Red Sox

Benintendi ALCS Game 4 catch is AP's play of the year

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Benintendi ALCS Game 4 catch is AP's play of the year

There may have been better catches, but it'd be hard to find a better and bigger one - given the stakes - than Andrew Benintendi's diving grab in Houston to end the Red Sox's 8-6 victory over the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. 

The catch of Alex Bregman's bases-loaded liner to left field gave the Sox a 3-1 series lead and is the Associated Press Play of the Year for 2018. 

Here's the AP description:

1. A dive into Red Sox lore

Andrew Benintendi may never make a better catch. The left fielder for the Boston Red Sox made a diving grab to end Game 4 of the AL Championship Series, a huge play on his team's run to the World Series title. Boston led 8-6 in Game 4, up 2-1 in the series, but the bases were loaded in Houston and the crowd at Minute Maid Park was roaring. Alex Bregman hit a liner that was sinking fast, and if it had gotten past Benintendi the Astros would have likely scored three runs to win. But Benintendi dove perfectly, snared the ball just above the grass and the rest is now Red Sox lore — as well as the play of the year.

The Sox, of course, would go on to win Game 5 to wrap up the series and head to the World Series, where they also won in five games over the L.A. Dodgers. That also included a spectacular Benintendi catch in Game 2.  

In fact, AP's Top 3 plays of 2018 had New England connections. But the other two were not so good for the locals.

No. 2 was actually two plays, both shots by Notre Dame's Arike Ogunbowale: The buzzer-beater that knocked UConn out of the NCAA women's basketball tournament in the national semifinals and her go-ahead hoop two nights later in the final against Mississippi State. 

No. 3 was also two plays, both in which the Patriots were victimized: The Eagles' "Philly Special" touchdown catch by quarterback Nick Foles in Super Bowl 52, and the Dolphins' "Miami Miracle" last-second lateral TD scored by Kenyan Drake that beat the Pats on Dec. 9. 

Ouch. Those still smart.

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Maybe David Price isn't as untradeable as we think for Red Sox

Maybe David Price isn't as untradeable as we think for Red Sox

David Price has caused no shortage of headaches with the Red Sox, from blowing up at Dennis Eckersley to tweeting cryptically about the White House visit to making no effort to hide his disdain for "Manager John" Farrell.

But Price also delivered when it mattered most, during the 2018 postseason, when he led the charge to a title as the de facto postseason MVP.

He seemed positioned to maintain that momentum before a wrist cyst got in the way. Though his final 2019 numbers were mediocre — 7-5, 4.28 ERA — he struck out a career-best 10.7 per nine innings and was the team's best pitcher in the first half, when he went 7-2 with a 3.24 ERA.

Because we tend to focus on the negative around here (not me, though, I only see sunshine), we often judge Price for his faults. He's no longer a 200-inning pitcher. His elbow could blow. He considers himself a great teammate, but he consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse, which multiple rival executives have noted warily.

He's too expensive. He hasn't made an All-Star team or earned a Cy Young vote since 2015. He's past his prime.

It's hard to read the preceding paragraph and think there'd be a market for him this winter, especially since he's due $96 million over the next three years. But focusing on those negatives obscures some positives that other franchises might consider.

Price is a proven ace who has won one Cy Young Award and finished second twice. He's a classic change-of-scenery candidate after four tumultuous seasons in Boston, and a club in a friendlier market — like, say, St. Louis — could make a case for reinvigorating him. For all of the concerns over his health, he has thrown nearly 400 innings since avoiding Tommy John surgery in 2017.

And most importantly, with seemingly every team in baseball on the hunt for starting pitching, why should Price be immovable, when only last year a 36-year-old Robinson Cano with five years and $120 million remaining on his contract was not?

If the Red Sox want to drop below the $208 million luxury tax threshold, removing as much of Price's $32 million salary as possible would be one way to do it that doesn't involve giving away a former MVP in his prime — jettisoning Price would open a clearer path to keeping Mookie Betts for one more season, anyway.

So what is Price worth? As free agency cranks into gear, we're actually seeing some parameters forming in the starting pitcher market. Four starters have signed contracts with average annual values of at least $10 million, from Kyle Gibson (3 years, $30 million with Rangers) to Zack Wheeler, who just agreed to leave the Mets for a five-year, $118 million deal with the Phillies. Meanwhile, righty Jake Odorizzi accepted a one-year qualifying offer from the Twins for $17.8 million, while veteran left-hander Cole Hamels inked a one-year, $18 million contract with the Braves.

The two biggest fish remain unsigned in Houston's Gerrit Cole and Washington's Stephen Strasburg, both of whom will each command nine-figure deals. Former World Series hero Madison Bumgarner, defending NL ERA champ Hyun-Jin Ryu, and possibly ex-Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel will probably earn $15-$20 million annually. And then after that the drop in talent is pretty steep, to pitchers like Rick Porcello, Michael Pineda, and Tanner Roark.

Viewed through that lens, suddenly Price feels like … an asset? The Phillies will pay Wheeler nearly $24 million a year, starting with his age-30 season, more on projection than performance. His lifetime ERA+ is 100, which is the definition of average. And whatever injury concerns exist about Price, it's worth noting that Wheeler missed all of 2015 and 2016 to Tommy John surgery.

Were Price a free agent this winter, he'd probably be in the Bumgarner/Ryu camp, a clear notch below Cole and Strasburg, but still desirable. It's hard to say what he'd earn, but even with his injury concerns, an AAV of $18 million feels like the floor. The fact that he's only signed for three more years maybe bumps that hypothetical number to $20 million annually. If the Red Sox ate $36 million, could they find a market for Price at three years and $60 million?

It doesn't sound so crazy to me, especially once you stop fixating on the negatives.

MLB's Top 10 free agent starting pitchers>>>>>

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Report: Brian Bannister leaving Red Sox to join Giants

Report: Brian Bannister leaving Red Sox to join Giants

After five seasons in Boston, Brian Bannister is taking his talents elsewhere.

The former Red Sox vice president of pitching development will join the San Francisco Giants, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

Bannister was initially hired by the Red Sox as a scout in 2015. Later that year he was promoted to director of pitching analysis and development by then-Sox GM Dave Dombrowski.

In 2016, Bannister became Boston's assistant pitching coach and VP of pitching development. He was removed from the coaching staff but kept the latter title following the 2019 season.

Bannister spent five years as an MLB pitcher with the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals before pursuing a scouting/coaching career.

UPDATE (7:30 p.m. ET): Bannister confirmed his Boston exit Wednesday night in a pair of tweets thanking the Red Sox organization.

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