Ellsbury's future with Red Sox near top of team's to-do list


Ellsbury's future with Red Sox near top of team's to-do list

As might be expected for a team with 93 losses and a last-place finish, the Red Sox' off-season to-do list is a lengthy one.

The team must attempt to re-sign free agents David Ortiz and Cody Ross, then turn its attention to re-making a starting rotation which ranked 12th out of 14 teams in the American League.

But another item, one not necessarily tied to this off-season, may require their attention: outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ellsbury remains under the team's control for another season and will be eligible for salary arbitration for the third straight off-season. But he will be eligible for free agency after the 2013 season, meaning a decision on his future isn't too far off.

In fact, because Ellsbury is represented by Scott Boras, there's reason to address the issue this winter.

Historically, Boras advises against his clients signing contract extensions with their original teams. The reason: supply-and-demand.

Boras believes that a player can best maximize his salary value only when all 30 teams can bid. By contrast, re-signing with a team before free agency means, by definition, a player isn't taking full advantage of all the market has to offer.

The Sox could, of course, make Ellsbury an offer this winter to gauge his interest in staying in Boston. But to get Ellsbury to agree to an extension, the Sox would almost certainly have to present something seven or eight years in length, with an average annual value in excess of 20 million.

(Boras cited Matt Kemp's eight-year, 160 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a benchmark last spring).

After ridding themselves of more than 260 million in salary in their mega-deal with the Dodgers last week, the Red Sox appetite for nine-figure contracts may well be non-existent.

Then there's the matter of Ellsbury's durability. Though Boras has contended that the injuries suffered by Ellsbury -- broken ribs in 2010; separated shoulder in 2012 -- were major and unavoidable, the fact remains that, in the last three seasons, Ellsbury has played just 250 of the last 486 games, or 51 percent.

Further, regardless of Ellsbury's loss in leverage over his games played, some believe getting him signed to a contract a year before he qualifies for free agency would be virtually impossible.

Asked last month about the chances of the Sox locking up Ellsbury this winter, a team source answered: "Zero."

With that acknowledged, the Sox have two choices with Ellsbury: settle on an arbitration figure -- somewhere around 10 million, most agree -- and hope he enjoys a career year in anticipation of free agency; or trade him this winter.

Keeping Ellsbury is the safe choice. He's one of the team's most popular players and there exists the possibility that Ellsbury could duplicate his magical 2011 season, when he finished second in the American League MVP voting.

But toward what end? Few expect the Red Sox to be legitimate playoff contenders next year. Keeping Ellsbury might help the team win 87 games instead of, say, 82.

And, should the Sox roll the dice and keep Ellsbury, they'd be given no special advantage in re-signing him a year from now. That, after all, would violate the central point of Boras' theory on supply-and-demand, which presumes that he would go the highest bidder among 30 teams.

Trading Ellsbury would come with plenty of risks. They could further alienate the team's fan base, while inviting speculation that the team doesn't plan to reinvest the more than quarter billion in payroll it saved with the Dodgers' deal.

But Ellsbury also represents one of the few marketable chips the Sox have on their major league roster. If the Sox find the right trading partner -- a contending team which believes it's only a player away from a World Series - the Sox could land a quality starting pitcher, or perhaps, address their never-ending shortstop problem.

The Texas Rangers would seem to make some sense. The Rangers have reached the post-season three straight times. Texas may lose free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton this winter and Ellsbury could serve as a one-year replacement.

Texas might be willing to move shortstop Elvis Andrus, who is signed through 2014 for a total of 11.2 million. (The Rangers have baseball's best shortstop prospect, Jurickson Profar, to replace Andrus).

Or, Texas might be willing to move a starter -- Matt Harrison? Derek Holland? -- in return for a package involving Ellsbury.

Other contending teams with a need in center field: Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, and San Francisco.

It's possible the Sox could hold onto Ellsbury then re-assess the trade market -- and their own position in the standings -- next July. But if they wait until after the 2013 season begins, Ellsbury's value will decline since no player traded in the final year before reaching free agency can result in a compensation draft pick for the team obtaining him.

Given the uncertainty, then, if the Sox want full value for Ellsbury, their best bet may be in dealing him this winter.

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

BOSTON - The weight room, as much as Instagram, has been Pablo Sandoval’s home in the offseason leading up to the 2017 season.

His change in diet and routine have clearly led to visible results, at least in terms of appearance. His play is yet to be determined. But his manager and teammates have taken notice.

“Compliments to Pablo,” John Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner. “He’s done a great job with the work that he’s put in, the commitment he’s made. He’s reshaped himself, that’s apparent. He knows there’s work to be done to regain an everyday job at third base. So, we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re not looking for him to be someone he’s not been in the past. Return to that level of performance.”

Farrell noted that Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge are the other two players in contention for time at third base and while others, such as prospect Rafael Devers, may get time there in the spring, those are the only three expected to compete for the job.

“The beauty of last spring is that there’s a note of competition in camp,” Farrell said. “And that was born out of third base last year [when Travis Shaw beat out Sandoval at the third base]. That won’t change.”

Sandoval's 2016 season ended after shoulder surgery in April. 

While the manager has to be cautiously optimistic, Sandoval’s teammates can afford to get their hopes up.

“Pablo is definitely going to bounce back,” Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com “Especially with the weight he’s lost and the motivation he has to prove a lot of people wrong, to prove the fans wrong.

“He’s been a great player for his whole career. He’s not a bad player based on one year. Playing in Boston the first year is tough, so, hopefully this year he’ll be better.”

Prior to Sandoval’s abysmal 2015, his first season in Boston, when he hit .245 with 47 RBI in 126 games, the 2012 World Series MVP was a career .294 hitter who averaged 15 home runs and 66 RBI a year.

If Bogaerts is right and Sandoval can be that player again, that will be a huge lift in filling in the gap David Ortiz left in Boston’s offense.