Red Sox

Drellich: Dombrowski’s uncertainty at third base makes need for trade clear

Drellich: Dombrowski’s uncertainty at third base makes need for trade clear

BOSTON — Dave Dombrowski is uncertain now about Tzu-Wei Lin and Deven Marrero, about whether they’re different players than what they showed for years in the minor leagues: little offensive production. The Red Sox president of baseball operations is encouraged, but he’s unsure.

“I don’t know that answer,” Dombrowski said. “I mean it’s got a chance to be, from what I have seen. But you never know that.”

What’s difficult to believe is that two weeks of good play until the non-waiver trade deadline will leave him feeling more certain. 

So, maybe Dombrowski is playing it cool when he says he’s open to an upgrade at third base while not naming it as a clear need. Maybe he doesn’t want to overplay his hand to potential trade partners.

“I'd say it doesn't make it a point where you're so aggressively pursuing the position,” Dombrowski said of Lin and Marrero. “But I would also say, just like anything else, we're open-minded to getting better at any spot we can. So if somebody becomes available that makes sense for us with the acquisition price… there are not a lot of those positions on our team I don't think, but if that does happen, we're open-minded to it.”

Dombrowski has been around long enough to understand track records. If anything, this is an executive who values certainty and proven commodities. Veterans and stars.

That’s not what he has at third base in the wake of Pablo Sandoval’s departure, not even close. It's the clearest position of need on the team where Dombrowski already traded away a piece who is thriving, Travis Shaw.

Tzu-Wei Lin’s career average in the minors is .241. His OPS is .638. Deven Marrero’s a career .216 hitter in the minors with a .578 OPS.

What about the majors, you say?

Well, Lin has continued on the improvement he showed this year at Double-A and is hitting .333 with a .871 OPS. Not bad — but it’s just 15 games in the majors.

Marrero’s playing the heck out of third base, but he’s hitting .225 with a .615 OPS.

“Over a short time period — Lin, this year, took a tremendous leap forward, starting in spring training,” Dombrowski said. “I’m not really sure what he did, he’s stronger, there’s no question to that. He wasn’t even a big league invite, although he probably should have been.

“He always caught our eye. … He drove the ball, which really, we never saw him do before. He continued to do that at Portland for us. He’s continued to do it here. He looks like a very good player right here. He doesn’t seem intimidated whatsoever.”

“We’re encouraged by what we’ve seen this year. Could I be so, predict that will continue to happen? I don’t know, but he’s got a nice swing, he looks like he’s got a pulse.”

You think Dombrowski really wants to enter August saying to himself, “I don’t know” about third base? He needs to find a player where he can say the opposite — with as much confidence as anyone ever can in a game of uncertainty, anyway.

Marrero, for as great as he looks defensively, has not taken a significant leap forward offensively, and Dombrowski acknowledged that.

“Marrero’s case is a little bit different [than Lin’s],” Dombrowski said. “He’s worked very hard, he really was not having a good offensive year at Triple-A whatsoever, and he hasn’t had a good offensive year. He’s worked very hard with [hitting coach Chili Davis] on some things with his mechanics. He’s taken some additional breaking balls off the pitching machine, he hasn’t been chasing that quite as much. 

“Before I came down here, I was waiting in the coaches room … and was talking, Chili happened to walk in and we were just talking about the very fact, it’s like, well, we’ve been very encouraged by what we’ve seen. Hopefully, they keep it up. And we’ll see, you turn the page right away today. They’ve had four days off. A lot of times the second half of the season, hopefully, people continue to do things that they’ve done well. We’ve got big games right off the bat. And so, I think you have a chance to observe too while we’re here.”

He can observe all he wants. Two weeks won’t bring certainty. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll bring increased trade value for one or both players.

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

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Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.

Two aces, two different styles - and now another Cy Young Award for each.

The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.

Scherzer yelled "yes!" when his award was announced on MLB Network, a reaction in keeping with his expressive reputation. He showed that intensity often this year, whether he was cursing under his breath like a madman during his delivery or demanding - also with expletives - that manager Dusty Baker leave him in the game.

Just a little different than the pitcher they call "Klubot." Kluber was stoic as ever when announced as the AL winner. He swallowed hard but otherwise didn't react, only showing the hint of a smile moments later when answering questions.

Not that he wasn't thrilled.

"Winning a second one maybe, for me personally, kind of validates the first one," Kluber said.

Scherzer's win moves him into rare company. He's the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs, and among the other nine, only Kershaw and Roger Clemens aren't in the Hall of Fame.

"That's why I'm drinking a lot of champagne tonight," Scherzer said.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit.

"This one is special," he said. "When you start talking about winning three times, I can't even comprehend it at this point."

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA this year. The 33-year-old righty struck out a league-leading 268 for the NL East champion Nationals, and in an era noted for declining pitcher durability, he eclipsed 200 innings for the fifth straight season. He had to overcome a variety of ailments to get there, and Washington's training staff was high on his thank-you list.

"Everybody had a role in keeping me out on the field," he said. "I'm very thankful for all their hard work."

Kershaw has won three NL Cy Youngs and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts. This is his second runner-up finish. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals finished third.

Kluber missed a month of the season with back pain and still easily won the AL award over Sale and third-place finisher Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA, and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball. He added to the Cy Young he won with the Indians in 2014 and is the 19th pitcher to win multiple times.

The 31-year-old Kluber was especially dominant down the stretch, closing out the season by going 11-1 to help Cleveland win the AL Central. He and Minnesota's Ervin Santana tied for the major league lead with five complete games - nobody else had more than two. Kluber also led the majors with 8.0 wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com.

Kluber and Scherzer both had rough outings in the playoffs. Kluber gave up nine runs over two starts in an AL Division Series against the Yankees, and Scherzer blew a save in the decisive Game 5 of an NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Scherzer said he couldn't even watch the League Championship Series, although he did tune in for the World Series.

"That will eat at me this whole offseason," he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the postseason began.

The final BBWAA honors will come Thursday when the MVP awards are announced in the AL and NL.

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