Part One: Determine the market for top free agent outfielders Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth.

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Part One: Determine the market for top free agent outfielders Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth.

1) Determine the market for top free agent outfielders Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth.

Since midseason, these two names have been inexorably linked to the Red Sox. Crawford offers speed, defense and athleticism while Werth would provide the Sox, increasingly lefthanded, with some righthanded sock.

But the Sox will have no shortage of competition for both. After two seasons in which spending has been down across the board, the expectation is that teams are ready to splurge again.

"When it's all said and done,'' said one baseball executive, "I think people are going to be shocked at how much both (Werth and Crawford) get. It's going to be insane.''

Another executive estimated that while Crawford (right) should get a six-year deal, he'll likely end up with a seven-year pact. As for Werth, the same executive said a four-year deal would make the most sense, but thanks to the sheer number of teams interested, he'll likely land a five-year deal.

Crawford has been linked to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers. Werth is expected to receive interest from his current team, the Philadelphia Phillies as well as others.

If Crawford is going to get a seven-year, 120 million deal, as some expect, will the Red Sox consider that illogical? Ditto for Werth (left), for whom a Jason Bay deal (four-years, 66 million) once seemed likely, but now might be able to command a five-year, 80 million or more.

It's worth noting that since becoming general manager, Epstein has only given one deal longer than four years to a position player -- J.D. Drew's, five-year, 70 million contract after the 2006 season.

(It's also worth noting that that contract came after the last time the Sox failed to make the playoffs -- as they did this season).

The Sox have plenty of money to spend. With about 120 million in contractual obligations, they're some 45 million shy of last year's payroll figure. But it wouldn't be a huge surprise if the Sox sat on most of that money and instead budgeted it for in-season acquisitions (see 2009 -- Victor Martinez, Billy Wagner, Alex Gonzalez) or held onto the money with an eye toward next winter when a number of franchise sluggers (Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols) hit the free-agent market.

Next: See what sort of interest exists for Daisuke Matsuzaka

Patriots place Vincent Valentine on IR, promote Geneo Grissom

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Patriots place Vincent Valentine on IR, promote Geneo Grissom

FOXBORO -- Anyone hoping to see Vincent Valentine make his season debut got some bad news Friday. 

Valentine, who has been inactive for both of the Patriots' first two games with a knee injury, was placed on injured reserve. ESPN's Field Yates was first to report the news.

With Valentine on IR, Geneo Grissom was added to the roster from the practice squad. ESPN's Mike Reiss had that one first:

Valentine, whom the Pats chose 96th overall in 2016, has not been practicing with the team as he's dealt with the knee injury.

A third-round pick of the Pats in 2015, Grissom was released by the team in September and signed to the practice squad a day later. 

Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

BOSTON – Fresh off a strong performance allowing just a single goal on 31 shots in his preseason debut, Tuukka Rask looked close to the top of his game and exactly where he needs to be with the regular season a couple of weeks away. Nearly as important as Rask’s state as the regular season nears, the Bruins coaching staff has been keeping a keen eye through camp on the all-important backup goaltender position as well. 

It’s important that the Bruins have a quality backup goalie in place as they hope to start Rask in just 55-60 games this season, and manage the slender puck-stopper in a way where they can get the best out of him from beginning to end. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated Anton Khudobin has the inside track on the backup job after finding his groove in the second half of last season, and it would appear he’s well on his way to retaining his job with a Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre tandem in Providence.

“Tuukka looks good, and looks good in practice and healthy. So that’s reassuring,” said Cassidy. “[Anton Khudobin] I thought played very well in his game. He had the one unfortunate goal, but I thought he was rock-solid the rest of the game. He’s in very good shape and he’s practiced well, so he’s got a leg up on the other [goalies] based on his experience.

“We know that going in, but he’s going to get pushed. Zane [McIntyre] was good in a game, and Malcolm let in a couple where he could have been more aggressive. But it was a first game, so right now they all look good. That’s a good problem to have if they all push each other, but to get direct to the point Anton has done nothing to lose that backup spot.”

At this point, it would likely be McIntyre rather than Subban that would challenge for the NHL backup job if Khudobin did stumble at all in training camp or early in the regular season as he did last year. There will be no backup controversy, however, if the 31-year-old plays like he did in stopping 20-of-22 shots in Tuesday night’s win vs. the Red Wings or as he did going 6-1-0 with a .922 save percentage after the All-Star break last season.  

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