By SBRForum.com

The Boston Red Sox, bowing to reality, have done the right thing in jettisoning those big contracts and making a commitment toward the future. Now they can let Bobby Valentine finish out the season, then can him and bring in somebody else over this winter.

But that’s down the line. The Sox still have 30 games to play this season; 30 games in which to make a run at avoiding their first losing season in 15 years.

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According Cots Contracts and Baseball Prospectus, the Red Sox have four players signed to guaranteed deals next season: John Lackey, Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz. Combined, the four of them will make about $42 million. The four players traded to the Dodgers were set to make just over $60 million next year alone.

Here is a list of signed players, free agents and players eligible for arbitration this off-season. 

Entering this season, if the Red Sox were to stand pat, they would have had $107,852,000 in contracts for the 2013 season before arbitration. That number now stands at $42 million. That’s a tremendous amount of savings that gives the Red Sox a tremendous amount of financial flexibility in the near future.

It’s hard to project what exactly the Red Sox roster will look like next season, especially because of all the new found spending money the team has, but since the future now is the focus, it’s not too early to start to look at it.

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2012 has been quite an interesting season, to say the least. Stalwart’s Kevin Youkilis and Josh Beckett, as well as major acquisitions Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez have all left town. Meanwhile, Bobby Valentine has endured one of the most trying seasons of any manager in the big leagues. His role with this team has led to widespread speculation about his job security heading into the offseason. We here at BloodySox have our opinions on the matter as well. Here’s what a few of our writer’s had to say.

Do you want to see this face again in 2013?

Mark Piselli:

If the Red Sox do decide to part ways with Bobby Valentine after just one season, there will rampant speculation regarding his successor all throughout New England. A plethora of names will be cast about from fans and prognosticators alike, some realistic, others more far-fetched. One of these potential candidates is extremely familiar among Red Sox fans, as he wore the hometown team’s uniform for more than a decade. He caught four no hitters, famously shoved his mitt in the face of Alex Rodriguez, and served as the captain of the Red Sox for seven seasons. Yes, we’re talking about the one and only Jason Varitek. Continue reading »

By SBRForum.com

The Boston Red Sox are hoping they’ve turned a page. Not only did they pull the trigger on a massive trade that shook up their roster over the weekend, freed the franchise’s finances and sent the team directly into rebuild-mode, they also won two of three to at least start guiding the team into a positive direction.

Although winning two of three is hardly something the Red Sox used to hang their hat on – especially since it came against the lowly Kansas City Royals – Boston hasn’t had a better stretch than that since the end of July. The Red Sox were 53-51 when the calendar flipped to August but head into Monday’s game against Kansas City losing 16 of their last 24 games. MLB odds have dropped them significantly in the World Series lines as the team has gone from fringe playoff contender to a postseason afterthought.

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The nine-player trade between the Red Sox and the Dodgers that took place on Saturday is unlike any trade the sport has ever seen. Over $250 million in contracts were traded between two teams, and for the first time ever, two players signed to $100 million deals were traded in the same deal. It was a trade that was impossible to predict a few weeks ago, and seemed to hit the baseball world by complete surprise. While many fans felt that a major shakeup of the roster needed to take place, no one could have imagined the Red Sox to take part in the biggest salary dump of all time. It’s hard to completely process it all and let set in – especially because of its unprecedented nature – but it’s clear that a major change in direction has just taken place for this Red Sox team.

The ramifications of this trade will become more apparent as time goes on. The trade represents such a significant change in culture and ideology that it’s hard to really comprehend. Here at BloodySox.com, we attempted to collect our respective emotions, feelings and reactions to the deal. There was certainly a mix of pessimism and optimism among us, though it seemed to tip significantly towards a feeling of excitement and eagerness to start a new chapter.

I asked four questions related to this trade to four of the site’s contributors - including myself – in an attempt to gauge the overall feeling of what just happened, and what we can expect to see happen in the near future.

1. What was your initial reaction to the trade once the news broke?

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Of course with the season after his retirement marked more by chaos than playoffs there would be speculation that long time captain Jason Varitek could return to manage the Red Sox.  The rumors are out there with many in the Sox fan base either not liking Bobby Valentine from the outset or turning on him during the season.

The idea that Varitek could return to manage the current Sox roster is silly.  Even after a trade that may register a 7.8 on the Richter scale he is simply too close to too many players on the team.  Separating friend from employee would be difficult and unfair.  More importantly Varitek needs managerial experience.

Varitek could get that experience in Greenville.

Flying under the radar of Red Sox news in recent days was a visit by Varitek to Fluor Field at West End to watch the Greenville Drive take on rival Asheville (NC) Tourists.  Varitek took in the game from the owners’ box.  It’s almost 1,000 miles between Fluor Field and Fenway Park, certainly a long way to drive just to see a single-A ball game.

Adding substance to the speculation was Cherrington’s company while watching the game: Ben Cherrington.

At season’s end when the Red Sox announce their annual organizational reshuffling, don’t be surprised when a seat in the Drive’s ownership box is given to Varitek.

In a stunning blockbuster trade, the Red Sox send Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for prospects. Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford are owed $275 million on their contracts and Jayson Stark has reported the Dodgers will be eating most of that dollar figure.

The Red Sox receive Rubby de la Rosa, James Loney, Jerry sands, Ivan DeJesus and Allen Webster. Rubby de la Rosa, one of the key acquisitions for the Red Sox, has front-of-the-rotation stuff. He had Tommy John surgery last year, but is in perfect health now. He was throwing 97 MPH last week during his first appearance in the big leagues this year. Allen Webster was the Dodger’s second best prospect.

The trade is agreed upon, and only needs Beckett to waive his 5-10 rights to be completed, though many believe he will do so.

The most important part of this trade for the Red Sox is not what they receive in return, but that they gain a lot of financial flexibility going forward.

The 2012 Boston Red Sox are currently 59-66 and 8.5 games back in the wild card race. Boston has not won a playoff game since 2008. It’s time to turn the page on the Theo Epstein era and let the Ben Cherington era truly begin.

Are Beckett and Gonzalez on their way out of Boston?

In what has been a busy day for Red Sox fans, we’ve discovered that not one, but two very highly paid players on the Red Sox, a very cap stricken team the past year or two (Thank you Theo Epstein, for making sure your impact on this team would be felt for years), have been claimed on waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers.  What does this mean?

It could mean a couple things—it could mean that the Dodgers actually WANT both Gonzalez and Beckett, and new ownership has shown a willingness to spend, adding Shane Victorino, Hanley Ramirez, and Joe Blanton in the past few weeks.  If that’s the case, they could be trying to set themselves up with a “we’ll send take Josh Beckett off your hands if you give us Adrian Gonzalez” type of deal, which Ben Cherington should promptly walk away from.  They could also be trying to acquire both of them via trade, although from the looks of their farm system, it wouldn’t be deep enough to make an offer similar to what the Sox gave for Gonzalez.  It’s hard to see the Red Sox give up on the former All-Star so quickly, unless Cherington is really determined to put his own mark on this team.

An interesting fact about the waiver claim system is that players can be basically “given away”, meaning a team gives up that player (and his contract) for nothing, just like Alex Rios was given to the Chicago White Sox a couple years ago.  This, to me,  is the most logical course of action for Josh Beckett, who really seems to need a fresh start, and the Red Sox, who need the financial relief and a fresh start of their own next year.

No matter the result, the next 48 hours should be very interesting, as trade chatter involving A-Gon, Beckett, and even Carl Crawford could persist.  We’ll be sure to monitor the situation closely and keep you as up to date as we can on this developing story.

By SBRForum.com

Are the Boston Red Sox officially out of the playoff race? No. But it sure looks like they think they are. Which has made it easy to fade them recently on our MLB picks.

The Sox continue to fade away in the American League playoff races, and continue to battle the injury bug. They might think they’ll find some relief this weekend as they get ready for a four-game series with the Kansas City Royals, but they might want to re-think that premise.

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Bartolo Colon’s major league career was on a roll. From 1998 through 2005 he won 135 games, leading the league in 2005 with a 21-8 record and 3.49ERA. Then it all came to a crashing halt. The man who averaged 17 wins per season for eight years managed a total of 17 wins over the next few seasons, including an erratic stint with the Red Sox in 2008.  He disappeared from the MLB map entirely in 2010 before re-emerging as a reliable starter for the Yankees last year (8-10, 4.00ERA).  His fifty game suspension for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED) may explain his resurgence.

Just a week earlier, of course, Melky Cabrera was also suspended for 50 games for taking PED.  Cabrera was enjoying the best season of his career hitting .346/.390/.516 and earning his first All Star nod.  The career .752 OPS hitter was leading the league in hits at the time of his suspension (and still is).  His success may have first been attributed to reaching “baseball prime” (ages 28-32) at the same time as enjoying his first shot at free agency this offseason but now we see a different story.

Over the weekend Cabrera’s story took a well publicized but bizarre twist.  It has been revealed that Cabrera or someone associated with him had a fake website built with the intention of providing Cabrera an “I did not know what I was buying” alibi.  The almost comical revelation lent credence to those who care to cry “cheaters gonna cheat.”

If only it were that simple.

Marcos Breton of the Sacramento Bee appeared on ESPN’s Outside the Lines earlier this week to discuss the issue.  Breton has been writing about Latin Americans in Major League Baseball for a long time and that unique perspective led to his presence on the OTL segment on Cabrera’s suspension.  Breton offered an explanation for Cabrera and others like him who fall into this temptation.

You see, Cabrera and Colon are linked by more than the fact that they received a 50-game ban from MLB for using PED in the past week.  They also share a common roots in the Dominican Republic.

This is the tip of the explanation that Breton offers.  (Note: this is not an excuse for cheating but an explanation of how it came about.)  In its simplest form the explanation is that there is an entire community linked to those Dominican players who make it to MLB and who will rise and fall based on their success.  The pressure for these men to succeed is far beyond anything we experience in our American culture.

The Dominican Republic comprises the larger half of the Caribbean island next to Puerto Rico.  The overwhelming majority of the nearly eleven million people of the D.R. live in squalor.  Outside the most prosperous cities a typical family lives in a home constructed from palm trees with a corrugated roof.  The families are large and often an extended family (parents, grandparents, cousins) all occupy one of these “homes”.  Unfortunately, many Dominicans are unemployed except for seasonal agricultural work.

Dominicans also lack citizenship and its benefits.  No school.  No public system of support.  Few chances to advance beyond the palm branch walls.  Making matters worse, what little infrastructure once existed in the Dominican Republic was disrupted in the devastating earthquake with its epicenter in Haiti.  Remember that I mentioned that the Dominican Republic is the larger half of the island next to Puerto Rico?  Well, the Dominican is the other half.  It’s difficult to paint a picture of how challenging the circumstances are for the combined peoples of these island nations.

The Dominican Republic was dominated by Spain for the majority of the last four hundred years.  Under Spanish dominion a caste-like system developed that graded people primarily by the color of their skin.  The prosperous cities, as a result, are largely populated by the lighter-skinned former rulers of the island.  Now think for a minute: where do you imagine that the Dominican men playing major league baseball fit into their nation’s culture prior to signing that contract?

Over time a system developed in the Dominican Republic that fed talented youngsters to MLB scouts.  “Talent agents” watched for athletic young men and lured them from their families with promises of MLB fortunes.  Families often encouraged the boys along the way hoping for a better situation for all.  Unfortunately the “agents” do little for the boys except try to sell them to MLB scouts and if the “product” ends up damaged then it’s tossed aside.

From a consumer standpoint the system has worked well.  Of roughly 800 players in MLB almost one in 8 hails from the tiny island nation.

From a human perspective, it’s little more than a new Trail of Tears.  Boys lose what little chance they have to learn a trade in hopes of a big pay day.  When the blank check bypasses them there is nothing to which they can return.

Perhaps with that as a background you might get a hint at why there is so much pressure to succeed on players like Cabrera, Colon, and Sammy Sosa before them.  Watching great stars like Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz return home to build hospitals and schools for the areas in which they live is not simply a humanitarian effort, it’s an expression of the hopes of the islanders for a better future.

I learned most of this when I had the privilege to help Children of the Nations (COTNI) with their website. COTNI has a presence in several third world countries including the Dominican Republic. In the Dominican they have established <a href=”http://www.cotni.org/pages/i-love-baseball”>a program called “I Love Baseball”</a> that not only helps train aspiring young athletes but also provides them food and education.  Their goal is to help change the culture by offering the children a balanced hope and a future.

Why can we hope that Colon and Cabrera can change a culture like this?  Because now you know.  Whether it’s COTNI or another organization, find a place that you can support the people who become athletes and occasionally find their way onto the roster of your favorite baseball team.

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