Is an Ellsbury trade on the horizon?

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Is an Ellsbury trade on the horizon?

Last night, amidst the depressing darkness of 5:30 pm, it was reported that the Red Sox had reached a deal with 32-year-old, free agent outfielder Shane Victorino.

This report was soon confirmed when the Flyin Hawaiian himself tweeted that he "just agreed to join the Boston Red Sox" and this was followed by Clay Buchholz's wife tweeting out a photo of Victorino and her shirtless husband getting cozy on the high seas. (Were they on John Henry's yacht? This has yet to be confirmed, but if so, we can only hope the pair celebrated with caution. I've heard the deck can get pretty slippery on that thing.)

Anyway, back in Boston, the reaction was nowhere near as positive. In fact, it's probably best described as a mixture of anger, confusion and apathy.

Did they really just spend 39 million for three years worth of a light-hitting outfielder whose success has been predicated on speed, and is at an age when speed typically suffers a sharp decline? Are they really prepared to trot out an opening day outfield of Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and Johnny Gomes? Has nothing changed in that front office? Is there any hope that these guys can actually save this ship from sinking, or will Red Sox Nation (only card carrying members!!) have no choice but to spend the next few years gasping for air while praying that the young Killer Bs Boegarts, Bradley, Barnes and Brentz will be ready sooner rather than later?

But through all the craziness, another option emerged.

The Globe's Peter Abraham reported that, with the addition of Victorino, the Sox were now open to trading Ellsbury. In fact, he said the front office had gone as far as to reach out to Cody Ross (and other right field options) to let them know that, even with Victorino, the Sox may still be in the market for a corner outfielder. Shortly afterwards, ESPN's Buster Olney chimed in with the following tweet: "Rival officials believe that the Red Sox are laying the groundwork for a trade of Jacoby Ellsbury, for the pitching they need."

Now, we all know better than to get too carried away with hot stove rumors especially when they surface smack dab in the middle of baseball's Winter Meetings. But at the same time, this isn't the first we've heard about a potential Ellsbury trade. In fact, it's been widely speculated for the better part of a year. And when you think about it, forking over three years and 39 million for a starting centerfielder (who, even in his older age, has remained solid defensively), makes a lot more sense than doing so for a corner outfielder who will struggle to hit 15 home runs.

So, maybe there is a method to Boston's madness? Maybe this is the first step in a chain of events that will culminate with the Sox second blockbuster trade in the last five months?

As always, only time will tell, but just for fun let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of saying goodbye to Jacoby Ellsbury:

Why trade him?

For starters, because either way, this is probably Ellsbury's last season in Boston. As we know, he's a free agent after this year; he employs one of the most evil and ruthless agents in the business; and it's very unlikely that the Sox will meet the outrageous demands of an injury-prone outfielder on the wrong side of 30.

If Boston plays out this season with Ellsbury in center, all they'll get in return for him signing elsewhere is a first-round draft pick (assuming they tender him an offer). A first-round pick ain't bad, but it's nowhere near what the Sox can get if they trade Ellsbury now. There's no doubt that a trade would leave them in a better place moving forward. And unless the Sox are 100 percent convinced that, with Ellsbury in center, they have a roster that can compete for a World Series THIS year, the future is all that should matter.

Of course, the natural question is: How much is a team actually going to give up for the rights to one year of Jacoby Ellsbury?

Regardless of where he ends up, there's no doubt that Ellsbury will still dip his toes deep into the free agent waters next winter. His future will still come down to the highest bidder, and no GM in the league would be willing to mortgage the farm in the name of that kind of uncertainty. (There's also the fact that, by trading Ellsbury now, in the aftermath of last season's disaster, the Sox would essentially be selling low on their star center fielder. But let's get back to the potential suitors.)

Why would a team be willing to give up something significant for Ellsbury? First of all, because when healthy, he's still one of the most complete players in the game. On top of that, if a team is even considering forking over the big bucks next winter, what better way to evaluate Ellsbury's worth than by bringing him in for a test-drive, getting to know him a lot better, seeing how he works within the framework of the clubhouse and the city, and then, either making him an offer that he can't refuse or moving on to other options with the confidence that you've done your due diligence and your money will be better spent elsewhere?

And when you look back at some of the names and the level of prospects that are thrown around during every MLB trade deadline in some cases for a mere two-month player rental it's fair to assume that the Sox will be able to get something worthwhile in exchange for Ellsbury. And at the end of the day, that's still better than just letting him walk next year.

So, who's in the market for a 29-year-old potential-superstar center fielder?

For one, Seattle might be a good fit, as Ellsbury is a native of the Pacific Northwest and a EllsburyFranklin GuitierrezMichael Saunders combo would give the Mariners one of the best defensive outfields in the game. There's also the fact(s) that, with Ichiro gone, Seattle could really use some star power; that they have a wealth of pitching down on the farm; and that, if Boston feels like getting crazy, the Mariners also have the most sought-after pitching commodity in the free world (King Felix).

As for the one-year rental, Sons of Sam Horn commenter "sketz" astutely points out that, with the opt-out in their TV deal fast approaching, the Mariners are rumored to be up for sale. In that case, it would make a lot of sense to try and drum up immediate interest while keeping the books relatively clean for 2014 and beyond.

Then there's Texas, who lost Mike Napoli, will probably lose Josh Hamilton, and has two legitimate arms (Matt Harrison and Derek Holland) that might look nice in the Sox rotation. The Ellsbury for Elvis Andrus rumor has been circulating for a while, as well. I'm not sure how realistic that is, but if so, why the hell not?

Aside from the Mariners and Rangers, the Phillies, Reds and Brewers are all in the market for a center fielder andor lead-off hitter. One of those three teams will likely land Michael Bourn, leaving the other two desperate to fill a void that Ellsbury would fill with ease.

Bottom line: Even if it's just for one year, teams will be interested, and at the very least, willing to offer Boston much more than the prospect of one (assuming the Sox don't win it all) wasted season of Ellsbury and a future first round pick.

And in that case, all signs and common sense point towards the Sox pulling the trigger on a deal. That is, assuming a potential deal exists. And of course, assuming a shred common sense still exists inside the front office.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

First impressions: Red Sox bounce back with 8-2 win

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First impressions: Red Sox bounce back with 8-2 win

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 8-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays:

 

Rick Porcello gave the Red Sox everything they needed - except for that fourth inning.

On the current road trip, the Red Sox starters had been knocked around regularly, getting knocked out of the box early. The bullpen was overworked and the offense demoralized from being down early, night after night.

Beyond allowing a two-out double to Evan Longoria, Porcello pitched a virtually incident-free first inning and really wasn't pressured through the first three innings.

In the fourth, his command essentially disappeared, as he issued three walks, the last of which came with the bases loaded, forcing in a run. But with the bases loaded and just one out, Porcello toughened, retiring Logan Forsythe on a flyout to shallow right, then slipping a called third strike past Brad Miller.

The inning took its toll as far as elevating Porcello's pitch count, with 39 pitches needed. That eventually cost him an inning, but he got through six frames and allowed just one run.

All things considered, it was one of the most important starts of the season for a Red Sox pitcher.

 

Even on nights when he's not contributing at the plate, Bryce Brentz helps out with his glove.

Brentz has been a nice surprise at the plate since being called up last week when the Red Sox ran out of left fielders, with seven hits in his first four games.

On Tuesday, he was hitless with three stirkeouts, but he made a terrific sliding catch in the sixth, coming on to make a sliding grab on a sinking liner from Nick Franklin.

Brentz has always been well thought of as a defender in the outfield with a strong arm, and for past week, he's shown that with a number of fine plays in left.

 

There was an obvious sense of urgency to the Red Sox

You could sense it as Hanley Ramirez scored from first on a double by Jackie Bradley Jr. in the fifth. Or the hustle shown by Bradley in the seventh, going first-to-home with a slide to score on a double by Travis Shaw.

You could see it -- and hear it -- when Porcello pitched out of his bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fourth. Porcello let loose with a primal scream as he got Brad Miller on a called third strike, stranding three baserunners.

It's hard to label a game in late June as a "must win'' but given how the first four games of this road trip have played out, this was close. And the Red Sox responded.

 

Tomase: Red Sox are better than this but I have real concerns

Tomase: Red Sox are better than this but I have real concerns

John Tomase, Chris Gasper and Gary Tanguay discuss is the Boston Red Sox recent slump is more than just a slump and also when John Farrell needs to start worrying about his job security again.

Red Sox understand first-inning woes are putting pressure on offense

Red Sox understand first-inning woes are putting pressure on offense

ST. PETERSBURG, FLa. -- Not long ago, the Red Sox were repeatedly taking first-inning leads, often with multi-run innings.

These days, of course, it's the other way round. The Red Sox haven't scored a first-inning run since June 11, while the opposition is piling up the runs, with 22 scored in the last 15 games prior to Tuesday.

"Two weeks ago,'' said John Farrell, "we were talking about how much pressure it takes off (our) pitcher when you go out and score (in the first). We're living the other side of both of those right now.''

The Red Sox recognize the problem, but fixing isn't easy, namely because the issue is not the same for every starter.

The Sox are satisfied with their approach. What they have to change are the results.

"To go out and command the baseball from the start,'' said Farrell, "that's what we're all working toward getting better at. It's pretty clear where we need to improve.''

"Obviously, it makes it difficult for the offense,'' said pitching coach Carl Willis of the recent habit of falling behind. "to start off in a hole. It kind of sucks some energy out of the dugout when you're playing catch-up right away. (The pitchers) are aware of it. We're looking at everyone's routine. A couple of guys have really good, consistent routines.''

Willis said the Red Sox have examined everything, from pre-game routines and timing for warm-ups. So far, they haven't been able to discover any common factors.

"We've got to come out and throw better in that first inning,'' said David Price, who will start the series finale against his former team Wednesday afternoon. "It's setting the tone early. It's going out there and putting up a quick zero and giving all your defenders and your offense (the message), 'Alright, we've got it today. We don't have to go out and put up a 10-spot.'

"If we can go out there and put up early zeros, it takes a lot of the pressure off that offense.''

For now, it's something the Sox are focused on repairing.

"Baseball's a crazy game,'' said Willis. "Sometimes you go through periods and it just happens. That's not a good answer and that's not an excuse. We have to be better and they know that.''