Sox lose Minor League free agents, sign one

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Sox lose Minor League free agents, sign one

According to Baseball America, the Red Sox have lost several of their minor league free agents, including a former first-round pick, while signing one.
 
The Sox added outfielder Mitch Maier earlier this month. Maier, 30, was a first-round (30th overall) pick of the Royals in 2003 out of the University of Toledo. He made his big league debut with the Royals in 2006. In parts of six seasons with the Royals, he appeared in 360 games, batting .248, with a .327 on-base percentage, and .344 slugging percentage, while playing all three outfield positions 209 games in center, 101 in right, and 38 in left. Maier, who bats left and throws right, also pitched in two games for the Royals, and appeared in one at first base.
 
Right-hander Billy Buckner, 27, has signed with the Angels organization. Buckner, a  second-round pick of the Royals out of the University of South Carolina in 2004, was in the Sox organization for one season. He made 27 combined starts for Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket in 2012, going 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA.
 
Right-hander Caleb Clay has signed with Washington. He was a first-round (supplemental, 44th overall) pick of the Sox in 2006 out of Cullman High in Alabama. In six seasons in the Sox organization, he appeared in 120 games, making 51 starts, posting a combined record of 15-28 with a 4.70 ERA and 13 saves. But Clay, who turns 25 in February, did not advance beyond Double-A.
 
Right-hander Michael Olmsted signed a major league contract with the Brewers and was added to their 40-man roster.  Olmsted, 25, was a ninth-round pick of the Mets in 2007 out of Cypress College in California. He had been in the Sox system for two seasons.  He split 2012 between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland. In 47 total games he posted a record of 1-4 with a 1.52 ERA and 19 saves. In 14 games with Portland, spanning 20 innings, he did not allow an earned run, recording 31 strikeouts with seven walks.
 
Third baseman Marquez Smith signed with Cincinnati. He was an eighth-round pick of the Cubs in 2007 out of Clemson. Last season was his first in the Sox organization.  Smith, who turns 28 in March, appeared in 71 games for Portland, 55 at third, 13 at second, and serving as the designated hitter in three. Smith hit .293 with eight home runs, 37 RBI, a .358 on-base percentage, and .413 slugging percentage.
 
Infielder Nate Spears has signed with Cleveland. Spears, 27, was a fifth-round pick of the Orioles in 2003 out of Charlotte High School, in Florida, just north of Fort Myers. He had been in the Sox organization since 2010. He made his major league debut in 2011. In the last two seasons, he appeared in seven big league games, playing three games in left field, two at second base, and one at third. In four big league at-bats he went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Former Sox manager and new Indians manager Terry Francona was always quick to praise Spears in their time together.
 
Also, right-hander Will Inman tweeted over the weekend that he has signed with the Rays. Inman, who turns 26 in February, had been with the Sox for just one season. In 33 appearances with Pawtucket, he posted a record of 1-3 with a 2.23 ERA and six saves. Inman was a third-round pick of the Brewers in 2005 out of Tunstall High in Danville, Virg.
 
The Sox have several other minor leaguers who became free agents after the season, including pitchers  Yeiper Castillo, Nelson Figueroa, Mike MacDonald, Tony Pena Jr.,  Jason Urquidez, and Leonel Vasquez; catcher Mike Rivera; first baseman Reynaldo Rodriguez; and third baseman Andy LaRoche.

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass-rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track.