First Pitch: A starless summer in Boston

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First Pitch: A starless summer in Boston

SEATTLE -- On Sunday afternoon Major League Baseball will reveal the rosters for the All-Star Game, to be played on July 10 in Kansas City.

David Ortiz, who was the leading vote-getter in fan balloting when the last totals were released, will undoubtedly be the starting DH for the American League.

Beyond that, however, the Red Sox aren't guaranteed any other All-Star representatives. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who belted his 15th homer of the season Friday night, could be selected as a reserve, but that's far from assured.

Saltalamacchia must battle Matt Wieters, Joe Mauer and Mike Napoli at the position.

The Sox, then, for the first time in more than 10 years, face the very real possibility that they will have only one representative (Ortiz) in the All-Star Game, quite a dropoff from recent seasons.

Only last year in Phoenix, the Red Sox had five representatives -- Ortiz, Jon Lester, Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Beckett. The year before that, 2009 in Anaheim, the Sox had no fewer than six players selected to the squad: Ortiz, Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Clay Buchholz and Adrian Beltre.

Indeed, for the better part of the last decade, the Red Sox have almost always sent a multitude of players to the mid-summer classic. To find a year in which only one Red Sox player was chosen, you have to go back to 2001: Manny Ramirez.

(That season, both Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, perennial All-Stars at that point in their careers, were injured.)

This summer, it isn't injuries so much as underperformance. Lester has been healthy all year, but has just five wins. Beckett, who is coming back from a brief DL stint, has four wins. Both Beckett and Lester, nominally the top two starters on the staff, have ERAs over 4.00.

It's the same around the infield: Gonzalez is hitting under .270 with just a half-dozen homers as the season reaches the midway point and Pedroia, though undoubtedly hampered by a thumb injury for nearly two months, entered Friday's game hitting .267.

What does the lack of All-Stars say about the current edition of the Red Sox?

It's too simple to suggest that a lack of All-Stars signifies a poor team, or, conversely, that an abundance of Stars guarantees success. The last two years, in which the Sox placed five (2011) and six players (2010) on the squad, they failed to make the playoffs either season.

Then again, the fact that only Ortiz is assured of being on the A.L. team does seem to say something about the current Red Sox and explain some of the apathy toward the team.

Some of the ill-will felt by fans toward the team is undoubtedly the result of last September's bitter aftertaste. But there's also a distinct lack of star power, especially with Ellsury and Carl Crawford missing almost the entire first half of the season, and Pedroia and Gonzalez underachieving.

Beyond the likes of rookie Will Middlebrooks and persevering journeyman Daniel Nava, there's not a lot of individual appeal to this edition. For a team which so carefully markets itself and presents itself as much an ongoing TV show as a baseball team, that's a curious end result.

Perhaps this lack of star power is temporary. Perhaps, by next summer, Middlebrooks and others will be more established and the veterans will have rebounded and the Sox will again pack the American League All-Star roster.

But in two weeks, for this season anyway, the team with the third-biggest payroll in the game might not have any more representatives than cellar-dwelling non-contenders like San Diego and Houston.

Need a reminder all prospects don’t hit? Happy anniversary, Andy Marte trade

Need a reminder all prospects don’t hit? Happy anniversary, Andy Marte trade

In a week that has seen the Red Sox trade arguably the best prospect in baseball, Thursday can serve as a reminder that not all prospects -- even the great ones -- end up hitting. 

Eleven years ago today, the Red Sox traded Edgar Renteria to the Braves, and in eating some of the veteran shortstop’s contract, got Atlanta to give them third baseman Andy Marte. 

Andy freaking Marte. Those stupid, stupid Braves.

If you were a baseball fan at the time, you were flummoxed at the notion that the Braves, who were a factory for developing good, young players, would trade the No. 9 prospect in all of baseball from 2005, according to Baseball America. At 22 years old, he was coming off seasons that saw him hit 23 homers in Double-A and 20 in Triple-A. 

“There’s nothing not to like about Andy Marte. He’s and outstanding defender with a chance to be an impact player offensively,” an opposing Double-A manager said of him, per Baseball America. 

Some of the other guys in the top 10 that year? Joe Mauer, Felix Hernandez and Scott Kazmir. Sitting one spot behind Marte on the list? Hanley Ramirez. 

And when the Red Sox got Marte, he immediately shot up to No. 1 on the Baseball America’s list of Boston’s prospects. Look at the rest of this list. Hell, there’s a combined 10 All-Star nods between Nos. 2 and 3 alone, and that’s not to mention the American League MVP sitting at No. 5. 

So what did Marte do for the Red Sox? Well, he got them Coco Crisp. After Theo Epstein returned from his hiatus, he shipped Marte, the recently acquired Guillermo Mota (dude got traded three times in six months), Kelly Shoppach, a player to be named later and cash for Crisp, Josh Bard and David Riske. 

Crisp didn’t exactly rip it up in Boston, but Epstein’s (and then-Braves general manager John Schuerholz’) foresight to trade Marte proved wise. Marte spent six seasons in Cleveland, seemingly given every chance to break out, but never played more than 81 games. He was designated for assignment in 2009 and cleared waivers, allowing him to stay with the organization as a Triple-A player. The next season was his final one in Cleveland, and he left a six-season stint in with the organization having averaged just 50 games, three homers and 16 RBI at the Major League level. 

Marte would bounce around a bit in the Pittsburgh and Angels organizations, but he didn’t make it back up to the bigs until 2014 on a July 31 callup with the Diamondbacks. He’s now playing in Korea. 

Great prospects often become great players, and the Red Sox’ roster is proof of that. Strikeout concerns aside, there’s not much to suggest Yoan Moncada won’t be an absolute stud. Fans looking for silver lining to losing a top-tier prospect (other than the fact that you could Chris Sale for the guy), can look back 11 years and hope for the best. A lot of people were wrong about Andy Marte.

Report: Chapman, Yanks reach agreement on five-year, $86 million deal

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Report: Chapman, Yanks reach agreement on five-year, $86 million deal

OXON HILL, Md. - Aroldis Chapman found a spot in a most familiar bullpen - a very rich spot, too.

The hard-throwing closer reached agreement to return to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night with the highest-priced contract ever for a relief pitcher, an $86 million deal for five years.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the contract was pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

Once it's done, the 28-year-old lefty whose fastballs routinely top 100 mph would shatter the previous richest contract for a reliever - that was the $62 million, four-year deal Mark Melancon signed with San Francisco just a couple days ago during the winter meetings.

Chapman was acquired by New York from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, then missed the first 29 games of the season due to a domestic violence suspension from Major League Baseball. The Cuban was traded to the Chicago Cubs in late July and helped them win the World Series, becoming a free agent when it was over.

Chapman went 4-1 with 36 saves and a 1.55 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Yankees and Cubs. He struggled some in the postseason as the Cubs beat Cleveland for their first championship since 1908.

With the Yankees this season, Chapman teamed with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball history. Miller was later traded to Cleveland, but Betances is still with New York.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team was interested in both Chapman and fellow free agent closer Kenley Jansen. The Yankees had already made one deal at these meetings, signing slugger Matt Holliday, before paying a lot more to bring Chapman back to the Bronx.

Fox Sports first reported the agreement.