Red Sox

Drellich: After season, Red Sox should extend John Farrell long-term or fire him

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Drellich: After season, Red Sox should extend John Farrell long-term or fire him

John Farrell’s contract runs through next season. Once this season is over, the Sox need to extend him for multiple years or fire him.

No in-between, Dave Dombrowski. Not if you want to avoid unnecessary drama for your club.

The last manager the Red Sox president of baseball operations personally installed, Brad Ausmus, is a free agent. Ausmus is finishing the last year of his deal in Detroit and the Tigers won’t bring him back.

This isn’t going where you think. 

Oh, speculation the Sox could pursue Ausmus will crop up, whether founded or not. That’s what happens when there’s a connection between a lead executive and an available skipper.

But Ausmus stands as a strong example of what happens when a manager is left in the wind. 

In 2015, when there were false reports Ausmus was fired with one year remaining on his deal, he was on the hot seat and the chatter never disappeared.

"Don't care at all,” Ausmus said two years ago, via ESPN. “Said it before, I'll say it right now. Players will respect you regardless of your contract status. They're gonna respect you because of who you are, not how much money you're making or how long your tenure is.”

In 2016, Ausmus played the year out with no certainty about his future. His 2017 option wasn't picked up until after the season.

“I understand I’m in the crosshairs,” Ausmus said last May, via the Detroit News. “That’s not gonna change the way I do anything . . . I’m not gonna make decisions based on whether I’m gonna get fired or not.”

And then, lo and behold, Ausmus was back in the same position again.

“I don’t worry about it,” Ausmus said in July, via the Free Press. “I don’t really ever worry about it. I guess I worry about it less now. My contract’s over at the end of the year anyway. I guess you think about it even less.”

The Sox don’t need this. 

The Tigers were losing and are now headed for a rebuild. Farrell’s closing in on his second straight American League East title. 

Let’s assume he gets it. That's an impressive feat. Enough to be rewarded. At the same time, if all the side dramas — the Baltimore incident, David Price’s lack of self-control, even the embarrassment of the sign-stealing saga — are enough that Dombrowski still feels unsure, he should act.

Dombrowski, great talent evaluator that he is, should have a fully formed opinion on Farrell by now. 

Remember how silly everything looked last October when it came to Farrell's status?

Farrell spoke to the media at a Fenway Park press conference after the Sox were eliminated. Farrell was under contract through 2017 at that point, but had no answers about his job security, about whether he was coming back. 

Farrell’s press conference wrapped, and in walked Dombrowski for his segment with the media. Dombrowski announced that he had just told Farrell he was coming back for 2017 — in a conversation with Farrell in between press conferences.

Uh, OK? The scene was bizarre, to say the least. 

Then, it wasn’t until December that the Sox announced they picked up Farrell’s option through 2018.

The players and Farrell deserve a fuller answer this offseason. If Farrell is the guy, treat him like it and let the players know he’s the guy. Let a clubhouse that didn’t seem to have one band, one sound the whole year know who’s actually in charge. 

And if Farrell is not the guy, move on.

What the Red Sox should not do is stand pat and leave Farrell’s contract, which runs through next season, as is. They shouldn’t leave him and the team (and the media that will ask questions of both) in a constant state of wonder, with a lurking sense that Farrell could be out the door. They shouldn't leave themselves open to speculation Farrell's moves could be influenced by his job security.

The Sox could add just one more year to Farrell's deal again, but that'd be far from a vote of confidence. Is it Dombrowski’s intention to have Farrell sit on the hot seat annually?

Maybe in Dombrowski’s mind, there’s a particular playoff round Farrell and the Sox need to advance to for Farrell to stick around. Maybe two straight division titles is all he needed to see. We don't know. Whatever the criteria proves to be, it will be scrutinized. But the firmness of the decision is significant as well.

There’s so much the Sox have to deal with every year. Legitimacy of the manager is one area where the Sox have some control over the volume. Uncertainty is a dangerous theme song.

Red Sox want JD Martinez to be big bat addition

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Red Sox want JD Martinez to be big bat addition

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Red Sox need a big bat. Dave Dombrowski is the president of baseball operations.

Naturally, they’re going to focus on the best and likely most expensive hitter in free agency.

The Red Sox are 90-10 in their pursuit of J.D. Martinez compared to other(s), a baseball source said Tuesday. That doesn’t mean a deal is 90 percent done, or that a deal is 90 percent likely to happen — it's a matter of whom they're pursuing.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported Tuesday that the Red Sox were set to meet with Martinez face to face at the winter meetings. Dombrowski declined comment when asked whether Sox would meet with Martinez.

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Dombrowski said generally Tuesday that he knows who he wants at this point.

“Sure we know,” Dombrowski said. “I mean, there’s at least a pool of players that we want. I mean, I have the list in my pocket.”

“And there’s a variety of guys that would fit that description. But yeah, we know who we want. But you’re in touch with two things, the trade market and also the free agency market. You don’t control those by yourself. … There’s a lot of conversations that are taking place right now around the industry.”

The Sox boss also said he’s in a situation where the team wants to move faster than the (non-specific) player and agent.

“For sure. I mean, I’d rather be done right now,” Dombrowski said. “I’d be sitting here making a couple of announcements or an announcement or whatever it may be, and you know that you don’t unilaterally control that. And it’s not the first time nor will it be the last time in my career that that ends up taking place. Would much rather get things done quicker. But sometimes doesn’t happen.”

Martinez is represented by Scott Boras, who can wait out top-dollar deals with the best of them.

Overall, the market was slowed by Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton.

“I'm not sure [deals are] going to be closed as much here because I think some clubs are still weighing a lot of different options on what they're doing,” Dombrowski said. “Maybe they'll speed it up, because they know we're all together here for another day and a half. So maybe that will change. But right now there's a lot of exploration.”

Martinez, an outfielder, could theoretically move to DH. Dombrowski said he has “not really” gotten the sense that potential pursuits are opposed to going to DH.

One scenario if the Red Sox signed Martinez: play Martinez in left field, trade Jackie Bradley Jr., and put Rafael Devers at first base. That opens up third base for Michael Chavis down the line. 

Dombrowski said any trade where the Sox subtract from the major league roster likely would not be done for the benefit of only the farm system.

“I don't think we would, but I wouldn't rule it out,” Dombrowski said. “We’re not planning on doing that because we're trying to win."

There’s added value in pursuing Martinez because he was traded midseason in 2017. That means it was impossible for his last team, the Diamondbacks, to give him a qualifying offer, so the Sox wouldn’t have to forfeit a draft pick to sign him.

It’s important to note that although Martinez will be expensive where ever he goes, there’s no way he gets a deal as large as Giancarlo Stanton’s.

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From the meetings: Relief may not be around the corner for Red Sox

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From the meetings: Relief may not be around the corner for Red Sox

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There could be some team groupthink going on with a relatively slow-moving market. And it just may work to teams’ advantage, and to the players’ chagrin.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Monday that the Giancarlo Stanton trade and Shohei Ohtani’s decision to go to the Angels had opened up the landscape “tremendously.” A lot more calls were coming in.

But when it comes to the Red Sox' pursuit of a relief pitcher, for example, Dombrowski alluded to the possibility it could take a while to land someone.

“There are a lot of guys out there still. There's not as many left-handed relievers,” Dombrowski said. “There are more right-handed relievers. You see movement when it takes place. But I would not say getting a right-handed reliever today is our driving force, and there are not that many left-handed relievers out there. I would not be surprised if that lasted a while, too.”

One agent Tuesday surmised the teams might well win if they just wait out players more than they have in the past -- and that's what people anticipate will happen.

Guys will start to get nervous, start to crumble. Not everyone, but some. This is one reason the union might want to fight to shorten free agency.

One trickle-down effect? Minor-league free agency has been a crawl as well.

There is risk involved for teams too, though. If most everyone waits, demand doesn’t simply disappear.

NO RIGHTY?

On the matter of that righty reliever Dombrowski referred to, the Sox run the risk of overestimating their right-handed relief corps. 

Craig Kimbrel is a given. Carson Smith, if healthy, is a great asset, but there should be a little sense of discomfort given the Sox haven’t seen him really healthy in their uniform.

But Addison Reed is gone, and even if a strong lefty setup man is brought in -- think Jake McGee or Tony Watson among free agents -- the Red Sox might be tricking themselves into thinking they have enough depth.

The Red Sox were approached by Pat Neshek’s camp before the reliever signed a two-year deal worth about $16 million with the Phillies, and declined to get involved, a baseball source with knowledge of the negotiations said.

Why? 

Depth is the key word here, and reliable depth. Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree and Joe Kelly all have upside and were significant contributors to the 2017 Red Sox. But what about creating a fearsome bullpen for the postseason? Injuries do happen, as the Red Sox know as well as anyone when it comes to setup men. 

You can argue too that the Sox need some different looks now with the Yankees carrying Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Barnes, Hembree and Kelly are all primarily fastball pitchers.

"Well, Carson Smith's not like that,” Dombrowski said. “He’s a main guy. He's not like that. He's a different motion, a lot of sliders, sinkers. So we do have somebody that is like that too that's really effective versus right-handed hitters.”

Okay. That’s one. What if he's hurt? What if he's not pitching well?

Compared to other free agents, relievers are still relatively inexpensive. Better to sign an “extra” piece now than make a trade midseason. They should do everything possible to hold on to their prospects. Some remarks at this year’s winter meetings about the state of the Sox farm system, the talent that remains, have not been kind.

DISCIPLINED DAVE

There is an element of discipline at play when the Red Sox don’t go all in for a guy like Stanton and his mega contract. Even if you thought Stanton was totally worth it, you have to appreciate that Dealer Dave and the Sox are showing discipline. Eventually, they were going to need it. And they'll continue to need it to make up for past contracts (including those given by the previous administration).

PRICE ON PACE

David Price is on a regular offseason throwing program, and has no restrictions thus far. 

Price hurt his elbow in spring training last year.

“His offseason program was good, his throwing program was good, he just got hurt when he was throwing,” Dombrowski said. “The doctors haven't asked us to change anything about that, about his preparation, our training people have not.”

The Sox don’t yet have a sense of how they’ll handle Price’s workload going forward. 

Also, Eduardo Rodriguez is doing well in his recovery from knee surgery and the Red Sox are optimistic he can return in April. 

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