Red Sox

Red Sox lose Victor Martinez to Tigers

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Red Sox lose Victor Martinez to Tigers

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

Over the course of back-and-forth contract proposals late in the 2010 season, the Red Sox got a sense of just how far apart they were with catcher Victor Martinez.

Martinez, heading for free agency, was looking for a long-term deal, better even than the last one signed by another American League catcher known for his offense: Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees. Posada's last deal with the Yankees, signed after the 2007 season, ran for four years and 52.4 million. Martinez asked for five years and 65 million.

The Red Sox, in stark contrast, opened with a bid of two years, 20 million.

At the time, the gap was so significant, it seemed a virtual certainty to both sides that Martinez would likely take a deal elsewhere.

Tuesday, he did, agreeing to a four-year, 50 million contract from the Detroit Tigers.

Over time, the Sox and Martinez edged closer to one another, with the Red Sox improving their final offer to four years, 42 million Monday, a slight improvement over a four-year, 40 million deal that had been on the table for a while.

But there wasn't enough movement to meet in the middle, or to top the Tigers' bid, who were regarded by many in the game as the favorites to sign Martinez.

According to industry sources, the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners were also in the bidding.

Martinez, obtained from the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline in 2009 in exchange for pitcher Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price, supplied good production for the Sox over a season and a third.

He knocked in 41 runs over 56 games in the final two months of 2009, and in 2010, despite missing five weeks with a broken thumb, hit 20 homers and knocked in 79 runs while hitting .302.

But his defense was an issue, especially early in the 2010 season when opposing runners ran unchecked on the bases.

The Sox were concerned that, over the course of a longer deal, Martinez's defense would continue to deteriorate to the point where he would have to be transitioned out from behind the plate and converted to a first baseman or DH. Worse, the Red Sox would be paying Martinez All-Star catcher money to someone delivering average production at first base or DH.

Maritnez's departure leaves the Red Sox with one catcher with major-league experience on their 40-man roster: Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Saltalamacchia, obtained in a deal a year to the day after Martinez, appeared in just 10 games with the Sox before undergoing season-ending thumb surgery, will be given the chance to nail down the starting catcher's job in spring training.

Though the Sox didn't get much chance to evaluate Saltalamacchia directly after the deal, they scouted him extensively over the years and were impressed with his play in Pawtucket immediately after the deal.

As recently as last week, general manager Theo Epstein said the Sox would be open to having Saltalamacchia as the No. 1 catcher.

"We're comfortable with Saltalamacchia in a role anywhere from backup to job-share to everyday guy,'' said Epstein, "depending on how the rest of the club shapes up. We like him. Obviously, we liked him from a scouting standpoint and we took the opportunity to buy low after he went through a rough period.

"But he really impressed the staff, who had no vested interest in him. He really opened some eyes from the manager to catching instructor Gary Tuck to the pitching coach with the way he handled pitchers, the way he threw, to the way he conducted himself in the clubhouse. He was impressive to everybody.''

Still, the Sox must find another player to help Saltalamacchia handle the load. On the free-agent market the list includes Miguel Olivo, Rod Barajas, Yorvit Torrealba, and, not incidentally, Jason Varitek.

While Olivo in particular may be a better offensive option than Varitek, the former Red Sox captain pairs nicely with Saltalamacchia in this sense: while the switch-hitting Saltalamacchia hits better from the left side (.765 OPS vs. .562 OPS as a right-handed hitter), Varitek remains more of an offensive threat from the right side.

Additionally, Varitek may be best suited among the group to serve as Saltalamacchia's mentor -- teaching him about opposing hitters' tendencies as well as how to best handle the Red Sox pitching staff.

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

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

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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

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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 baseball-reference.com.

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.

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