Sox search for short-term, short-money closer

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Sox search for short-term, short-money closer

MILWAUKEE -- Having lost Jonathan Papelbon to the Philadelphia Phillies earlier this week, the Red Sox find themselves suddenly in need of a closer for 2012.

There are internal candidates, including Daniel Bard. But moving Bard from his role as a set-up man in high-leverage innings solves one need but creates another.

It's more likely the Sox will try to find a veteran free agent closer whom they can sign without committing the kind of money that Papelbon got (four years, 50 million) from the Phillies.

That would seem to rule out Ryan Madson, who was in the midst of negotiating a four-year, 44 million deal with the Phils before the team abruptly switched direction and signed Papelbon.

If the Sox wanted to commit that kind of money (and length) to a closer, presumably, they would have done do with Papelbon. Instead, by Ben Cherington's own admission, they never made an offer to Papelbon.

Cherington said the Sox have had trade discussions with some teams and expressed interest to some agents in their search for a closer.

On the free-agent front, the Sox can choose from among Joe Nathan, Jonathan Broxton, Brad Lidge, Matt Capps and Francisco Cordero. Each, because of either age or injury, would likely be available for a short-term commitment.

"We'd prefer to avoid multiyear solutions anytime," said Cherington. "You can't always do that. And certainly with the bullpen market in general, given the volatility of that position, as a standard, we'd prefer a short-term solution. But I wouldn't rule out a longer-term solution if it was the right fit."

The Phillies, obviously, believed that Papelbon was the right fit, enough so that they gave him the most money ever given to a reliever, despite his age (31) and the workload he's had.

"We thought he was the best guy on the market," said Phils' GM Ruben Amaro Jr. "He's shown that he's been durable. He's shown that he's able to do this for an extended period of time. Anytime you go into a risk, the longer the deal, the bigger the risk. It's a risk anytime you do a multiyear deal.

"We just felt like he has the right mentality, the right work ethic, the right fit for us to extent."

Amaro said the Phils looked closely at his usage and had his medical staff do an "extensive study" on him before making the deal.

"For a guy who's pitched as much as he has and had the kind of success he's had and the mileage," said Amaro, "we thought it was still worth the risk."

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.