Red Sox look to load up in MLB draft while they can

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Red Sox look to load up in MLB draft while they can

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

Though a new collective bargaining agreement is months away from being negotiated, speculation looms that a new CBA for 2012 and beyond will eliminate the existence of compensation draft picks for lost free agents.

Under the current system, however, teams are still compensated for losing free agents to whom they offer salary arbitration, and next week, the Red Sox intend to take full advantage.

Thanks to the loss of Victor Martinez (Detroit), Adrian Beltre (Texas), the Red Sox will have four of the first 40 picks in the annual entry draft which begins Monday and runs through Wednesday.

The Sox will select 19th (Martinez), 26th (Beltre), 36th (Martinez) and 40th (Beltre). By signing Class A free agent Carl Crawford from Tampa, they forfeit their own first-round pick at No. 24.

"It's always a great feeling to have extra picks," said general manager Theo Epstein. "I think it energizes the scouting staff for the whole year, because they know, going in and seeing players, there's a much better chance that they can get a guy instead of seeing someone they like and realizing they're going to go before we pick.

"When you get in the room and put them all together, it's exciting because you know when you rank the first 40 guys, you know you're getting four of them. We just have to do our job and get them in the right order."

Since this might be the last time the Red Sox have these many picks this early, there's a feeling that they need to take full advantage of the opportunity.

"We've tried to make the most of the current system," said Epstein. "That's always been a factor in some of our free agent decisions, trying to accumulate picks because that's one of the best ways to create an advantage: accumulate sandwich picks.

"We recognize that that's the system in place now, so we should try to take advantage of it while we can. We're in a wait-and-see approach. Who knows what the next CBA might look like. Because of the uncertainty, I think it just puts an emphasis on the moment, now, and taking advantage of the system that exists now. Let's work extra hard, let's get an extra look and let's do everything we can to make the right selections now that we can.

"There might be a day where we wake up and we're talking fondly of bygone days when we had four of the first 40 picks of the draft and nobody will ever have that again. Who knows what the next system will be? We've got to take advantage of this one while it exists.''

Further motivation comes from the fact this year's crop of high school and college players is among the deepest in recent years.

"It's a pretty talented class," said Red Sox scouting director Amiel Sawdaye, now heading his second draft after replacing Jason McLeod. "We see most of the depth in college pitching. There's a good group of high school pitchers (at the top), the top five or 10 guys in the draft that we're probably not going to get.

"It's a pretty good draft. Nothing historically great, but it's a good draft."

As usual, the Red Sox will try to take a long-term view when making their picks and not focus on filling present-day needs.

"We try not to get too caught up in drafting for need,'' said Epstein. "I think that gets you in trouble because the college guys don't get there for three or four years, the high school guys (take) four or five years, so who knows what our needs will be at the big league level by then. Even organizational depth can shift by then, so we try to stick with the best player available."

Having multiple picks in the first few rounds could allow a team like the Red Sox to be more aggressive in drafting a player that might have both high upsides and some risk.

"You want to get good players and you want to combine upside and probability,'' said Epstein. "But when you don't have extra picks, it's sometimes hard to take that extra risk for the very high upside. You can diversify your portfolio a little bit when you have extra picks, take that chance.''

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

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
 
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Chris Sale had been the subject of so many trade rumors for the past year that he admitted feeling somewhat like "the monkey in the middle.”

On Tuesday, the rumors became reality when Sale learned he was being shipped to the Red Sox in exchange for a package of four prospects.
    
It meant leaving the Chicago White Sox, the only organization he'd known after being drafted 13th overall by Chicago in 2010. Leaving, he said, is "bittersweet.''
     
Now, he can finally move forward.
     
"Just to have the whole process out of the way and get back to some kind of normalcy will be nice,” said Sale Wednesday morning in a conference call with reporters.

Sale had been linked in trade talks to many clubs, most notably the Washington Nationals, who seemed poised to obtain him as recently as Monday night.

Instead, Sale has changed his Sox from White to Red.

"I'm excited,” he said. "You're talking about one of the greatest franchises ever. I'm excited as anybody. I don't know how you couldn't be. I've always loved going to Boston, pitching in Boston. (My wife and I) both really like the city and (Fenway Park) is a very special place.”
     
It helps that Sale lives in Naples, Fla., just 20 or so miles from Fort Myers, the Red Sox' spring training base. Sale played his college ball at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
     
"Being able to stay in our house a couple of (more) months,” gushed Sale, “it couldn't have worked out better personally or professionally for us.”
     
Sale joins a rotation with two Cy Young Award winners (David Price and reigning winner Rick Porcello), a talented core of mostly younger position players and an improved bullpen.

"There's no reason not to be excited right now,” said Sale. "You look at the talent on this team as a whole... you can't ask for much more.”

Sale was in contact with Price Tuesday, who was the first Red Sox player to reach out. He also spoke with some mutual friends of Porcello.

That three-headed monster will carry the rotation, and the internal competition could lift them all to new heights.
     
"The good thing in all of this,'' Sale said, "is that I can definitely see a competition (with) all of us pushing each others, trying to be better. No matter who's pitching on a (given) night, we have as good or better chance the next night. That relieves some of the pressure that might build on some guys (who feel the need to carry the team every start).”

But Sale isn't the least bit interested in being known as the ace of the talented trio.

"I don’t think that matters,” he said. "When you have a group of guys who come together and fight for the same purpose, nothing else really matters. We play for a trophy, not a tag.”

Sale predicted he would be able to transition from Chicago to Boston without much effort, and didn't seem overwhelmed by moving to a market where media coverage and fan interest will result in more scrutiny.

"It's fine, it's a part of it, it's reality,” he said. "I'm not a big media guy. I'm not on Twitter. I'm really focused on the in-between-the-lines stuff. That's what I love, playing the game of baseball. Everything else will shake out.”

After playing before small crowds and in the shadow of the  Cubs in Chicago, Sale is ready to pitch before sellout crowds at Fenway.

"I'm a firm believer that energy can be created in ballparks,” he said. "I don't think there’s any question about it. When you have a packed house and everyone's on their feet in the eighth inning, that gives every player a jolt.”