Red Sox

Cherington heads to Dallas with to-do list

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Cherington heads to Dallas with to-do list

BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has plenty of items on his to-do list at the winter meetings, which begin Monday in Dallas.

Im sure well accomplish something, Cherington said. I dont know what its going to be. I can't guarantee when player moves will happen, but weve got a pretty good idea of the landscape and idea of our needs.

"I mentioned this earlier, and it sounds like a little bit of a clich at this point, but I really do believe that the biggest work we have to do, the biggest job we have to do is really internally. Hiring a manager is a huge part of that. There are other parts of the operation weve been restructuring. Were going to make player moves, but weve got a lot of good players and weve made some big moves last offseason. I think the work we do this offseason is going to be a little bit different in nature, but certainly therell be player moves and we have been working on that. Theyll start happening soon.

Weve been working on both the trade and free agent fronts. Theres been things we could have done and chose not to. Its like any other offseason. You're trying to find the right opportunity, the ones that make sense for us.

So, Bobby Valentines trip to the Dominican Republic the day after the new manager was introduced at Fenway Park -- certainly cant hurt the teams efforts to keep free agent designated hitter David Ortiz in a Sox uniform. Whether Valentines lobbying actually helps, though, remains to be seen.

Ortiz is hosting his charitable golf tournament in the Dominican this weekend.

"I've been involved with this activity," Ortiz told Comcast SportsNet on Friday. "My agent knows I've been so busy with putting this together here, I told him, 'Only let me know if we are getting close to what we want. Other than that, you talk to them. You deal with everything, and at one point we catch up'. "

Ortiz will be one of the top priorities. The Sox offered arbitration to the free agent DH, who has until Wednesday to accept.

"I haven't thought about it," Ortiz said. "I haven't been in this situation before. So it's something you talk to your agents about, and then decide what's better for you and the team."

Cherington plans to meet with Ortiz agent, Fern Cuza, in Dallas.

We offered arbitration and thats significant because he has a decision to make on Wednesday, if we dont reach an agreement before then, Cherington said. Weve had continued good dialogue. And well get together with Fern and his other agents in Dallas.

The Sox also need to address:

Starting pitching
Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz will return to the rotation. Beyond those three, it is uncertain. Cherington is reported to have a meeting in Dallas arranged with Bob Garber, the agent for left-hander C.J. Wilson and righty Roy Oswalt, both free agents. The Sox have internal options in Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard, both of whom Cherington has said could start. Aceves appeared in 55 games in 2011, making four starts. Bard has not started since 2007, his first professional season, making a combined 22 starts for Single-A Greenville and High-A Lancaster.

Bullpen
The loss of Jonathan Papelbon, to the Phillies in free agency, has created a major void and questions in the bullpen. If Bard is not the closer, who is? If Bard is the closer, who takes the set-up role? Will Bobby Jenks be able to perform in either role? Along with Papelbon, Joe Nathan and Heath Bell are already out of the free-agent pool. Any potential replacement is likely to be a poor substitute for Papelbon. Right-hander Dan Wheeler is the only other player the Sox offered arbitration. A potential move into the rotation of Aceves, who played a vital role in the bullpen, would also leave a void.

Right field
J. D. Drews five-year, 70 million contract is off the payroll and into the history books. A right-handed hitting right fielder to complement the left-handed hitting Car Crawford in left field and Jacoby Ellsbury in center would be ideal. Michael Cuddyer is a possibility, as is the switch-hitting Carlos Beltran, both free agents. If the Sox are not able to bring in someone by free agency or trade, the spring training competition for the spot would likely be between Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish, both left-handed hitters. Kalish lost all but 24 games, all in the minors, because of injury, while Reddick had surgery on his left wrist last month.

Coaches
After the departure of Terry Francona, the coaching staff was given permission to seek other opportunities. Pitching coach Curt Young returned to the As. It could be difficult to lure pitchers to Boston until they know who their pitching coach will be. The contracts of first-base coach Ron Johnson and staff assistant Rob Leary were up and were not renewed.

"As I've said all along, we've got four coaches under contract, and we think highly of all of them," Cherington said. "It needs to be the right fit for them. It needs to be the right fit for Valentine. Bobby will get a chance to talk to all of them very soon, I would think."

Hitting coach Dave Magadan was contacted by Valentine Friday, the day after the new managers introductory press conference, and asked to return. The Yankees were reportedly denied permission to speak with bullpen coach Gary Tuck, who also will likely return. Leaving the status of bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who is also a candidate for the Orioles third base coach job, and third base coach Tim Bogar uncertain.

Valentine was asked if he would consider bringing in Bill Buckner, with whom he has a long friendship.

"Bill Buckner was my college roommate," Valentine said. "He's been a friend for years, we played together with the Dodgers. We played together in the Dominican Republic. I've watched his kids grow up and I respect his every opinion in baseball and in worldly matters. Whether or not Bill Buckner would be on this staff is a decision that Ben and I will talk about. Or if anyone else is going to be on this staff, Ben and I will talk about it to find out the right composition of a staff."

"It's not about friendship and it's not about who is here in the past. It's about who it is that can do the specific jobs that need to be done, who it is that will communicate the information that I need communicated to me, and who it is that can communicate to the players and their respective fields best."

Compensation for Theo Epstein
The Sox and Cubs have yet to work out compensation for allowing Epstein out of the final year on his contract to become president of baseball operations in Chicago.

We haven't made any further progress on that, Cherington said. Im sure well get together in Dallas.

Cherington is hopeful or working out an agreement by the end of the meetings on Thursday, but . . .

I said that before.

And in the meantime, he will have plenty to keep him busy.

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

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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.

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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. 

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press