Red Sox

McAdam: Clear that payroll drove Red Sox' decision to deal Buchholz

McAdam: Clear that payroll drove Red Sox' decision to deal Buchholz

In dealing from a position of strength when it came to moving one of their excess starting pitchers, the Red Sox made it clear what they were prioritizing: reducing payroll.

The Red Sox shipped veteran Clay Buchholz to the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday in exchange for minor league second baseman Josh Tobias.
      
Tobias, 24, has yet to play above Single A ball and is not considered among the Phillies' Top 30 prospects, as judged by Baseball America. He has hit .301 in his minor league career after being drafted out of the University of Florida in the 10th round in 2015.
      
But the main attraction to the deal for the Red Sox was the Phillies' willingness to take on all of Buchholz's $13.5 million salary for 2017.
      
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he saw no need to wait until later in the winter, or into spring training, before moving Buchholz.
      
“I think we have a pretty good pulse of what the market is like from clubs looking for pitchers,” he said, "as well as what pitchers are available and what clubs are willing to spend.

I thought that, at this point, it was a situation where if we canmake a deal now, it makes sense...Everything tied together where it made sense to do it now, rather than wait.”
      
Dombrowski said trying to move a sizeable contract during spring training, by which time most clubs have their budgets set, "has not been always successful. In this case, the timing fit.”

After obtaining Chris Sale earlier this month and signing free agent first baseman Mitch Moreland, the Red Sox have been searching for ways to reduce payroll in order to get under the $195 million luxury tax threshold.
      
"I can't even say for sure it was 100 percent the driving force,” said Dombrowski. "I think it always comes into play. For us, I think it's advantageous to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax), based on the basic agreement. So it's something we were hopeful of doing.
      
"It's also a situation where it creates some flexibility going forward, with some areas we want to address as the season progresses. It's always part of the equation, but for us, not a driving force.”

With the subtraction of Buchholz's salary, BaseballReference.com now estimates that the Red Sox payroll obligations for 2017 are at $194.8 million -- just under the $195 million threshold.
      
That estimate includes projected salary arbitration figures for about eight players, including Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.

Dombrowski took issue with that estimate, suggesting that the Red Sox are comfortably under the $195 million figure.

"I think we would be under (if the season started today),” he said, "and we do not have to do anything at all in that regard. In fact, it gives us flexibility to do some things if we want to add.”

Dombrowski said the Sox received inquires on a number of starters, but hinted that team control with the likes of Steven Wright, Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez made it less likely that the Sox would consider moving one of those.

"As we talked to clubs,” he said, "for us, the one that made most sense was dealing Clay. The others have some longer time (of control); (Buchholz) was in his last year (before free agency). But it was our choice to pursue this more so than some of the other guys.”

Buchholz's career in Boston was marked by inconsistency and frequent injury setbacks. After tossing a no-hitter in his second big league start, Buchholz experienced massive swings in performance.

Beginning in 2007, he compiled a 81-61 mark with a 3.96 ERA. An All-Star selection in both 2010 and 2013, he never managed to make 30 starts in a single season or reach 200 innings.
      
In 2016, he pitched himself out of the rotation in late May, before returning from an exile to the bullpen in the final two months, going 5-1 with a 2.80 ERA after July 27.      
      
He was longest tenured pitcher in the organization and only Dustin Pedroia had spent more time with the Red Sox.

"He was very understanding and thankful,” said Dombrowski, who spoke with Buchholz to inform him of the deal. "I thanked him for everything he did in the organization. He was understanding of the situation. He enjoyed his time here. He thought also maybe
it was a spot where a change of scenery, a fresh opportunity, isn't always a bad thing.”
      
The Phillies have stockpiled a number of veterans a year away from free agency (Jeremy Hellickson, Howie Kendrick, Pat Neshek and Buchholz), which could make them big players at the July trade deadline.
      
Dombrowski said what interested the Sox in Tobias was "basically, he's a good hitter. He recently took up switch-hitting. But we really like his bat. We think he has a chance to hit as he continues to  progress up the ladder. So that's his real plus.”

NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

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NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

CHICAGO - Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Chicago Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to held the defending World Series champion Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Manager Joe Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. Contreras added a long homer against Alex Wood.

Davis entered with a 3-1 lead in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff homer to Turner, who went 2 for 2 and drew two walks.

Maddon became incensed that a swinging strike three against Curtis Granderson was ruled a foul after the umpires discussed the play. Maddon got tossed, and Granderson struck out swinging at the next pitch.

And after walking Yasmani Grandal to put runners on first and second, Davis struck out Chase Utley, who is hitless in his last 24 postseason at-bats.

All seven of Chicago's runs in this series have come on homers. And long drives in the second by Contreras and Baez made it 2-0.

Contreras' homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez's landed beyond the left-field bleachers on Waveland Avenue.

Bellinger cut it to 2-1 with his drive to right in the third. But Baez got the lead back up to two with a shot to the left-field bleachers in the fifth, the raucous crowd chanting "Javy! Javy!" for the flashy young star who was co-MVP of the NLCS last year.

No Cubs player had hit two in a playoff game since Alex Gonzalez went deep twice in Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS against Miami.

Arrieta exited with runners on first and second in the seventh after walking Chris Taylor on a 3-2 pitch. He tipped his hat as fans gave him a standing ovation, a fitting show of appreciation for a pitcher with an expiring contract.

Arrieta turns 32 in March and figures to land a huge deal in free agency. The trade that brought him from Baltimore helped fuel Chicago's rise, with the right-hander capturing the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and contributing to last year's drought-busting championship run.

Limited by a right hamstring injury in the final month of the season, he threw 111 pitches. Brian Duensing retired Bellinger on a fly to end the seventh.

Turner made it a one-run game with his homer off the left-field videoboard against Davis in the eighth.

A career-high 16-game winner, Wood gave up three runs and four hits in 42/3 innings.

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ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

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ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

NEW YORK - Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the New York Yankees finally solved Houston Astros nemesis Dallas Keuchel, beating the ace lefty 5-0 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third straight day at home and move within one victory of their first trip to the World Series since 2009.

The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off day and force a decisive Game 7. Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.

Just days ago, Houston was up two games to none and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance. But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home in this postseason in front of their cheering, chanting fans.

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