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Around the Bases with Red Sox

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Napoli on Return List?

Mike Napoli has voiced his desire to return to the Red Sox next year (his contract expires at the end of the season). Performance-wise Napoli has delivered for Boston this year.

At the plate, it’s not necessarily pretty (lots of strikeouts, big slumps) but the overall numbers are good (21 HRs, 87 RBIs currently).

And defensively, Napoli has been a pleasant surprise – especially given he has never been a full-time first baseman before this season.

Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information called out Napoli as the American League Gold Glover at first base based on a pure statistical evaluation. (subscription required)

Two big factors in a Napoli return:

  • The hip. Napoli’s hip issues dragged out contract negotiations on his current deal. The Sox may think going beyond this season will push things outside their comfort zone injury-wise.
  • Boston is among the teams scouting Cuban defector first baseman Jose Abreu. Competition for Abreu looks heavy but never count out the Red Sox in a bidding battle if they want him.

Minor League All Stars

No surprise, Xander Bogaerts was named the first team shortstop on Baseball America’s Minor League All Star Team. Other Sox prospects 2B Mookie Betts and P Henry Owens landed on the second team.

The Twins are having a dismal major league season – but have four players on the first team including player of the year Byron Buxton, so maybe things are headed upward in the near future.

Wild Card Fever

Looks like adding the extra wild card team is paying off – in creating excitement. The American League has six teams vying for the two spots right now, including three AL East teams.

And in the National League, the Nationals are inching their way into wild card contention, after disappointing all season.

That said, admit it feels good not having the Red Sox in the wild card battle. Would like to see the Sox have the best season record to get home-field advantage for the playoffs. Although don’t think it matters much to Boston, who are tied with Texas for the most road wins in baseball.

Shout Out to Vlad

Hats off to Vladimir Guerrero who officially announced his retirement.

In his prime, Guerrero was a five tool player. But my favorite thing about Vlad was the cannon-like arm he had in right-field. Should make it to the Hall of Fame.

Will be interesting see – will he land in Cooperstown wearing an Expos (or Angels) hat?

Which teams do you think will get the wild card spots in the American League?

Buchholz Back

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Clay Buchholz returns to the Red Sox starting rotation on Tuesday – good news for the team as it looks to clinch the AL East and get things in order for the playoffs.

Felix Doubront will get skipped in the rotation – his last start against the Yankees sealed his fate.

What can we expect from Buchholz?

Who knows? But for the Red Sox to go deep in the playoffs, the team needs a healthy, productive Buchholz. Whether he sticks in the rotation or moves to the bullpen.

Better News on Ellsbury

The word is Jacoby Ellsbury has a foot fracture but will return sometime this season.

Believe or not, that’s good news – because Ellsbury is expected back this year.

Even with the news – the Sox should start hitting fly balls to Xander Bogaerts in the outfield – just in case Ellsbury doesn’t make it back and the team could use outfield depth (not to mention Bogaerts’ bat) for the playoffs.

Right On for Victorino

Good article by Matthew Kory on Shane Victorino’s success since making the move to hit right-handed (from switch-hitting) – although he has moved recently back to also hitting lefty.

The Red Sox would not be where they are in the standings without Victorino – great signing by GM Ben Cherington.

Ellsbury Injury Cause for Pause

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You gotta love the way the Red Sox have handled the White Sox, Tigers and Yankees (with one game to go in that series) over the last week.

Add in a Rays tailspin and Boston has built an eight game lead in the AL East (and 9.5 in the wild card – let’s hope the Sox don’t need to monitor that).

Not to get too far ahead with 18 games to play in the season but things were shaping up for the Red Sox to start lining the team up for the playoffs when – boom! – Jacoby Ellsbury gets a foot injury.

Ellsbury is still in the process of getting the injury checked out – but flashes of Dustin Pedroia in 2010 are on the radar.

Remember when Pedroia banged a batted ball off his foot in June 2010 and basically missed the rest of the season?

The extent of Ellsbury injury is not known – no word yet after an examination by Red Sox doctors. But Ellsbury is already making plans to go out to Colorado for a second opinion.

Jackie Bradley Jr. played center field today for Boston.

Right now – the Ellsbury injury is watch this space for a definitive word.

The Red Sox have proven to be very resilient this season – but an Ellsbury injury for the playoffs would be a big test at a tough time.

Napoli on Fire

In his last ten games, Mike Napoli is hitting .361 (13 for 36) with 5 HRs – including a grand slam today.

The Sox hope this is just the start of an extended streak for Napoli.

Napoli and Will Middlebrooks (12 for 35, .343, 3 HRs) are delivering the right-handed hitting performance Boston looked for from this pair this season.

Ellsbury, Saltalamacchia and Drew Improve Free Agent Stock

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While it is too early to turn much attention away from this season, ESPN’s Buster Olney posted a review of which players have improved their market positions as potential free agents for the coming off-season (subscription required).

Red Sox OF Jacob Ellsbury landed in second place behind Royals P Ervin Santana on the top ten list.

While Boston C Jarrod Saltalamacchia placed number four on the list – and SS Stephen Drew came in at number nine.

Ellsbury has been healthy this season and played a lot of games (128 so far). So he’s earned a check mark in the games played column after appearing in only 74 last season.

And his batting average (.299) and stolen bases (51) are both strong.

However, his power numbers (7 HRs, 50 RBIs) play out like a top of the lineup – not middle of the lineup – guy. Looks like 2011 (32 HRs, 105 RBIs) was an outlier year.

Ellsbury will be well paid in his coming free agent deal. The question is – will a team (and it only takes one) go to Carl Crawford money (seven years, $20 million/year)?

I don’t see Boston going there.

But if Ellsbury numbers settle in around where Dustin Pedroia signed his contract extension – look for the Red Sox to be in the hunt. Even with Jackie Bradley Jr. waiting in the wings.

What About Salty?

This season, Saltalamacchia has established himself as a keeper.

Expect – like Ellsbury – that Salty will have a number of suitors out in the free agent market. Even with Braves catcher Brian McCann most likely also on the market.

But don’t forget, the Red Sox are still a baseball financial superpower who can go head-to-head with most any team – except maybe not the Yankees and Dodgers.

Also, the Red Sox don’t have a top-tier catching prospect close to the majors – so the team would need to incur a replacement cost (either in free agent money or players needed for a trade).

Salty provides the steady presence behind the plate and at bat the Red Sox need in a catcher. Look for the team to be aggressive in trying to keep him. Saltalamacchia has proven he can play in Boston – an attribute that should not be underrated.

Will Drew Stay?

It didn’t look this way early in the year but Drew has had a good season for the Red Sox.

Quality defense and a decent bat – with some timely hits.

The Red Sox way overpaid Drew ($9.5 million for this season) to get him on a one-year deal.

I can see Drew returning to Boston next season.

It would allow the team to break in Xander Bogaerts slowly – and Will Middlebrooks is no sure-thing at third. Also maybe Middlebrooks may shift over to first to replace Mike Napoli.

Again, Boston’s strength here is the team’s ability to pay more than most teams.

Look for the team to repeat last year’s free agent formula in trying to retain Drew – overpay in the dollars to get a short-term deal.

What would you do with the Ellsbury, Saltalamacchia and Drew free agencies?

Around the Bases with the Red Sox

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Some quick thoughts on the Boston Red Sox

Buchholz Better. Read Clay Buchholz was better in his second rehab start with Pawtucket. I am treating these games like Spring Training. The numbers mean nothing. The good sign is Buchholz is reporting no pain or discomfort. Let’s see how he does against big league batters.

Sox Add McDonald. Like the trade acquisition of infielder John McDonald – a strong defender – today by the Red Sox. Boston gave up a marginal prospect, pitcher Nefi Ogando. The Sox have some unproven infielders in Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts – so McDonald provides a defensive replacement if they are lifted for a pinch-hitter. And McDonald provides a ready second base option to back-up Dustin Pedroia.

Where Owens Stands. Prospect lefty starter Henry Owens has had a terrific year. Yet the scouts are mixed on him – with the nay-sayers saying his stuff is not good enough. Put me down as bullish on Owens – with an expected arrival sometime in 2014.

September Call-ups. Starting tomorrow the Red Sox can expand their roster beyond 25 players. Expect some familiar faces to join the team right away – like C Ryan Lavarnway and INF Brock Holt. And then look to see players like OF Jackie Bradley Jr. come back to Boston once the Pawtucket season closes – after the PawSox ride through the playoffs.

Red Sox Could Use a Righty in the Bullpen

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With the deadline for acquiring players who can be post-season eligible fast approaching, the Red Sox are most likely in the hunt for a right-handed pitcher for the bullpen.

But the guess here is the Red Sox already have that player on the team roster in starter Ryan Dempster.

Here’s why.

With the best record in the American League – Boston has the last shot to claim a player in the AL, meaning competitors Texas, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland and Oakland all have to pass a player before the Red Sox have a shot.

And for a National Leaguer, all NL teams need to take a pass on a waiver claim before the AL teams come up to bat.

That means a good deal is unlikely to make its way to Boston.

More likely the options will be relievers with bad contracts (Jonathan Papelbon or Heath Bell) or undistinguished performance (Kevin Gregg reports say Gregg has cleared waivers – or Tom Wilhelmsen).

Or poor starters who could shift to the pen (Joe Blanton or Edinson Volquez – who was just picked up by the Dodgers).

These look like options the Red Sox will pass on.

Should the Sox make the playoffs – they will go with no more than four starters.

Right now, Dempster looks like the odd man out (losing out to Felix Doubront for the last spot in the rotation).

And if Clay Buchholz makes it back to the big league roster – that would pretty much seal the deal that Dempster heads to the bullpen (probably for Doubront too).

Dempster has bullpen experience – he had 33 saves in 2005 (I know a long time ago).

Adding a veteran presence like Dempster to the bullpen could make things easier for Junichi Tazawa (looks like he is running out of gas) and Brandon Workman (may not be ready for 8th inning duties).

Do you think the Red Sox will try to bolster their bullpen today?

Random Thoughts

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A few musings on the Boston Red Sox and AL East.

  • If you ask me today, who wins the AL East, I pick the Rays (starting pitching – Alex Cobb comes back Thursday). Tell me Clay Buchholz makes meaningful starts in September, I go Red Sox.
  • Alex Rodriguez is a cheater who deserves a lifetime ban (from what I have read). That said, I hope A-Rod beats the rap – and the Yankees have to pay every dime left on his contract.
  • This infographic that lets you compare the salary and the number of hits for the 10 highest-paid hitters for every team is cool – check it out.
  • Have to admit – Stephen Drew is growing on me. But ready for the Xander Bogaerts Era at shortstop next season.
  • It is clear Toronto did not get the Red Sox memo from last year: money does not buy success.
  • Over his last 13 games, Mike Napoli is 6-for-45 (.133) with only one extra-base hit and three RBI. Got to think Boston is scouring the waiver wire for a first baseman.
  • Speaking of first, think the Red Sox will zero in on the latest Cuban defector – 1B Jose Abreu. But expect a lot of competition.

What are you thinking?

Written by Albie Jarvis

August 13, 2013 at 9:43 pm

The Tale of Two Trades

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The 2013 versions of the Red Sox and Blue Jays were both shaped by trades.

Boston, of course, had the “karma cleanse” deal last August with the Los Angeles Dodgers, ridding itself of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett (with Nick Punto thrown in for good measure).

Toronto “won” the last off-season with its big Marlins trade, stacking the team with Jose Reyes, John Buck, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Emilio Bonifacio.

Trade Thoughts

It’s fair to say both deals contributed to where the teams currently stand – Red Sox (1st place in the AL East) and Blue Jays (last place).

  • Team-wise, for the Red Sox, the deal did what it was supposed to do – give Boston an opportunity to start fresh. And the team has taken great advantage of that opportunity.
  • Talent-wise, the jury is out on how well the Sox did. Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa are promising but still unproven – and neither has distinguished himself in the majors. Maybe they develop into quality major leaguers, maybe the Dodgers shipped Boston a couple of guys who aren’t difference makers.
  • For the Dodgers, Gonzalez is producing what they hoped he would (and he was the trade linchpin). Crawford is okay this year (remember, Los Angeles doesn’t care about money – and wants to make a splash this year). And Beckett has moved into the witness protection program (and again, they don’t care about money).
  • Verdict – Draw between Boston and Los Angeles – which is a “win” for both teams.

Now to the Blue Jays – Marlins Trade

  • Put aside the Jeffrey Loria ripping off South Florida for a moment (that’s not a baseball issue – that’s political/economic issue). What the Marlins did with the Blue Jays trade (and got vilified for) is exactly what the Red Sox did – trade bad contracts to a willing buyer for a fresh start.
  • The Marlins have won the trade (gladly conceding the off-season to Toronto). They got young talent that positions them for the future. And note: the Blue Jays didn’t even give their best prospects in this deal.
  • For Toronto, this year has been a disaster. Johnson is gone after this season. But Reyes and Buehrle remain (unless they can unload their contracts). Bonifacio is most likely non-tendered.
  • And don’t forget – the “we are close” feeling created by the Miami trade helped push the Blue Jays to clean out their farm system to get R.A. Dickey, who has not produced and has three more seasons at ages 39, 40 and 41. Ouch. (Full disclosure: in the off-season, I liked the Dickey trade.)

Red Sox Chatter

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Time to Get Excited About Doubront

Back in Spring Training, Felix Doubront was a question – with the Red Sox upset with his weight and work ethic. Then, he experienced a drop off in velocity, raising questions about whether he was hurt.

But through it all, Doubront has persevered – and delivered a strong, under-the-radar season.

Scott McLaughlin noted, Doubront has allowed three runs or fewer in 15 straight starts dating back to May 16, the longest such stretch by a Red Sox lefty in the live ball era (since 1920).

Says manager John Farrell, “He’s certainly gained a lot of confidence over the last couple of months.”

If, and when, Clay Buchholz returns to the Red Sox rotation this season – it will raise an interesting dilemma for Farrell.

Who’s leaves the rotation – Doubront or veteran – but pitching not as well as Doubront – Ryan Dempster?

There’s a long way to go – and lots can happen – but it would be a good “problem” for the Red Sox to have – too much starting pitching.

Boosting the Bullpen

Brandon Workman has made return to the big league club – assuming a bullpen role. Workman – who lost his rotation spot due to the Jake Peavy deal, not based on performance – gives the Sox a reliever who can go multiple innings. And in his brief big-league portfolio, the righty pitcher has done a good job against lefties – which gives the team some versatility in how he is used.

Rubby De La Rosa finally made it to Fenway – in a relief role. He provides Boston a power arm – but we will have to see how he adjusts to the bullpen, since he has been a starter in Pawtucket.

Of note: De La Rosa’s numbers in Pawtucket dropped off over the last month.

Franklin Morales – currently on a DL rehab assignment – is getting close to a return. The question will be: do the Red Sox keep four lefty relievers in their pen? Matt Thornton, Craig Breslow and Drake Britton are all performing well – so it will be an interesting call for Boston on who goes when Morales returns.

The easiest course may be to stash one of the veterans on the DL for some “rest” until the roster expands in September.

Rooting for Ross             

It was good to see Cody Ross do well in his return to Fenway – going 6 for 13 with 1 HR.

Of course, it was better to see Boston beat Arizona 2 out of 3 games.

That’s the formula for the Red Sox through October – keeping winning series.

Which would you prefer: Alex Rodriguez getting suspended for one year+ or the Yankees having to pay his $28 million/year salary for mediocre performance?

Peavy Boosts Red Sox Rotation

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In assessing his role, trade Red Sox deadline pickup Jake Peavy said, “What I can add? I think I can win.”

And Peavy delivered as advertised with a win in his Boston pitching debut.

The takeaways from how Peavy beat the Diamondbacks?

  • Dominating lefty batters – who went 0 for 11 with five strikeouts.
  • He pounded the bottom of the strike zone – 57 percent of his pitches mid-thigh or lower.
  • Peavy kept the ball away from Arizona hitters, placing 64 percent of his pitches on the outer third of the zone or just off the outside corner.
  • Used his breaking balls effectively – with curves and sliders producing nine outs and five of Peavy’s seven strikeouts. And he yielded only one hit with a curve or slider.
  • Data from ESPN Stats & Information

Next Peavy start is on the road in Kansas City.

Royals’ batters went 4 for 23 (.174 AVG) in Peavy’s only appearance against Kansas City this season.

A Look at the Trade

The Red Sox tapped their organizational depth in obtaining Peavy – dealing 3B/SS Jose Iglesias.

Boston found a great fit for Iglesias – the Tigers, who are waiting for the PED suspension hammer to fall on their starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta.

All’s Detroit needs at short is solid defense – an area Iglesias shines – with their power-packed lineup.

And that pending need freed OF prospect Avisail Garcia to be sent to the White Sox for Peavy from Detroit.

Chicago sees Garcia as a potential five tool player.

From a Boston perspective – they gave up an everyday starter (they needed to provide quality to get a pitcher the caliber of Peavy).

But long-term, the Red Sox have the right side of the infield covered with Xander Bogaerts and maybe, Will Middlebrooks – making Iglesias expendable.

The Red Sox also sent three low-level prospects to Chicago while receiving hard-throwing, but wild pitcher Brayan Villarreal from Detroit – who is a crapshoot on whether he ever brings any big league for Boston.

Peavy Weighs in on Gomes

After his Sox pitching debut, gotta like how Peavy called out teammate Jonny Gomes – saying “Jonny Gomes might be my favorite player in the big leagues in this short time” – citing his enthusiasm and his play.

I will say this about Gomes – he has a knack for being in the middle of good things happening for the team. He’s a player whose value stands far above his stats – good pick-up by Red Sox GM Ben Cherington.

Speaking of Cherington, in a post-trade deadline grading of MLB GMs, ESPN’s Jim Bowden gave Cherington an “A,” writing he “has quickly become one of the best in the game.” (subscription required)

What do you think of the Peavy trade?


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