Red Sox

Moreland ready to take care of 'unfinished business' in new deal with Red Sox

Moreland ready to take care of 'unfinished business' in new deal with Red Sox

It’s the move before the move. It has to be.

Mitch Moreland’s quietly strong 2017 season led to a reunion with the Red Sox on Monday, when a two-year, $13 million deal through 2019 plus another potential $1 million in incentives became official.

"I was hoping so,” Moreland said of a return to Boston. “Going into the offseason, obviously had a few questions about it there at the end of the season, and I'll echo what I said then: I loved playing here, loved the guys — everything about it. We had a pretty successful year obviously, didn't finish the way we wanted. Looking forward to being back and maybe taking care of some unfinished business.”

The move gives the Red Sox a reliable first base option, although it does not give the fan base the news its been dying for to this point: the addition of a tremendous power hitter.

Likely, that addition is still to come, although it clearly won’t be at first base, where free agent Eric Hosmer is one of the top names on the market. 

“We still continue to feel that we have the opportunity to add someone else to our club from an offensive perspective that won’t be a first baseman, but we feel we have a DH, that between Hanley [Ramirez] and if I could find someone else, outfield spots, that would give us plenty of at-bats and opportunities for somebody to contribute in a full-time fashion,” Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. “I don’t know if it will happen or not, but there are some names out there, people from a trade and free agent perspective that we’ll continue to talk to.”

The Red Sox did look elsewhere for a first baseman before going back to Moreland.

“We’ve stayed in contact with Mitch’s representative really all offseason,” Dombrowski said. “We liked the job that Mitch did for us last year. We knew he wanted to come back here. We wanted to explore some other options, which they were aware [of], and so we did that.”

The deal started to pickup steam Friday, per Dombrowski. Dombrowski suspected teams that missed out on Carlos Santana, who signed with the Phillies, jumped into the fray.

Dombrowski said he would be comfortable with the lineup as it is today, but that might just be his way of attempting to create a bit of leverage. Realistically, most everyone knows the Red Sox need another big bat.

“Yeah, I'd feel comfortable with it,” Dombrowski said of his lineup as currently constituted. “I do believe a lot of our people will be better internally than last year. We are looking to improve it … but yeah, I feel comfortable. I think you also have to combine offense with defense and I think we have a good defensive ball club. I think when people look at Mitch sometimes there are a couple guys out there that hit more home runs. (Guys who) from an offensive perspective, that people could think may be more appealing.

“But for us, we really like the all-around game that Mitch brings to us offensively and defensively. But yeah, I'd feel comfortable. We do have a variety of ways that we could go and explore different ways as we go forward. But I also think, at least right now, we're in a position that we could go forward as we are now.”

How exactly the Sox will use Moreland is to be determined. A share situation with Ramirez seems viable.

Moreland’s production in 2017, his first season in Boston, was better than expected. Now entering his age-32 season, Moreland hit .246 with 22 home runs, and set career-highs in games (149), doubles (34) and walks (57). He also did well in the postseason, going 5-for-13 against the Astros in the first round.

A fractured left toe slowed Moreland and messed up his mechanics for a time, but he played through pain and skipped the disabled list. Moreland said he had a minor procedure after the season to repair a small meniscus tear in his left knee.

“That was the most he ever played,” Dombrowski said of 2017. “He's really a gamer. He'll play all the time. He played injured. But I think you always have to be careful.”

Moreland’s incentives are built around time on the field. Moreland makes $6.5 million in each of 2018 and 2019, plus another potential $1 million in incentives, sources said. He can make up to $500,000 each year: if he reaches 500 plate appearances in either season, he gets $250,000, and he gets another $250,000 if he reaches 550 plate appearances.

A platoon situation would allow Moreland and Ramirez, who have both had health issues, to rest more than normal. It would also provide depth if one of them does wind up on the disabled list.

Ramirez’s contract is basically unmovable because of a $22 million vesting option that kicks in for 2019 if he has 497 plate appearances in 2018. The option calls for 1,050 plate appearances combined between 2017-18, plus passing a physical.

Dombrowski said he did not feel it would be necessary to move someone currently on the team to make an addition.

“There's a lot of things to be done in the industry between now and spring training and we'll keep abreast of what those things are and see if we can still help ourselves,” Dombrowski said.

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Coming off a phenomenal season, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel spent the offseason in Boston. Not to be closer to Fenway Park, but for proximity to something far more important: the city’s first-rate medical community.

Kimbrel’s daughter, Lydia Joy, was born in November with a heart issue.

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“It’s been a lot,” Kimbrel said Saturday at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods. “My wife and I, we’ve kept it kind of private. But when she was born, she had some heart defects so we decided to stay in Boston and work with Children’s Hospital and just been going through that ordeal and it’s had its ups and downs but she’s doing great right now."

Focusing wasn't always easy in season, but Kimbrel said his daughter's condition has motivated him even more.

“They always say when you have a child, things change and they have," he said. "I’m definitely more focused towards her and her needs and our family needs. It’s just one day at a time and give everything I got. It’s real easy to look at her and understand everything I’m doing is for her and it makes it a lot easier.”

Kimbrel and his wife, Ashley, found out early in the 2017 season that they would be staying in Boston for the winter and were preparing.

“Everything has kind of gone as planned so far,” Kimbrel said. “She’ll have another surgery during spring training, so I’ll come back to Boston for a week and do that, but it’s been good. It’s definitely been tough, but one of the happiest, joyful times of our life.”

"Being in Boston, we feel blessed, because the doctors are the best in the world. Being able to work with them has been great.”

Kimbrel said his wife has stayed in touch with Travis Shaw’s wife. The Shaw family has had a similar experience, Kimbrel said.

“It seems like they’re doing pretty good,” Kimbrel said. “It’s been very encouraging to see.”

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Sale has a plan to increase durability in 2018

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Sale has a plan to increase durability in 2018

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — With spring training less than a month away, Chris Sale has a concrete idea of how to extend his dominance throughout all of 2018.

For Sale, a lot of talk at the end of the season centered on durability and rest. He led the majors in pitches per game at 107.1. The left-hander was incredibly successful early last season and started the All-Star Game for the American League for a second year in a row. Still, September and the postseason were out of character.

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One explanation Sale offered: he was, in essence, too amped up for his first year in Boston. 

“It’s just the gradual rise of my throwing program,” Sale said Saturday afternoon at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods of what he can change. “I was new here last year. I came in and I felt like I had to prove something. I hadn’t thrown a single pitch in front of you guys, in front of any of the fans. So I felt, part of me felt I had to come in and say, ‘Hey, this is what you’re getting.’ And you know, I showed up to spring training really ready to go. You know, my arm was in almost season-form, and I think we’re going to gradually build that up this year instead of you know, coming out hot out of the gate.

“Started a bit later trying to ease into it a little more. In terms of working out, started working out earlier, doing Pilates. The same things I’ve been doing conditioning and strength wise, just kind of dialing back my throwing program.”

A plan has been formulated with Sale and the Red Sox staff, including pitching coach Dana LeVangie and manager Alex Cora.

Sale crossed the 300-strikeout plateau for the first time in his career in 2017 and probably would have taken over the team record from Pedro Martinez (313 Ks in 1999) had he made one more start. Sale finished with 308. 

“Yeah, I took some time in the offseason to kind of look back and you know appreciate the season as a whole,” Sale said. “Briefly, though. I mean those are things that like I said you don’t want to get stuck on that. Those aren’t things that are important. I mean they’re cool, they’re flashy but, you know strikeouts don’t get you championships. So, I appreciate it, I know I put a lot of hard work into it. I know it’s not easy to do but, I’m not going to be hung up on that."

The strikeout numbers may diminish some as Sale focuses on fewer wasted pitches. Theoretically, fewer wasted pitches could mean he’ll bring on more contact. But it doesn’t sound like he plans to take any velocity off (more than he does as a normal course of pitching).

"I don't know if it's less effort. It's never less effort,” Sale said. “For me, it's just more focus. I don't need to dial it back, I just think I need to eliminate waste pitches. I'd love to be able to get to the sixth inning on a very regular basis with 80, 85 pitches. Easier said than done and it looks good on paper, but those are kind of the things that we've been talking about. Throwing more effective pitches and things like that.”

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