Red Sox

Belichick responds to Ballard brouhaha

Belichick responds to Ballard brouhaha

By Tom E. Curran

FOXBORO - When the Patriots claimed injured Giants tight end Jake Ballard on Tuesday, the folks in New York were clearly bummed.

New York released Ballard to clear a roster spot for the team to re-sign defensive lineman Rocky Bernard.

The Giants hoped Ballard would pass through the league without anyone putting a claim on him. After all, Ballard tore an ACL in the Super Bowl and also had microfracture surgery. He would be of no help to anyone in 2012. Thirty teams passed. The Patriots didn't.

The Giants weren't happy. On Wednesday, head coach Tom Coughlin said, I certainly thought (Ballard would go unclaimed), for sure, Coughlin said. So did everybody. The whole building felt that way. Everyone did. It's obvious. It was a calculated risk that didn't work.

The Giants were kicking themselves, but there was no doubt a measure of agitation with the Patriots because every other team left Ballard alone. It's a professional courtesy, an unwritten rule (or expectation) that teams will stay away from players who are waived in order to pass them through to the practice squad or injured reserve.

Asked about the notion the Patriots breached an unwritten, Belichick said crisply, "First of all, there aren't any unwrittens."

He then deftly segued to inferring that the Giants may have been working on a deal for Ballard to return. He did so by pointing out that, of course the Giants wouldn't have been circumventing the rules by negotiating with a released player who was still in the waiver process.

"As you know, I'm sure you're aware you can't negotiate a contract (with a player), release him and then renegotiate a contract with him that was already done in advance, so I'm sure the Giants weren't doing that," said Belichick. "A player's on waivers, he's on waivers. Ours or anybody else's. I don't know what unwrittens you're talking about. Anytime you put a player on waivers, there's 31 other teams that can take him if they want him. We all know that. There's no secrets about that."

That doesn't mean that teams don't waive players with the strong hope that the player will go unclaimed. And it doesn't mean coaches won't pick up the phone and lobby opposing coaches to leave their waived players alone.

That's what Vikings coach Brad Childress said Belichick did in 2007 when New England waived tight end Garrett Mills.

Childress said on a Minnesota radio station that Belichick, "Didn't really care for (being told the Vikings wouldn't pass on claiming Mills). He was trying to leverage, but you always find out who is honest and straightforward."

The Patriots later claimed linebacker David Herron in what was viewed as a revenge move.

So why did the Patriots claim a player who can't play this year?

Well, they are light at tight end. Rob Gronkowski and Daniel Fells are still rehabbing injuries. Veteran Bo Scaife is a duct tape answer. And undrafted rookie Brad Herman just blew his Achilles last week. Defensive end Alex Silvestro has been taking reps at tight end during OTAs to give the Patriots enough bodies.

And while Ballard isn't going to fix that issue presently, tight end is clearly a lot more shallow than one who looks simply at the Patriots tight end production. It's a pivotal position in their offense and a varied one and the team had no backups to either spot in 2011.

Ballard has talent and can be a direct backup to Gronkowski. And he can compete with Fells for the third tight end role.

Ballard, meanwhile, sounds as if he didn't expect any of this to happen.

In a statement released through his agent, Ballard said, "While this was very sudden and I am still experiencing a great deal of differing emotions, I wanted to take a moment to say thank you and place some closure on a wonderful chapter in my life. I will greatly miss my teammates, the fans, the organization, and albeit short-lived, I will forever cherish all the great memories that we created during my time in a Giant uniform.

He added, "I am humbled by the opportunity that the Patriots have afforded me and as I have always done, I will bring nothing but hard work, professionalism, and integrity to what is already a world-class organization."

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

pat-neshek-mike-minor-112217.jpg

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.

MORE RED SOX:

Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel. 

Patriots missing Brady, Gronkowski from start of Wednesday's practice

ap_17319714101272.jpg

Patriots missing Brady, Gronkowski from start of Wednesday's practice

FOXBORO -- Tough day in terms attendance at Patriots practice. 

Several starters were missing from the start of the session, including two of the team's most important players, that took place in the rain on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. 

Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, Marcus Cannon, David Andrews and Patrick Chung were all absent from the start of the practice. 

Hogan (shoulder), Cannon (ankle) and Andrews (illness) were all unable to play against the Raiders last weekend. Chung left the Raiders game briefly with an undiclosed injury but returned later in the game and met with media afterward. The reasons for Brady and Gronkowski's absences are unknown. 

Matthew Slater (hamstring) did not play last weekend in Mexico City, but he was back on the practice field. Newly-acquired defensive lineman Eric Lee -- who took Cassius Marsh's spot on the 53-man roster -- was also present. 

It appeared as though new practice squad return man Bernard Reedy was on the field as well. P-squad defensive lineman Mike Purcell was missing from the session so it looks like he was released in order to make room. 

Finally, Malcolm Mitchell was not on the field for Wednesday's workout. He's eligible to come off of injured reserve and begin practicing, as is defensive lineman Vincent Valentine, but both remain out. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE