Tagged: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

A Line In The Sand…?

Red Sox GM figures to stick with winning formula from last offseason

By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

It’s appropriate that both the general managers meetings that open Monday in Orlando and the winter meetings that commence in the same locale about a month later are within jogging distance of Fantasyland.

Thirty teams are dreaming big, although it remains to be seen whether the model adopted by the Boston Red Sox last winter — eschewing the biggest prizes on the market for lesser, complementary pieces — will be embraced by other clubs seeking to emulate the extraordinary strides made by the Sox in one dizzying worst-to-first leap.

Ben CheringtonOf more interest to Red Sox fans, of course, is whether GM Ben Cherington will remain faithful this winter to the philosophy of modest moves that worked wonders for him last year (it was a year ago Sunday that the Sox came to terms with the first piece of their puzzle, catcher David Ross, followed 11 days later by the signing of outfielder Jonny Gomes, the first moves in the rebuilding) or will succumb to the budget-be-damned impulse the Sox have followed in past years.

What makes that discussion especially relevant in the coming weeks is that some of the players so vital to the Sox’s success this season — most notably Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli — are among the free agents expected to reap some of this winter’s greatest financial rewards.

By this point, it should be widely understood that Ellsbury is not coming back to Boston unless the Sox make an exception and sign him for top-of-the-market years and dollars. Agent Scott Boras will make the most of market precedents the Sox themselves helped to establish when they gave Carl Crawford a seven-year, $142 million deal three years ago. Someone will give Ellsbury that kind of money; it’s very doubtful it will be Boston. (Let him walk.  He’s already proven injury prone and is obviously on the wrong side of 30.  The Sox can more easily find a stop-gap to platoon with Shane Victorino if they feel Jackie Bradley Jr. needs more time.)

Napoli and Ells

Napoli, however, would seem to be a candidate to fall within the kind of parameters the Sox set last winter, when they showed a willingness to overpay in terms of dollars in exchange for shorter years. The Sox struck such a deal with Napoli on the first day of the winter meetings in 2012, coming to terms on a three-year, $39 million deal, which subsequently blew up when Napoli failed his physical because of a degenerative hip condition.

Napoli’s performance this season, when the hip condition did not surface as an issue, would seem to put him in line for, at minimum, a similar deal this winter. It should also work in Boston’s favor that he appears so eager to return.

(Personally, I’d rather see the Sox sign Nap to a 2 year deal with roughly $26 million plus incentives and fulfill the original 3 year proposed deal than sign him to additional years based off a performance year already in the books.)

Napoli and Ellsbury both received qualifying offers of $14.1 million from the Red Sox, which places Boston in line to receive a first-round draft pick as compensation if they sign elsewhere. Shortstop Stephen Drew received a similar offer; all three players have until 5 o’clock Monday to accept a qualifying offer, which would make them a signed player for 2014.

None is expected to do so, as all three players figure to have other suitors. Teams interested in Ellsbury will not be stalled by the loss of a compensatory first-rounder; that also figures to be the case with Napoli, one of the few power bats on the market. Drew could prove to be a more interesting case, although he should benefit from a soft free-agent market at his position.

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, also a free agent, did not get a qualifying offer, for the simple reason the Sox didn’t want to risk him accepting it, placing him at a salary level they have little interest in paying him. That should not be interpreted, however, as the Sox deciding against bringing Saltalamacchia back.

The most attractive free-agent catching option is Brian McCann, late of the Atlanta Braves, but he will come at a much higher price than Saltalamacchia would and will require more years. The Sox are looking for a bridge to take them to their catcher of the future — Blake Swihart, perhaps in some combination with Christian Vazquez — so signing McCann for four or more years, while also having to surrender a first-round draft pick, would seem to be a questionable proposition.

Farrell and SaltySaltalamacchia had 54 extra-base hits last season, including 40 doubles (a club record for catchers), and an .804 OPS. On the defensive side, he made noticeable strides, even though John Farrell opted for his better defender, Ross, in the World Series, a decision made easier by Saltalamacchia’s October slump. His return, while not assured, is eminently plausible.

(Agreed.  Salty would be a better choice for a two to three year pick-up, based off the lesser money and the fact he’ll still be fairly young should the Sox decide to trade him before the expiration of the contract.  Between he and Ross there is a great tandem of experience to spell the big club till the youngsters are more seasoned.  Though young and on the upswing, Jarrod has difficulty hitting outside of Fenway and that should limit his suitors.)

On the trading front, Cherington can expect to field inquiries about his starting pitchers, though teams likely will be far more inquisitive about some of the team’s young arms (Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, Henry Owens) than the pieces he probably would be more open to dealing, such as Ryan Dempster or Jake Peavy. The Sox value their young arms, which isn’t to say they wouldn’t move any of them, although Barnes, Ranaudo and Owens almost certainly are not going anywhere. There would seem to be little downside, from a depth perspective, to keeping Dempster and Peavy, neither of whom is signed past 2014.

What the Sox do in the coming weeks will be dictated in good measure by what happens with their own free agents; once they have clarity there, they will know what holes must be filled. In the meantime, the inquiries they reportedly are making about the likes of Carlos Beltran and Tim Hudson and Carlos Ruiz are nothing out of the ordinary; the Sox have a history of making contact with just about everyone on the market.

Coming decisions also will be shaped by their judgments on Jackie Bradley Jr.’s readiness to take over in center field (indications are a qualified yes) and their willingness to entrust the left side of the infield to rookie Xander Bogaerts at short and Will Middlebrooks at third. Middlebrooks’ name often is bandied about as trade material, but the Sox still project him as a useful corner piece with 25-home run power, not an easily found commodity.

With so many good young players who potentially could be included in a trade package, there has been speculation that the Sox would take a run at Marlins slugging outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, but one Marlins source reiterated Sunday he believed there was “no way” Miami would move him.

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A few pressing questions for the Red Sox….

The duck boats have yet to be parked following Saturday’s celebratory parade, but some pressing business is already upon Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and his baseball operations staff.

John and Ben share the trophy

In the wake of their third World Series triumph in 10 years, Red Sox players have expressed deep admiration for one another. As much as any team in recent memory, this was a united crew. To a man, they would love to keep it together.

Yet to a man, they understand that business often comes first, and Boston will have a different look when it reconvenes in Fort Myers to begin the process of defending its crown. Red Sox president Larry Lucchino admitted as much Friday morning.

John Tom and Larry Celebrate
“I can’t give you a precise answer as to how many players will come and how many will go,” Lucchino said in an interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI. “We love the core of this team. We know the core of this team will be here and be with us. We know we have some new players who were signed for a couple of years, like Jonny Gomes and David Ross. So we do know that the core of this team will remain. But there’s absolutely no chance that the 25 guys who finished in the World Series will be the same 25 guys who will start Opening Day next year.”

Seven Red Sox players were among the 147 players who officially filed for free agency Thursday: catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, first baseman Mike Napoli, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, shortstop Stephen Drew, relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan, infielder John McDonald, and pitcher Alfredo Aceves, who was exiled to the minors last season.

Free agents can begin to sign with new teams beginning at 12:01 a.m. ET Tuesday. Until that time, they are not eligible to negotiate contract terms with a new team, although they and their representatives are allowed to talk with any team about a potential match. Teams retain exclusive negotiating rights with their free agents until that time.

But in the interim, the Sox must also decide whether they will extend a qualifying offer to their free agents, which determines whether they will receive draft-pick compensation if a free agent leaves.

Qualifying offers must be extended by 5 p.m. Monday. The value of a qualifying offer has been calculated by formula to be a one-year guarantee of $14.1 million for 2014. Any player accepting a qualifying offer is considered to be a signed player. A free agent has until 5 p.m. on Nov. 11 to accept a qualifying offer. If he declines a qualifying offer and signs with another big league team, his former team receives an amateur draft choice as compensation, while the signing team forfeits its highest available draft pick and the accompanying bonus pool money in the draft.

Stephen DrewWhat do you do with the left side of the infield?  Shortstop Stephen Drew is a free agent and will be coveted in a market that features very little at the position. Because of that fact, he may be inclined to turn down any qualifying offer (one year, $14.1 million) the Red Sox give him and seek a long-term deal elsewhere. If that’s the case, Xander Bogaerts slides right on in, likely leaving Will Middlebrooks to man third base.

But is that ideal for the Sox?

Middlebrooks’ up-and-down (but mostly down) 2013 campaign, coupled with a lackluster October, casts some doubt as to whether he is ready to be an everyday player in the majors. Meanwhile, Bogaerts looked like a 10-year veteran as the club’s third baseman in the World Series. Both he and the organization have said Bogaerts is a shortstop, but another year (at age 21) at the hot corner would not hinder his future at another position.

Xander WS 2013

At the same age, Cal Ripken Jr. played the first half of his first full season at third base. Perhaps if the team finds a way to keep Drew, who doesn’t turn 31 until March, Bogaerts could do the same and Middlebrooks could be dealt or moved across the diamond to first base, if Mike Napoli moves on.

Will Salty return?  Jarrod Saltalamacchia told ESPN prior to Game 6 that he had already wondered if he was spending his final few days as a Red Sox. David Ross, who is signed for next year, was John Farrell’s choice in the final three games of the World Series.

It seems as if we have been hearing his name forever, but Saltalamacchia is still just 28 and is coming off his best all-around offensive season (.273 average, 14 homers, .804 OPS). He fits in the clubhouse and with the pitching staff, and if the Sox see him continuing to improve defensively, a qualifying offer could be in the cards.

That could change if the organization feels that Ryan Lavarnway is ready enough to split time with Ross, or if it makes a push for someone like free agent Brian McCann. Prospect Blake Swihart could be knocking on the door in another year or so, and Christian Vazquez had a solid season at the plate and behind it at Double-A Portland, so more help is on the horizon.

Lester Game 5What’s the long-term future of Jon Lester?  Boston will exercise its option for Lester for next year, which carries with it a $13 million price tag. His value is at an all-time high after a brilliant October (4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in five starts), and discussions of a long-term deal may be forthcoming.  The Sox gave Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz lengthy, pricy extensions in recent years. They also gave John Lackey a five-year, $82.5 million deal and Ryan Dempster a two-year, $26.5 million contract, then took on Jake Peavy’s $14.5 million salary for 2014. If there’s anything left over, locking up a durable, homegrown ace who is not yet 30 seems like a no-brainer.

What about David Ortiz?  While similar to Lester in some ways, the Ortiz situation is a little murkier. Many observers felt as if the organization had lost its mind when it gave the slugger, at the time 36 and rehabbing from an Achilles injury, a two-year deal that will now total $30 million due to an achieved incentive this year. When that contract expires after the 2014 season, would Ortiz — who would then be approaching 39 — seek one more multiyear deal elsewhere? And do the Sox want to prevent one of the cornerstones of their franchise from leaving?

As crazy as it seemed to lock him up last offseason, it would be awkward to let the World Series MVP go too far into the final year of his deal with an uncertain future. An extension beyond 2014 could be in his future.

Ells Fenway WSBid adieu to Jacoby Ellsbury?  There have been whispers for months that the two sides are far apart in negotiations. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported this week that a $30 million gap existed after Ellsbury’s phenomenal 2011 season and that the sides could not get together again after his down 2012. With Ellsbury a Scott Boras guy, the long-held assumption has been that the center fielder has been waiting to test the free-agent waters. Coming off a much better 2013 (.298 average, 52 steals) seems like a great time to do so.

Boston’s aggressiveness in this matter rests largely in its opinion of Jackie Bradley Jr. The youngster had a rough time in his first stint in the big leagues in April but looked a bit more comfortable in his Red Sox skin once he was called up again in September, even getting support from some to be included on the postseason roster.

Bradley will not disappoint in the field; he has range and a great arm. Enduring some growing pains at the plate would hurt much less than paying Ellsbury upward of $18 million when he is 36 and beginning to break down. Not saying that would necessarily happen, but it’s the risk you run with big-money long-term deals, and Bradley will come at a pittance as he approaches his prime.

Who’s on the bench?  The 2013 Red Sox did not have many holes. However, there were times when it felt as if they needed one more utility guy in the infield. Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder did not impress in their brief stints, and once Jose Iglesias left, there was a relative lack of options some nights if one of the starters went down.

To illustrate the conundrum, Middlebrooks stood as Dustin Pedroia’s backup for a handful of games. Veteran John McDonald was brought in late to add an extra hand, and Bogaerts’ call-up gave the club another option, but the organization would do well to bring in an Alex Cora-type who can ably back up multiple spots. Someone with speed who can play center would help even more if Ellsbury leaves and Bradley needs a backup.

Buch delivers WSLester-Buchholz-Lackey-Peavy-?  Pencil in Lester, Buchholz, Lackey and Peavy as the top four starters. Who gets the No. 5 spot? Felix Doubront made strides in 2013 and figures to have earned it, but Dempster is on the books for $13.25 million. Also, waiting in the wings are a few young, intriguing arms who could make a push, including Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo.

Chances are Doubront gets a spot, Dempster serves as an expensive long man/spot starter, a la Tim Wakefield late in his career, or gets traded, and the youngsters are given more time to prepare for when somebody goes down.

And somebody will go down.

Felix in the 2013 WS
The Sox were actually quite fortunate to suffer only one long-term injury among starters, that being Buchholz’s three-month absence. There will be injuries, and having the depth to atone for them is as important as anything through the course of a long season.

Nap rounds the bagsBring back Nap?  “I want to be here. I love this place.”

That was Mike Napoli after the World Series triumph. Lines like that one are thrown around like empty beer cans during such celebrations, but it is clear that Napoli has been a nice fit in Boston.

Napoli’s agent told the Boston Globe that his client would not accept another one-year deal, and that the club would analyze the condition of Napoli’s hips to see if there has been any significant wear and tear since the last checkup. With a clean bill of health, perhaps something like the three-year, $39-million deal that the two sides reportedly agreed on last offseason — before the discovery of the hip condition altered things — could become a reality. Napoli agreed to a $5 million base salary for 2013 but earned the full $13 million with incentives.

Napoli 2013 WS

The Sox will likely make a qualifying offer to Napoli and receive a draft pick if he elects to move on, but expect the man who ranked second on the team in home runs (23) and RBIs (92), and who surprised some with a quality showing at first base, to return.

The easy decisions on making qualifying offers include Ellsbury, who is expected to be one of the most highly sought free agents on the market, and Napoli, one of the few power bats available on the market. Neither is likely to accept a qualifying offer, given the certainty of receiving multi-year offers from multiple teams.

McDonald and Aceves, whose value falls far below the $14.1 million qualifying mark, will not receive qualifying offers. The Sox also will not tender a qualifying offer to Hanrahan, who said in October he had just begun throwing 60 feet and will not be ready for the start of the season after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery in May.

That leaves two players, shortstop Drew and catcher Saltalamacchia. First, Saltalamacchia: At 28, he is the youngest catcher on the free-agent list, and unless the Sox decide to go all-in on free agent Brian McCann, a qualifying offer makes sense, which would buy some time while prospects like Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez develop, yet spare them from a long-term commitment. It also would assure them of draft-pick compensation if Salty leaves. Drew is also one of the better options in a light shortstop market, and while the Sox have his replacement in the wings in Xander Bogaerts, there would seem to be little downside to extending a qualifying offer.

Will the coaching staff remain intact?  Those who toiled under Farrell received loads of credit this year, particularly Juan Nieves for his work in turning around the pitching staff, Brian Butterfield for his defensive genius and Torey Lovullo for his overall work in helping to create the most complete team in all of baseball.

Lovullo is being linked to the Chicago Cubs’ managerial vacancy. Cubs president Theo Epstein is obviously familiar with Lovullo, who has interviewed for jobs in the past. Farrell said earlier in the World Series that he expects Lovullo, and others, to get their shots.

Farrell and Butterfield worked together in Toronto, and Butterfield was brought over after Farrell got the managerial job in Boston. He has also interviewed for vacancies, but perhaps these two will establish something like the Terry Francona-Brad Mills partnership that survived many years in Boston and was rekindled this season in Cleveland.

On Nov. 11, the general managers’ meetings begin in Orlando, where talks about potential trades often percolate, with the winter meetings following a month later, also in Orlando.

Game 5, Like Deja Vu all over again

Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA)

Scouting report on Wainwright: Not much went right for Wainwright in Game 1 against the Red Sox. A seven-pitch walk to Jacoby Ellsbury in the first was only the start of the 32-year-old’s rough night as he allowed three runs in the opening inning, partly due to poor defensive play behind him. However, with the series tied 2-2, Wainwright has another crack at giving his team the advantage moving forward.
“It’s a pretty clean slate [from my last start],” Wainwright said Sunday in his news conference at Busch Stadium. “I honestly don’t know why my mechanics were as bad as they were [and] my delivery was off as much as it was. But I feel like I’ve put a lot of good reps in in front of the mirror and watching film and feeling my delivery again.”
“I feel like I’ve made a lot of good adjustments to be ready for this next game to throw some quality pitches.”
Wainwright distraughtIn his Game 1 start, Wainwright’s curveball was his best pitch. He used his curveball for 15 of his final 33 pitches, a span that saw him retire seven straight batters before allowing a David Ortiz single in the fifth inning that he was able to pitch around. Overall, Wainwright went five innings, allowing five runs (three earned) on six hits and striking out four.
“I learned that they hit mistakes,” Wainwright said of his first career start against Boston last Wednesday. “And I learned that if I make mistakes in the middle of the plate up in the zone, they’re going to hit them.”
Overall, Wainwright is 2-2 in his four postseason starts with a 2.25 ERA. The right-hander has allowed seven runs (five earned) in his past 12 innings after allowing only two runs in his first 16 innings pitched of the playoffs.

Scouting report on Lester: Putting aside the speculation that he was in some way doctoring his pitches in Game 1, Lester pitched masterfully, shutting out the Cardinals’ potent offense for 7 2/3 innings and striking out eight batters. The start was yet another in a string of successful starts Lester has made in October, something he says he doesn’t know how to explain.
“I feel like I’ve pitched pretty [well] throughout most of my seasons, and it’s just carried over into the postseason,” Lester said Sunday. “I don’t know what it is. I like this stage. I like knowing that I’ve got to go out there and give everything I’ve got for my teammates, because tomorrow might be our last game. You don’t know; I guess that just gives you that little extra focus.”
Lester WS Game 1Of Lester’s 10 career postseason starts, seven have been of the quality variety — at least six innings pitched and three runs or fewer allowed. The 29-year-old has gone 5-4 in 12 postseason appearances overall, posting a 2.22 ERA. Of his 69 postseason innings pitched, 13 1/3 have come in the World Series, where he has yet to allow a run.
“I think the one thing that we all recognize is that the power stuff wins in the postseason,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Sunday. “He’s got it, he maintains it, and yet, in addition to his physical strengths, there’s a level of concentration that he’s capable of maintaining that gives him the ability to execute consistently over the time he’s on the mound. Those two things combined are what’s given [him] the career performance he’s had in the postseason.”
This will be the first time in his career that Lester has made five starts in a single postseason.
Three Cardinals players to watch

Carlos Beltran, RF: Beltran was only given one shot at Lester in Game 1, striking outBeltran robs the HR swinging on four pitches before being removed from the game due to a rib contusion. Beltran has three hits in 10 World Series at-bats so far, two of which have come in his two at-bats with runners in scoring position. Beltran was left with a bat in his hand at home plate in the ninth inning of Game 4 after Kolten Wong was picked off first base to end the game.
David Freese, 3B: Since singling in the ninth inning of Game 1, Freese has been held hitless in his past eight at-bats, a streak that’s resulted in him being dropped to seventh in the order. Of the 13 runners he’s left on base the past four games, six have been left in scoring position.
Pete Kozma, SS: In keeping with pattern, manager Mike Matheny has selected Kozma to start at short in Games 1 and 3 while going with Daniel Descalso in Games 2 and 4. The difference between the two has been a wash offensively, as Descalso is 0-for-6 while Kozma is 0-for-8 through the first four games of the series. However, Kozma was the only St. Louis Cardinals hitter to not strike out in Game 1, seeing 13 pitches in his three plate appearances.
Three Red Sox players to watch

David Ortiz, 1B: A lot of the talk leading into the World Series was about how manyOrtiz 2013 WS HR games Ortiz would play at first base over Mike Napoli. But Ortiz has ended that conversation, with a gaudy .727 batting average, a result of eight hits in 11 at-bats. His eight hits have accounted for a third of the Red Sox’s total in the series (24). He also has two of Boston’s three homers and he leads the team in RBI (5) and runs (5). He has collected hits in his past four at-bats and is the only Boston starter to not strike out so far.
Jonny Gomes, LF: With outfielder Shane Victorino’s status still unknown following his late scratch before Game 4, Gomes re-proved his worth in the lineup to Farrell by hitting what turned out to be the game-winning three-run home run for Boston in the sixth inning, ending his 0-for-9 skid to start the World Series. Gomes also worked a 10-pitch walk in the fifth and a six-pitch walk in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game, a step back on the right track for a player with whom Boston has won eight of nine postseason starts.
Xander Bogaerts, 3B: Bogaerts started off the series going 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in Games 1 and 2 before turning it on in St. Louis to collect three hits in his past seven at-bats. The 21-year-old’s .231 average is third on the team behind Ortiz (.727) and Dustin Pedroia (.267).
Three key considerations:
• Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa has appeared in all four World Series games, the only pitcher on either team to do so. Farrell has used Tazawa to face just one batter in three of his four appearances, something the 27-year-old did in only two of his 71 appearances during the regular season.
• Sunday night’s win guaranteed that the series will shift back to Fenway Park for at least a Game 6. So far this postseason, Boston is 5-2 at home compared to 4-3 on the road.
• David Ross will be back behind the plate in Game 5, according to Farrell. Ross has Ross postseasoncaught all four of Lester’s starts this postseason, including Game 1 where he went 1-for-2 against Wainwright. It will be Ross’s second consecutive start since regular starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia made a throw that led to the obstruction call that ended Game 3.

Walking Wounded…

Ellsbury should return

Ells hustleRed Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury has a compression fracture of the navicular bone in his right foot, but manager John Farrell insisted Sunday that Ellsbury likely will return to playing before the end of the regular season.

The fracture is nondisplaced, Farrell said, and Ellsbury will be in a boot for a minimum of five days. Ellsbury was examined in Denver on Sunday by Dr. Tom Clanton of the Steadman Clinic, and will return to Boston.

Dustin Pedroia had a nondisplaced fracture of the same bone in 2010, wound up returning for just two games, and had offseason surgery, limiting him to 75 games that season. In 2012, Cody Ross fractrured the same bone in his left foot and missed 27 games.

All three players — Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ross — were injured the same way, fouling a ball off their foot.

Ellsbury, who leads the majors with 52 stolen bases, was batting .299 with a .355 on-base percentage. The speedster was batting .320 (24 for 75) in his last 17 games, with eight stolen bases in that span.

Ellsbury Buchholz

Buchholz set to return Tuesday

Clay Buchholz has been penciled in for a start against the Rays in Tropicana Field Tuesday, when the Sox open a three-game series against Tampa Bay, manager John Farrell said. Buchholz threw a bullpen here Sunday after making three rehab starts.

If Buchholz does indeed start Tuesday night in the Trop, it will be 94 days sinceBuch watches he made his last start, June 8 against the Angels, in which he was a 7-2 winner and ran his record to 9-0, his ERA at a major-league best 1.71.

Farrell said he expects to announce who is being dropped from the rotation after Sunday’s game. He  offered a hint at his thinking when he said a “priority is who’s the most effective starter right now.’’

If that is the determinant, left-hander Felix Doubront may be bound for the pen, at least temporarily. Doubront has a 6.58 ERA over his last five starts, and has not made it out of the fourth inning in the last two, going just 3 2/3 innings in Boston’s 12-8 win over the Yankees Friday night, walking 6 while giving up 6 runs.

The Revolving Door

Jarrod Saltalamacchia was back behind the plate Sunday, after missing the last four games with a sore back.

Salty road

Neither Mike Napoli nor Shane Victorino were in Sunday’s Sox starting lineup. The days off were planned, Farrell said; with Monday’s off-day, that will give both players two days. Mike Carp was at first base, and the outfield had Jackie Bradley Jr. in center, flanked by Daniel Nava in right and Jonny Gomes in left.

More questions than answers….

Subtle moves.  Questionable tweets.  Interesting day.

Just the modern-day Hot Stove.

So the Sox finally pulled the trigger and moved Jed Lowrie and signaled an official end to the experiment.  Not that Jed wasn’t a good player with flashes of brilliance and a load of potential, but you can only write so many checks based on potential.  With Scutaro in the fold and Mike Avilas returning, Lowrie was becoming expendable.  With Iglesias apparently progressing as he should in the minors, Lowrie became a commodity, a still youthful switch hitting shortstop who can play utility infield and has postseason experience.  According to sources, Jed’s name was mentioned several times by inquiring teams and heard several more times during the Winter Meetings.  This does beg the question if the Sox may have given too much on their end since Kyle Weiland was included… but also makes you wonder if the kid from Houston is just that good?  Jed does have the potential and the will to be an everyday shortstop in the majors, and perhaps Houston will see a more regular, less brittle Lowrie.  Melancon, 26, turned in a 2.78 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 0.61 HR/9, and 56.7% groundball rate in 74 1/3 innings in 2011, saving 20 games in 25 attempts.  The right-hander won’t be arbitration eligible until after the 2013 season and won’t hit free agency until after the 2016 campaign.

Signing Nick Punto (of the World Series winning St. Louis Puntos’) will solidify the infield and perhaps give the Sox the flexibility to rest Youk, platoon Marco and make further deals (the ever so undesirable Youkilis trade) to secure some solid starting pitching at the end of the rotation.  Rumors have also stated that Sox are still showing an interest in veteran pitchers Roy Oswalt and the recently non-tendered (by Arizona) Joe Saunders.  If Aceves and Bard are to be given full respect as potential starters, what does this signal?  Aceves was a gold-brick as a spot starter and reliever last season, literally carrying the club at times.  Valentine has basically said that Bard will either start or close… good thing he narrowed it down.  Ryan Madson is still out there, but why pay for Madson if you wouldn’t pay for ‘Pap?  There are still several proven, older closers out there… oh, and in the Sox pen as Bobby Jenks is still active and drawing a paycheck.  Melancon would appear to shore up the questions of the back-end… but he really doesn’t.  Unfortunately, only Ben and Bobby have the inside dope and I honestly feel it’s ‘closer by committee’ until Opening Day.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe Tweeted: Jason Varitek may still be in the picture for the Red Sox.  Really?  It seems hard to envision a deal between Varitek and the Red Sox, who have catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Lavarnway and Luis Exposito going into camp.  No, it’s not unheard of for the Sox to sign a catcher and then trade him to start the season (remember Josh Bard?), but carrying Varitek too?  That, if it is true, is an immediate signal that Lavarnway is not as ready as we’ve been led to believe.  Some think he could be a mid-season call up to platoon a C/DH role while others say he needs another full season in Pawtucket to mature defensively.   I’ve stated here several times, if you’re going to pay for a back-up veteran catcher who is mediocre or less offensively and only slightly better defensively, sign ‘Tek.  If baseball is a game of intangibles… then ‘Tek brings a sh!tload of intangibles.  He’s a mentor (already taken Salty to the next level), a teacher (Salty, the pitchers and younger guys, even the coaching staff), and basically a player/manager.  Was he too quiet during ‘Chicken-gate’ or ‘The X-box Affair’ or whatever fuckin’ catchphrase inserted term they give the September fallout and the aftermath?  Yes, he was.  As the team captain he should have been as front and center as James T. Kirk, however no one has ever questioned his leadership as a whole and there has to be a reason.  If I’m Bobby Valentine, I’m keeping Varitek around in some capacity.  He’s an established, respected and WS tested veteran who does indeed bring the intangibles.  Can you say Bench Coach?

Supposedly, there have been one or two teams out there interested in his services, so if that is true and Jason Varitek is indeed playing in the uniform of another team next season…. then all I have to say is, Thank You.

You know what they say about opinions…

This was posted to Yahoo! Sports on August 31st.

Can’t downplay Saltalamacchia’s postgame dig at Latin players

By Ray Monell, Yahoo! Contributor Network

I must have missed something when I started covering baseball, because apparently excessive celebrating—called hotdogging by traditionalists—is exclusive to players of Latin American descent.

At least that’s what Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia expressed before beat writers Tuesday night following his team’s 5-2 loss to the New York Yankees at Fenway Park.

The catcher was explaining his views of his Yankees counterpart, Francisco Cervelli, who hit a fifth-inning, solo home run off starter John Lackey and clapped his hands (once) as he touched home plate. Lackey took umbrage with the celebration and struck Cervelli in the back with a fastball two innings later. Lackey’s intent was obvious—although he denied it—but the significance of the game for both New York and Boston would be overshadowed by Saltalamacchia’s postgame criticism of Cervelli—and, by extension, more than half of the Western Hemisphere.

“It’s just Latin players,” Saltalamacchia said. “It’s the way they play the game. It’s okay to an extent. If you go a little further than that, that’s when you need to step back.”

I know you were blinded by emotion and indignation, Jarrod, but the only person who went “further than that”—or frankly, too far—was you.

Cervelli, according to his bio, is Italian through his father and Venezuelan on his mother’s side. He was born and raised in Venezuela but has represented Italy in the World Baseball Classic.

Now, let’s switch roles here. Let me put into words what Saltalamacchia said, but from the mouth of a Latin player, just to make painfully clear to those who believe no violation was committed how much of a bigot the catcher came across as.

For instance, imagine Cervelli saying, “It’s just white players. It’s the way they play the game.”

Would he not be singling out a group of people—in a very insulting manner—by saying that?

Again, think for a second, and take the proverbial pull from GM Brian Cashman’s objective pipe, and ask yourself if such a comment from Cervelli—or anyone, for that matter—would meet the qualifications of what deserves to be classified as a racist statement.

Whether Saltalamacchia is an actual racist is something only he and those close to him know, but the words he uttered were indeed racist.

That’s my opinion. What’s yours?

Dear Mr. Monell,
You are an idiot.

Do you really mean to tell me, that if Ozzie Guillen had said this, you’d take it the same way?  And if this was really another salvo in baseball’s incredibly historic race war, that Ozzie himself, the greastest defender of Latin baseball wouldn’t be rioting to everyone in the radio/television listening world?

Or is this some long-winded inept attempt to take an old world baseball city/team that for decades was looked upon as racist (and with reason thanks to Tom Yawkey’s good ole’ boys club) and just cash in a little more fury.  Yes, I’m sure with a name like Saltalamacciha he’s racist to Latinos all the live long day.  Just ask David Ortiz… oh wait, Big Papi defended him, right (of course that was during Jarrod’s expanding upon his statement which you chose not to report).  Yeah, he must be racist too.  Shouldn’t that be your next article of immense importance to the Yahoo! sporting world..? ‘David Ortiz defends racist’

After all, no one has ever accused Latino players of being passionate to the point of sometimes being over-zealous, right?  Just like no one has ever taken a quote from a player or manager and used it out of the context for which it was meant.

Salty is racist?  That’s a fairly strong accusation in this day and age.  However, I’ll hold my judgement till he finds a way to work his white hood in with his RedSox home whites.