Red Sox

McAdam: No sense in Sox rushing to action over offseason

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McAdam: No sense in Sox rushing to action over offseason

When the Red Sox last August shed more than a quarter of a billion dollars in salary obligations -- thanks to their blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers -- they vowed a return to a more "disciplined" approach.

Spending wildly for the top free agents -- like Carl Crawford, one of three stars jettisoned in the deal -- had gotten them nowhere fast, the Red Sox concluded. In the future, they would avoid tying themselves to long, nine-figure salaries and instead focus on their own development system which could foster long-term, sustained success.

Fans, disheartened by the wasted resources and underperforming play of Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and others, nodded in agreement. Yes, they agreed, it was time to get back to basics, to stop looking to the free agent market for a quick fix.

Now, apparently, the honeymoon is over.

In the aftermath of the Toronto Blue Jays' landmark deal with the Florida Marlins two weeks ago, Red Sox fans are getting antsy. The signing of Torii Hunter by the Detroit Tigers generated more angst.

"Why aren't they doing anything?"

It seems not to matter that very few teams are "doing anything." The Texas Rangers, whose quick slide out of first place and subsequent disappearance from the playoffs after one game looked like the Red Sox' 2011 fold at warp speed, are in danger of losing both Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton and they haven't done anything. Neither have the Los Angeles Angels, who lost two starting pitchers -- Ervin Santana in trade, Dan Haren to free agency. Other than lose Hunter, that is.

It's not even December and already people seem overly anxious about what the Red Sox are going to look like in April.

This has some to call for the Sox to make a bold move, any bold move. One problem: "Don't just stand there -- do something!" doesn't qualify as as a sound business philosophy. Instead, it reeks of panic, and, let's face it, ignorance.

Sure, the Red Sox have the resources to go out and land Hamilton, a fine player who was the A.L. MVP in 2010 and finished in the top seven in voting two other times in the last five years.

But if there were ever a player who personified the risks inherent in granting mega-contracts, it would be Hamilton. Beyond the very obvious red flag of his documented drug and alcohol addictions, Hamilton has had difficulty staying on the field. In six full seasons, he's played more than 133 games twice.

Given his past personal history, how likely is it that Hamilton is going to become more durable as he enters his age-32 season?

Factor in Hamilton's declining defensive skills and his alarmingly escalating strikeout rate, and it's easy to see Hamilton as a disaster in the making in Boston.

Would he goose ticket sales and get people talking about the Red Sox? You bet. And would the Sox begin experiencing buyer's remorse in another two years or so? Good chance.

Even the moves that have been made -- signing David Ross and Jonny Gomes - have been met with derision. Twitter was full of hostile sarcasm ("Get the Duck Boats ready!") in the wake of those two additions.

Ross and Gomes weren't supposed to be franchise-altering acquisitions, carried out to make them World Series favorites. Rather, they were depth moves, designed to give the Red Sox options in the outfield and behind the plate.

For a lesson on how critical these lower-profile signings can be, recall that some of Theo Epstein's best moves in building the 2004 championship team came in 2003, when he signed the likes of Kevin Millar, Bill Mueller, and David Ortiz.

The fact is, it's unlikely the Red Sox are going to make one of those big bold strokes this winter. The two biggest free agent names on this winter's market -- Hamilton and starter Zack Greinke -- each have huge negatives attached and any serious interest shown to either by the Sox would be a sure sign that they have already ditched their vow for discipline.

Nor should the Sox be expected to pull off a giant trade. Having decided (for now) to hold onto Jacoby Ellsbury and unwilling to mortgage their future by selling off their best prospects (Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Matt Barnes), the Sox don't have much with which to offer teams.

(That said, as a Red Sox official recently suggested, the deal with the Dodgers, coupled with a 93-loss season may embolden other teams from floating trade proposals that they otherwise wouldn't. Perhaps that explains the talk of Jon Lester for Kansas City Royals' outfielder Wil Myers).

It's only November, remember. And remember, too, that the last time the Red Sox were bold and made big moves was after the 2010 season, when they "won the winter" by signing Crawford and trading for Gonzalez -- two players they couldn't wait to unload less than 20 months later.

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