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Boston Red Sox: Okajima, Relievers Non-Tendered, Team Preps for Winter Meetings

The Red Sox announced yesterday that they have non-tendered Hideki Okajima, Taylor Buchholz and Andrew Miller as they enter the Major League Winter Meetings this weekend at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida.

After signing Jason Varitek to a one year, two million dollar contract to mentor and back-up Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the Red Sox are expected to come full circle on contract proposals to Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth and other players that may include Adrian Beltre, Paul Konerko, Derrek Lee, Lance Berkman, Jorge Cantu and a plethora of middle relief and set-up specialists in an effort to fortify its bullpen.

From a fiscal perspective, the Red Sox are in a flexible state in part to its ability to secure 18 minor league players on its 40-man roster as of right now who are expected to earn $67,500 for the next year with the exception of shortstop Jose Iglesias who signed a 4-year contract in 2010 for $8.25 million.

The luxury tax for all major league baseball teams in 2011 is $178 million and if the Red Sox are attempting to spend up to that number then they have an estimated $35.349 million to play with.

With that in mind and in consideration of a down economic market, the Red Sox may play to the $170 million number, which was the 2009 luxury tax, and give the Red Sox front office only $27.349 million.

And, that financial difference may be the difference between signing any two of the free agents noted above or only signing one of the named free agents above. 

According to Boston Globe and ESPN Boston Red Sox reporter Gordon Edes, the Red Sox spend an estimated $11 million in player benefits which bites into the Red Sox flexibility.

However, if the Red Sox are planning on spending to the luxury tax, then the Sox are going to be able to sign Crawford/Werth, a first baseman/third baseman and one or two middle relievers or set-up men.

It has been reported that Crawford is seeking an eight year deal for $17 million a year, which would leave about $18 million to address its other corner infield position and two relief pitchers.

Last year, Berkman made $14.5 million, Lee made $13 million, Konerko made $12 million and Cantu made $6 million. It is highly unlikely that Lee or Berkman warrant raises considering their 2009 campaigns (Lee hit .260, 19 HR, 80 runs and 80 RBI and Berkman hit .248, 14 HR, 48 runs and 58 RBI).

In the case of Konerko, his contract may be a bit more challenging. Konerko, who grew up in Providence and was once rumored to be a Red Sox free agent target, hit .312 while hitting 39 HR’s and driving 111 RBI’s. Konerko is going to want a long-term deal at age 35 and it would likely be for no less than 3 years.

Of course, the Sox can make one last attempt at Adrian Beltre who is reportedly close to signing a five year, $64 million deal with the Oakland A’s according to

Cantu is a fallback player that the Sox can look at as well. He is a streaky hitter who only hit .256 last year while hitting 11 home runs and driving 56 RBI while being able to play both third and first base and was cost-effective after making only $6 million last year.

However, Cantu was a Marlin which is John Henry’s former backyard and it would be the second time that the Red Sox decided to take a former third baseman from that state (Mike Lowell).

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Victor Martinez to Detroit; Saltalamacchia Projected As Red Sox Starting Catcher

With Victor Martinez headed to the Detroit Tigers, the Red Sox appear set with Jarrod Saltalamacchia as their starting catcher with an intriguing possibility of long-time starting catcher, Jason Varitek, coming back for one more year.

Before Red Sox nation jumps off the cliff regarding VMart leaving at the cost of Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price, while getting the Tigers first-round pick and a sandwich pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft, Saltalamacchia is entering his age-26 season and was considered a top catching prospect before stumbling along four seasons with the Atlanta Braves and the Texas Rangers.

There are some positives that should be noted when it comes to Saltalamachia’s potential. In 238 at-bats with the Rangers AAA team last year, Salty hit 11 home runs. Yes, it is not the bigs, but it is a indicator that Saltalamacchia was beginning to turn it around offensively.

Here is another stat: In his last three major league seasons, Saltalamacchia has hit .263 with an OPS of .745 during his age 23 through 25 seasons. From a defensive point of view, he threw out 24 percent of would-be base stealer’s in 2009 when he played a career-high 83 games behind the plate for the Rangers.

In 2009 and 2010, Martinez threw out 14 percent and 21 percent of would-be base stealers.

If Varitek is brought back to backup Salty and play against left-handed pitchers, the Red Sox may have a viable platoon behind the plate at a cost that is a fraction of what VMart garnered today (four years at $12.5 million AAV).

This permits the Red Sox to spend the $30 to $35 million that it will likely spend in free agency and arbitration/salary increases to address the other pressing needs including its bullpen, first base/third base dilemma and left field.

Salty may not be the top-50 prospect that he once was in 2006 or 2007, but he is under the fiscal control of the Red Sox through the 2013 season and that will permit Epstein and company to use their dollars in other areas that need an upgrade.

The downside to this option is obviously experience. He has played 200 games behind the plate in the major leagues. How many games did Varitek play before entering his age 26 season? One game. Victor Martinez played 181 games.

Saltalamacchia will never be as good of a hitter as Victor Martinez and he will never be as good as a defensive catcher as Jason Varitek.

However, the fact that he has been given the opportunity to catch what amounts to one-and-a-quarter seasons behind the plate before turning age 26, which is widely considered the turning point for catchers to fully mature, then maybe the Red Sox were able to buy low and catch a former top-50 baseball prospect at the time when they finally become fully developed.

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Boston Red Sox: 10 Players They Should Avoid This Offseason

This off-season offers a lot of opportunity for the Boston Red Sox to pick up some very good players that could help them get back to the top of the American League East. However, given GM Theo Epstein’s continued effort to reaching for free agents, it is also an opportunity to fall flat on their face.

Here are 10 players that the Red Sox should avoid at all costs.

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David Ortiz: How Does He Compare to Mo Vaughn?

When the Red Sox picked up the option for 2011 on David Ortiz, it brought back questions that have been occurring over the last couple of years when it comes to his value and if next year is the year when his on-the-field production falls off the table.

Many times, Ortiz has been compared to former Red Sox All-Star and slugging first baseman Mo Vaughn and rightfully so.

  1. Ortiz and Vaughn both, in their own rights, are famed Red Sox slugging first basemen. Check.
  2. They both hit left-handed. Check.
  3. They are both recognized as players who led their respective teams to American League pennants. Check.
  4. Vaughn and Ortiz have finished in the top five in AL MVP voting at least three times. Check.
  5. Their career averages are 35 home runs and over 110 RBI. Check.

However, for some reason, everyone remembers how Vaughn’s career ended and puts Ortiz in the same light.

Let’s refresh those on what happened to the “Hit Dog.”

In March 2001, Vaughn was placed on the 60-day DL due to a bicep injury after two seasons with the Anaheim Angels where he collected 69 HR and 225 RBI.

He was traded to the New York Mets and was never the same after the bicep injury.

He missed all of 2003, and that was his age-33 season. He came back in 2004 and hit 26 HR in 558 plate appearances while hitting .259. At age 35, Vaughn played in 27 games for the Mets, and his career was over.

From a statistical perspective, Ortiz is entering a critical year.

He improved last year from a power production perspective in comparison to his two previous years but is still down from his age-31 year, when he hit .332 and the Sox won their second World Series title in four years. Also, his batting average and OPS are down, as he has not had an OPS north of .900 since 2007 as well.

However, let’s keep in mind that he missed more than a month in 2008 and dealt with the “rumor” in 2009, and he still produced pretty well last year and just missed getting an OPS of .900.

Fast-forward to 2011. Ortiz is entering his age-35 season with a $12.5 million deal.

If Ortiz was going to precipitously drop in production, it certainly should have happened following his age-33 year, when he hit .238 and was marred with his mention on a list suggesting that he was not “clean.” Instead, he finished eighth in the American League in slugging percentage and OPS (.529 and .899) and was fourth in at-bats per home runs (16.2).

35 96 .315 29 47 148 .300
40 115 .337 30 54 137 .287
33 108 .281 31 35 117 .332
36 117 .272 32 23 89 .264
DL DL DL 33 28 99 .238
26 72 .259 34 32 102 .270
3 15 .190 35 TBD TBD TBD
173 523 .291 TOTALS 219 692 .283


Vaughn, at his career pinnacle, ranged from 14.1 to 15.2 at-bats per home run, and guess what his salary was during these years? Between 2000-2002, Vaughn’s average salary was $12.166 million.

If you factor in inflation, Ortiz is coming at a cheaper dollar than Vaughn did with more production even at $12.5 million. 

Ortiz showed Red Sox Nation that he was worth the risk of the club picking up his option to see if he can deliver an OPS north of .900 this year during his age-35 season. He almost did it last year, and I am sure that is one of his personal goals this year while playing at least 149 games.

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Boston Red Sox Look to Overhaul Bullpen: Eyeing Minnesota, Chicago and Tampa Bay

Last year, the Boston Red Sox had a number of barriers en route to their third-place finish in the American League East behind the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees.

Despite all of the injuries to their regular positional players (Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, etc.), the bullpen was and still remains a focal point for this offseason for a number of reasons.

Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard were the only two members of the bullpen who had ERAs less than four, and had it not been for the seasons of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, it should be viewed by many experts and fans that the rest of the Red Sox pitching staff all had issues throughout the season despite its 4.20 ERA, which was ninth best in the American League last year.

Additionally, the Red Sox bullpen had 22 blown saves last year, which was the fourth worst in the major leagues last year. Why did the Sox have a jump in blown saves last year? The Red Sox were second worst in batters faced in the American League last year only to the Kansas City Royals, as they faced a whopping 38.68 batters per game.

Fortunately, there are some very good options in free agency that can aid in shoring up their second set-up option and their middle relief corp.

Here is a look at some of the leading options that the Red Sox may approach as candidates during the offseason:

Jon Rauch (Age 32)

Rauch entered last year as the primary setup man for the Minnesota Twins before Joe Nathan went to the DL due to a torn elbow ligament. Once Rauch settled in as the closer, he did pretty well prior to the Twins trading for Matt Capps from the Washington Nationals. Rauch led the Twins with 21 saves against four blown saves and had a .268 BAA. Rauch earned $2.9 million last year and is comparable money to JJ Putz. In terms of value, Rauch is one of few closers in the free-agent market that will not cost a first-round draft pick as well.

Jesse Crain (29)

Before Joe Nathan, Jon Rauch and Matt Capps went to the Twin Cities, it was widely regarded that Crain was the Twins’ closer of the future. Entering last year, Crain had a number of disappointing campaigns (2007, 2009) but really turned it on with the Twins deploying a heavy dose of their bullpen.

Crain was second on the team among his bullpen mates with a stalwart 1.176 WHIP and his seven hits per nine innings led the team. He earned $2 million last year and could provide good value to the Red Sox.

Matt Guerrier (32)

Guerrier was no slouch last year as well for the Twins bullpen. Over the last two years, Guerrier has held opponents to batting averages of .207 and .219 and WHIP of .97 and 1.10 respectively. More of a control and finesse pitcher than Crain, Guerrier has been a workhorse as he has totaled 70 innings or more for the last four seasons. Guerrier earned $3.15 million last year.

JJ Putz (33)

After enduring two injury-plagued campaigns in 2008 and 2009, Putz was a mainstay in the White Sox bullpen last year. He went 54 innings and held opponents to a .204 BA while striking out 65 batters. Putz earned $3 million last year and with Sergio Santos and Matt Thornton on the rise, Putz may not be returning to the South Side.

Grant Balfour (34)

While all eyes will be on closer Rafael Soriano this offseason and if he re-signs with Tampa Bay, along with his other teammates (Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena), Balfour is a target worth keeping an eye on. Balfour earned $2.05 million last year as he held opponents to a .206 batting average and held a 1.08 WHIP en route to a 2.28 ERA.

If the Red Sox can get any of their left-handed assets out of the bullpen to improve on their 2010 campaigns, these are some of the American League middle relievers that are within Boston’s budget and can replace what Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez were suppose to bring to the table over the last couple of years.

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Red Sox Prepared to Make Big Plays With the 2010-11 Free Agent Class

With the Red Sox beginning to prepare for their 2011 campaign, the front office is taking a look at its payroll strategy by virtue of its 25 and 40 man rosters. In the 2010 season, the Red Sox saw the introduction of Ryan Kalish, Lars Anderson and Michael Bowden, while saying goodbye to Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek, both of whom are likely to retire.

Additionally, the Red Sox have very important decisions which may affect the roster makeup for next year, as David Ortiz, Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, Bill Hall, Felipe Lopez and Scott Atchison are some of the free agents potentially coming off the Red Sox books, constituting $36.475 million in savings that may come off of Boston’s payroll ledger. Also, the Red Sox were on the hook in 2010 for 3B Lowell ($12.5 million), SS Julio Lugo ($9.25 million), C Varitek ($3 million), RP Bill Wagner ($1 million), and SS Alex Gonzalez ($500,000), which is another $26.25 million in savings.

For those keeping a budget scorecard, the potential savings from the 2010 free agent class totals $62.725 million. If you add JD Drew, Jonathan Papelbon, Tim Wakefield, and Jeremy Hermida’s contracts, the Red Sox will save an estimated (due to Papelbon’s arbitration eligibility) $30.5 million following the 2011 season.

If you factor that the 2010 luxury tax threshold was $170 million for its 40-man roster, it appears that the Red Sox are primed to elevate its minor league talents while making sound investments in the free agent market. Last years’ payroll for the Red Sox was $168,109,833, and can be reduced to roughly $105 million, not including an estimated $10 million in team benefits (health care, player perks).

If the Red Sox intend in spending up to $170 million for the 2011 and 2012 payrolls, and with Red Sox prospects coming into the fold, the Sox are well positioned to make serious noise in addressing team needs either through the retainment of players that have been on their roster or addressing their needs via free agency.

As it stands today, here are 33 players who constitute the Red Sox 40-man roster for the 2011 season (by highest salary per position; players bolded project to be on the 25-man roster):

SP – Beckett, Lackey, Matsuzaka, Lester, Wakefield, Buchholz
Bullpen – Papelbon, Okajima, Tazawa, Bard, Bowden, Coello, Doubront, Fox, Ramirez, Richardson
1B – Youkilis, Anderson, Bates
2B – Pedroia, Navarro
SS- Scutaro, Iglesias, Lowrie
LF – Kalish, Nava
CF – Cameron, Ellsbury, McDonald
RF – JD Drew, Reddick
C – Saltalamacchia, Wagner

Based on these projections, the Red Sox have holes at third base, left field, right field and catcher beyond the 2011 season, especially if you don’t consider Saltalamacchia, Kalish and Jed Lowrie as potential fits for next year at catcher, left field and third base, respectively. So what are the Red Sox to do?

Do they re-sign Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre, stabilizing their catching and corner infield positions, and see if Mike Cameron is able to play 120 games next year in left or center field? The same can be said for Ellsbury when it comes to injury potential, which is why Nava and Kalish are crucial to the Red Sox outfield’s future.

This offseason, there are a number of potential free agents that should interest the Red Sox, considering the $50 million in potential savings from this year and an additional $30 million from the 2011 season. It appears that if the Red Sox are willing to roll with Saltalamacchia as their next catcher, then the Sox could go after either Adam Dunn or Prince Fielder this offseason through free agency (Dunn) or a trade (Fielder), while targeting Jayson Werth and Cliff Lee.

If this occurs, it provides an opportunity for Youkilis to move back across the diamond to 3B, while Anderson or Anthony Rizzo prepare to take over 1B in the next 2-4 years. It also provides an opportunity for the Sox to compete for Cliff Lee and remove Wakefield from the rotation for good, while shopping Matsuzaka as well.

But let’s think bigger.

The Red Sox can go after Prince Fielder and re-sign Victor Martinez.

If Ellsbury can stay healthy, the Red Sox can put Lowrie at third base, where he can be the quality on-base machine that he showed during the second half of the 2010 season, similar to what Wade Boggs used to be.

They could also pursue a trade for Andre Ethier, and make him a cornerstone of their future, since the Dodgers organization is a mess.

The Red Sox have the financial flexibility to make many moves this offseason because of the job that GM Theo Epstein and his past and present front office has been able to achieve through its amateur drafts.

They already have a setup man in waiting in Anthony Ranaudo, age 21, who pitched for the Lowell Spinners last year, and a starting pitching prospect in Casey Kelly, who pitched for Portland last year. And let’s not forget Ryan Westmoreland, the Red Sox’ prized prospect, who will start his comeback next year after missing the 2010 season due to a cavernous malformation from his brain stem, and is already working out and regaining his strength.

The future is bright for the Red Sox and they are well-positioned to make the two or three strategic moves needed to catapult the Tampa Bay Rays and get back into the playoffs for 2011 and beyond.

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