Red Sox

Drellich: Big questions loom for Farrell's September lineup construction

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Drellich: Big questions loom for Farrell's September lineup construction

NEW YORK —  John Farrell's lineup construction in September might be a tougher task than usual.

A log jam appears to be coming. The simple, intuitive answer: play the hot hand. 

Is that always the right answer?

For this team in particular, everything will center on a basic question: who is Hanley Ramirez right now? What are the reasonable expectations for him in the present when compared to his past? Just because a player hasn’t hit lately doesn’t mean he won’t start to hit.

Let’s take it from the top.

September means the cavalry is rolling in for the Red Sox, assuming some key names have healed. Dustin Pedroia could be activated from the disabled list Friday— the day rosters expand — along with righty Matt Barnes. Jackie Bradley Jr. is to return the next day, with other call-ups coming as well.

For Pedroia in particular, there’s a layered question of playing time. How much can he handle, and at what positions?

“He hasn't been in games for weeks,” manager John Farrell said. “So whether it's his knee, low back, hamstrings, just getting back active there's going to be some things we'll have to monitor. Pedey's wanting to be on the field as he has for the last month, but I think we also have to be realistic too in that there's going to be some progression here to the point where hopefully it's unrestricted, nine innings for consecutive days over a long run. But that'll be something that we'll continue to work through in the early days of his return.”

No matter what, Pedroia seems destined to see some amount of time as the designated hitter.

What becomes of Ramirez those days, if it’s a choice between Mitch Moreland and Ramirez at first base? What becomes of Eduardo Nunez on the days Pedroia is at second base and the rest of the regular infield plays?

Left field is not in the cards for Nunez at this point, per Farrell.

“The versatility that Eduardo brings us and that was one of the bigger drawing points when we acquired him,” Farrell said. “He can go to any one of the three infield positions and will probably rotate through there on days that Pedey is on the field, so that we can keep guys fresh a little bit more and as we move forward and get deeper in the season. Without giving you [an estimate of], ‘I see this many days per week for this guy’ — we’re not there yet, but the versatility is there.”

Swapping players in and out makes sense. The criteria Farrell uses will be worth watching.

The danger is in overweighting what a player has done most recently. Results are one thing, but understanding why they’re there is another. Is there hard contact? Ramirez’s 88 mph average exit velocity entering Thursday night was higher than Andrew Benintendi’s 87.3 mph, per BaseballSavant.com's numbers.

At the same time, if there are clear, identifiable issues that need to be corrected, it’s easier to ignore a player like Ramirez’s track record.

For example, a player could be too passive or too aggressive at the plate. That’s the kind of thing the Red Sox (and other teams) can analyze behind the scenes, be it in the front office or via the coaching staff or both, and pass on to the player.

It's generally accepted that players find a zone, that they get hot. But it's dangerous to let those streaks entirely dictate playing time — yet, how crazy would Farrell look to take a hot hitter out of the lineup?

How much he weighs recent days and weeks vs. more well-established trends — and why, if he chooses to explain some of it — is a notable subplot as the Red Sox go down the stretch run. The right button to push sometimes falls in a gray area.

Dodgers send Adrian Gonzalez to Braves, re-acquire Kemp

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Dodgers send Adrian Gonzalez to Braves, re-acquire Kemp

LOS ANGELES - Matt Kemp is returning to the place where he began his major league career, reacquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday as part of a five-player trade with the Atlanta Braves that sent former Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from L.A. to Atlanta.

The Dodgers sent Gonzalez, oft-injured starting pitchers Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy, infielder Charlie Culberson and cash to Atlanta for the 33-year-old Kemp. Gonzalez then was designated for assignment by the Braves.

After sitting on the sidelines during the recent winter meetings, the Dodgers moved quickly to dump nearly $50 million in salary committed to Gonzalez, Kazmir and McCarthy for 2018. Kemp is owed about $43 million over the next two seasons. Click here for more

Martinez tells Red Sox he would DH, but others want him as outfielder

Martinez tells Red Sox he would DH, but others want him as outfielder

Free agent slugger J.D. Martinez has told the Red Sox he would DH and play the outfield for them, a baseball source said Friday.  The flipside: teams are offering Martinez a full-time outfield job, and he enjoys playing the outfield.

Martinez, the best bat available via free agency, visited with teams at the winter meetings this week.

Michael Silverman of the Herald wrote Friday that Martinez has been telling teams he prefers to play the outfield, and suggested the Sox will have to pay a bit more to land Martinez.

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“Martinez remains open to being a DH so his preference to play defense regularly does not eliminate the Red Sox from signing Martinez,” Silverman wrote. “It does, however, put them in a position of having to make an aggressive offer that would distance themselves from competing offers where teams can present a corner outfield position. 

“Just what defines aggressive is something only Martinez and his agent Scott Boras will ultimately determine.”

The market could start to move a bit now, although that doesn’t mean anything is necessarily imminent. Another baseball source on Friday night noted that the market has started to thaw with Carlos Santana off the board. He agreed to a three-year, $60 million deal with the Phillies.

The Red Sox made an offer for Santana, but the offer made clear that Santana was not their primary choice. In other words, it wasn't close to what Santana ended up with.

A scenario in which Jackie Bradley Jr. is traded to make room for Martinez in the outfield seems reasonable, even if the Red Sox and Boras, who represents Bradley, have both downplayed that possibility.

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