Red Sox talks for Upton heat up before stalling over Arizona's demands


Red Sox talks for Upton heat up before stalling over Arizona's demands

By Sean McAdam

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Red Sox would love to find a way to work out a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder Justin Upton, especially with the rival New York Yankees also engaged in talks for the same player.

But for now, the asking price -- said to be three players off the current major-league roster -- is simply prohibitive.

A Red Sox source Tuesday had classified talks for Upton as preliminary in nature and unlikely to yield anything tangible. But according to an industry source, talks continued late Tuesday night before stalling again -- at least for now -- over the Diamondbacks' most recent demands.

Arizona general manager Kevin Towers, as aggressive as any executive in the game, is willing to talk about anybody in his organization. But according to an executive familiar with the nature of the Arizona talks, the Diamondbacks are, predictably, asking for a lot.

Upton is just 23 and possesses speed, power and impressive defensive skills. He's also under control through 2015. Over the next five seasons, Upton will be paid an average of just under 10 million per season, totaling 49.5 million.

The Diamondbacks want an outfielder to replace Upton, along with two pitchers. Among current Red Sox outfielders, Mike Cameron and J.D. Drew are both too seasoned and too expensive, while Ryan Kalish hasn't proven that he's ready to play regularly at the major-league level. That leaves Jacoby Ellsbury as the most logical part of any package.

From among the team's pitchers, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester are considered virtually untouchable and Josh Beckett and John Lackey are too pricey. Jonathan Papelbon is a year away from free agency, making him unattractive to Arizona, but set-up man Daniel Bard and lefty Felix Doubront would fit the profile.

Of that trio, Bard would be the toughest for the Sox to move, given that the bullpen already needs improvement. Including Bard in a deal would mean an even bigger makeover for the relief corps.

Conceivably, the Sox could deal Bard and sign free agent closer Rafael Soriano to set-up Jonathan Papelbon, with an eye toward having Soriano replace Papelbon as closer in 2012. But that would require a significant investment in Soriano, a player who has had durability issues.

What concerns the Red Sox is the possibility of the Yankees making a deal for Upton, then adding Cliff Lee, the premier free agent starting pitcher.

After being dismissed as general manager of the San Diego Padres after the 2009 season, Towers served as a scout and consultant for the Yankees in 2010 and gained first-hand knowledge of their minor league system. Undoubtedly, Towers has a ready-made list of prospects he would like to get from his former team.

But though the Yankees boast a number of top prospects, led by catcher Jesus Montero, pitcher Andrew Brackman and infielder Eduardo Nunez, most are not near ready to play at the big league level and Towers had made it clear that he's not interested in dealing off major leaguers for prospects -- no matter how talented.

"I told our fans that I'd like to turn this thing around in a hurry," said Towers, who took over a team which finished last in the N.L. West. "I'd like to compete and hopefully win a division in 2011. Any move that we make is going to be (for) more major-league ready players. I'm not looking to acquire 'A' ball prospects right now."

That means that Towers has little interest in the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Jose Iglesias or Casey Kelly -- three of Boston's most highly-regarded prospects.

It also suggests that the Yankees would have to be willing to include current major leaguers such as Brett Gardner and Joba Chamberlain to match the kind of package of players being asked for from the Red Sox.

Sean McAdam can be reached at Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.

Massarotti: '0% chance Ortiz comes out of retirement'

Massarotti: '0% chance Ortiz comes out of retirement'

Tony Massarotti in the Cumberland Farms lounge believes there is 0% chance David Ortiz comes out of retirement.