First pitch: New rules change MLB's trade deadline


First pitch: New rules change MLB's trade deadline

Less than two weeks remain before the non-waiver trading deadline of July 31, which means it's about time for rumors to pile up and moves are made.

But for any number of reasons, this will be a trading deadline like few others in recent seasons.

A look at how the rules -- and the environment -- have changed and what it means to the Red Sox:

The introduction of the second wild card spot in each league has, to date, had the desired effect: it's created closer races and more competition for the post-season.

In the American League, 11 teams are, this morning, within two games of a playoff spot. Just three A.L. teams would appear out of the running for the post-season: Kansas City, Minnesota and Oakland.

That means, too, that there are fewer teams intent on selling at the deadline, and more teams looking to buy, believing that they, like so many others, are just one acquisition away from a pennant or world championship.

In theory, that should drive up the prices for teams in ''sell'' mode -- like the Twins, or, in the National League, the Chicago Cubs.

But it also may impact the deadline in other ways. With so many teams looking to add -- and, conversely, so few teams giving up on the season and looking to subtract -- the nature of the trades made is going to change.

In recent seasons, the typical deadline deal often involved a big-market team sending prospects to a out-of-contention small-market team in exchange for a player headed for free agency.

Those deals, however, are going to be rare this summer, for reasons we'll address in a moment.

In their place, executives expect, will be a return to old-fashioned baseball trades: Team A has a surplus of one area, and is willing to trade it to Team B, which has a surplus of another.

It's possible, then, to have two first-place teams doing a deal together, each looking to improve by trading from strength to fix a perceived weakness.

In the meantime, a change in the recent collective bargaining agreement means a change in the way teams are doing business.

In past years, the most popular deals involved a pending free agent being dealt to a contender. Think, say, CC Sabathia going from the Cleveland Indians to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008.

The Indians knew that they couldn't afford to sign Sabathia when he hit the market, so they decided to cut their losses and auction Sabathia off to the highest bidder.

The Brewers, who hadn't made the playoffs this century, were desperate to make a run at the post-season. They shipped four of their better prospects to the Indians and ended their playoff drought, with the help of Sabathia.

Part of the reason the Brewers were able to justify dealing off four of their best minor leaguers was the knowledge that, if they failed to sign Sabathia, they could at the very least, offer him arbitration that winter and get a first-round and sandwich pick back in the following June's draft.

That meant they got to at least partly re-stock their inventory of young players only months later, mitigating their losses.

But effective this season, thanks to the CBA negotiated last December, teams can no longer offer arbitration to rentals. If the Brewers were to make the same trade for Sabathia this summer, they would do so with the knowledge that they couldn't replenish their farm system next summer.

That, in turn, has impacted the value of players about to become free agents, such as Cole Hamels, Zach Greinke and Ryan Depmster.

Knowing that there will be no re-stocking next June, teams are reluctant to empty their system of their best young players. Those teams selling are getting used to the new reality, understanding that someone like Greinke doesn't have anywhere near the value that he might have had at the deadline under the old rules.

Another reality is the fact that teams are almost as interested in acquiring offense as they are pitching.

In this era of testing for PEDs (and amphetamines), scoring is it a 15-year low. Runs are down and power is hard to come by.

So while many teams are looking for a boost to their starting rotation or bullpen, almost as many others are in the hunt for that big bat to bolster the lineup.

"People still want arms," said one talent evaluator. "But I'm surprised at the amount of talk focused on offense. Some teams think they're a hitter away from being able to win and that's changed the nature of talks."

With an eye toward the post-season, the need is even greater. If scoring is down across the board in the regular season, runs will be tougher still in the playoffs when the pitching is generally better given the quality of teams involved.

Cardinals pull away late for 7-2 victory over Red Sox

Cardinals pull away late for 7-2 victory over Red Sox

The Cardinals broke open a close game with four runs in the last two innings against Red Sox relief prospect Chandler Shepherd and went on to a 7-2 exhibition victory over Boston yesterday at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.

Red Sox-Cardinals box score

The loss dropped the Sox to 1-3 for the exhibition season.

Boston had jumped on top, 1-0, on an RBI single by Mitch Moreland in the bottom of the first, but St. Louis countered with two runs in the second and one in the third, all against starter Brian Johnson. It remained 3-1 until the Cards touched Shepherd for two runs in the eighth and two in the ninth. The Red Sox added their final run in the bottom of the ninth when catcher Jordan Procyshen, who spent last season at Single-A Salem, hit a sacrifice fly.

Moreland, Xander Bogaerts and Chris Young each had two hits for the Red Sox. who also got scoreless relief from Teddy Stankiewicz, Noe Ramirez, Robby Scott, Kyle Martin and Brandon Workman. It was Bogaerts' last game before leaving to compete for The Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.

The Sox host the Yankees on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m.

Dustin Pedroia taking cues from Tom Brady to extend his career

Dustin Pedroia taking cues from Tom Brady to extend his career

Dustin Pedroia is no stranger to injuries. That's a big reason why he's no longer a stranger to the sometimes peculiar practices of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

In an interview on WEEI's "Bradfo Show," Pedroia told Rob Bradford that he's been taking cues from the five-time Super Bowl-winning QB to help extend his playing career and make his body healthier and more durable.

“I understand what he does and know what he does. I think it’s awesome,” Pedroia told Bradford. “There’s a reason why he’s successful at his age (39), and he looks better now than he did when he first came to the league. You have to be smarter as you get older and learn different styles -- the way to train and the way you take care of your body to be able to perform and stay on the field. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re playing. He’s definitely got that figured out.”

Pedroia, of course, played the entire 2013 World Series-winning season with a torn ligament in his thumb. He's battled through various other lower body and hand injuries over the past few seasons, as well. But in 2016, he had his best season in recent memory, posting his highest OPS since 2011, as WEEI notes.

Part of that is with his own take on the Brady approach -- which focuses more on pliability and resistance training than extensive, heavy weight lifting -- and a healthier overall lifestyle, something Brady is notoriously infamous for having.

"There’s tons of ways to take care of your body. It’s not just get in the weight room and throw weights around,” Pedroia explained. “As you get older, the human body can’t take the pounding if you’re going in there and power lifting. When you’re younger, you can handle some of that. But as you get older, you got to be smarter. Sometimes less is more -- whether that’s weight or reps or whatever. You’ve just got to be smart. And eating wise, that’s a big part of recovery. If you put the right foods in your body, you’ll heal faster if you’re injured or recover faster. It’s like a car, man. Put bad gas in, bro. It’s not going to be the same as good gas.”

He hopes the approach can, at the very least, keep him moving for quite some time.

“I plan on living until I’m 100," he said. "So we’re not even halfway home."