Red Sox

Red Sox notes: Staying under luxury tax not a goal for 2018

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Red Sox notes: Staying under luxury tax not a goal for 2018

BOSTON — Whether or not Red Sox ownership is excited to open up its wallet, the team is in a renewed position to spend after finishing 2017 under the luxury tax threshold, and there’s a clear need to improve the offense.

“We’re having our meetings right now so I don’t want to jump to it,” Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Monday. “We need to score more runs. Some of that has to come internally. When you start looking at some of our guys, some of them didn’t have as good, I don’t think, of offensive years as they’re capable of having. So some of that increased production comes internally. But we do have probably the open spot of first base/DH, and so that’s a place we’ll try to create some offense there.”

The Red Sox and all 30 clubs will meet for the general managers’ meetings next week in Orlando. 

THE RED SOX HIRE ALEX CORA

Dombrowski said Hanley Ramirez, who went for left shoulder surgery at the beginning of the offseason, is expected to be healthy enough to play first base if the Sox want. Dombrowski said he had no preference as to whether Ramirez is a first baseman or DH going forward. But logically, whichever position Ramirez does not play may be manned by a new addition.

Will they be pricy and shiny?

In separate scrums with reporters Monday afternoon, Dombrowski and Red Sox owner John Henry both were asked whether the Red Sox would want to stay under the luxury tax threshold for a second straight season.

Dombrowski was asked the question first. Does he think staying under is a goal for 2018.

“No, I do not,” Dombrowski said.

Henry, apparently, was in ear shot at the time Dombrowski was asked, and didn’t want to elaborate when he did his scrum immediately after Dombrowski.

"Well, [Dombrowski] answered the question,” Henry said when he was asked about it. “He said he could go over.”

Now if this isn’t enthusiasm to spend, what is?

A few other notes:

  • As Dombrowski said when the Sox announced Dustin Pedroia was going for surgery, the Sox feel they can get by at second base internally until Pedroia returns a couple months into the season. However, they may still well add a piece.
     

“We think Pedey is going to be back in May at some point right now if you listen to what the doctor has to say,” Dombrowski said. “But we like, we had Brock Holt who at the end of the year, felt good. We really like Marco Hernandez a lot, he’s healthy, he’ll be ready to go. He’s a real possibility, and then we have [Tzu-Wei] Lin who’s a utility guy. Deven Marrero can play over there. So do I think we can fill internally, yes. Will we? I’m not sure. We’ll wait and see what happens.”

  • Several surgery options were discussed for Pedroia.
     

"This is very complicated,” Dombrowski said. “He saw the top specialists. There were different alternatives that were kicked around by the doctors. But ultimately, it really is Pedey's decision on what he thought was best for him. We gave our support. There were some alternatives that weren't quite maybe as extensive or some other surgery that could have been done. There could even have been a more extensive surgery. 

“But this was decided this was the best thing to do by the experts. … He went back and forth in his own mind and finally came up with the conclusion that this was best for him. Doctors feel with this one that after he heals, he should be in a position like he has been as far as health. There will be no holes in his cartilage anymore at that point. I'm not going to say he's going to play like he was when he was 25, but that he'll be able to continue to play and play healthy.”

  • Dombrowski said the Sox liked Eduardo Nunez but didn’t elaborate on potential interest in a reunion. Dombrowski attributed his lack of elaboration to the fact that Nunez is now a free agent.
     
  • The Red Sox issued no qualifying offers to their free agents, Nunez or otherwise. They were not expected to make any.
     
  • The hope is a pitching coach is in place by the time the GM meetings begin.
     

“We have a lot of names we’ve discussed,” Dombrowski said. “I can’t tell you we’re close to anybody. We’ve had interest in a couple guys that have gone other places, for various reasons. But I’d have to say we’re going to have more conversations, if it’s not today then tomorrow, because Alex is here until Thursday. We’ve got organizational meetings until Thursday, so I’m sure that’ll be a topic of conversation.”

  • Dombrowski said there were no planned changes to the front office or the team’s medical staff.
     
  • The Sox are planning to hire what Dombrowski termed a “quality assurance” coach.
     

“That’s something Alex [Cora] believes in a great deal,” Dombrowski said. “It’ll be somebody that takes the analytics we have and combines it with the video we use in advance scouting reports and helps combine the report. They used that in Houston, and he feels very strongly about that so that’s a position we’re going to add. We don’t have that person at this time. There was a person we had in mind but he went to another job, but that’ll be something we use and rely on for our advance work. He’ll be involved, that person, with all of our conversations on a daily basis when we sit down and break down a club, he’ll be involved with the pitching coach, the catcher, the pitcher and sit in there.”

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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