McAdam: Sox looking for arms in depleted market

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McAdam: Sox looking for arms in depleted market

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
It says everything about the quality of available starting pitchers on the trade market that the two names most closely linked to the Red Sox in the last few days are Rich Harden and Erik Bedard.

As the Red Sox hunt for other options while their own Clay Buchholz (lower back) continues his rehab, they're left contemplating two starters who have had difficulty staying healthy.

The left-handed Bedard (knee) is coming off the disabled list Friday for a start against Tampa Bay which will be monitored by the Red Sox and other pitching-starved clubs. Of course, injuries are nothing new for Bedard, who hasn't pitched more than 90 innings in a single season since 2007 and has totalted just 45 starts over the last 3 12 seasons.

It's much the same with Harden, who has topped the 100-inning plateau only twice since 2005.

Both pitchers may be worth it for the short-term. The Red Sox aren't interested in either as long-term solutions, but rather, the final two months of the season and into the post-season.

The asking price on Bedard, however, is said to be prohibitive. One team calling on Bedard said Tuesday night that the Mariners were asking a "ton'' in return, which signals just how thin the pitching market is, or, at the very least, the Mariners' over-inflated sense of Bedard's worth.

Buchholz's mound session Monday was encouraging, and Wednesday's follow-up will be critical. If Buchholz can continue to make progress without feeling restricted, the Sox can reasonably expect to have him back in the rotation by the end of August.

If his comeback effort were to be slowed, however, the Red Sox desperation for pitching help might be intensified.

Andrew Miller's rough outing Tuesday (seven runs on nine hits in just 3 23 innings) was evidence that the lefty remains a work in progress.

Without Buchholz in the picture, the Sox would need to start both John Lackey and either Miller or Tim Wakefield in an ALCS, when four starters are required.

But upgrades, as they are finding, are not easy to come by. The Sox continue to check in with the Colorado Rockies on Ubaldo Jimenez, but they're behind the Yankees and at least one other National League suitor (Cincinnati?) for the righthander.

The Yankees could package catcher Jesus Montero and at least one other high-end prospect for Jimenez, while the Red Sox inventory of top-level prospects has been thinned by the Adrian Gonzalez deal last December.

(The Yankees' starting rotation need, it should be noted, is greater than that of the Red Sox).

Moreover, the Red Sox continue to ask -- as executives with other teams have wondered -- why Jimenez is on the market at all. At just 27, Jimenez is signed through the end of 2012 with two affordable team options (5.75 million in 2013 and 8 million in 2014), making his availability something of a red flag.

Said one executive recently: "If (the Rockies) are shopping him, that tells me he's either hurt or they think he'll get hurt.''

A Rockies scout was at Fenway Tuesday, indicating that the Red Sox are least somewhat involved on Jimenez. (The Red Sox have a passing interest in Colorado outfielder Ryan Spilborghs, but he would fetch only an average prospect, and not someone off Boston's 25-man roster.)

Meanwhile, the continued standout play of Josh Reddick (1.022 OPS) means the Red Sox' search for an outfielder has been placed on the back burner.

While the likes of Spilborghs and Reed Johnson are still somewhat in play, one baseball source said deals for secondary outfielders are likely to intensify only after trades involving Carlos Beltran and B.J. Upton are made.

The Sox have not inquired on Upton, knowing full well that the Rays won't deal him within the division, especially since he has a contract through the end of next season.

Texas, Atlanta and San Francisco are the teams most involved on Beltran, with the Red Sox lurking in the background -- interested, but only to a point, given the asking price.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.