Saddened Middlebrooks forced to be Sox 'cheerleader'

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Saddened Middlebrooks forced to be Sox 'cheerleader'

CLEVELAND It was a pretty grisly revelation, but Will Middlebrooks wasnt afraid to share it.

He thinks he actually heard an audible crunch when a 96-mph fastball cracked a bone in his right wrist in Friday nights win over the Cleveland Indians. He said he wasnt sure whether it was the sound of his bone cracking or his batting glove Velcro fastener coming loose.

But there was a sickeningly audible sound in the press box Friday that simply wouldnt echo from a batting glove, and usually signals baseball thumping against unprotected bone.

It was a stomach-turning sound that signaled the end of his marvelous rookie season with the Red Sox, and it marks the first significant injury of his professional baseball career.

Its just broken. Ill have to see how it goes over the next few weeks," Middlebrooks said. "Hopefully it only takes me a month to come back, but well see how it goes. They said it should heal up fine, but recovery times vary so well see how it goes.

I almost felt it crunch. I dont know it was my wrist or the Velcro on my batting glove. This is horrible. Theres a month-and-a-half left and Im stuck being a cheerleader. We all want to win games here, and I cant do anything to help now.

Middlebrooks will have to be a spectator waiting for his wrist to heal over the next couple of months, and wont be a factor in Bostons ultimate fate when it comes to the playoffs.

Hell be missed as Bobby Valentine tries to slide guys like Danny Valencia, Pedroia Ciriaco and Nick Punto into the void left by Middlebrooks absence, and the Sox offense will need to step it up as it did in Sundays 14-1 win.

Hes our third baseman of the future, said Adrian Gonzalez. He was off to a great year and were all going to have to pick up the slack for him.

But the young third baseman wont need surgery to repair the injury, and hes optimistic he can pick right back up next year with everything hes learned during an impressive first tour around the major leagues.

Its hard to say now because I want to win and I want to be in the playoffs," Middlebrooks said. "But I think once the season is over with I can be happy with what I did. Could I have done better? Sure. Do I have things to build on for next season? Absolutely.

I learned a ton. The experience you gain playing every day and being around these guys every day. Even going out to dinner you talk about baseball and you learn a lot from guys like Adrian and Pedroia. I know I can compete up here now. I feel like I have a job and I have a spot here. Thats a big deal for me.

Perhaps the only thing left for Middlebrooks aside from cheerleading is waiting to see how much Rookie of the Year support he gets once the season is over. He probably could have put together some pretty compelling numbers with another six weeks of regular at-bats, but .288.325.509 in 75 games with 15 home runs and 54 RBI is nothing to sneeze at.

With a full spring training and the swaggering confidence that hell be the starting third baseman for the Red Sox to start next season, the future will be very bright for a young building block that will be in Boston for a long, long time.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''

 

Red Sox exercise 2018 option on John Farrell's contract

Red Sox exercise 2018 option on John Farrell's contract

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- When Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski almost casually mentioned in October that John Farrell would return for the 2017 season, he was, predictably asked about the option that the club held on the manager for 2018.

Dombrowski noted that he would speak to ownership about that matter over the off-season. Apparently, it didn't take long.

The Red Sox announced Monday that the team had, indeed, exercised the option on Farrell, putting him on a guaranteed deal through the next two seasons.

"John's done a real fine job for us,'' said Dombrowski. "We had a very good year last year. I thought he did a good job handling the club. We're in a position where we have a good working relationship. He has the respect of our players; our players played hard for him, so we're very happy to have done that.

"It puts stability to our staff going into spring training.''

Dombrowski said the issue would have been addressed sooner, but the team had to deal with the departures of former GM Mike Hazen, former bench coach Torey Lovullo and other front office members.

"There were just so many issues that happened after (the end of the season),'' he noted. "There was no rush. This didn't have to be exercised until 10 days after (the competition of the 2017 season)... (But) John has a solid presence to himself, leadership capabilities, yet I also find him very open-minded when we have conversations. I think he's done a very fine job.''

Farrell became a focal point for criticism from the team's fan base and some in the media when the Red Sox struggled to separate themselves from the rest of the American League East in the first half of the season.

After winning a World Series in his first season at the Sox' helm in 2013, Farrell managed the Sox to a last-place finish in 2014, and the team was mired in the East basement in mid-August of 2015 when it was revealed that Farrell was battling lymphoma.

He took a leave of absence for the final seven weeks of the season and when the team's record improved under Lovullo, acting as interim manager, the pressure on Farrell was turned up for 2016, with Lovullo, Farrell's long-time friend, seen as the heir apparent should the team under-perform.

That pressure remained hot until the final month when a hot streak vaulted the Sox into first place and carried them into the post-season, where the team was swept out of the Division Series by Cleveland.

"I'm thrilled that (the option) has been exercised, obviously,'' said Farrell. "I love the city, the organization, the players that we have. This is an exciting young team - the young core group of players that we talk about is developing year after year.

"(This was the) first full year that Dave and I had a chance to work together and I appreciate his confidence...We addressed and faced a lot of challenges over the course of the season and we came out of it stronger and in a better place.''

Farrell maintained that "the status of my contract never changed (how I managed) day-in, day-out. And it won't going forward. My focus is what we can do (on a given) night to win a game and put our players in the best position to succeed. And that won't change.''

In four years, Farrell owns a 339-309 record (.523 winning percentage). He joined Joe Morgan as the only Red Sox managers to guide the team to multiple division titles.