Will Middlebrooks Traded to San Diego

The Padres have been very busy the last few days acquiring outfielder after outfielder (Wil Myers, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton) and now they can add a third baseman to the mix.

With a logjam at third base and a need for a backup catcher, the Red Sox traded Will Middlebrooks to the Padres on Friday in exchange for catcher Ryan Hanigan.

The signing of Pablo Sandoval earlier this offseason made it likely that Middlebrooks would be on the move or headed back to Pawtucket, the former was hard to fathom.
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Hanigan was acquired by San Diego from Tampa Bay earlier in an 11-player, three-team deal (the Wil Myers deal).

Adding Hanigan answered the question of whether the Red Sox would re-sign free-agent David Ross, who signed with the Cubs late Friday night.

After hitting 15 home runs in just 267 at-bats during his rookie season in 2012, Middlebrooks could never seem to duplicate that same kind of success over the last two seasons. In 157 games during that span, he hit just .213 with 19 homers and 168 strikeouts in 608 plate appearances int he big leagues while battling a series of injuries.

This came from Middlebrooks fiance, Jenny Dell.

Hanigan, an Andover, Mass., native, has a caught-stealing rate of 38 percent for his career and led the Majors in caught-stealing rate (minimum 50 games) in 2012 (48 percent) and ’13 (45 percent).

However, the veteran backstop has battled injuries each of the past two seasons. He played in only 84 games for the Rays last season (hitting .218) and 75 for the Reds in 2013.

Hanigan owns a .256 career batting average with 57 doubles and 25 home runs and has a lifetime .353 on-base percentage over the better part of eight seasons.

The 34-year-old Hanigan is set to make $3.5 million next year and $3.7 million in 2016, with a $3.75 million option for ’17 as part of a contract extension he negotiated following his trade to the Rays last offseason.

The Sox also re-signed LHP Craig Breslow as he looks to bounce back after an off year in which he owned an ERA over four for the first time in his career.

Thanks for reading!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Red Sox Make a Trade; Sign a Few Others

The Red Sox bolstered their bullpen on Wednesday, acquiring right-hander Anthony Varvaro from the Braves in exchange for Minor Leaguer Aaron Kurcz and cash considerations.

The Braves designated Varvaro for assignment on Monday to make room for INF Alberto Callaspo on the 40-man roster.

Varvaro went 3-3 with a 2.63 ERA in 54 2/3 innings last year, posting a career-high 50 strikeouts in 61 relief appearances while opponents hit .228 against him. Over the last two seasons, Varvaro has gone 6-4 with a 2.74 ERA. He is one of just 18 Major League relievers with at least 50 innings logged and an ERA of 2.85 or better.

Kurcz spent this past season with Double-A Portland and went 3-2 with three saves, a 2.14 ERA and 54 strikeouts over 34 games. He allowed just six extra-base hits on the season (all doubles). The 24-year-old also threw for Surprise in the Arizona Fall League, going 1-0 with one save, a 3.86 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 10 appearances.

Adding to the Red Sox minor league depth, Boston signed right-hander Nestor Molina and catcher Luke Montz to minor league deals. Molina struggled in parts of three seasons in the White Sox’ minor league system after being acquired in the Sergio Santos trade. Montz is a 31-year-old veteran with 56 big league plate appearances and a .232 batting average in parts of four seasons at the Triple-A level. Montz played in just 14 games last year in the Oakland system.

And, back on July 30th, the Red Sox traded Felix Doubront to the Cubs for a player to be named later. That player has finally been named…Minor League shortstop Marco Hernandez
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Hernandez, a native of the Dominican Republic, began his professional career with the Cubs in 2010 and spent last season as a 21-year-old at Class A Advanced Daytona. The left-handed batter played 122 games, all at shortstop, and hit .270, with three home runs, 55 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. Along the way, he earned a spot on the Florida State League’s Midseason All-Star team. In five Minor League seasons, he owns a .273/.314/.375 overall line with 17 homers and 84 steals.

Defensively, Hernandez has played exclusively at short over the past three years but previously logged 27 games at second base, five at third and one in right field.

Scouting report on Hernandez from mlb.com’s Jim Callis:

Hernandez once ranked as one of the top middle infielders in the Cubs’ system but was passed by several players in recent years as the organization amassed the best collection of position prospects in baseball. He has leveled off in Class A the last three years, though he did show progress at the plate by hitting .270/.316/352 at Class A Advanced Daytona at age 21 this past season. Hernandez’s best tool is his plus arm, and he has the quickness and defensive chops to stay at shortstop, where he’s not flashy but can make the plays he’s supposed to. He probably won’t produce enough offense to become a regular. He’s a decent hitter but lacks the strength to provide much power and doesn’t draw many walks.

That’s all from me this week…unless something earth shattering takes place. Off to California with my family for the Holidays and I have a chance to call the California High School D-II and D-III State Championship games for Time Warner Sports.

My little reindeer is already 11 weeks old!

My little reindeer is already 11 weeks old!


Thanks for reading,

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

MILB.com’s Red Sox Organizational All-Stars

It was a good year to be a member of the Red Sox Minor League system.

The Major League club had trouble defending its World Series title and, with a 71-91 record, finished in the American League East cellar for the second time in three years. While their big league counterparts struggled, Red Sox prospects flourished in a big way.

From a team prospective, the PawSox won the Governors’ Cup for a 2nd time in 3 years. Portland owned one of the best records in minor league baseball. Salem made the playoffs and the Gulf Coast League Red Sox won their league title (Rusney Castillo played for both Pawtucket and GCL championship teams…double bling). The system finished with a .546 winning percentage, good for fourth among the 30 Major League organizations and earned a MiLBY nomination for Farm System of the Year.
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Mookie Betts worked his way from Double-A to becoming one of the big leagues’ most exciting young players. Blake Swihart took another step toward becoming arguably the top catching prospect in the game and now the Sox top prospect. Henry Owens continued to rack up strikeouts and no-hit performances. Rafael Devers and Manuel Margot showed the system isn’t exactly top-heavy.

These were the top players who made that happen according to milb.com.

Catcher — Blake Swihart, Portland (92 games), Pawtucket (18 games): The 22-year-old handled the jump to Double-A ball with relative ease, hitting .300 with 12 homers, 3 triples and 23 doubles in 92 games at Portland. He moved up to Pawtucket in August and played a key role in their quest for a Governors’ Cup title, lest we forget his incredible pick at the dish in Game 4 of the Finals to save the season.

What’s more, he took another jump defensively, throwing out 31 of 68 (45.6 percent) would-be basestealers across the two levels.

“I think Blake has really improved in all facets of the game,” said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. “The focus early on when we had him was the defensive side, and you can already tell that’s come a long ways. Offensively, he’s started to do a lot of different things with the bat and he’s made himself a guy that’s really close to the Majors.”

The prospect landscape has taken notice as Swihart, who was added to the Red Sox 40-man roster, has jumped to No. 24 on MLB.com’s list of Top 100 Prospects, up from No. 61 during the preseason. He’ll more than likely be be the PawSox backstop to start 2015, but with fellow defensive wizard Christian Vazquez already in Boston, the Sox boast one of the most exciting young catching duos in baseball.
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First baseman — Travis Shaw, Portland (47 games), Pawtucket (81 games): After batting .221 in his first go-round in Double-A ball in 2013, Shaw carried the momentum from an excellent turn in the Arizona Fall League (.361 average, 1.157 OPS, five homers in 17 games in 2013) into a much more productive 2014 season. The 24-year-old left-handed hit .305 with 11 homers and 37 RBIs in the Eastern League before getting the bump to the International League in late May, where he held his own with a .262 average and 10 dingers. His 21 total homers were tops in the system.

“With Shaw, it started with a more aggressive mind-set,” said Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles, who also coached the first baseman in Portland in 2013. “He was looking to do damage and be a more productive run-producer with runners in scoring position. From a physical standpoint, it came from his lower half being on time and having it established with improved balance.”

Like Swihart, he was rewarded with a spot on the 40-man roster, and Shaw could make his Major League debut in 2015.

Honorable mention: Jantzen Witte (.312, 12 HR, 93 RBI in 130 games with Salem and Greenville)
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Second baseman — Sean Coyle, Portland (96 games): To simply look at the 5-foot-8 Coyle is not the way to get the whole picture when it comes to MLB.com’s fourth-ranked second base prospect. The 22-year-old right-handed hitter has plenty of pop, as he showed this season with 16 homers (third-most in the system) and hit .295, a career high. Hand and hamstring injuries limited him to 96 games, but when he was in the lineup, he proved to be a masher. He also appeared in the Arizona Fall League.

“He had a really good offseason coming into 2014,” Crockett said. “He implemented a few new techniques that helped keep him on the field a little more. He also bought into the approach we’ve been preaching. We saw him driving to right-center more than in previous years and, offensively, that really helped his game.”

Third baseman — Rafael Devers, Dominican Summer League (28 games), Gulf Coast League (42 games): Until a player makes his debut, he’s more or less a question mark. Devers, who signed for $1.5 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, provided a lot of early answers this summer. At 17, the left-handed slugger started in the DSL, where he quickly proved to be too much for after he hit .337 with 3 homers, 3 triples and 6 doubles. The Sox gave him another challenge by sending him to the GCL, and he cleared that hurdle by batting .312.

Having turned 18 in October, the Red Sox couldn’t have asked for a much better organizational debut than Devers’. And considering he could still be in high school, it’s difficult not to think about what the next step could be.

“He’s already got an advanced approach at the plate,” Crockett said. “He has a great ability to use the whole field. There’s some raw power there. He really isn’t afraid to see the ball get deep into the strike zone and drive it the other way. … To play third base, he needs continued reps, but that will come in time. It’ll be exciting to watch him grow.”

Shortstop — Deven Marrero, Portland (68 games), Pawtucket (50 games): To talk about Marrero in any context is to discuss his defense foremost. MLB.com gave him 60 grades for both his glove and arm, and he’s lived up to that billing at one of the most demanding defensive positions in the game.

“He’s above-average in all facets of defense,” Crockett said. “It can be incredible to watch. He can make the challenging plays with relative ease and, what’s more, without sacrificing the easy play, either.”

The 2012 first-rounder also started to show something offensively at Portland, where he hit .291 with 5 homers, 2 triples and 19 doubles in 68 contests. Marrero struggled some at Pawtucket (.210 average), but the Sox are optimistic after a positive Fall League campaign (.328 average in 17 games).
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Outfielders

Mookie Betts, Portland (54 games), Pawtucket (45 games): No player forced his way from Double-A all the way to the Majors quite like Betts did in 2014. The 22-year-old had no problem acclimating to Double-A ball, reaching base in each of his first 53 games to run his on-base streak to 66 contests (71 if you include last year’s playoffs). When it became apparent that his bat could carry him even further up the organizational ladder, the Sox moved him from second base to the outfield (mostly center) in May as a way to keep him from being blocked by Dustin Pedroia. Given his impressive speed, Betts adapted well to the new position. He moved up to Pawtucket in early June, made his Major League debut on June 29 and stuck with the big club for good in mid-August after hitting .346 with 11 homers, 5 triples, 30 doubles and 33 steals in 99 Minor League games.

Including this unforgettable moment in Pawtucket…he would be called up to Boston the next day.

“The thing about Mookie is he’s really consistent from at-bat to at-bat and pitch to pitch,” Crockett said. “He doesn’t change his approach for anything. Now he obviously has the physical ability to back that up as well. He controls the strike zone, isn’t afraid to hit with two strikes or in any situation. That’s something he carried with him to every level, no matter the competition he was facing, and that’s what made the transition easier for him each time.”

Betts batted .291 in 52 games during his first turn in the Majors and, barring a trade for a top-of-the-line pitcher, is likely to be the Sox’s Opening Day leadoff hitter.

Manuel Margot, Greenville (99 games), Salem (16 games): Margot was a popular pick as the system’s breakout star in 2014, and while that designation might belong to Devers, the 20-year-old center fielder did his best to fulfill those predictions. The right-handed hitter showed off plenty of tools hitting .293 with 12 homers and an organization-best 42 steals during his first full Minor League campaign. The native of the Dominican Republic climbed from No. 11 in MLB.com’s preseason ranking of the Red Sox system to No. 6 and could go even higher if he develops a smidge more power.

“He’s made steady progress since we signed him [in 2011],” Crockett said. “He’s been expanding the zone a little bit as he gets more experience, and he has plenty of natural running and hitting ability to succeed as well.”

Matty Johnson, Salem (132 games): For the reasons Johnson earned his spot on this list, look no further than the speed categories. The 26-year-old center fielder swiped 40 bags, second in the system to Margot and more than double his previous career high of 19 in 2011 and 2013. With a .276 average and .377 OBP, he proved to be the prototypical leadoff man for Salem. Pretty good for someone who was plucked from the independent Frontier League in 2010.

Honorable mention — Alex Hassan. The veteran .287 hit 8 HR with 55 RBI in 114 games with the PawSox. He made his big league debut with Boston in June, going 1-for-8, and got his first big league hit against Tampa Bay. Hassan was designated for assignment by Boston in November, claimed by Oakland, then DFA’d again and claimed by Baltimore.

Utility player — Carlos Asuaje, Greenville (90 games), Salem (39 games): Asuaje is the reason there is a utility player category in the Organization All-Stars series. The 2013 11th-rounder’s bat played well enough to be honored (.310, 15 homers, 12 triples, 38 doubles), but he saw equal time at second base, third and left field in 2014, making it difficult to place him anywhere other than this spot. That defensive flexibility should help the 23-year-old as he tries to climb the ladder.

Right-handed pitcher — Anthony Ranaudo, Pawtucket (24 games), Boston (seven games): The Red Sox would have been happy with a repeat of 2013 (2.96 ERA, Eastern League Pitcher of the Year) for Ranaudo, and that’s essentially what they got. The 6-foot-7 New Jersey native was named International League Most Valuable Pitcher after leading the Triple-A circuit in wins (14) and ERA (2.61) while posting a 1.20 WHIP, .223 average against and 111 strikeouts over 138 innings. He made his Major League debut on Aug. 1 getting a win against the Yankees while striking out Derek Jeter for his first big league punch out.
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Given the rotation moves the Red Sox have made this offseason (Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson) and what could still come, Ranaudo could head back to Triple-A this spring.

“I think it’s just about having more consistent execution at the Major League level,” Crockett said. “The batters obviously get more talented at every level and you have to be more consistent if you’re going to succeed. Now his fastball plays at every level, we saw that. It’s just a matter of continuing to improve execution of the other pitches, and he knows that.”

Left-handed pitcher — Brian Johnson, Salem (five games), Portland (20 games): Johnson’s first two seasons in the system were marred by a line drive he took to the face on Aug. 18, 2012 during a Futures at Fenway game with Short-Season Lowell.

Armed with an above-average fastball and curve, the 2012 first-rounder broke the 100-inning barrier for the first time — 143.2, to be exact — and was dominant, especially at Portland, where he went 10-2 with a 1.75 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, .189 average against and 99 strikeouts in 118 frames. His 2.13 ERA for the season was easily best in the system.

“This was the first year he was really able to get in a full offseason, and what he did was a result of being able to maximize that time,” Crockett said. “You could tell it really paid off. He came in stronger, and even as the season progressed, his velocity ticked up from what we had previously seen. Between strength and conditioning and being able to repeat his delivery consistently all season long, he had exactly the type of season we could have hoped for him.”

Johnson also made one playoff start at Triple-A, tossing six innings of two-run ball against Durham in Game 2 of the Governors’ Cup Finals, and Pawtucket is where he’ll move in what should be another stacked rotation.
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Honorable mention: Henry Owens Another great year, but in the eyes of milb.com, Johnson just out-did him. Tough with these numbers, 26 starts, 17-5, 2.94 ERA, 170 k’s, 159 IP and a .208 average against.

Relief pitcher — Tommy Layne, Pawtucket (37 games), Boston (30 games): The 30-year-old left-hander was signed by the Red Sox as a free agent last offseason with the hope he’d provide veteran depth and left-handed help in the Pawtucket bullpen. He did more than that, posting a 1.50 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, .173 average against with 11 saves in 11 chances for the PawSox. He was tougher against Triple-A lefties, holding them to a .136 average. Layne defined the term “Stopper”.
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“He set the tone for our bullpen,” Boles said. “He was consistent, had solid work habits and was a great example for our club. He executed pitches when we needed them and was our most consistent reliever this season.”

Layne moved to Boston full-time in mid-July, putting up a 0.95 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 19 innings there, and, with Craig Breslow’s departure, should be the club’s go-to left-handed option in 2015.

Thanks for reading,

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Well, That Escalated Quickly

After we opened the morning with Wade Miley coming to the Red Sox for Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster, even though it hasn’t be made “official” and probably wont be until Saturday, more moves by Boston happened before lunch.

Hello Old Friend

The Red Sox have agreed to sign righty Justin Masterson in a return to the organization he was originally drafted by. The deal is for approximately $9.5 million with incentives.
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Masterson, 29, fell off significantly last year after a three-year run in which he averaged 205 innings and a 3.86 ERA. That included two outstanding campaigns sandwiched around a struggle in 2012.

In 2014, he scuffled to a 5.88 ERA in 128.2 innings last year, striking out 8.1 and walking 4.8 batters per nine while dealing with a variety of shoulder, knee, and back issues. Masterson lost nearly three ticks on his average fastball velocity last year, though he managed to carry a typically stellar 58.2% groundball rate.

A reunion with former pitching coach, now manager John Farrell might be just what Masterson needs to get on track…as well as better health.

So Long Cespedes

As it was wildly speculated, the Yoenis Cespedes era ended after just two months.

The Tigers and Red Sox have officially agreed to a deal that will send outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit in return for starter Rick Porcello. Righty Alex Wilson and lefty Gabe Speier are also heading to Detroit.
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Needless to say, Cespedes will add to an already-formidable middle of the order, while also filling an uncertain spot in the outfield. The back-to-back homer run derby champ joins Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez in a scary middle of the order.

For Boston, this swap closes a loop on last summer’s Jon Lester trade, which brought in Cespedes. The club added several other outfield pieces to a crowded situation, which made another deal of some kind seem inevitable. Bringing back an arm of Porcello’s quality would certainly be a nice consolation prize for missing out on a chance to bring back Lester. Cespedes is owed $10.5MM before he reaches the open market after the year, and will not be capable of receiving a qualifying offer due to a clause in his deal.

For Detroit, the rotation now looks to be one arm shy, with ace Max Scherzer still available but the team insisting it is not maneuvering to add him. And for Boston, the addition of Porcello still leaves the team without the ace that it is said to be seeking. The rotation currently features Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Miley Masterson and Porcello with a slew of younger arms from Pawtucket/Boston last season.

Porcello, who is still not quite 26 years of age, had a breakout 2014 after years of promise. He boasted a 3.43 ERA and continued to induce grounders at about a 50% clip, and also went over 200 innings for the first time in his career. All said, he is a steady three-win arm that any rotation would be glad to have.

Cespedes has hit more than twenty homers in each of his four big league seasons, but his ability to reach base has not been so consistent, and his overall production levels have fallen off since a huge rookie campaign back in 2011.

Here’s a guess…the Red Sox will still look to do more in the weeks before Spring Training.

Best of luck to Alex Wilson and his new organization in Detroit. A true class act and very talented!

Thanks for reading!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Wheeling and Dealing in San Diego

While we were all sleeping, well most of us without infant kids (this guy), there were a TON of trades last night in San Diego at the Winter Meetings.

The Dodgers, the Marlins, the Phillies, the Padres and the Astros signed a couple relievers.

The Red Sox and Diamondbacks also got into the mix agreeing in principle to a trade that will send left-hander Wade Miley to Boston in exchange for right-handers Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and another minor leaguer according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi

Miley has been the source of several rumors during these Winter Meetings, with the Rangers, Marlins and Blue Jays all with varying levels of interest in the southpaw. Miley is projected to earn $4.3 million in his first time through the arbitration process this winter, and he’ll be under team control through 2017.

Over the last three seasons, Miley has posted a 3.74 ERA while averaging an even 200 innings per year. He has a 48.6% ground ball rate over his career, which will serve him as well at Fenway Park as it did at Chase Field.
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And look at that hair cut! He fits right in.

While Miley isn’t the durable lefty the Red Sox were hoping to land during the Winter Meetings, Miley is at least younger and far cheaper than Jon Lester, and he’ll slot into the Boston rotation alongside Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly. Boston is undoubtedly still looking to acquire at least one or possibly two more starters for 2015, including a Lester-level ace in free agency or the trade market.

This is the second high-profile deal that De La Rosa and Webster have both been a part of, as the two righties were part of the trade package that Boston received as part of the Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford/Josh Beckett blockbuster with the Dodgers in 2012. Diamondbacks senior VP De Jon Watson was in the Los Angeles front office when De La Rosa and Webster originally joined the Dodgers.

De La Rosa appeared in 30 games for the Sox (18 of them starts) in 2013-14, posting a 4.54 ERA in 113 innings after his brilliant start in Pawtucket. With Boston openly looking to add top-level starting pitching this offseason and a number of highly-regarded pitching prospects in the minors, it seems as if De La Rosa may have simply been squeezed out of a job with the Red Sox.
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Webster also struggled at the Major League level (a 6.25 ERA over 89 1/3 innings over the last two seasons) but has a higher prospect pedigree than De La Rosa. Webster entered the year ranked as a top-100 prospect in the game, albeit over rather a wide range — he was ranked 46th by MLB.com, and 88th by Baseball America. The righty posted strong numbers in Pawtucket and was described by the 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook as having “outrageous” stuff “suggesting top-of-the-rotation potential” but there were big questions about his confidence and fastball command.

In other “Sox” news, with the glut of Dodgers moves (getting Howie Kendrick from the Angels, trading away Dee Gordon and others to the Marlins for 4 players and trading Matt Kemp to San Diego), recently added C Ryan Lavarnway was designated for assignment. He’ll be looking for a new team in the coming days.

Today is the Rule 5 draft…we’ll see if the Red Sox take anyone, or lose anyone not protected on the 40-man roster.

Thanks for reading!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Jon Lester Signs with Cubs; What’s Next for Red Sox?

Good Morning…Jon Lester is a Chicago Cub. For six years and $155 million, just under $26 million a season. He is now the second highest paid pitcher in baseball behind Clayton Kershaw’s $30.7 million annual salary. Lester’s deal also includes a vesting option for $15 million in a 7th year.

The Red Sox final offer was six years, $135 million.

The news came in, officially, just before 4am on the east coast…1am in San Diego where the deal was struck. So, if you’re waking up to this news…Sorry?

Lester now joins the recently acquired catcher Miguel Montero and starter Jason Hammel on a “re-vamped” Cubs team. And they aren’t done. With a pay roll that just crept over $70 million, Theo Epstein and co. are rumored to be seeking more former Red Sox in catcher David Ross and outfielder Jonny Gomes…I guess they’re trying to get the band back together. Heck, Jake Peavy is available too. And with Joe Maddon at the helm. don’t count them out on signing starter James Shields.

In all seriousness, though, with the young kids (Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, etc.) coming up on the North Side, the Cubs could be scary good. Maybe not in 2015, but very, very soon after.

What does this all mean for the boys back in Boston?

Sox GM Ben Cherington has been hitting the phones hard to trade pieces. So many major league outfielders, so many young pitchers. Boston needs major league quality starting pitching. That’s no knock on the guys who starred in Pawtucket last year (Webster, De La Rosa, Ranaudo, Owens, etc.), but the Red Sox need PROVEN commodities.
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Who to target as trade partners? The Phillies have been the hottest name with lefty Cole Hamels, but they’ll want A LOT back despite the Hamels big price tag. The Reds also boast a number of quality starters (Jonny Cueto, Mat (yes only one T) Latos, Mike Leake, Alfredo Simon). The Diamondbacks could deal lefty Wade Miley. The Tigers have a glut of starters (David Price, Verlander (not going anywhere) and Rick Porcello). And Shields could be had as a free agent.

Word on the street is that Cherington has 15-20 trade proposals out to other teams. Now that the biggest shark in the water, Lester, has been reeled in, it’s Cherington’s time to shine.

More news to come, I’m sure!

Thanks for reading,

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

WWLL – Where Will Lester Land

Jon Lester‘s decision about a new team could swing the balance of the entire offseason, so here’s the latest updates on the free agent southpaw…

Lester’s camp is waiting to see if a club will up its offer to the $150MM level and/or include a seventh year, whether guaranteed or through a vesting option, per a report from Sean McAdam Comcast Sports Net New England…http://www.csnne.com/boston-red-sox/sources-agents-seek-150-million-deal-lester. The bidding is believed to be sitting around $140MM over six years.
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A decision tomorrow is more likely than this evening, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports, http://fullcount.weei.com/sports/boston/baseball/red-sox/2014/12/08/source-jon-lester-likely-to-make-decision-tuesday/. The interest of the final suitors “continues to evolve,” per Bradford.

The Giants are receiving serious consideration from Lester and his team, Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal tweets.

Lester is expected to choose a destination no earlier than tonight and no later than tomorrow, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney tweets.

The Giants met with Seth Levinson, one of Lester’s agents, on Sunday night and the team hopes to have a deal worked out in the next couple of days, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports.

An executive not involved in the Lester bidding predicts that the hurler will get a seven-year deal, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets.

“Book it,” the exec said. Lester has reportedly already received at least two offers north of $130MM.

The more reports we hear, the more it sounds like the Giants are the front runners for Jon Lester’s services. But, don’t count out the free-spending Dodgers, the “Fighting Epstein’s” in Chicago or even the Red Sox, who at this point are lying in the weeds waiting.

Congratulations are in order to former weei.com writer and Baseball America contributor Alex Speier. He has taken a job with the Boston Globe to cover the Red Sox joining Pete Abraham and Nick Cafardo. A great honor for a fantastically talented scribe. Well done, Alex!

And former Red Sox farmhand and Oakland A’s standout the last few seasons, Brandon Moss was traded to the Cleveland Indians today. The A’s received second baseman Joe Wendle.

Happy Winter Meetings (I hear it’s 80 degrees in San Diego right now…) and Happy Monday.
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Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

PawSox Holiday party is TONIGHT!

Join us at McCoy Stadium on TONIGHT from 5:30pm to 8:00pm for the PawSox Holiday Party. Food and games will all be in store for those who attend. Meet PawSox catcher Blake Swihart, pitcher Drake Britton and the PawSox holiday mascot Santa Paws.

Please enter McCoy through the main entry tower in left-field for this FREE event and help us celebrate the holidays PawSox style. The 2014 PawSox Holiday Party will be held inside the hallowed confines of the McCoy Clubhouse, batting tunnels, and team store. No RSVP is necessary and please feel free to bring family and friends.
The first 300 fans who make a $5 donation to the Pawtucket Red Sox Charitable Foundation will receive a photo snowglobe with Paws and the Governors’ Cup trophy.
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Coinciding with the Holiday Party, individual game tickets for all Pawtucket Red Sox regular-season home games in 2015 will go on sale at 5:00 pm TONIGHT. The Box Office will be open until 8:00 pm.

Tickets will also be available on-line at http://www.pawsox.com beginning at 5pm. The PawSox Box Office at McCoy will also be open on Saturday, December 6 from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. Starting on December 8, orders can be charged via phone by calling the PawSox at (401) 724-7300.

Box Seats will be priced at $13.00 apiece for the 2015 season. Adult General Admission tickets will be $9.00 while General Admission tickets for both Children (aged 12 & under) and Senior Citizens will be $6.00 apiece.

PawSox Box Seat Season Tickets are priced at $700.00 each (a significant savings of 25% off the box office price) and include a number of exclusive season ticket holder events. The PawSox also offer a variety of Flex Ticket Packages that allow fans the convenience of choosing from among several games at a substantial savings. Flex tickets can be purchased in quantity amounts of 25, 50, and 100. The price for 25 flex tickets is $200 (general admission) & $300 (box seats). The price for 50 flex tickets is $375 (GA) & $575 (box). And the price for 100 flex tickets is $700 (GA) & $1,100 (box).

The defending Governors’ Cup Champion Pawtucket Red Sox will play their 2015 home-opener at McCoy Stadium on Thursday, April 16th against the Rochester Red Wings at 7:05 pm. The PawSox 2015 season will start one week earlier on April 9th when they play in Allentown, PA against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

The PawSox team store will also be open with brand new gear with an updated logo for the holidays and the 2015 season!

Thanks for reading!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.om

Red Sox Give Pitcher a Second Chance

‘Tis the season for giving. And for right hander, Jorge Marban, he’s been given a second chance at affiliated baseball by the Boston Red Sox.

Just two weeks ago, Marban was coming out of the bullpen for the Perth Heat and working on cutting down his walks in the early going of the 2014-15 Australian Baseball League season. The former Rangers prospect has a second chance at his baseball life after agreeing to a deal with the Red Sox. This follows three seasons in independent leagues across the U.S. and his first handful of games in Australia.

The following is from Tyler Maun of milb.com.

Marban first caught wind of the ABL while playing for Florence in the independent Frontier League last season. After asking his coaches if they had any connections in Australia, they didn’t, he was the beneficiary of a late-season transaction that set his course for Perth. The 25-year-old was sent to Southern Maryland of the Atlantic League, and before he even threw a pitch for the club, his new pitching coach put him in touch with Heat manager Steve Fish.

Joining the ABL’s reigning champions for the start of the league’s fifth season, Marban made a name for himself quickly, not allowing a hit or run through his first five outings. All the while, his manager — a part-time Boston scout — was keeping a close eye on the righty.

“After my outing against Canberra [his fifth appearance of the season on November 20], Fish calls me the next day and tells me to show up to the field early,” Marban said. “I show up early. I really don’t know what’s going on because it’s not like we’ve talked about this previously. I’m just running through my head, like, if I’ve gotten in trouble somewhere or what could be going on.

“He calls me into his office and just said, ‘Hey, the Red Sox want to have you play for them next year.’ He put the contract out in front of me, and I was just at a loss for words.”

The Canberra outing, during which Marban struck out three and walked one over two hitless innings, clinched the deal.

“I’d been struggling with my slider, and in that outing, I showed that I could throw my slider,” he said. “[Fish] was like, ‘That’s all we really needed to see. We like your fastball. We like your split-finger, and now that we see that you can throw your slider, we want you.’ I was pretty surprised.”

Marban made 35 appearances for Class A Hickory during the 2011 season, his second in the Rangers organization, but found himself out of affiliated ball for the next three seasons, appearing in 122 games for Florence and Southern Maryland during that time.

“I’ve learned so much throughout those three years in independent ball and developed so much as a pitcher,” he said. “That’s all I really wanted was one more opportunity, at what I think is the best I’ve been in my career, to give it one more shot. If things work out, great. If they don’t, it’s something you can accept with yourself knowing that you were at your best and did what you could.”

Through his first month in the ABL, Marban’s numbers are among the best in the league. After his five straight scoreless appearances to start the season, the righty has allowed runs in two of his last three but still boasts a 1-0 record, a save and a 2.25 ERA. He’s struck out 13 batters and limited opposing hitters to a paltry .081 average. Walks have been Marban’s biggest issue with 10 in his 12 innings.

“I got off to a good start,” he said. “I felt good out there. I wasn’t really overthinking too much. My last few outings, I guess I’ve put some extra pressure on myself that I don’t need. I’ve struggled a little bit. I’ve had a problem this year with my walks, but I was just coming out here trying to have fun, trying to get better throwing the ball over the plate. I’ve been successful doing so, so it’s just going back to that mindset to continue and have a great rest of the season.”

While the promise of Spring Training in Fort Myers awaits in February, Marban is ready to tend to the business of helping the Heat defend their Claxton Shield while thankful for the circumstances that have given him a long-awaited second chance.

“It is pretty crazy it took going halfway around the world to get an opportunity,” he said. “At first when I was here, I was a little homesick because I hadn’t been home for a while. I was honestly thinking about going home, but I talked to my family, and they told me to stick it out. Big things happened.

“Thank God I stayed.”

Congratulations Portland Sea Dogs

The Portland Sea Dogs were named Baseball America’s 2014 Minor League Team of the Year today. Finishing 88-54, the Sea Dogs won the Eastern Division of the Eastern League, but went on to lose to the Binghamton Mets 3-2 in the best of five first round playoff series. The last time the Sea Dogs won their division was 2005, and the only other time a Red Sox affiliate has won this award was in 1999 when the Trenton Thunder took home the award. Trenton was the Red Sox Double-A Affiliate from 1995 to 2002.

To read the full article by weei.com’s Alex Speier, click here: http://www.baseballamerica.com/minors/minor-league-team-year-betts-leads-talented-sea-dogs/

Thanks for reading!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Why Not…

Because sometimes, you just have to laugh.

http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/17160334/v31760357/david-ross-recreates-major-league

Oh David Ross. He is a gem and, truly, one of the nicest people in the game. Pretty funny too.

Is it February yet?!

And a BIG congratulations go out to pitcher Alex Wilson and his wife Kristin on the arrival of their brand new baby Rosie born today!

Happy Tuesday indeed!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

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