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Chris Capuano Comes Home to Red Sox

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Lefty pitcher Chris Capuano has joined the Red Sox – filling the gap opened when Ryan Dempster announced he would not play in the 2014 season.

Going to Boston is a homecoming for Capuano – who hails from West Springfield, Mass.

Capuano grew up as a Red Sox fan but has never pitched in Fenway Park as a big leaguer.

He knows he is currently the sixth man in a five man starting rotation – a spot not unlike what he faced with the Dodgers last season.

Los Angeles had a Spring Training staff overflowing with 8 starters, only to be hit by injury during the season and opening up a starting role for Capuano.

Most likely, Capuano will be vying for a bullpen job – competing against Brandon Workman.

The Sox may prefer Workman stay stretched out as a starter in the minors rather than placing him in the bullpen. Although he handled both roles fine last season.

Red Sox manager John Farrell sees Capuano as someone who could throw an inning out of the bullpen or face a single batter, lefty or righty.

Capuano would provide a third lefty in the pen – along with Craig Breslow and the comebacking Andrew Miller.

Miller Moving Forward

Early returns are positive on the comeback of Miller from a foot injury that knocked him out for the 2013 season on July 6.

Miller throws big-time heat – making him tough on lefties and righties. He averaged a career-high 14.1 strikeouts per 9 innings last season.

Says Farrell, “We’re looking forward to him being a mainstay in this bullpen. To have him 100 percent healthy, a guy you can go to with men on base for a strikeout, provided he picks up where he left off, that is a huge weapon.”

Who do you think lands on Boston’s Opening Day roster? Capuano? Workman? Both? Neither?

You Never Have Too Much Pitching

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Like the rumor the Red Sox are checking out free agent Ryan Madson as a potential bullpen candidate.

Even with the off-season pick-ups of free agent Edward Mujica and Burke Badenhop in a trade with the Brewers, Boston should still be looking at reliever options.

Let’s hope Grant Balfour is on the list too if his price drops.

The team saw last year how quickly they can lose pitching depth when closers Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey both got hit with season-ending injuries.

And there is the same need for depth with starting pitchers.

The Red Sox have six returning starters. No need to prune this list – something that should not even be considered until we see Clay Buchholz pitch in a number of games.

How Red Sox Staff Lines Up

  • Starters – Jon Lester, John Lackey, Buchholz, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster.
  • Potential Starters (or relievers) – Brandon Workman, Drake Britton, Rubby De La Rosa and Steven Wright.
  • Relievers – Badenhop, Mujica, Koji Uehara, Craig Breslow, Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa, Brayan Villarreal and Alex Wilson.
  • Youngster who could surprise in Spring Training – Allen Webster; he has an arm/stuff to be a big league difference maker. The question: Is he ready to stick in the big leagues?
  • Prospects that could be factors in 2014 – Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes and Henry Owens.

That’s deep depth.

But it’s needed. Boston had 26 pitchers hit the mound for the team in 2013.

What to Look at in Spring Training

  • Leading up to Spring Training, Boston should be in add mode in pitching if the right opportunity emerges unless some team overpays in a deal.
  • Among starters, Buchholz is the key – will he show he is ready to go at the season start?
  • Look for Dempster to stay – unless Workman and maybe someone else (Webster? De La Rosa?) show they are ready to move into the rotation if needed.

What are you looking for among Red Sox pitchers during the rest of the off-season and Spring Training?

Red Sox Prospect Update

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Prospect Options for Red Sox Holes

One of the great benefits of building a strong farm system is creating organizational depth that is available to address issues that pop up during the season.

John Tomase walked through the top ten options of Sox prospects who could play a role down the stretch run.

Of course, SS Xander Bogaerts leads the way and Brandon Workman is in the second spot – with Workman potentially playing role as a starter or in the bullpen.

Two sleepers: Drake Britton who could get the chance to fill Andrew Miller’s shoes as a lefty in the bullpen (even with Matt Thornton here). And Will Middlebrooks as a bounce-back player – the Sox need more right-handed pop.

Bogaerts Kudos

Keith Law placed Bogaerts at #3 on the mid-season update to his top 50 baseball prospect list (subscription required).

3B Garin Cecchini continued his meteoric rise up prospect lists coming in at #21. Law wrote Cecchini has one plus tool – “he can hit.”

Also on the list: OF Jackie Bradley Jr. at #24 and LHP Henry Owens #31. Blake Swihart made honorable mention.

Not a bad turnout for the Boston organization and note: Baltimore placed three players on the list. While New York, Toronto and Tampa Bay each landed one.

One that Got Away

Here’s one for all the prospect hoarders this trade deadline. Oakland pitching prospect Raul Alcantara was recently named California League pitcher of the week by MiLB.com. Alcantara, sent over to the Athletics in the Andrew Bailey deal, is 10-2 with a 2.42 ERA this season.

Red Sox Bolster Bullpen with Matt Thornton

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The Red Sox made a good deal getting lefty reliever Matt Thornton from the White Sox for toolsy OF prospect Brandon Jacobs.

Boston hopes Thornton can fill the shoes of lost-for-season reliever Andrew Miller – something Thornton can probably only partly accomplish.

Don’t expect Boston to stop here in the trade market.

This deal is a good indicator on how GM Ben Cherington will try to go to market again.

Use Boston’s financial strength to pick up a contract a team is looking to shed. For example, Thornton has $3.5 million left on his 2013 contract.

And the other part of the trade strategy: send one or more surplus prospects to close the deal.

That’s a good formula – and look for the Sox to repeat it.

Thornton’s Role

Looking at the numbers, Thornton is no Miller – but he could help. Relievers can get hot – and the Sox are looking for Thornton to put it together for two-and-half months with the adrenaline of a pennant race.

Thornton still throws heat (although a little less than before). He dominates lefty batters – but righties have knocked him around.

Manager John Farrell said he plans to use Thornton mostly in sixth- and seventh-inning situations – similar to his role with the White Sox.

And Chicago players sent their well wishes to the veteran Thornton.

What Boston Gave up in Jacobs

Jacobs was ranked the 11th prospect in the Red Sox organization.

He was hitting .247 with 11 home runs, 44 RBIs, 46 runs scored and 10 stolen bases over 84 games between Class A Salem (81 games) and Double-A Portland (three games).

Jacobs hit over .400 in his final 11 games at Salem before his promotion to Portland (a little showcasing to boost his trade value for Boston).

Alex Speier positioned Jacobs this way – he has all the talent in the world (outshining even Jackie Bradley Jr.) but that talent has not translated into consistent production on the field.

Jacobs is a good grab for the ChiSox – they wanted to dump Thornton’s contract and also got a prospect with upside.

What do you think the Red Sox will do next in the trade market?

Written by Albie Jarvis

July 13, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Red Sox and Justin Upton – Can it Happen?

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Justin Upton exercised the no trade clause in his contract to reject Arizona trading him to Seattle.

The rumored players heading from the Mariners were four young players: one of right-hander Taijuan Walker and lefties Danny Hultzen and James Paxton, plus infielder Nick Franklin, lefty Charlie Furbush, and right-hander Stephen Pryor.

Upton would look pretty good in the Red Sox line-up.

What would a comparable trade package from Boston look like?

With the understanding that Upton also has Boston on his no trade list. (Give him more money or extend his contract to change his mind.)

  • Walker. Matt Barnes, the Red Sox best pitching prospect, probably falls below Walker. If deal had Hultzen or Paxton, then Barnes is an equivalent.
  • Franklin. Red Sox comparables are probably either Jackie Bradley Jr. or Garin Cecchini (a third baseman who would fill an organizational need). (Shout out to John Sickels for his evaluations of the Seattle and Boston farm systems.)
  • Furbush. He is a decent reliever who does not reach free agency until 2018. That means Red Sox lefties Andrew Miller and Franklin Morales (both free agents in 2015) may not be seen as equal values. Felix Doubront (free agent in 2018) fits the mold – but is a better player than Furbush (he could balance the Walker/Barnes differential, if that was a trade component). Other possibilities among righties: Alfredo Aceves and Clayton Mortensen.
  • Pryor. He’s a young bullpen power arm. Maybe Daniel Bard is a fit. Junichi Tazawa is too much. Alex Wilson would be appealing to Boston if Arizona saw value in him. Or lefty Drake Britton.

So what’s a trade look like?

At its costliest – probably something like: Upton for Barnes, Cecchini, Doubront and Bard. That feels like too much for Boston.

Or maybe Boston can get Arizona to accept Miller or Morales in Doubront’s place.

Or an alternative: Upton for Barnes, Cecchini, Aceves (does he have value?) or Mortensen, and Britton. This probably feels “light” to Arizona.

This off-season, Boston GM Ben Cherington has been pretty clear about his non-interest in trading prospects.

However with an Upton trade, we are talking about a 25 year-old elite talent. Barnes is just three years younger – and has not yet pitched in the big leagues. Upton has been in the majors for six seasons.

Of course, Upton must have some warts (otherwise, why would Arizona even be thinking about trading him?).

But we are talking about a five-tool player who is under contract for three more years.

Should the Red Sox go after Upton? What do you think it would take to make the trade?

What’s Going Wrong with the Red Sox

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It’s not complicated. The Red Sox are second in the AL (fourth in MLB) in runs scored with 138.

And the bullpen has turned things around – as noted in a Tweet by Jeremy Lundblad: first 14 games: 8.44 ERA; last 12 games: 1.31 ERA.

Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard have been okay for number four and five starters.

The Red Sox woes revolve around the top three starters: Jon Lester (one win), Josh Beckett (two wins and complaining about shoulder woes) and Clay Buchholz (three wins but with an eight-plus ERA – great proof  point the Red Sox are scoring plenty of runs to win).

As written in this blog previously, the season revolves around the top three starters.

They deliver as expected – and as they are paid – and the Red Sox have a playoff team.

They don’t deliver – nothing else matters.

Aaron Cook, Andrew Miller and anyone else in the Red Sox farm system doesn’t matter.

Playoff teams need dependable, front-line pitching.

Time to step up, guys.

Red Sox Farm System Update

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Aaron Cook

All eyes are on Aaron Cook as the clock ticks towards his contract-mandated May 1 decision date on moving Cook up to the majors. The latest word is Boston pitching coach Bob McClure believes Cook can work out of the bullpen. Adding Cook to the bullpen adds depth – but Cook is untested in that role. The last time Cook relieved was 2003. But the move buys the Red Sox some time, keeping Cook in the organization and available for the rotation if a spot opens up. Look for Cook to be in the Sox ‘pen sometime next week.

Will Middlebrooks

Will Middlebrooks continues to be a beast – grabbing Prospect Watch Player of the Week from MLB.com and placing as the #1 prospect in this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet from Baseball America. Despite a red-hot start, Peter Abraham points out Kevin Youkilis is close to an immovable object right now in Fenway – having earned patience based on past performance and a big contract that other teams probably aren’t eager to take on. The Red Sox top issue is pitching not hitting, and that enables Boston to give Youkilis an opportunity to get going. Also, should the Sox want to move Youk, his value is low. The team is better off seeing if Youkilis can produce at the plate to build some trade value. Don’t expect a Middlebrooks call-up soon.

Bullpen Rehab

Alex Speier reports Andrew Miller has been looking pretty good in Pawtucket rehab assignments. But 11 walks in 7.3 innings just won’t cut it in the big leagues in my view. Look for Miller to be moving on soon. Speier also notes Mark Melancon is pitching pretty well. The issue with Melancon – his numbers are meaningless; they only matter if produced in higher pressure, big league situations. Should Melancon rebuild some value, the Red Sox should send him off to a team like Kansas City or back to Houston. I don’t see him back in Boston in any significant role.

Matt Barnes

The Matt Barnes legend grows. Earlier this week, Barnes was in a classic prospect matchup against Orioles farmhand Dylan Bundy – and both pitchers were dominant. Look for Barnes to move up to High A Salem soon.

How Red Sox Pitching Rotation is Shaping Up

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Let’s start a review of the Red Sox starting staff with the top three starters.

So far so good for Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz.

Coming into the spring, Buchholz was the big question – looking to rebound from his back woes of last season. Buchholz is looking good. But let’s keep watching as he extends himself deeper into games.

And remember, it was the end of season – not early on – where Lester and Beckett failed. In particular, Beckett, with his poor in-season conditioning, wore down in the stretch. I don’t think new manager Bobby Valentine will let Beckett balloon out of shape during the season. Boston needs more than 13 wins out of Beckett (his 2011 total) to be a playoff team.

Back-end of Rotation

You got to like what Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves have done in Spring Training to this point.

Bard is feeling good as a starter – albeit having only stretched out to three innings. And Aceves is a marvel on the mound.

The other contenders have not done anything to distinguish themselves.

  • Aaron Cook had a good outing today – but it was his first of the spring.
  • Felix Doubront and Vicente Padilla have been up and down.
  • Andrew Miller is battling a tender elbow.

Look for the #5 starter decision to be connected to the bullpen.

Alex Speier examined the Red Sox bullpen and sees only two spots set in stone – closer Andrew Bailey and set-up man Mark Melancon. And Tim Britton agrees.

Aceves may be just too valuable in front of Bailey and Melancon to move out of the bullpen.

Doubront and Miller are both out of options – and if they don’t make the big league club, the Red Sox will most likely lose them.

If one of them consistently puts together some quality outings in the last weeks of Spring Training, look for Doubront or Miller to start the season in the rotation – but with a short leash, having Aceves, Cook and loser in the Doubront/Miller battle ready to step in if needed.

Lastly, don’t discount Boston looking elsewhere for a starter.

The Red Sox are exploring the starter marketplace. Jim Bowden tweets they made an offer to the Nationals for John Lannan.

Figure Boston needs eight or more starters to get through the season. The Sox have depth – the question is whether it will turn out to be quality depth.

Top Boston Red Sox Blog Posts of the Week – August 27, 2011

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Andrew Miller’s Future. Alex Speier writes Andrew Miller has officially become a trustworthy starter option. The Red Sox are 9-1 in his 10 starts (the record speaks as much to Boston’s offense as Miller’s pitching). Look for Miller to be a power lefty arm in the bullpen during the playoffs – and in a position to win the fifth starter spot in 2012.

Varitek Still a Force. Forget about individual offensive numbers when assessing Jason Varitek’s season (even though they are okay for a backup catcher). Varitek has been – and still is – about the team and Sam Dykstra writes how Tek is still making an important contribution.

New Englanders in Majors. Mike Andrews documents New England-born players in the majors – with Cardinals P Chris Carpenter topping the list. Two Red Sox – Rich Hill and Dan Wheeler.

Draft Insights. Matt Huegel speaks with Red Sox director of amateur scouting Amiel Sawdaye about the latest crop of Red Sox prospects – just signed before the August 15 deadline.

What are your top Boston Red Sox blog posts picks for the week?

Written by Albie Jarvis

August 28, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Top Boston Red Sox Blog Posts of the Week – August 6, 2011

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Big Bedard Opener. Sam Dykstra recaps Erik Bedard’s Red Sox debut. Strong opening performance. Bedard stayed ahead of batters, didn’t walk anyone. With Clay Buchholz out indefinitely, Bedard needs to come up big for Boston. Buchholz is aiming for a return in the playoffs.

Miller Time Over? With Andrew Miller moving out of the rotation, Tim Britton wonders what will be Miller’s future role with the Red Sox. He asks is Miller trustworthy in the bullpen given his control issues. The Red Sox took a low-risk gamble on Miller and it looks like it is not paying off.

Yankee Insights. Britton spoke with Yankees beat reporter Marc Craig for a New York update. Craig likes Bartolo Colon over Freddy Garcia for the rest of the season. And Phil Hughes over Ivan Nova down the stretch.

Iglesias Update. Chris Mellen does a deep dive of Red Sox SS prospect Jose Iglesias. Strong defense, weak hitting is the Iglesias story to date. But remember, he is young and inexperienced in pro ball – a work in process. We’ll see if he develops at the plate to be a big leaguer.

What are your top Boston Red Sox blog posts picks for the week?

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