McAdam: Who has leverage - Cubs or Sox?

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McAdam: Who has leverage - Cubs or Sox?

When Theo Epstein reached an agreement to become head of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs earlier this week, it seemed that the final step -- determining compensation for the Red Sox -- would be relatively simple.

Not so fast.

Multiple reports have the teams at a standstill in negotiations, with reports of the talks turning "contentious,'' and no solution in sight.

Both sides, apparently, believe they have the upper hand when it comes to leverage.

Here's the Cubs' perspective:

They've already received permission from the Red Sox to speak with Epstein about the position. Moreover, Epstein, with a year remaining on his contract with the Red Sox, had interest enough to speak with owner Tom Ricketts, then accepted the position.

At the Red Sox' insistence, the Cubs have already absorbed a 3.5 million "conclusion bonus'' that the Sox were set to owe Epstein at the end of his deal.

By allowing Epstein to interview in the first place, the Sox effectively sent a signal to the Cubs that they were willing to let Epstein go, even as principal owner John Henry continues to lament Epstein's near-departure.

Not without reason, the Cubs believe they have the leverage. After being given permission to talk to Epstein and agreeing to absorb the cost of the conclusion bonus, the Cubs know that things are too far along to stop now.

If the Cubs dig in their heels and refuse to meet the Red Sox' demands on player compensation, Epstein isn't about to return as GM of the Sox. Such a scenario would mean the Red Sox would be paying (a presumably unhappy) Epstein some 7.5 million dollars to either serve as a lame-duck GM, or, perhaps, not work at all and take the year off, while collecting the single biggest payday a baseball general manager has ever earned.

The Cubs surely believe they can wait out Red Sox ownership in this stare down. It's already been established that Epstein doesn't want to remain in Boston and it's just as likely that CEOPresident Larry Lucchino doesn't wish Epstein to remain.

Currently, the Cubs have a manager in place -- though one who is unlikely to remain on the job if the deal for Epstein goes through -- and new head of baseball oprerations who's agreed to a deal.

The Red Sox, conversely, have no manager, a GM who has agreed to a contract elsewhere and a managerial search that, for now, must remain on hold.

If you're the Cubs, you can afford to wait.

Here's the Red Sox perspective:

When Ricketts began his search for the executive to turn around his franchise, he reportedly had a list which included Brian Cashman, Billy Beane, Andrew Friedman, and, of course, Epstein, with the latter his clear first choice.

After two face-to-face meetings with Ricketts, and with the permission of his current employer, Epstein agreed to take the job.

For the past week, Epstein's pending arrival in Wrigleyville had captivated Cubs fans who view him as a baseball savior, capable of delivering the championship that has eluded the franchise for better than a century.

Now that the clubs are at a standstill on the matter of compensation, what's Ricketts going to do: tell his long-suffering fan base that Epstein isn't coming after all because the team refused to part with a minor leaguer or two? Hardly.

For many Cubs fans, starved for a title, there's little they wouldn't sacrifice in order to improve their chances of winning. Surely, they're not worried about losing a Double A or Triple A prospect if the return is a World Series.

Precedent is on the Red Sox' side, too. Just last month, Ozzie Guillen left the Chicago White Sox (also with a year remaining on his deal) to become manager of the Florida Marlins.

In exchange, the Marlins surrendered -- without much of a fight -- two of their Top 10 prospects.

If Guillen, who managed the White Sox to a championship in 2005 but qualified for the postseason just one other season in his eight years in the dugout, can command two top prospects, why wouldn't Epstein -- whose tracked record includes two World Series titles and two other trips to the ALCS -- be worth at least that much in terms of compensation?

Surely, the man charged with overseeing an entire Baseball Operations department -- trades, free agent signings, the amateur draft, international free agents, hiring scouts, managers and a coaching staff -- is of more importance (and thus, more valuable) than a manager.

The Red Sox also have a ready-made replacement for Epstein in assistant GM Ben Cherington. They don't have to embark on a lengthy, time-consuming search for Epstein's replacement.

If you're the Red Sox, you can afford to wait.

And so, with both teams emboldened by their own perceived leverage, we all wait.

First impressions: Boston's lineup bails out the snake bitten bullpen

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First impressions: Boston's lineup bails out the snake bitten bullpen

First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-3 win over Toronto:

 

The Red Sox bullpen coughed it up in the eighth in the second consecutive game.

After coming into a difficult situation in the eighth, Heath Hembree grooved a 1-0 fastball to Encarnacion for his 10th homerun of the season.

Hembree missed with his fastball middle-in, when Christian Vazquez set up down and away. That’s a miss that can’t happen against a hitter who’ll make you pay every time. Hembree entered the game locked-in, but lost his focus in the eighth.

 

Clay Buchholz's successful inning in reliefer doesn mean anything, yet. can’t pitch from the bullpen either.

He has a long was to go before he proves any value in the bullpen. The only guarantee right now is Buchholz can pitch more then one inning. He has to churn out more appearances like Sunday to be usable for the Red Sox.

 

The real David Price has arrived.

Boston’s ace showed up when he was needed. And he did it against a strong, streaking lineup, without having to strike everyone out.

After coughing up a two-run homerun to Jose Bautista and walk Josh Donaldson, he regained his composure to get out the deadly Edwin Encarnacion and one of yesterday’s villains, Justin Smoak.

And after Boston got him a one-run lead in the following half-inning, Price came out with 89 pitches to his total and only threw seven in the sixth.

That extended his outing by an inning and gave Boston’s bullpen some extra rest.

 

Blake Swihart looks like a natural in left field.

Even though his trade value is highest as a catcher, Swihart looks very comfortable in left. The question that remains with the change is his bat. If Swihart hits the same playing in left as he does behind the plate then there’s limited value in keeping him in left field once Brock Holt is healthy.

 

Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts’ at-bats in the sixth completely threw off R.A. Dickey’s start.

In addition to Mookie Betts breaking up the no hitter before Pedroia came up, Boston’s men up the middle extended their hitting streaks after grueling at-bats.

The two saw 19 pitches between them both, taking six balls apiece. With the knuckleball being unpredictable to begin with, it became that much harder for Dickey to get the ball by Boston’s two and three hitters.

After that, he got into another full count with Shaw, walking him after seven pitches.

Once he hit Hanley Ramirez in a 1-0 count that marked the 11th ball of the inning after throwing 25 in the previous five innings.

Dickey clearly tried to change his approach with hitters figuring out the knuckler the third time through, which led to his earlier than expected exit after throwing five innings of no-hit baseball.

Sunday's Red Sox-Blue Jays lineup: Ortiz a late scratch

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Sunday's Red Sox-Blue Jays lineup: Ortiz a late scratch

David Ortiz was a late scratch from Sunday's lineup because his left foot is sore after getting hit by a pitch Saturday. Travis Shaw moves up to the fourth spot in the order at first base, Hanley Ramirez becomes the DH and Josh Rutledge will bat seventh at third base.

After extending his streak to 21 games Saturday, Xander Bogaerts faces a familiar foe in R.A. Dickey. So far the matchup has been favorable for the shortstop, batting .364 through 35 at-bats against the knuckleballer. 

Dickey, on the other hand, has been on the wrong side of matchups against Boston since joining the Blue Jays. In 2016 alone, he's allowed eight runs in 9.2 innings in his two starts against the Red Sox. He faces a lineup that has five players who are hitting .275 or better against him through at least 10 career plate appearances against the righty. Shaw leads that charge, going 4-10 so far off Dickey with a homerun and two doubles. Rutledge is the lone Red Sox hitter yet to face Dickey.

The lineups:

BLUE JAYS:
Jose Bautisa RF
Josh Donaldson 3B
Edwin Encarnacion DH
Justin Smoak 1B
Devon Travis 2B
Darwin Barney SS
Kevin Pillar CF
Ezequiel Carrera LF
Josh Thole C
---
R.A. Dickey P

RED SOX:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Travis Shaw 1B
Hanley Ramirez DH
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Josh Rutledge 3B
Christian Vazquez C
Blake Swihart LF
---
David Price P

The price of being the ace

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The price of being the ace

David Price has a chance for his first “ace” moment to show Boston he’s truly the pitcher they paid for.

The bullpen is spent after giving up the game late Saturday, to go with the team dealing with a three game skid -- the longest since their three-game losing streak from April 17th – April 19th.

On top of the Sox not having lost four-straight yet in 2016, Price is back at the Rogers Centre for the first time since his playoff run with the Blue Jays last year.

So this game should have a playoff feel to it -- as much as one can in late May -- especially with the Toronto picking up steam.

And lastly for Price, he’s started to figure things out since making a mechanical adjustment following his atrocious 4.2 inning start against the Yankees earlier in the month.

But he hasn’t had to throw against a top of the line offense yet.

The lefty dominated Houston, much like everyone has this year and also did well against Colorado.

In between those two he did face a strong opponent in Kansas City, but the Royals still haven’t completely gotten things together (although they did mount a ridiculous comeback Saturday against the White Sox).

Toronto’s scored over seven runs in three of their last four, winning all four of those games and seven of the last 10 contests -- putting them four games behind Boston in the AL East standings.

Price does have a few things going for him entering Sunday’s contest.

He threw well against his old team earlier this year -- seven innings, two earned runs, nine strikeouts and zero walks -- when his mechanics weren’t where he wanted them.

Also after being traded to Detroit from Tampa Bay in 2014, Price was dominant in his returning start at Tropicana Field.

Although he took the loss 1-0, the lefty dealt, chucking a one-hitter over eight innings, striking out nine without walking a batter -- and the one run off of him was unearned.

Price has yet to pitch at Comerica Park since leaving the Tigers, so that’s something Boston may deal with later in the year, too.

Now Price has to block all of this from his mind and execute pitches, in what is his biggest test this point in the season.

A lot for him to ignore in what could’ve easily been a regular start had Boston’s bullpen done its job Sunday -- but then again, this is a part of the price of being an ace.