Red Sox

Red Sox notebook: first base options

776784.jpg

Red Sox notebook: first base options

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There's not much competition for roster spots here in Red Sox camp, but one job battle that bears watching is the one for the backup first baseman.

That could be an important spot, since starting first baseman Mike Napoli is not a great defender and the Sox would like someone who could serve as a late-inning defensive replacement. Also, Napoli's well-documented hip issues mean he may not always be available.

In a perfect world, the Sox would like that candidate to hit lefthanded, to complement Napoli, who is righthanded. And, they'd prefer that the player be able to contribute in the outfield.

Involved in the mix are Lyle Overbay, Mitch Maier, Daniel Nava and Mark Hamilton. The Sox also had some discussions with outfielder Ryan Sweeney, for now, there are no plans to have Sweeney try the position and he remains exclusively an outfielder.

"It's important that we have another first baseman on the roster,'' said GM Ben Cherington. "We think we have a good chance to find the solution with the guys that are in here. It would be ideal (to have a person who could play both first and the outfield). It needs to be someone who can handle the position defensively and can hopefully produce against a righty (pitcher)."

Manager John Farrell said Nava "has shown decent actions around the bag and with each passing day and added reps, he's getting a little bit more comfortable, a little bit more fluid there.''

According to Farrell, Nava played about 20 games at first while in junior college.

Cherington said the Sox will most likely begin the year with 12 pitchers with 13 position players, leaving them four bench players -- a catcher, an infielder, and outfielder and another outfielder who could handle first.

"There have been times when we've carried 13 pitchers and it never feels optimal when you're doing it,'' said Cherington. "I think what we'd like to do is set up a team with 12 pitchers and make it work that way. But we'll see where we are at the end of the spring.

"Our team really works better with 12 pitchers. We've carried 13 before due to extenuating circumstances, so we'll see. We can't rule it out. But our preference would be to have another position player.''

The Sox plan to bring in Tim Wakefield later this week to work with fellow knuckleballer Steven Wright.

Wright was obtained last July from Cleveland in exchange for first baseman Lars Anderson.

"Understanding what worked well for Wake,'' said Farrell, "is not to say that it's going the same exact checkpoints for Steven. But that's such a tight-knit fraternity (pitchers who throw the knuckleball), to have Wake as a resource and have him in here...He's more than willing to share some of his thoughts and talk about it.''

David Ortiz likely will be held out of the first few exhibition games, which begin Thursday, but shouldn't be sidelined long.

He took live batting practice, but the Sox are carefully monitoring his right Achilles heel which kept him out of the final two months.

"He looks great,'' said Cherington. "He's in great shape. It doesn't seem like he'll be that long, but we're probably going to be cautious with him. We've got a fair amount of time in camp and we're much more concerned about the 162-game schedule than we are the spring training schedule.''

Report: Ex-Red Sox reliever Reed gets deal with Twins

red_sox_addison_reed_080317.jpg

Report: Ex-Red Sox reliever Reed gets deal with Twins

He was dubbed "Closer B" by Red Sox manager John Farrell when acquired at the trade deadline last summer, now Addison Reed is "Closer B Gone"...to the Twins.

The right-handed reliever, 29, has agreed to a two-year, $16.75 million free-agent deal with Minnesota, pending a physical, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and TheAthletic.com reports. 

Reed began last season with the Mets and had 19 saves and a 2.57 ERA before being traded to the Red Sox, where he had a 3.33 ERA in 29 games (27 innings) without a save as a setup man for Craig Kimbrell.  
 

Red Sox, Mookie Betts far apart on salary and heading toward arbitration

red-sox-mookie-betts.jpg

Red Sox, Mookie Betts far apart on salary and heading toward arbitration

The Red Sox and star right fielder Mookie Betts intend to go to an arbitration hearing in February, and there were signs this was coming even a year ago.

Betts was the only arbitration-eligible player on the Red Sox who did not settle on a contract with the team on Friday, when a deadline arrived for all teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange 2018 salary figures. Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Drew Pomeranz were the biggest names to avoid hearings.

Betts filed for a $10.5 million salary and the Red Sox filed at $7.5 million.  Betts and the Red Sox agreed previously that if no figure could be settled on by the Friday deadline, they would proceed to a hearing, assistant general manager Brian O'Halloran said. 

A three-person panel of arbitrators therefore is set to determine what Betts makes in 2018: either the $7.5 million figure the Sox filed or the $10.5 million figure Betts' camp submitted. The arbitrators won't settle on a midpoint for the parties. 

O'Halloran noted to the Globe there are no hard feelings involved.

Nonetheless, such a large gap would seem to provide incentive to settle. The parties technically could still decide to do so, but that would take a change of course from the present plan. The idea was to settle any time before Friday, and they did not. 

Betts is asking for near-record money for a first-year arbitration eligible player. Kris Bryant set the record Friday with a $10.85 million settlement.

The hearings can be difficult for player-team relations because teams have to make the case in front of the player that he is worth less money than he wants.

Betts, 25, hit .264, with 24 homers, 102 RBI, 25 stolen bases and a .803 OPS in 2017, numbers that fell from his American League MVP runner-up performance in 2016, but were nonetheless very strong and coupled with first-rate defense.

This offseason is Betts' first of arbitration eligibility. In the first three years of service time in a players' career, there's no recourse if you don't like the salary a team is offering. Teams can pay players anything at league minimum or above. 

The only option a player has in those first three years is to make a stand on principle: you can force the team to technically "renew" your salary, which notes to everyone that you did not agree to the salary. Betts and his agents did that in 2017 when the Sox paid him $950,000, a very high amount relative to most contract renewals.

Some of the standard thinking behind forcing a team to renew a contract is that if an arbitration case comes up down the road — and one now looms for Betts — it's supposed to show the arbitrators that the player felt even in seasons past, he was underpaid.

Still, the Sox may have effectively combatted that perception by paying Betts almost $1 million on a renewal. Per USA Today, that $950,000 agreement in 2017 was "the second-highest one-year deal ever for a non-arbitration-eligible player with two-plus years of big league service." Mike Trout got $1 million in 2014.