Red Sox

Drellich: Yankees trade for Todd Frazier shows Red Sox limitations

Drellich: Yankees trade for Todd Frazier shows Red Sox limitations

BOSTON -- The Todd Frazier-David Robertson-Tommy Kahnle trade became official at midnight. Two minutes later, Deven Marrero couldn’t get an 11th-inning bunt down on three tries and struck out. 

The Red Sox and Blue Jays trudged into a marathon game from there, one that ended more than an hour later. Hanley Ramirez finally parked one over the Green Monster in the 15th inning for a 5-4 victory over the Blue Jays.

So the Red Sox’ offense did scrape by Tuesday, but just barely. On the same night, the team’s front office was forced to watch as the Yankees launched a surprise attack in the trade market and poked the Red Sox in the eye.

Want that third baseman? You can't have him.

Too often, the Sox look powerless right now. That goes for both the lineup and the man who assembled it, Dave Dombrowski.

There’s nothing Dombrowski could have done to stop the Yankees, to sway Chicago to send Frazier to Boston instead. Or, more accurately, there’s nothing Dombrowski should have done.

The luxury tax threshold is a concern, with little room for the Sox to add. In that sense, they are at the mercy of baseball’s now forced cyclical nature. 

So, to his credit, Dombrowski remained disciplined and didn't pull out all the stops. He’s spoken publicly about the need to hold onto prospects, and he backed that up Tuesday.

But the harsher reality: The Sox have already spent most of their savings. Dombrowski’s already pulled off a blockbuster. More than one. Only two certified gold doubloons remain: Rafael Devers and Jason Groome. 

Sox owner John Henry spoke to Dombrowski in the front office suite during the game, once news of the trade had come out. The conversation could have been run of the mill and coincidental, but the timing was hard to ignore.

Red Sox fans can now enjoy watching Yoan Moncada play in the big leagues for the White Sox -- a team that, after helping the Yankees Tuesday, promoted Moncada to the majors for the first time since the Red Sox dealt him for Chris Sale. 

No one would rightly undo the Sale trade, because he's been amazing. But Moncada’s promotion is simply a reminder of the cost of doing business. The Brewers’ Travis Shaw, and the home run he deposited into the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, are the same.

Brian Cashman’s Yankees are at a different point in their development cycle than Dombo’s Sox. There’s an excitement in the sheer magnitude of the Frazier trade, in the surprise of seeing the Yankees jump out of the bushes and look once again like, well, the Yankees. 

"Pretty good players, but I believe in our team," Ramirez said of New York's haul. "We’ll just see. We have to keep pushing to the limit.”

An American League East without blockbusters doesn’t feel right, and Cashman slow played this. Do the Sox now need their own move?

"I have no comments," Ramirez said. "It’s not my job. I’ve got to just come back in a couple of hours and win again."

The Yankees are just getting started, really. Cashman has spent time building up the farm system. He has a young core that's to be taken seriously, and has a lineup that’s better than Boston’s and now a bullpen that might be the best in the majors. 

Dombrowski still has time and the ability to improve the Red Sox. The Sale-David Price one-two punch looks second to none. But the offense isn’t going to drastically improve via trade.

Power has been the theme all year for the Red Sox. As the Yanks showed off theirs Tuesday and the Red Sox played 15 innings, what the Sox lack was only underscored -- both on the field and in their wherewithal to improve midseason.

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