians offered four years and $44MM to Shane Victorino, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Victorino ultimately chose a three-year, $39MM offer from Boston, but it shows that the Indians have some money to spend.
- The Royals' offer was "not even close to what I was looking for," new Rangers setup man Joakim Soria told reporters including MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez on a conference call today. Soria landed a two-year, $8MM deal with the Rangers.
- The White Sox continue to have dialogue with free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com.
- We had a few Tigers rumors yesterday also.
4:01pm: Things are "moving fast" on the Victorino front, with the Sox in a good position to finalize a deal, says ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link). Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com adds (on Twitter) that nothing is done yet, but that it's getting close. Victorino has at least one four-year offer from a different team, notes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
3:25pm: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports clarifies (via Twitter) that the exact terms of the Red Sox offer are three years at $37.5MM. There's optimism that the two sides will get a deal done at that price, says Cafardo (via Twitter).
3:09pm: The Red Sox are the frontrunners on Victorino, having offered a three-year deal worth $38MM, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Twitter).
3:02pm: There are two teams "fully engaged" in talks with Victorino, including the Indians, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. It's not clear whether the other club involved is the Red Sox or the aforementioned "mystery team."
2:27pm: Victorino appears to have narrowed his options to three teams, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The Indians and Red Sox remain in the mix, along with a third club. That third suitor isn't a true "mystery team," says Heyman -- it's just unknown to him.
12:02pm: Momentum is building in talks for free agent outfielder Shane Victorino, according to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick, who tweets that a deal could be finalized during the Winter Meetings. Crasnick reports (via Twitter) that the Indians have emerged as a "prime suitor" for Victorino, with manager Terry Francona reaching out personally to the Flyin' Hawaiian earlier in the offseason.
Besides the Indians, other teams checking in on Victorino include the Red Sox, Cubs, and Yankees, says Crasnick (Twitter link). The Braves and Reds don't appear to be engaged in discussions, and the Phillies' interest is "tepid," according to the ESPN.com scribe.
Crasnick adds in a final tweet that Angel Pagan's and B.J. Upton's deals appear to be helping Victorino, who should be in line for a three- or four-year contract. Upton earned a five-year, $75MM deal from the Braves, while Pagan agreed to a four-year, $40MM contract with the Giants yesterday.
We checked in on the AL East already this morning, so let's head to the National League to round up the latest out of the NL East....
- As they continue to consider their options regarding R.A. Dickey, the Mets are also considering trading pitching prospects like Logan Verrett or Darin Gorski for outfield help, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (Twitter link).
- Martino adds in a second tweet that Bobby Parnell has drawn trade interest, but is unlikely to be moved.
- Rival officials consider the Phillies the team most desperate for outfield help this week, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Twitter link).
- Despite the Phillies' need for an outfielder, the "consensus in baseball circles" is that a reunion between Shane Victorino and the Phils is unlikely, writes ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.
- When it comes to finding a left fielder, the Braves will continue to explore trade options, but the team doesn't have much interest in the remaining free agent outfielders, and don't mind moving forward with their internal options, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman.