Red Sox

Drellich: 'Golden State Yankees' were favorites before trade

Drellich: 'Golden State Yankees' were favorites before trade

BOSTON — There’s nothing wrong with being playful about the Yankees’ takeover as the favorites in the American League East. Just don’t trick yourself into thinking Sonny Gray is the reason, and that the flip switched Monday.

Right after the Chris Sale trade in the winter, Yanks general manager Brian Cashman compared the Sox to the Golden State Warriors. So after the Yankees completed a trade Monday with the A’s for Gray on Monday, Dombrowski — pleasantly — put some pressure right back on the Yanks.

“You mean the Golden State Warriors, you’re talking about?” Dombrowski said in a Fenway Park press conference. “I think the Golden State Warriors have significantly made some moves. I expected it. I would have been surprised if they didn’t. But I think Brian probably has made them the Golden State Warriors, and we’re the significant underdogs, when I’m listening to the MLB Network. So it kind of switched. 

“I would anticipate, like [Cashman] said earlier in the year, that he didn’t know how the Red Sox would lose a game — I think it’ll be the same. I don’t know how they’ll lose a game right now. They made some good moves. They made their club significantly better. It didn’t surprise me at all. It was out there for an extended period that they were looking to do those things.”

All in good fun for Dombrowski. But the truth is, the Yanks were in better position than the Sox even before they landed Gray. And if that reality is sustained, it may not be so easy to joke about for Dombo going forward.

A trade deadline where Todd Frazier, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Gray were picked up blows the Red Sox’ combo of Eduardo Nunez and Addison Reed out of the water.

But per Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds report — which was updated in the wee hours Monday morning before the trade — the Yankees’ chance to make the American League Division Series is 77.7 percent. The Red Sox’ is 51.3 percent.

This is before incorporating Gray, to reiterate.

So how does Dombrowski actually view the American League East? With cliched general-manager speak.

“I've been in a position where we made acquisitions where we were praised to the hilt that we were going to run away with the division, and we didn’t,” Dombrowski said. “I've been looked at on a secondary basis after we've done things, and we've done really well. So I'm not good at prognosticating those things. It really comes down to how you play. If we play like we're capable of playing, I think we can play with anybody, but we have to do it.”

The Sox could put themselves back into pole position, but it would take a significant turnaround from their often powerless lineup, and also requires some fortunate turns with health. David Price is out for an unknown amount of time and Dustin Pedroia may be joining him on the DL.

“I like our club. I think we have a good club,” Dombrowski said. “We’re in a position where we're very talented. We've got some youthfulness. We've got some veteran guys. Our starting rotation's been strong. I mean, our pitching, first or second in the league it's been. And we just strengthened in the bullpen [with Reed]. We'll get Joe Kelly back. 

“Of course, David Price, we'll have to wait and see how he does. But hopefully, Doug Fister will step up and do the job for us, which we think we can. But we like our pitching. Our defense has actually been good since early in the year. We need to score more runs, but we're not a power hitting team. I think we're capable of that if we swing the bats like we're capable of doing and we've gone through a tough stretch, but I think we have a good ball club.”

The Yankees got Sonny Gray. The Red Sox are talking up Doug Fister. Enough said.

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