Red Sox

First pitch: New rules change MLB's trade deadline


First pitch: New rules change MLB's trade deadline

Less than two weeks remain before the non-waiver trading deadline of July 31, which means it's about time for rumors to pile up and moves are made.

But for any number of reasons, this will be a trading deadline like few others in recent seasons.

A look at how the rules -- and the environment -- have changed and what it means to the Red Sox:

The introduction of the second wild card spot in each league has, to date, had the desired effect: it's created closer races and more competition for the post-season.

In the American League, 11 teams are, this morning, within two games of a playoff spot. Just three A.L. teams would appear out of the running for the post-season: Kansas City, Minnesota and Oakland.

That means, too, that there are fewer teams intent on selling at the deadline, and more teams looking to buy, believing that they, like so many others, are just one acquisition away from a pennant or world championship.

In theory, that should drive up the prices for teams in ''sell'' mode -- like the Twins, or, in the National League, the Chicago Cubs.

But it also may impact the deadline in other ways. With so many teams looking to add -- and, conversely, so few teams giving up on the season and looking to subtract -- the nature of the trades made is going to change.

In recent seasons, the typical deadline deal often involved a big-market team sending prospects to a out-of-contention small-market team in exchange for a player headed for free agency.

Those deals, however, are going to be rare this summer, for reasons we'll address in a moment.

In their place, executives expect, will be a return to old-fashioned baseball trades: Team A has a surplus of one area, and is willing to trade it to Team B, which has a surplus of another.

It's possible, then, to have two first-place teams doing a deal together, each looking to improve by trading from strength to fix a perceived weakness.

In the meantime, a change in the recent collective bargaining agreement means a change in the way teams are doing business.

In past years, the most popular deals involved a pending free agent being dealt to a contender. Think, say, CC Sabathia going from the Cleveland Indians to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008.

The Indians knew that they couldn't afford to sign Sabathia when he hit the market, so they decided to cut their losses and auction Sabathia off to the highest bidder.

The Brewers, who hadn't made the playoffs this century, were desperate to make a run at the post-season. They shipped four of their better prospects to the Indians and ended their playoff drought, with the help of Sabathia.

Part of the reason the Brewers were able to justify dealing off four of their best minor leaguers was the knowledge that, if they failed to sign Sabathia, they could at the very least, offer him arbitration that winter and get a first-round and sandwich pick back in the following June's draft.

That meant they got to at least partly re-stock their inventory of young players only months later, mitigating their losses.

But effective this season, thanks to the CBA negotiated last December, teams can no longer offer arbitration to rentals. If the Brewers were to make the same trade for Sabathia this summer, they would do so with the knowledge that they couldn't replenish their farm system next summer.

That, in turn, has impacted the value of players about to become free agents, such as Cole Hamels, Zach Greinke and Ryan Depmster.

Knowing that there will be no re-stocking next June, teams are reluctant to empty their system of their best young players. Those teams selling are getting used to the new reality, understanding that someone like Greinke doesn't have anywhere near the value that he might have had at the deadline under the old rules.

Another reality is the fact that teams are almost as interested in acquiring offense as they are pitching.

In this era of testing for PEDs (and amphetamines), scoring is it a 15-year low. Runs are down and power is hard to come by.

So while many teams are looking for a boost to their starting rotation or bullpen, almost as many others are in the hunt for that big bat to bolster the lineup.

"People still want arms," said one talent evaluator. "But I'm surprised at the amount of talk focused on offense. Some teams think they're a hitter away from being able to win and that's changed the nature of talks."

With an eye toward the post-season, the need is even greater. If scoring is down across the board in the regular season, runs will be tougher still in the playoffs when the pitching is generally better given the quality of teams involved.

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


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


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

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.