Red Sox great Luis Tiant was named as one of ten nominees for consideration by the Golden Era Committee for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
And if Tiant gets the nod – he could join Pedro Martinez in the Hall, with Pedro expected to get votes for Hall entry in his first year of eligibility.
Tiant has strong credentials.
He was a 20-game winner four times (three times for the Red Sox) with career stats of 229 wins and a 3.30 ERA.
Tiant was a three-time All Star, won two AL ERA titles, and led the AL in shutouts three times.
Here’s hoping El Tiante makes his way to Cooperstown.
Swihart Tops Prospect Charts
No surprise that C Blake Swihart led the list on Baseball America’s top Red Sox Prospect List.
List author Alex Speier reviewed his picks on the WEEI site.
The Red Sox have a strong farm system – but don’t expect the team to be too aggressive in moving prospects to Fenway in 2015.
Boston went heavy with kids last season – with some notable disappointments like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Will Middlebrooks.
From the list, CF Rusney Castillo seems like the only sure bet to start with the team in the spring.
Back to Swihart. He looks like a special talent – strong both at the plate and defensively.
Swihart should start the season in Pawtucket but may make his way to Boston in 2015. Or could be a big piece in an off-season trade for a front-line starter.
One more point: Three lefty starters placed in the top five of Red Sox prospects.
This bodes well – both to bolster the rotation in the future and also in having assets needed for trades.
A Shot at Lester?
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said the team hopes it gets the opportunity to speak with free agent Jon Lester.
Lester is exactly what the Red Sox need – a number one starter, who eats innings and can handle the pressure of playing in Boston.
But one needs to ask – what’s changed from last Spring Training when Boston made Lester a low-ball offer?
One thing: Lester had an awesome year, increasing his value and likely price-tag.
Where Lester lands will be one of the top off-season stories.
The thinking here is – it won’t be Boston with the Cubs a likely spot.
MLB Trade Rumors published its predictions for the upcoming free agent season.
The Top Three
The leading three free agents are starters – Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields.
The post predicts: Scherzer to the Yankees; Lester – Cubs and Shields – Red Sox.
There is no doubt Boston needs a number one starter but I don’t see Shields as the choice.
Shields turns 33 in December – and is likely to get a four or five year deal.
And if Lester (at age 30) is “too old” for a long-term deal that would seem to rule out Shields.
I see the Red Sox more likely to add a top starter through a trade – like a Cole Hamels or Chris Sale.
Can’t see the Red Sox going five or more years for a starter who is over 30 and that looks like where the top three are headed.
Red Sox Connections
Other players the post aligns with the Red Sox are:
- Francisco Liriano, left-handed starter
- Chase Headley, third baseman
Liriano would be a good get as a second or third starter in the Red Sox rotation, giving them a power lefty – which the team lost when Lester left town.
Headley is a clear second choice to Pablo Sandoval in the free agent pool.
He is strong defensively but would be an uncertain addition offensively – with his numbers taking a big drop since his 30 HR season in 2012.
Other Players to Watch
- Starters: Kenta Maeda, Justin Masterson – Back-end of the rotation candidates.
- Reliever: Andrew Miller – A four year deal may price the Red Sox out of a Miller re-signing.
Alex Speier is one of the best Red Sox writers (in my opinion – along with Gordon Edes) and he wrote a spot-on piece on what Boston can take away from the Giants World Series win.
Let’s look at his points.
Ride a #1 Starter in Post-Season
Madison Bumgarner was the difference in the Giants edging out the Royals.
And last look at the Red Sox – there is no ace like Bumgarner in the rotation.
What’s the ace description (for World Series Champs)?
High-performance starter that is a major innings workhorse, who is under 30 years old.
Boston had one of these in Jon Lester – but despite the rhetoric from the Red Sox, it looks like he is not returning (and he is the past under 30).
Job One this off-season is a top of rotation starter.
My top choice (and someone who would be massively expensive in a deal): Chris Sale.
And I like Mat Latos or Justin Masterson (both could be classic buy-low guys) as other potential additions (neither are #1s).
Fixing Third Base
What baseball team didn’t fall in love with free agent Pablo Sandoval in the post season?
Boy, would he look good at the hot corner for Boston next season.
Talk about perfect timing to hit free agency.
Expect a long line to get him, including the Giants, Dodgers and Yankees.
All deep pocket teams – the price tag will be expensive.
Defense at Shortstop
Brandon Crawford – with outstanding defense and okay offense – was a difference maker for San Francisco in the World Series.
Speier noted that Stephen Drew – in a similar mold except for much worse offensive – was a positive for the Red Sox in 2013.
He also called out Boston has a defense-first shortstop in AAA – Deven Marrero.
If the Red Sox look to follow the Giants model, one could envision a left side of the infield of Marrero and Sandoval sometime in 2015.
Note who is missing. Xander Bogaerts.
Bogaerts could be the lead piece to land the number one starter Boston needs. Or maybe a move to first base or outfield is in Bogaerts’ future.
Peavy and Other Old Starters
Speier wrote keep an eye on part of the Red Sox haul from the Giants in the Jake Peavy trade.
He noted lefty Edwin Escobar could be a factor in the bullpen – especially with Craig Breslow maybe departing (Sox didn’t pick up his option, but could re-sign him).
One Peavy point Speier didn’t bring out – old starters tire out during the grind of October.
Look at Peavy and Tim Hudson.
The long season wore them down.
If you are building for a World Series, don’t load up on old starters.
Last Point: Big Money Free Agents
Neither the Giants nor Royals had high-priced free agent acquisitions on their team.
Good for them.
But Boston is in a different category (at least compared to Kansas City) – they are a financial superpower.
While a team should not be built on free agents (see the Yankees), adding over the top free agent signings can a big difference maker (anyone remember Manny Ramirez?).
These signings should be rare but impactful.
Memo to Ben Cherington: No Carl Crawfords, please.
The Red Sox need to reload this off-season – to get back into AL East contention. Here are three players Boston should be checking into.
Job one for Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is beef up the starting rotation – looking for (at least) #1 and #2 starters to front the rotation.
The Phillies are a team going nowhere – with interim CEO Pat Gillick already saying they won’t be contenders until 2017 or 2018.
That sounds like rebuilding.
The Red Sox have the young talent to land a top starter – like Philadelphia lefty Cole Hamels.
Given Hamels’ talent and he is Philadelphia’s only top trade chip, the price will be very steep, writes Jon Heyman.
At age 30 and signed for four more years at $96 million, he fits Boston’s profile of not tied into an expensive contract that carries into the late 30’s age wise.
And Boston is not part of Hamels’ 20-team, no-trade list.
Soon-to-be free agent Pablo Sandoval fits the Red Sox needs – a 3B who can hit. A switch-hitter, he is much better as a left-handed hitter (a big need in Boston’s lineup) than as a righty.
Sandoval has averaged 17 HRs a year since 2009 and plays good defense.
Given weight has always been a concern with Sandoval, he could move to 1B or DH before the end of his next contract – making an AL team a good landing spot.
All of this positions Sandoval as an attractive free agent – if San Francisco lets him get that far.
So the competition to land Sandoval should be fierce – and expensive – with teams – in addition to the Giants and Red Sox – to potentially include: Dodgers, Yankees and White Sox, all big-market teams.
If Boston doesn’t go after (and get) Sandoval, another third baseman to watch is Oakland’s Josh Donaldson.
Donaldson has big-time power (29 HRs in 2014) – and plays strong defense.
Acquiring Donaldson would be tough – Oakland controls him for four more seasons but he is headed into arbitration which may price him beyond what the A’s are willing to pay.
At this point, I would lean to Sandoval over Donaldson because the acquisition cost is just money rather than players.
Both players stand far above the next tier of likely available 3B, such as free agent Chase Headley and Pedro Alvarez of Pittsburgh.
For now, let’s keep pending free agent Hanley Ramirez in the SS camp, although he could be a 3B.
The fact that Donaldson bats righty is a minor concern (even though the Red Sox lineup is tilted too much in that direction).
Quality always wins out over which side of the plate he swings from.
The Tampa Bay Rays got the stunning news manager Joe Maddon opted out of his contract – following on the heels of GM Andrew Friedman heading to the Dodgers.
And to pile on – word is Tampa Bay may be looking to move to greener pastures – maybe Montreal.
The question is – Is this the beginning of the end of the Rays as a perennial AL East contender?
Tampa Bay had a losing record in 2014 – and their farm system is not considered to be stocked with elite talent.
The constant churn of premier players getting priced out of the market – like David Price this season – has got to be wearing on the team and management.
It will be interesting to see what route Tampa Bay goes with its Maddon replacement.
Does it go for organizational stability with a choice like long-time coach Dave Martinez?
Or does it look elsewhere to find the “next” Maddon?
A couple of names with Red Sox connections – Gabe Kapler and Tim Bogar – have popped up as potential Maddon replacements.
Cespedes: A Short Timer?
Bill Madden writes the Red Sox may be looking to move OF Yoenis Cespedes.
Cespedes decided to switch agents to Roc Nation – and with this change appears to be increased demands in a new contract, most notably going beyond the four or five years the Sox were talking about in early deal talks.
Sprinkle in that Madden also writes, Cespedes was disenchanted in Boston – maybe going from a contending team to a last place team had something to do with that – and Red Sox coaches “hate him” for not heeding their direction.
Doesn’t sound like Cespedes is a cornerstone for the future in Boston.
Given he is a year away from free agency – and looks like he has big contract demands – it may be difficult for the Red Sox to get a quality haul in return in any trade.
Should the Sox trade Cespedes, it may also call into question GM Ben Cherington’s strategy of opting for proven major leaguers to prime a quick retooling, rather than top, but unproven, prospects in the Jon Lester and John Lackey deals. (Allen Craig – added in the Lackey deal – didn’t sew up any 2015 role with his 2014 performance.)
Cabrera Injury – AL East Impact?
Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera has undergone ankle surgery.
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski added the team has no idea at this point if Cabrera would be ready for Opening Day.
Cabrera has never been particularly fleet afoot or a defensive star – so it may be time for Detroit to consider a DH role for him.
And the Tigers currently have a DH opening with Victor Martinez headed to free agency.
Perhaps the Cabrera injury may influence Detroit’s interest in a long-term commitment to Martinez, who is said to be seeking a four year contract.
Should Martinez look for alternatives beyond Detroit, the Yankees and Orioles could pop up on his radar – along with the Mariners.
Martinez had a great offensive year in 2014 but age 35, it will be interesting to see if he can parlay the season into one last big, multi-year contract.
With the World Series approaching, here are some thoughts on the Red Sox – and Royals and Giants.
Love the Giants consistency. If Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is looking for a team role model, it’s the Giants. San Francisco is looking for its third championship in five years. Contrast that with Boston’s last three years – one World Series win and two last place finishes. Consistent high performance – with an occasional but fairly frequent championship – needs to be Boston’s goal.
Deep bullpens matter. The Royals 3-headed bullpen monster has been awesome this post-season. They have consistently slammed the door on opponents. Boston’s bullpen goes into the off season with uncertainty. Koji Uehara is a free agent – so retaining him is a question. And if Uehara comes back – can the Red Sox count on him given how he faltered late in the 2014 season? Junichi Tazawa feels good in one spot. It would be nice to have a lefty in the big three in relief – with Andrew Miller an obvious target – but his free agent price-tag may be a place the Red Sox don’t want to go. Watch for the Red Sox to convert a youngster like Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman or Allen Webster (or maybe all of them) to the bullpen. Each was fairly mediocre as starters but has a good arm – so they may thrive in the pen. Scott Lauber feels Workman could follow the Wade Davis model.
Do you need a number one starter? Madison Bumgarner of the Giants and James Shields of the Royals are very good – but not elite starters. And the rest of both teams’ rotations are not considered top shelf. Take a playoff also-ran like the Tigers – with high-priced, big-time starters (David Price, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander) – they are gone. It will be interesting to see if this is instructive for the Red Sox – with the message don’t invest big bucks in long-term starter contracts. Let’s watch this off-season.
Prediction – Giants win over the Royals.
Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs posted an excellent in-depth evaluation of the Red Sox farm system.
Some key take-aways:
- C Blake Swihart tops the prospect list. Swihart and fellow catcher Christian Vazquez – who showed great D but David Ross-like offense – make a formidable pair behind the plate. Swihart has raked the ball in the minors while Vazquez may follow the model of a catcher who develops slowly offensively (like one of his heroes – Yadier Molina). They could blossom into a strong catching combo – or one could be part of a trade package to land a stud starter, given how hard it is to find quality catchers.
- Lefty pitchers are on the way. Interesting to see Eduardo Rodriguez (picked up from the Orioles in the Andrew Miller trade – #2 on Fangraphs list) grade out above Henry Owens (#3). It appears they both still have stuff to work on – so don’t expect either to break next Spring Training with the big league club. But it would not be surprising to see one or both pitch for the Red Sox in 2015. Something to watch for: if the Red Sox start moving Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster to the bullpen (or if one or more are shipped out in trades this off-season), it’s a signal Boston sees Rodriguez and/or Owens on a short path to Fenway. Also, keep an eye on another lefty Brian Johnson (#8). With lefties such a premium – one of could be part of a trade package.
- CF Rusney Castillo placed #4 on the list. Castillo had a good 2014 season – especially given the amount of rust he had to shake off. And he is acquitting himself well in the Arizona Fall League (currently 10 for 34, .294 avg. in ten games). Expect Castillo to man center field come April – giving Jackie Bradley Jr. to develop his bat in Pawtucket or making him trade bait.
- The kids among the kids come next – CF Manuel Margot (#5 at age 20) and 3B Rafael Devers (#6 at age 18). With prospects so young and deep in the minors – who knows what they may turn into? But it does show the Red Sox investments in Latin America could pay dividends.
- Lastly – don’t forget Mookie Betts – who is still young but graduated from the prospect list. The questions: Does he stick with the Sox or become the pivotal piece in an off-season trade? And if he stays, where does Betts play?