Posted on: October 23, 2011 9:49 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 1:31 pm

Red Sox, Cubs must complete Theo deal by Nov. 1

By Evan Brunell

The Red Sox and Cubs must decide on compensation for GM Theo Epstein soon to avoid Bud Selig stepping in, as Scott Miller of CBSSports.com reported Saturday.

Selig told Comcast New England that he has set a November 1 deadline for the teams to agree.  

"They have until Nov. 1 -- Theo and [incoming Red Sox GM Ben Cherington] and all the other parties involved," Selig said.

Now that Epstein has officially moved to the Cubs, he will be negotiating with his former colleague Cherington. 

"Hopefully they can get things done," Selig added. "I always encourage clubs to try to get things done between themselves. Somehow, the commissioner has enough things of controversy [to deal with]. They'll either get it done or they won't. If they don't, then I will."

And so we're all on the same page, Selig stepping in isn't revealing a particular agenda. Well, it is, but only that he wants this transaction to be over wiith. 

Click here to stay on top of all the Theo Epstein news.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 2:37 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2011 2:38 pm

Ex-Red Sox GM Epstein thanks team, fans in ad

By Evan Brunell

Theo Epstein, the outgoing Red Sox GM, took out a full-page ad in the Boston Globe to thank the Red Sox and its fans for his 10 years in town.

After nine seasons as GM, Epstein is moving on to take over the Cubs job, becoming president and luring former assistant Jed Hoyer from his GM job in San Diego to fill the same position in Chicago. You can read more about the Theo-to-Cubs madness here. Despite leaving, Epstein's reputation hasn't suffered in Boston as many have come out with favorable reviews for his time in Boston. He doesn't appear to be getting much flak for leaving, especially after Boston's 7-20 September dropped them out of the playoffs and sparked a firestorm largely centered around pitchers drinking beer during games.

Below is Epstein's advertisement, as seen on the Boston Globe:

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Posted on: October 22, 2011 3:28 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 4:51 pm

Free-agent position rankings: Papelbon leads RP

By C. Trent Rosecrans

With the free agent reliever market, it always seems to be buyer-beware, but every year teams overspend for closers and setup men. While not exactly a bumper crop this year, there are some good arms available, even if the top closers would all prefer to stay with their current teams. Still, we all know those preferences can go out the window when a higher offer comes.

Jonathan Papelbon1. Jonathan Papelbon: After a disappointing 2010, Papelbon returned to form in 2011, despite recording his lowest save total (31) since becoming the Red Sox closer. Not only was his ERA (2.94) down from 2010, he had his best strikeout rate (12.2 per nine innings) since 2007 and lowest walk rate (1.40 per nine innings) since 2008. His xFIP was 2.16, the lowest of his career. At 31, he's still an elite closer and the best available on the market. The Red Sox had been said to be interested in bringing him back and they still have the payroll to absorb a high-priced closer. Still, don't expect Papelbon to take a home-town discount.
Possible teams:  Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Phillies

Heath Bell2. Heath Bell: When the Padres decided not to trade Bell during the season, it appeared he would be staying in San Diego. However, when the season ended with Bell not getting an extension, things became less sure. Now, Jed Hoyer is off to the Cubs and Josh Byrnes is in as the new GM. With this much change, things could easily change for Bell, who has said all along he'd prefer to stay in San Diego. The Padres may prefer to spend their money elsewhere. Bell is 34, but coming off his third straight 40-save season. One thing that could be troubling for a team is his falling strikeout rate. After striking out 10.2 per nine innings in 2009 and 11.1 in 2010, he struck out a career-low 7.3 per nine innings in 2011. His strikeout-to-walk ration was a career-low 2.43, although that was due to the lower strikeout numbers instead of more walks. Any team considering spending big money on him will have to seriously think about his age and if he's worth what he may command based on gaudy save numbers. He's also been aided by pitching at spacious Petco Park. The Padres may decide they don't need an All-Star closer and their money could be better spent elsewhere. Bell has said he would accept arbitration if offered.
Possible teams: Padres, Cardinals, Phillies, Mets, Orioles

Ryan Madson3. Ryan Madson: After several attempts earlier in his career to serve as a closer, Madson finally showed the ability to close out games in 2011, finishing with 32 saves in 34 opportunities. He's said he'd prefer to stay in Philadelphia, but that's easy to say during the season. A Scott Boras client, the Nationals have to be considered in the mix for Madson, who struck out 62 batters in 60 2/3 innings, while walking just 16 batters.
Possible teams: Phillies, Nationals, Red Sox

Jose Valverde4. Jose Valverde: The Tigers hold a $9 million club option on Valverde, which is pretty reasonable for a guy who led the majors with 49 saves and didn't blow a single save all season. Valverde's last outing was far from ideal, allowing four earned runs in 1 1/3 innings of Game 4 of the ALCS, but he's still an elite closer (if not exactly the most comfortable guy to watch). Valverde would command big bucks on the open market, but it seems highly unlikely he'll be there.
Possible teams: Tigers

Francisco Cordero5. Francisco Cordero: The Reds probably won't pick up his $12 million option, but he could still stay a Red. Cordero's been a stabilizing influence on the Reds bullpen in his four years in Cincinnati, but for a team like the Reds, it makes little sense to have a closer as the highest-paid player. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty and Cordero have both publicly said they'd like to work out an extension for him to stay in Cincinnati. It's similar to what the Reds did with Bronson Arroyo last offseason. The team is moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, so there's no real in-house candidate to fill in for Cordero if he leaves, so it makes sense to work out a deal. That said, someone could still pop in and make a bigger offer. The Brewers thought they had a deal with Cordero before he left for the Reds, so history could repeat itself.
Possible teams: Reds, Nationals, Mets, Orioles, Blue Jays

Francisco Rodriguez6. Francisco Rodriguez: After being traded to the Brewers, Rodriguez was not used as the team's closer, and said as a free agent, he'd like the opportunity to close again. That's not going to come in Milwaukee, where John Axford has established himself as the Brewers closer. However, after the Brewers' loss in the NLCS, owner Mark Attanasio made sure to point out just how important Rodriguez was to the team's bullpen and how much the club appreciated what he brought to the team. Although he's clearly not going to be the closer in Milwaukee, money talks -- and enough money and he may decide he can set up Axford. Sure, he spoke of being frustrated about not closing in Milwaukee during the year, but seeing the market could open his mind to other propositions.
Possible teams: Brewers, Cardinals, Orioles, Nationals, Phillies

Kyle Farnsworth7. Kyle Farnsworth: Fransworth more than lived up to his one-year deal last season, rewarding the Rays for taking a chance on him with 25 saves and a 2.18 ERA. He struck out 51 in 57 2/3 inning and had a career-best 0.988 WHIP and also his lowest walk rate of his career (1.9 BB/9). He made $2.6 million last season and the Rays have a $3.3 million club option (with a $650,000 buyout). It's basically a no-brainer to pick it up. Even if he doesn't repeat his 2011 numbers, he has the type of arm some team will want at the deadline to fortify a bullpen.
Possible teams: Rays, Mets, Marlins

Joe Nathan8. Joe Nathan: It's unlikely the Twins pick up Nathan's $12.5 million option -- that's just too rich for a guy pitching in just 48 games after missing the entire 2010 season because of Tommy John surgery. Still, both the Twins and Nathan are said to have interest in the closer returning to Minnesota. The 36-year-old has 260 of his 261 career saves in a Twins uniform and it's hard to imagine the two sides not working something out.
Possible teams: Twins

Kerry Wood9. Kerry Wood: The 34-year-old has already said he will either return to the Cubs in 2012 or retire. Count on the former. Wood was steady in the bullpen in 2011, striking out 57 in 51 innings and also showed no need to be the closer. Steady set-up men are something every team needs, and the Cubs as much as any other team. Wood took a below-market deal to return to the Cubs last season, earning just $1.5 million, and he may be open to doing it again. If so, it seems like a no-brainer to bring him back.
Possible teams: Cubs, retirement

Jeremy Affeldt10. Jeremy Affeldt: Affeldt is a left-handed reliever, but he's not just a left-handed specialist. Sure, his numbers against lefties are better (they hit just .144/.206/.200 against him), but he can also stay in and do a good job against right-handers. That versatility adds to his value on the mariet. He's been part of the very good Giants bullpen and expect him to stay there. San Francisco has a $5 million option on him after he earned $4.5 each of the past two seasons. He's earned the pay bump with his solid numbers. If the Giants don't exercise his option, they'll likely work out a multi-year deal with the team.
Possible teams: Giants

Jonathan Broxton11. Jonathan Broxton: Coming off a disappointing 2010, the hard-throwing right-hander appeared in just 14 games and underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in September to remove a bone spur and loose bodies. Once an All-Star, Broxton's first year of free agency will likely end with a one-year, incentive-laden contract. Broxton is just 27, but if he's no longer throwing 99 mph, what exactly is his worth? It's unlikely he'll get a job as a closer, but will have the opportunity to prove himself in the spring. The Dodgers appear ready to wash their hands of Broxton, despite the right-hander's statements he'd like to return.
Possible teams: Anyone but the Dodgers

Arthur Rhodes12. Arthur Rhodes: Rhodes has said he wants to pitch one more season and then retire. Rhodes has pitched for nine clubs in his career, including two this season -- the Cardinals and Rangers. While disappointing in Texas, Rhodes has rebounded with the Cardinals after being designated for assignment by the Rangers. Tony La Russa loves playing matchups, so it wouldn't be a shock to see him stay in St. Louis. 
Possible teams: Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Orioles, Blue Jays

Jon Rauch13. Jon Rauch: Rauch had 11 saves for the Blue Jays, pitching in 53 games for the Blue Jays this season. Toronto has a $3.75 million option on the 6-foot-10 right-hander, which is affordable enough. Rauch gave up 11 home runs, the most he's allowed since 2008. While a former closer, he's not exactly anyone's idea of a closer going forward. 
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Twins, Braves, Nationals

Darren Oliver14. Darren Oliver: The 41-year-old left-hander has said he'd like to pitch one more year. His 2011 proves he can still do it, appearing in 61 games and putting up a 2.29 ERA. His splits against left-handers and right-handers weren't too far off, with only his strikeout rates really spiking against lefties. He had 23 strikeouts of lefties in 94 plate appearances and 21 against right-handers in 121 plate appearances. Righties had an OPS of .594 against him, lefties .587. He's spent 10 of his 18 seasons in Texas in three stints. It seems like a perfect fit for him to return.
Possible teams: Rangers, Cardinals

Jason Frasor15. Jason Frasor: The White Sox hold a $3.75 million option for 2012, but the right-hander struggled after being part of the trade that sent him to his hometown at the trade deadline. Frasor was part of the massive three-team trade that sent Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays and Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel to St. Louis. In 20 appearances for the White Sox, he had a 5.09 ERA, but did strike out more than a batter an inning (20 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings). He had a 2.98 ERA in 44 appearances for the Blue Jays. 
Possible teams: White Sox, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks

Brad Lidge16. Brad Lidge: The Phillies declined a $12.5 million option on their former closer, giving him a $1.5 million buyout. Lidge missed most of the season with a shoulder strain, but did pitch well upon his return, putting up just a 1.40 ERA in 25 appearances, striking out 23 in 19 1/3 innings. Lidge has said he's open to returning as a set-up man, but it appears his days of closing for the Phillies are done, even with Ryan Madson as a free agent. Still, Philadelphia needed several closers to get through the season and having Lidge back could be a good backup plan. Neither side has ruled out a return for Lidge at Citizen's Bank Park.
Possible teams: Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels

Dan Wheeler17. Dan Wheeler: The Red Sox hold a $3 million option on the right-hander who will be 34 next season. After coming over from the Rays, Wheeler put up a 4.38 ERA out of the Red Sox bullpen. Wheeler spent some time on the disabled list with  a calf strain and then was unavailable down the stretch with forearm stiffness. His health will be major issue Boston's decision to bring him back. If deemed healthy, it would seem he'd have a good chance of returning to the Red Sox. Wheeler had a better xFIP (3.71) than ERA, with a high BABIP (batting average on balls in play) than he did in either of the past three seasons (.272).
Possible teams: Red Sox, Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers, Angels

Frank Francisco18. Frank Francisco: Francisco is a Type B free agent, and the Blue Jays will likely offer him arbitration. The 32-year-old right-hander came over in the Mike Napoli trade and picked up 17 saves for the Blue Jays, putting up a 3.55 ERA in 54 games. He struck out 53 in 50 2/3 innings, walking 18. He's not exactly anyone's first choice for a closer, but he could go into a camp and compete for that job, or at least be a fill-in while some team's closer is injured.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Nationals, Astros, Padres, Phillies

Chad Qualls19. Chad Qualls: San Diego is expected to decline the $6 million option on Qualls. Qualls appeared in 77 games for the Padres in 2011, putting up a 3.51 ERA in San Diego. The Padres are reportedly interested in bringing him back, just not at $6 million. He thrived at Petco Park, earning a 2.09 ERA at home and 5.05 on the road, so it's not a stretch to expect that he would have interest in returning to the Padres.
Possible teams: Padres, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Angels

Matt Capps20. Matt Capps: Just 28, the right-hander is a former closer for the Pirates, Nationals and Twins, but saw his strikeout rate (4.7 per nine innings) and fastball velocity (92.9 mph) drop this year and his ERA rise to 4.25, hardly the way you want to enter free agency. Capps made $7.15 million last season, earning 15 saves for Minnesota. He'll take a pay cut in 2012, likely signing another one-year deal, hoping to re-establish his worth. 
Possible teams: all of them

Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

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Posted on: October 22, 2011 9:48 am

Heating up in October

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Which players are hitting better in October than in the regular season? Our David Fung wanted to know, and did this graphic.

Get more of Fung at fungraphs.tumblr.com and on Twitter at @cobradave.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 21, 2011 11:31 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 11:50 pm

Epstein leaving? Don't worry, Red Sox


By Evan Brunell

The Red Sox empire was torn asunder Friday night as Boston, in a joint press release with the Chicagop Cubs, officially announced that GM Theo Epstein was resigning in Boston and signing on in Chicago.

No one could have imagined this when the year began: the Red Sox's disgraced team stumbling to the end, capping in a sullen Jonathan Papelbon departure from the mound, claiming the lives of Terry Francona, who aged 50 years in eight seasons, and boy wonder Epstein, who is hightailing it to Chicago, desperate for a challenge. The Red Sox, who had once won two rings in a four-year span and looked like a superfranchise for a while there, couldn't hold together under explosive circumstances and, and have detonated spectacularly. Beer drinking. Clubhouse problems. Conditioning issues. Then, Francona, a manager who may or may not have had ownership backing walked away, followed by the greatest architect in BoSox history. Epstein, departs for a challenge that could land him in the baseball annals for life ... if he makes good.

And yet, funny thing is, the Red Sox will be just fine.

There is rightful doom and gloom in Boston these days. This Red Sox team will be rememberd for a long time, and not in a complimentary way. But despite the beating the Red Sox have sustained this offseason, there is still plenty of light, too. For one, the ownership is still here -- the people who have poured bag of money after bag of money into the club and let the baseball people do what they do best. Their brain trust is so strong, they resisted any overtures to allow baseball operations folks to follow Epstein to Chicago. And that could have saved a serious amount of talent -- just look at who Epstein swiped instead... current Padres GM Jed Hoyer and assistant GM Josh Bynes. No, really.

That's because there's a lot to like about the new front office, which will have Ben Cherington heading the department. Mike Hazen, Craig Shipley and Amiel Sawdaye are all rising stars. When's the last time that happened in Boston? When Epstein's regime began. And these men have studied at the feet of Epstein from the ground up, and assistant GM Allard Baird has developed into a valuable confidant. They are part of a front office that has a player-development machine humming along quite nicely, and despite Epstein's rather copious free-agency missteps as of late, are still learned from one of the best in player acquisition. That's not to say that there won't be changes. Cherington is known to be more patient than Epstein, and we don't know how that might impact the team.

Whatever patience Cherington has, Boston's farm system is starting to show signs of fruit once more, after the high minors slumped the last two seasons. The prospect tree is led by third baseman Will Middlebrooks, and incumbent third baseman Kevin Youkilis can already hear Middlebrooks' stampede coming.

So, while Epstein's departure creates a huge void, the right processes are already in place to continue winning.

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Posted on: October 21, 2011 10:08 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 10:55 pm

Epstein resigns from Red Sox, takes over Cubs

Theo Epstein

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Cubs and Red Sox have released a joint statement to announce Theo Epstein has resigned from his position as the general manager of the Red Sox to become the President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs, effective immediately. An official press conferences will be held on Tuesday, both in Chicago and in Boston. Epstein will be introduced in Chicago, while the Boston news conference will be to name Epstein's successor, expected to be current assistant GM Ben Cherrington.

While the teams have not agreed upon compensation, they have "reached an agreement regarding a process by which appropriate compensation will be determined for the Red Sox and that issue will be resolved in the near term."

Epstein drama

While it's been expected for about a week that Epstein would take over the Cubs, but the issue of compensation has held up the deal. Although the deal may be done, it won't be announced until Tuesday because Major League Baseball will not allow teams to make major announcements during the World Series, or at least on the same day as games. Tuesday will be the next travel day, if the series isn't wrapped up in five games -- and if it is, Tuesday would be the first day after the World Series.

Epstein is expected to be joined in Chicago by Padres general manager Jed Hoyer, who will hold the same title with the Cubs. Former Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes is expected to take over in San Diego. There's still the question of whether the Padres will require compensation for Hoyer's departure, something CBSSports.com senior writer Scott Miller reported earlier was expected. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Friday that the Padres have granted the Cubs permission to speak to Hoyer and assistant GM Jason McLeod. Dan Hayes of the North County Times tweets that the Padres and Cubs have already agreed to a list of Cubs prospects for the Padres to choose from for compensation and that besides Hoyer and McLeod, no other Padres officials will be headed to Chicago.

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Posted on: October 21, 2011 1:11 am
Edited on: October 21, 2011 1:12 am

Selig says extra wild cards could happen in 2012

Bud SeligBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Bud Selig said Thursday playoff expansion could still happen as soon as 2012, and also that he is worried about the attendance in Tampa Bay, as MLB's commissioner spoke to Christopher Russo on SiriusXM's Mad Dog Radio.

"I have, if we can work all the details out, as it's part of the labor negotiations, I have hope that the wild card thing -- if we can work it out -- is ready for next year," Selig said.

When asked if he was optimistic that it could be agreed upon in time to be implemented for 2012, Selig said he was "optimistic" and that the deal would have to be done by Thanksgiving.

As for the Rays, Selig was less optimistic. He was asked about owner Stu Sterberg's postseason letter to season ticket holders saying he was worried about the team's attendance.

"I like (owner) Stu Sternberg a lot, as you know. I have a great deal of respect for him. He's a very thoughtful, very interesting guy, done a great job there, done a brilliant job there," Selig said (via the St. Petersburg Times). "I, too, am concerned about their attendance. I track attendance every day. He knows it. I've talked to him a lot. They are a wonderful organization, produced a terrific team this year and finished last in the American League in attendance. I'll let you draw your own conclusion. That's bad."

Selig was asked if the stadium situation in Tampa Bay was a "lost cause."

"I can't answer that yet, but I'm usually an optimist and I don't have any reason to be too optimistic," Selig said. 

Orlando's mayor spoke to the city's ABC affiliate, WFTV, and was asked if he would be receptive to the Rays relocating to Orlando.

"I'd certainly answer, and I'd want to explore that opportunity," Buddy Dyer said (via the Tampa Tribune).

He also said, "I think Major League Baseball could do better in Orlando." But Dyer said he'd really like an NFL team (good luck). 

However, Dyer said he wouldn't negotiate with the Rays unless negotiations in the Tampa Bay area failed and a spokesperson told the Tribune that Orlando has made no effort to lure the Rays.

Selig also said instant replay could be expanded to include fair and foul balls, but not other plays. He also said he may have to decide what kind of compensation the Red Sox get from the Cubs for Theo Epstein.

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Posted on: October 20, 2011 11:03 am
Edited on: October 20, 2011 3:37 pm

Epstein to join Cubs, bring along Pads GM Hoyer

EpsteinBy Evan Brunell

The Cubs are expected to make Theo Epstein a member of its front office on Thursday, ESPN Chicago reports.

A news conference is expected on Friday to announce the hiring, with commissioner Bud Selig having given the team permission to announce the news during the World Series. Friday is a scheduled off-day as the teams travel to Texas.

"The two sides are on the five-yard line," a source told ESPN Chicago, noting that a package of Cubs prospects will be headed to Boston. None of the prospects will be Brett Jackson, Trey McNutt or Matt Szczur. Previous attempts at compensation had included Boston asking for ace Matt Garza and even having Chicago take John Lackey's contract. However, the Cubs appear to have negotiated the Red Sox down to a more sane level of compensation. Cash is not expected to be part of the transaction.

Speaking of Lackey, there's another connection he has to all this. Epstein is expected to be named president of the Cubs, so he will need to hire a GM. His focus has been trained on the Padres, where he is expected to pilfer current GM Jed Hoyer, allowing senior vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes to ascend to the role. (ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes reported at 3 p.m. ET that the deal was done: Theo as president, Hoyer as GM, Byrnes replacing Hoyer in San Diego.)

The Padres will not ask compensation for Hoyer, largely because Padres CEO Jeff Moorad has long wanted Byrnes to GM again, having hired him to GM the Diamondbacks back when Moorad steered the Arizona ship. Byrnes was fired in July 2010 after originally being hired by Moorad in 2005. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts also close with Byrnes' brother in a bond business, and both Moorad and Ricketts are friends. Perhaps this is why Hoyer would leave a situation in which he would appear to have more control -- if Byrnes has an influential voice and the ear of Moorad, Hoyer's voice in San Diego may not be as powerful as previously thought. In that regard, why not take a higher-profile job working under Epstein?

Throughout all this, a report by the San Diego Union-Tribune says that the Padres have discussed internally whether or not to acquire Lackey in a trade.

The Padres would need Boston to eat most of what is remaining on Lackey's deal. He originally signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal that has three years to go. Lackey might be able to succeed in a weaker division, a friendlier home park and a manager in which Lackey is familiar with. Bud Black was the pitching coach for the Angels when Lackey came up, so all told, Lackey may be able to turn his career around in San Diego. Boston might be motivated to eat much of Lackey's deal just to get him out of town, so this bears watching once Byrnes takes over in San Diego.

Incoming Red Sox GM Ben Cherington says he has yet to hear anything, and any reports are "premature. Haven't heard anything this morning," he told the Boston Globe.

Catch up on all the Theo Epstein to Cubs madness here.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com