Red Sox now escalating their search for pitching

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Red Sox now escalating their search for pitching

For weeks, as teams waited to see where Yu Darvish would land, the pitching trade market in baseball was at a standstill.

Now that the Texas Rangers have won the exclusive rights to negotiate with Darvish, the logjam that existed should break -- both for the remaining free agents and teams looking to move pitching.

The Red Sox, as active as any team in the game when it comes to searching for pitching, should find some clarity soon.

On the starting pitching front, the team continues to remain in contact with the Oakland A's (Gio Gonzalez), Chicago White Sox (Gavin Floyd, John Danks) and Houston Astros (Wandy Rodriguez).

Among free agents, the Sox are involved with both Roy Oswalt and Joe Saunders.

Oswalt, who had been seeking a multi-year commitment, is now said to be resigned to landing a one-year deal. That makes him more affordable for the Red Sox, who don't have much room in their budget for a big commitment, but would be willing to take a chance on Oswalt on a short-term deal.

Another possibility for the Sox is Joe Saunders, who was non-tendered by the Arizona Diamondbacks last week. Saunders would give the Boston a rotation a second lefty to go with Jon Lester.

The Sox have three starters set -- Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz -- and could potentially have another to round out the rotation if they continue with their plan to use both Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves in the rotation.

But they could use depth, too, and for now, that's limited to unprovens such as Felix Doubront.

In addition to filling holes in the rotation, the Sox remain in the market for a closer.

Mark Melancon, obtained last week in a deal from Houston, is unlikely to fill the closer's role, though he could take over Bard's set-up duties.

Ryan Madson and Francisco Cordero are the two best options on the free agent market.

For now, Madson is priced out of Boston as agent Scott Boras is seeking an eight-figure salary. Madson was on the verge of signing a four-year, 44 million deal to remain with the Philadelphia Phillies in November before the Phils abruptly changed plans and instead signed
former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.

The one path for Madson coming to Boston would be a willingness to take a one-year (plus an option) deal, as Adrian Beltre, another Boras client, did two years ago.

Cordero is the only other free agent with extensive closing experience and may constitute an affordable compromise choice. He's averaged almost 39 saves over the last five seasons.

Cordero limited opposing righthanders to a minuscule .465 OPS last year but lefthanded hitters compiled a .736 OPS, creating some questions within in the Red Sox front office about his reliability.

Said one baseball executive: "There are no perfect solutions at this point."

Finally, there is Andrew Bailey, who is also being shopped by the A's. The A's have requested outfielder Josh Reddick as one part of a package of prospects.

Sources say the two teams have also explored a mega-deal that would send both Bailey and Gonzalez to the Red Sox. But such a trade, coming 12 months after the team packaged three top prospects to San Diego in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez, would effectively clean out the Red Sox inventory.

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.