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

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

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

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 smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

BOSTON - The weight room, as much as Instagram, has been Pablo Sandoval’s home in the offseason leading up to the 2017 season.

His change in diet and routine have clearly led to visible results, at least in terms of appearance. His play is yet to be determined. But his manager and teammates have taken notice.

“Compliments to Pablo,” John Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner. “He’s done a great job with the work that he’s put in, the commitment he’s made. He’s reshaped himself, that’s apparent. He knows there’s work to be done to regain an everyday job at third base. So, we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re not looking for him to be someone he’s not been in the past. Return to that level of performance.”

Farrell noted that Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge are the other two players in contention for time at third base and while others, such as prospect Rafael Devers, may get time there in the spring, those are the only three expected to compete for the job.

“The beauty of last spring is that there’s a note of competition in camp,” Farrell said. “And that was born out of third base last year [when Travis Shaw beat out Sandoval at the third base]. That won’t change.”

Sandoval's 2016 season ended after shoulder surgery in April. 

While the manager has to be cautiously optimistic, Sandoval’s teammates can afford to get their hopes up.

“Pablo is definitely going to bounce back,” Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com “Especially with the weight he’s lost and the motivation he has to prove a lot of people wrong, to prove the fans wrong.

“He’s been a great player for his whole career. He’s not a bad player based on one year. Playing in Boston the first year is tough, so, hopefully this year he’ll be better.”

Prior to Sandoval’s abysmal 2015, his first season in Boston, when he hit .245 with 47 RBI in 126 games, the 2012 World Series MVP was a career .294 hitter who averaged 15 home runs and 66 RBI a year.

If Bogaerts is right and Sandoval can be that player again, that will be a huge lift in filling in the gap David Ortiz left in Boston’s offense.