Red Sox

Drellich: Moving Price to bullpen can say different things about Red Sox' faith in him

Drellich: Moving Price to bullpen can say different things about Red Sox' faith in him

BOSTON — Let’s not pretend the decision to move to David Price to the bullpen was primarily about time, or the lack thereof, to build up his pitch count.

There are enough games, enough days, to get Price up and running as a starter, even if it’s for just five innings at the get-go in the regular season. There is time to try and then back away and put Price in the ‘pen, if the Sox wanted to.

They don’t want to. And the fact they don’t is a clear referendum on the state of the bullpen, as well as clouded commentary on the pitcher himself.

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There were notable two left-handed relievers activated from the disabled list in the American League on Thursday: Price and Andrew Miller. 

The Red Sox want the former to become the latter. Need, in fact. Because beyond Craig Kimbrel and Addison Reed, there’s a game of musical chairs. 

Consider that even in close games down the stretch, manager John Farrell has to do some information-gathering with his reliever usage.

“There’s a short list of those things right now, yes,” Farrell said Thursday afternoon, after a 6-2 Sox win over the A’s where he used five relievers. “And that’s a fallout of some internal conversations, part of the [desire to use the] hot hand or part of that information gathering. It’s balanced with a pennant race and the importance of finishing out games as best possible. But, as it starts to build toward these last remaining games, yeah, there’s some of that that’s going on currently.”

Price shores up a weakness. 

At the same time, the fact the Sox don’t want Price to try to start creates an open-ended question of management’s faith in a $31 million pitcher. 

You could go both ways. Asking Price to switch roles could be looked at as a move of great faith in the southpaw, because they believe in Price’s ability to adjust to a role he’s had little experience with. 

On the other hand, you could argue the Sox are showing they do not believe in Price’s ability to make an effective, quick return as a starter — a progression that Sox manager John Farrell said would be “aggressive.”

Aggressive. . . that’s the idea on the bases, isn’t it? That’s a lot different than impossible, or unreasonable.

There was no suggestion that Price physically is not capable of coming back as a starter, mind you. The choice has not been described to be a decision based on doctor’s orders.

“Recognizes the limited availability of time and to build back up so logically this is a spot and is accepting of the role,” Farrell said Thursday of Price’s role. “He wants to get back and pitch. He wants to get back and compete.”

Here, hypothetically, is another way he could compete: Price could throw four innings Sept. 18 in a sim game, staying on regular rest after his three-inning sim game Wednesday. He could have thrown five innings Sept. 23 in a return start in the majors, and a targeted six innings Sept. 28.

The argument inevitably moves to the value of Price as a starter vs. a reliever, and it’s layered. Will Price be more effective in relief than he would as a starter? Would he be better able to shed rust ahead of the playoffs if he can forego building up his pitch count? Possibly. 

A potential drawback: presumably, in the span of a short series, the Red Sox will get fewer innings out of Price as a reliever than they would were he a starter. Yet, having Price available in more games earlier in a series could also be advantageous.

So the Red Sox have made their plan with Price, and there’s one certainty it points to: the uncertainty in the bullpen. Reed, Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, Robby Scott and Brandon Workman all pitched Thursday, and all seem likely to make a presumed playoff roster. At least as of now.

“Well, we can’t turn away from what has gone on the entire season and the full body of work,” Farrell said when asked if the ‘pen is the big question down the stretch. “There may be additional weight on these final two weeks, but I can’t say it would revamp a whole bridging to [Craig] Kimbrel.”

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Report: Ex-Red Sox reliever Reed gets deal with Twins

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Report: Ex-Red Sox reliever Reed gets deal with Twins

He was dubbed "Closer B" by Red Sox manager John Farrell when acquired at the trade deadline last summer, now Addison Reed is "Closer B Gone"...to the Twins.

The right-handed reliever, 29, has agreed to a two-year, $16.75 million free-agent deal with Minnesota, pending a physical, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and TheAthletic.com reports. 

Reed began last season with the Mets and had 19 saves and a 2.57 ERA before being traded to the Red Sox, where he had a 3.33 ERA in 29 games (27 innings) without a save as a setup man for Craig Kimbrell.  
 

Red Sox, Mookie Betts far apart on salary and heading toward arbitration

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Red Sox, Mookie Betts far apart on salary and heading toward arbitration

The Red Sox and star right fielder Mookie Betts intend to go to an arbitration hearing in February, and there were signs this was coming even a year ago.

Betts was the only arbitration-eligible player on the Red Sox who did not settle on a contract with the team on Friday, when a deadline arrived for all teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange 2018 salary figures. Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Drew Pomeranz were the biggest names to avoid hearings.

Betts filed for a $10.5 million salary and the Red Sox filed at $7.5 million.  Betts and the Red Sox agreed previously that if no figure could be settled on by the Friday deadline, they would proceed to a hearing, assistant general manager Brian O'Halloran said. 

A three-person panel of arbitrators therefore is set to determine what Betts makes in 2018: either the $7.5 million figure the Sox filed or the $10.5 million figure Betts' camp submitted. The arbitrators won't settle on a midpoint for the parties. 

O'Halloran noted to the Globe there are no hard feelings involved.

Nonetheless, such a large gap would seem to provide incentive to settle. The parties technically could still decide to do so, but that would take a change of course from the present plan. The idea was to settle any time before Friday, and they did not. 

Betts is asking for near-record money for a first-year arbitration eligible player. Kris Bryant set the record Friday with a $10.85 million settlement.

The hearings can be difficult for player-team relations because teams have to make the case in front of the player that he is worth less money than he wants.

Betts, 25, hit .264, with 24 homers, 102 RBI, 25 stolen bases and a .803 OPS in 2017, numbers that fell from his American League MVP runner-up performance in 2016, but were nonetheless very strong and coupled with first-rate defense.

This offseason is Betts' first of arbitration eligibility. In the first three years of service time in a players' career, there's no recourse if you don't like the salary a team is offering. Teams can pay players anything at league minimum or above. 

The only option a player has in those first three years is to make a stand on principle: you can force the team to technically "renew" your salary, which notes to everyone that you did not agree to the salary. Betts and his agents did that in 2017 when the Sox paid him $950,000, a very high amount relative to most contract renewals.

Some of the standard thinking behind forcing a team to renew a contract is that if an arbitration case comes up down the road — and one now looms for Betts — it's supposed to show the arbitrators that the player felt even in seasons past, he was underpaid.

Still, the Sox may have effectively combatted that perception by paying Betts almost $1 million on a renewal. Per USA Today, that $950,000 agreement in 2017 was "the second-highest one-year deal ever for a non-arbitration-eligible player with two-plus years of big league service." Mike Trout got $1 million in 2014.