Most fans of the Boston Red Sox are still on cloud nine after winning the 2013 World Series, but management is hard at work trying to make the right decisions to bring back a team capable of winning it again next season. While there are quite a few free agents the Red Sox must decide on, the best fantasy baseball player hitting the market will be outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. With the lefty just turning 30 and looking for possibly a seven-year deal, is it in the best interest of the franchise to bring him back?

There are obviously several factors for Boston to consider, especially with revenue sharing being enforced so much in baseball these days. The biggest one right now is the fact that the team would rather not be locked in on a speed and defense outfielder all the way into his late-30s. More often than not, these guys age a little quicker simply because they slow down and don’t have a superior bat to rely on. Boston management is rumored to only be willing to go with a five-year deal.

Dealing with agent Scott Boras might be another obstacle for the Red Sox. He has some leverage, especially if the Seattle Mariners, which are close to Ellsbury’s Pacific Northwest roots, decide to get involved in the process. If they can guarantee him the money and years he is looking for, it will be hard to turn them down.

Boston would obviously lose one of their most productive fantasy baseball players, but the team would have options for replacements. Outfielders Carlos Beltran and Chris Young are just a few different options for them to choose from. Both guys would be available for a significant discount, and the Red Sox would avoid possibly falling into the same hole they were a few seasons ago when they spent a lot of money in free agency.

Ellsbury is an extremely talented player, and he still has a few prime seasons left. However, looking long-term, Boston would probably be better off letting him walk if he will only consider big-time deals that last six or seven seasons.

ESPN

According to ESPN, Mike Napoli has agreed to a 3 year deal worth $39 million with the Red Sox, pending a physical. Napoli turned 31 in October and will be and he will be 33 in his last year of the contract, so the Red Sox won’t have to deal with a large drop off in production with him.

He is expected to primarily play 1st base for the Red Sox, though he will catch part-time. The most games he has ever caught in a season is 96 and it’s very likely he’ll only catch a small amount of games, depending on what the Red Sox do with Ryan Lavarnway/Jarrod Saltalamacchia this off-season  Should Salty be traded, the Sox might have him play a bigger role behind the plate.

In 19 games (and 62 ABs) at Fenway park in his career, Napoli has hit at a .306/.397/.710 slash with 7 home runs and 4 doubles. Not to mention an amazing .404 isolated slugging percentage. While this isn’t exactly a large sample size, it’s clear that he has a swing tailor-made for Fenway (just like Cody Ross) and he should put up eye popping numbers at home.

And while his defense has been far from stellar at 1st base and at catcher throughout his career (career -2.6 UZR at 1st and -25 defensive runs saved behind the plate), having a great fielding 1st baseman isn’t all that important.

All in all it seems like a great move by the Red Sox front office as they filled a large void left by Adrian Gonzalez without surrendering any prospects whatsoever and without making a long term commitment to a player.

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By: Daniel Smith

The Major League Baseball season has often been described as a grind.  A season of 162 games is enough to wear not only physically, but also mentally on any team and any player on a team.  Another game is very similar to baseball in certain aspects, and that is poker.

First, the game of poker is very much considered to be a grind.  Poker players must play hand after hand and sometimes fold hand after hand for what sometimes equates to hours before end before being able to make a big play.  This is similar to a baseball game where both teams are unable to get anything going and then one squad suddenly breaks loose for  a big inning.

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With the firing of Bobby Valentine, Red Sox fans have gotten what they wanted (at least what they wanted short of Larry Lucchino moving on).  The answer seemed so obvious to everyone… except it wasn’t the answer, it was just the first domino in a long line to fall this off season.

So now what?

The presumptive choice to manage the Red Sox next season is John Farrell.  The only sports lust that could be greater than the current front office’s desire for Farrell was Brandon Lloyd’s longing to line up alongside Tom Brady.  Farrell, however, is anything but an obvious choice.  Blue Jay fans will tell you that he did fairly well with a young team full of prospects.  Consider:

  • Omar Vizquel criticized Farrell for not being forceful in addressing on field play (to which Farrell hinted that Vizquel was not around when it took place).  It might just be a disagreement of perspectives but it’s also quite possible that Farrell simply does not have the eye for field play that he does for pitching.
  • Yunnel Escobar.  Need we really say more about the perception that Farrell will be tough with respect to discipline?
  • Rickey Romero.  Two years ago he was an emerging front line pitcher that had baseball people drooling.  This year he was giving John Lackey a confidence boost.

Truth be told Farrell did not turn a young, talented group of youngsters into a well run machine capable of winning 90+ games.  They regressed each season he managed.  Before you get that “yeah, but we’re the Red Sox” feeling in your gut, think about what the 2013 Red Sox will look like.  First base is currently open and third base is likely to be filled by Will Middlebrooks who has roughly a third of a season of experience.  Although Mike Aviles handled shortstop adequately it’s possible that the Sox will choose to shop him and go with Jose Iglesias at short and Ivan DeJesus handling the utility role.  Ryan Kalish appears to be a favorite for at least one outfield spot.  Ryan Lavarnway appears to be slotted for a catching spot.  That’s a lot of youngsters with less than two full seasons… and more than what Farrell had in Toronto.  Why is the front office seemingly so convinced that Farrell will have more success in Boston?  Why will he turn out to be one of the very few former pitchers who fail as a manager?

There’s also one more reason to consider other candidates than roll the dice with John Farrell: compensation.  No team could be more required to pay compensation to free a manager from the final year of his contract than the Red Sox.  It has been suggested that the compensation could be along the lines of Drake Britton and Keury De La Cruz, a pitcher and outfielder respectively from the Red Sox top 20 prospects.  It doesn’t matter what the compensation would be; John Farrell is not going to be the equivalent of a an ace on their pitching staff, adding 20+ wins to an embarrassing 2012 campaign.  The organization as a whole is better served holding and developing its prospects than using them to bait a hook for a manager.

So who else is there?  Here are a few more names we hope the Red Sox consider.  If any of them stand a chance of equalling the success of John Farrell the Red Sox should think long and hard about sending compensation for the object of their affection.

Tim Bogar
An easy candidate given that he spent the 2012 campaign with the Sox, Bogar recently interviewed for the Astros opening and has been considered as an upcoming managerial candidate the past two years.  That Valentine considered him to be the one who undermined his tenure in Boston should be a plus in the mind of many Sox fans.

DeMarlo Hale
The Orioles third base coach was well regarded while serving alongside Terry Francona in Boston.  Hale has frequently come up in managerial discussions.  Like Bogar, he would already have an internal sense of what it’s like to manage in the fishbowl at Fenway.  Seeing the color barrier finally break in the manager’s office would not be the worst thing that the image-conscious front office could do.

Brad Mills
So you think it was rough watching the Pawtucket Red Sox play in MLB during the month of September?  Try managing a team that started the season looking like that roster and still tried to sell off pieces.  That’s what Brad Mills has done for the last two years as skipper of the Astros.  Without a single hitter topping 110 OPS+ or a single pitcher with double-digit wins it’s no wonder that the Astros put up back-to-back mid-50s wins seasons.  Mills managed to keep the boys together despite no real hope of success and is still well regarded in baseball circles.  Unlike Hale and Bogar, Mills’ history with the organization is not tainted by the 9/11 collapse. Mills is considered a strong candidate to serve as the Indians’ bench coach under recently-hired Terry Francona so the Sox should not drag their feet.

Sandy Alomar, Jr.
Speaking of Terry Francona, his hiring in Cleveland over the weekend makes interim manager and one-time Blue Jays managerial candidate Sandy Alomar, Jr. available.  Alomar has made the usual progression through the coaching ranks but has not held a manager’s position at any level in any organization for any length of time (6 games as interim doesn’t really count) so his selection would not be without risk.  He would seem to have a similar leadership style to Terry Francona which could free the youngsters on the roster to go out and play while he absorbs some of the heat from the media and fan base.

Dave Martinez
A forceful presence, Martinez has served as bench coach to Joe Maddon for the past four years.  That kind of  tutelage has landed Martinez several managerial interviews. He is also perceived to be a strong disciplinarian yet young enough to relate to the many prospects likely to fill out the roster.  Having served alongside Maddon as a talented group of prospects transformed into a perennial playoff contender would serve him well as the Red Sox seem poised for a similar journey.

Tim Wallach
Another highly respected outsider, Wallach has managed at the minor league level and was part of the surprising turnaround that left the Dodgers a few games shy of the playoffs this season after the Frank McCourt disaster.  The 1979 Golden Spikes award winner was the 2009 PCL manager of the year after leading his club to a franchise record in wins and his MLB tenure at 3B could lead to some interesting teaching for the youngsters on the left side of the Sox infield.

Ryne Sandberg
Speaking of PCL managers of the year, Sandberg received the honor after leading the Cubs AAA affiliate to an 82-62 record.  Sandberg began his managerial career by taking his first club (Cubs A-level affiliate) to the championship game and he was promoted two seasons in a row with success at each level.  Sandberg returned to the Phillies organization (yes, they drafted and developed him) after being passed over for the big league club’s manager’s position and led the AAA Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs to the International League title in 2011.  The effort earned him Baseball America’s minor league manager of the year award.  He currently serves as third base coach and infield instructor… again a nice combination for an organization brimming with infield prospects.

WWBSD?
What would the BloodySox do? Well, there’s admittedly a sense that John Farrell seems inevitable despite his so-so record and the acquisition cost.  Notwithstanding, the overwhelming consensus pick here is Ryne Sandberg.  His stellar career that included stops around the infield should help the Sox budding young stars manning similar positions in 2013.  Likewise, his stellar offensive record as a second baseman and dirt-dog attitude should connect him well with the heart-and-soul leaders of the team like Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz.  Perhaps most impressive is his managerial record that includes three teams playing in championship series in six minor league seasons.  He’s proven, more than any other candidate out there, that he can focus talent into a productive, winning machine.  Why look for anything less?

On October 29, 2007, at 12:06 in the morning, the Red Sox capped of an easy 4 game sweep of the Colorado Rockies to win their 7th World Series in team history and their second in three years. As a Red Sox fan, things could not seem any better. The team finally had a competent GM and ownership combination. The team had a manager that was loved by the team’s players and fans. The farm system was ripe with talent with the likes of Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Lars Anderson,  Justin Masterson, Michael Bowden and Jed Lowrie as well as the recently graduated trio of Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and Jonathan Papelbon. The youth was plentiful, and other key long-term fixtures like Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Josh Becket and even Daisuke Matsuzaka seemingly meant that the team’s success at that time was potentially sustainable for a long time.

And for a while, that is exactly what happened. The next two years the team won exactly 95 games. In 2008 the Red Sox lost to Tampa Bay in the ALCS in game 7. In 2009 the team was swept by the Angels in the ALDS. However, since then, the Red Sox have finished no better than 3rd in the AL East, have not won over 90 games, and are now staring their third consecutive season without making the playoffs. For all the excitement that surrounded this roster, things surely never quite panned out like I’m sure we all hoped.

Jonathan Papelbon celebrates the final out of the 2007 World Series

So what happened? Well, that’s a complex question and isn’t what I am seeking to answer. There are numerous upon numerous things that went wrong. There were injuries. There were bad contracts handed out. There were underachieving players. There was bad luck. There were just flat out better teams that outplayed the Sox in a strong AL and an even stronger AL East.

I recently read a post on Bleacher Report talking about how it was poor trading from Theo Epstein that are most to blame for the Red Sox current woes. While I do think Theo made some pretty obvious mistakes, scapegoating him, specifically for his trades, didn’t quite settle easily with me. Since it was a silly Bleacher Report article from a silly Bleacher Report author, I feel no desire to link to it and increase his page hits. I just didn’t agree with it, and sought out to delve a bit into it.

Maybe he had a point, despite posting no specific evidence to support his claim. Maybe the Red Sox got too gung-ho in their desires to achieve immediate success, and thus made risky trades that ultimately backfired. There is an easy way to figure this out though and that’s to look at the trades.

What role did trades play into it? Specifically, did the Red Sox make any huge errors in their desire to continually contend rather than focus on the future?

By my count, since Papelbon struck out Seth Smith for the final out in 2007, the Red Sox have made just over 60 player trades. The vast majority of them were the exchanging of low level prospects that will never pan out and journeymen players that never really had any impact.

Perhaps none will have more of an impact than the blockbuster just pulled off with the Dodgers, but only time will tell who really won that trade.

The first major trade that happened after the Red Sox last World Series win was right before the non-waiver trade deadline the year after.

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July 31, 2008: The Dodgers sent Bryan Morris and Andy LaRoche to the Pirates. The Red Sox sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers. The Red Sox sent Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss to the Pirates. The Pirates sent Jason Bay to the Red Sox.

 

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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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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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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.

In 2004, Derek Lowe and Theor Epstein shared a World Series title Together. 8 years later, Theo’s successor has a chance to bring Lowe back. Should he?

On August 1st, former Red Sox starter Derek Lowe was designated for assignment from the Cleveland Indians.  Along with Jason Varitek, Lowe was sent to the Red sox on July 31st 1997 for closer Heathcliff Slocumb, who went on to do uninspiring things as a part of the Mariners bullpen.

The deal paid off tenfold for the Sox, as Varitek became the team’s captain, caught 4 no-hitters, won 2 World Series, and recently had Jason Varitek Appreciation Day at Fenway.  Lowe’s path, however, took a few twists and turns on the way, and he now finds himself out of a Major League job.

If I’m Ben Cherington, I’ve already made the call to Cleveland General Manager Chris Antonetti to return Lowe to the Red Sox rotation, which currently sits in shambles.  Do you agree?
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Last September, the Red Sox (9 games) and Braves (8.5) historically collapsed and lost their wild card spot.  Since then, an additional wild card spot has been awarded to each league, and the competition has been fierce.  As of today , there are 15 teams within 9 games of the four wild card spots, and aside from the Yankees 6.5 game lead, no other division’s lead is more than 4.5 games.  With so many teams still within striking distance, not as many teams are selling.  With the additional obstacle of clearing waivers, less players are likely to be available.

Josh Beckett is still owed $34 million dollars over the next two seasons, but if the Red Sox can convince him to waive his no-trade rights, he could be traded before the offseason to a team (and the teams listed might surprise you) looking for a pitcher in the stretch run.  Read on to find out why he might get traded, and where he might end up.

Josh Beckett is still on the Red Sox, but for how much longer? Where might he end up?

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