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2015 Hall of Fame Class and More

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2015.

Let’s start the New Year off with a friendly debate. The Hall of Fame.

Who’s in? Who’s out? Who gets snubbed?

And for the second consecutive year, anticipation about the Class of 2015 is very high. It’s possible a large new group of players will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Electees from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot are set to be announced Tuesday at 2 p.m.

A star studded group highlighted the 2014 class with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas joining managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa forms one of the greatest classes in history. BUT, the prospective group in 2015 is just as impressive.

This year’s ballot features newcomers Randy Johnson (a 303-game winner) Pedro Martinez (a .687 career winning percentage is 6th best in Major League history and is by far the tops of his era), John Smoltz (213 wins and 154 saves in 21 seasons), Gary Sheffield (509 home runs and drove in 100 or more runs nine times) and six-time All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra.
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Add Craig Biggio, the multi-positioned star who had 3,060 hits in 20 seasons with the Astros and the stage is set for another impressive class this summer in Cooperstown. Biggio is the only player with 3,000 or more hits who has not yet been elected.

Last year, Biggio finished with 74.8 percent of the vote (75% in necessary). He was followed by Mike Piazza at 62.2 percent, Jack Morris at 61.5 percent and former Astros teammate Jeff Bagwell at 54.3 percent. The names most often heard around scandal Roger Clemens (35.4%), Barry Bonds (34.7%) and Sammy Sosa (7.2% barely remaining eligible) are all back on the ballot for a third time. Clemens was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame last summer.

Of this year’s new crop, Randy Johnson seems to be a shoe-in. He struck out 4,875 batters (most ever by a left-hander) and ranks second behind Nolan Ryan’s all-time record of 5,714. He played for six teams, winning his 300th game for the Giants in 2009, pitching a perfect game for the D-backs in ’04 against the Braves and sharing the ’01 World Series MVP Award with teammate Curt Schilling (appearing in 3 games/2 starts and even pitched in back to back games starting Game 6 and earning the win in Game 7 out of the bullpen). He won five Cy Young Awards, one in the American League for Seattle in 1995 and four in a row in the National League for Arizona from 1999-2002. Like I said, shoe-in!

Oh, and he blew up a bird with a pitch as it flew across the plate in a spring training game (sorry PETA).
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Then there is Pedro, who also appears to be a likely first-ballot selection.

Martinez pitched for five teams in 18 seasons, but his claim to fame centers on the seven years, 1998-2004, he pitched for the Red Sox, where he went 117-37. His career record was 219-100. He won the Cy Young Award three times, twice while with Boston, including 1999, when he took the AL’s pitching Triple Crown with a career-high 23 wins, 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts. With it all, Martinez should punch his ticket to Cooperstown.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Martinez said. “There’s only so much I can do. As of now, I’m just like you, hoping and waiting to get a chance to make it. I think I should have a shot, but it’s not up to me. Like I said, it’s not up to me. I can only hope and wait.”

John Smoltz is a tweener for me. I DO think he ends up in the Hall, but maybe not on the first ballot. The right-hander played 20 seasons for an Atlanta team that went to the playoffs in 14 consecutive seasons from 1991-2005, won five NL pennants and the 1995 World Series. Smoltz was a huge part of all that wining, posting a 15-4 mark in the postseason, four wins fewer than Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte, who holds the playoff record with 19 victories.

Between Smoltz and 2014 HOF class members Gregg Maddux and Tom Glavine, they own 6 Cy Young Awards…all in a Braves uniform.

Smoltz transitioned to relieving after undergoing Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2000 season. He saved 144 games from 2002-04, then returned to starting, going 44-24 from 2005-07. 210 of his wins and all 154 of his saves came for the Braves.

If I had a vote, and I don’t, I’d have Martinez, Johnson and Biggio all making it this year. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if both Martinez AND Johnson receive more than 90% or more. Who do you think makes it in?

And from the “Brock”ford Files…the Holidays in California were great and my little guy even got to meet Santa on Christmas Day.
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And he was dressed to the 9’s on New Year’s Eve!
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Finally, Happy birthday to my wife! She’s puts up with a lot with my schedule during the season (and off-season). She holds our little family together and I couldn’t do any of what I do without her!

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com,

Long Time, No Blog

Yes, it’s been a few days since our last update, but things have been a little hectic in this broadcasters life lately.

Friday last week a cross country flight to Los Angeles…do play-by-play for back to back High School State Championship games Saturday afternoon for Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Comcast…Sunday fly to Sacramento to spend the holidays with my family…Tuesday, fly to Phoenix for 24 hours…hop back on a plane back to Sacramento shortly. Phew….

The family did manage to make it to the ocean while we were in Southern California to give the little Brock Star his first dip in the Pacific Ocean.
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So what’s going in Red Sox nation? Not too much, but here a few tidbits.

Minor League Signing

The Red Sox agreed to terms with LHP Casey Crosby. At one time in his career, he landed amongst the Tigers’ top thirty prospects seven times. The oft-injured 26-year-old only received three big league starts in Detroit, however, and continued to have control issues after being converted to relief last year at Triple-A.

Lavarnway’s Odyssey

The former Red Sox farmhand, Ryan Lavarnway has made his way around MLB since being designated for assignment by the Sox on Nov. 25, being claimed by three different teams in less than three weeks.
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Lavarnway was originally claimed on Dec. 5 by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who DFA’d him five days later. The Chicago Cubs claimed Lavarnway on waivers Dec. 19, and it looked like he was headed to Wrigley Field to join former teammates Jon Lester and David Ross. But he lasted just four days in the Cubs organization before being placed on waivers again and claimed by the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday.

David Ross Chicago Bound

The Cubs announced that they have signed catcher David Ross to a two-year contract. Ross will reportedly earn $5 million over the life of the deal, including a $500,000 signing bonus and identical salaries of $2.25MM in each of the contract’s two seasons. He joins fellow former Sox Jon Lester on the North Side and will back up recently acquired catcher Miguel Montero.

And…

Pawtucket Times PawSox beat writer, Brendan McGair checked in with the City of Pawtucket…http://pawtuckettimes.com/node/11166

I hope everyone enjoyed their final night of Chanukah and will enjoy a Merry Christmas Eve tonight!

From all the Lev’s from California to all of you.
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Thanks for reading!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

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

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