Red Sox

Looking at Boston's free agents to be

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Looking at Boston's free agents to be

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

Even before the Red Sox begin to dabble in the free agent marketplace, open for business early next month, they must first address some free agents of their own.

Not counting those who might be non-tendered (Hideki Okajima, most obviously), the Sox have three potential free agents, a list which doesn't includes DH David Oritz. The Sox hold a 12.5 million team option on Ortiz for 2011, and if they don't elect to pick that up, Ortiz will join three others: Victor Martinez, Adrian Beltre and Jason Vartiek.

A look at the three, their prospects, chances of returning and potential landing spots.

VICTOR MARTINEZ
2010 salary: 7.5 million

The skinny: Martinez endured a nightmarish first month in which he knocked in just four runs and looked positively inept trying to throw out would-be base stealers. He also missed about five weeks because of a broken thumb from late June until early August. Other than those two periods, Martinez was a workhorse -- he played every game after coming off the DL in early August until the final weekend of the season -- and led all catchers in RBI while tying for the home run lead among receivers.

Without an established No. 1 catcher under control -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia is largely untested and a number of prospects aren't ready to make the leap to the big leagues -- it's imperative that the Sox re-sign Martinez, who provides uncommon production for his position.

Contract expectations: Four years, 52 million.

Possible suitors: A number of American League clubs will pursue Martinez, including Chicago, Detroit and possibly Texas. Baltimore and Toronto could show some interest, too, though it's doubtful that Martinez would sign with a non-contender, especially clubs with highly-regarded catching prospects (Matt Wieters in Baltimore and J.P. Arencibia in Toronto).

Chances of returning: This may well come down to how long a contract the Sox are willing to commit to. Boston probably envisions Martinez as its top catcher for two more seasons, but will it be willing to pay for two additional seasons when Martinez may transition to a DHFirst baseman who catches only occasionally?

ADRIAN BELTRE
2010 salary: 10 million (9 million base, plus 1 million buyout)

The skinny: Beltre signed a one-year deal with the Sox with the hope of restoring his value for the upcoming offseason, and succeeded fully. After a slow start, Beltre was probably the Red Sox' MVP, providing run production and stellar defense. Having achieved his goal, Beltre will now look for a long-term deal commensurate with the one he signed with Seattle after the 2004 season.

He may find such a deal difficult to find, since some teams will be wary that he once again managed to have a superb season in another walk year (much like he did with the Dodgers in 2004). Beltre is only 31, but injuries have been a factor in his career, presenting another red flag.

Contract expecations: Five years, 60 million

Possible suitors: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are mentioned prominently as they could use another bat and an upgrade at third, but owner Arte Moreno has famously been feuding with agent Scott Boras since the Mark Teixeira negotiations took a sour turn. Detroit is another possible destination, though the team's renewed interest in Brandon Inge may preclude interest in Belte. Further, does Beltre really want to play in another pitcher-friendly ballpark again after escaping Seattle's Safeco Field? It's said Beltre prefers playing on the West Coast, but it's hard to find a fit there.

Chances of returning: Again, contract length will be the telling factor. After Mike Lowell, the Sox are wary of signing another 30-something third baseman only to have him break down physically. If the Sox could find a way to retain Beltre for, say, three seasons, they would likely be willing to overpay at least some. But Beltre will likely be looking for either four or five years guaranteed, and though the Sox don't have a logical replacement in-house -- short of shifting Kevin Youkilis back to third, thus opening another hole at first -- it's tough to envision them making that kind of commitment.

JASON VARITEK
2010 salary: 3 million

The skinny: Varitek adjusted well to his backup role -- for the first half of the season. After breaking his foot in early July, Varitek missed a little more than a month, and when he returned, he seemed overmatched at the plate. That said, Varitek insisted in September that he felt better physically than he had in years and intended to keep playing for a number of seasons. He's come to terms with the fact that his days as a front-line catcher are probably over, but also realizes that dependable veteran catchers can, if they keep themselves in shape, continue playing into their early 40s. Questions about his offense, aside, Varitek has huge intangibles, from his leadership, legendary preparation and knowledge of the league.

Contract expectations: Varitek will likely have to settle for a one- or two-year deal with a low base, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5 million or so, plus incentives.
Possible suitors: Toronto and Baltimore would be smart to have interest, where Varitek could mentor their young developing catchers without getting in the way of their development while also bringing knowledge of the division. A handful of other teams in either league could conceivably have interest in an experienced backup of this quality.

Chances of returning: Slim, frankly. Some have suggested that if Martinez leaves, Varitek could be brought back to pair with Saltalamacchia, but that seems unlikely.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

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