Posted on: February 10, 2012 10:59 am
By Matt Snyder
Here we are for the fifth of six installments of spring positional battles. This one is the mighty AL East, the most polarizing and probably best division in the majors.
Previous spring position battles: AL West | NL West | AL Central | NL Central
New York Yankees
Designated Hitter: Andruw Jones vs. Russell Branyan vs. Free Agent vs. Revolving Door
I still feel like the Yankees will sign either Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez or Hideki Matsui -- any of whom likely nails down this job full-time. But it's undecided as of right now, and wide open. Will Andruw Jones or Russell Branyan hit well enough to justify being the full-time DH? Maybe, or maybe they platoon -- as Jones hits from the right side while Branyan is a lefty. Or maybe the Yankees use bench players like Eduardo Nunez, Bill Hall and Chris Dickerson in the field while using starters like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher at DH a few times a week in order to keep guys healthy and in tip-top shape.
Tampa Bay Rays
No. 4-5 starters: Jeff Niemann vs. Wade Davis vs. Matt Moore vs. Six-man rotation
Talk about a nice "problem" to have. The Rays obviously have David Price, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson as the top three in the rotation. While there isn't a big problem with either Niemann or Davis, it's time to find a place in the rotation for Moore and I'm certain they will. The 22-year-old left-hander was awesome in his limited time in the majors last year, including a stellar outing against the Rangers in Texas for Game 1 of the ALDS. Moore's already received the type of team-friendly contract Evan Longoria got when he was a rookie -- as Moore is signed through 2016 with club options running all the way through 2019. So the question is, do the Rays demote either Niemann or Davis to the bullpen or trade one of them? Niemann would be the trade candidate, as Davis also has a team-friendly contract with club options that take him through 2017. And I doubt this happens, but the Rays could always go with a six-man rotation. Seeing how this plays out will a big spring storyline.
Boston Red Sox
Shortstop: Nick Punto vs. Mike Aviles vs. Jose Iglesias
After trading both Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie this offseason, the Red Sox are left with what appears to be Mike Aviles against Nick Punto at short. Punto had a good offensive campaign by his standards last season, when he hit .278 with a .388 on-base percentage. He only had six starts at shortstop, though, and his career numbers don't indicate he's worthy of an everyday gig at shortstop. Aviles also only started six games at short last season, and he only hit .255/.289/.409. He did hit well for the Red Sox, but it was a small 107 plate appearance sample. So the choice between Punto and Aviles is dubious defensively and neither is a good offensive option. Enter Iglesias, the dazzling defensive prospect. He's a dreadful hitter -- his line in Triple-A was .235/.285/.269 last season -- but it's not like Aviles or Punto are going to be confused with Troy Tulowitzki or anything. Maybe the Red Sox just plant Iglesias in the nine-hole and enjoy the exceptional defense?
Corner Outfield spots: Cody Ross vs. Ryan Sweeney vs. Carl Crawford and his health
Crawford is said to be questionable for the start of the season after undergoing minor wrist surgery a few weeks ago. If he's healthy, he starts in left easily while Sweeney and Ross battle it out for the right field job. If Crawford can't start the season, Ross and Sweeney are the corner outfielders, yet still fighting for the right field job for when Crawford returns. At some point, Ryan Kalish will return from offseason shoulder surgery and could eventually fight for playing time in right field as well.
Toronto Blue Jays
Outfield logjam: Colby Rasmus vs. Eric Thames vs. Rajai Davis vs. Travis Snider
We know who mans right field, but these four guys are competing for the other two spots. Thames in left field and Rasmus in center seem the most likely, but Davis will get a shot at either spot and Snider is in the mix for left.
No. 5 starter: Dustin McGowan vs. Kyle Drabek
This may bleed up into the No. 4 starter as well, but I'll give Brett Cecil the nod for now, since he is left-handed. The top three are Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Henderson Alvarez. So, for now, I'll guess the last spot comes down to McGowan and Drabek. McGowan was once a very promising young arm. He went 12-10 with a 4.08 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 144 strikeouts in 169 2/3 innings back in 2007, when he was 25. He then made 19 starts before falling injured in 2008 and finally just resurfaced late last season -- two shoulder surgeries and one knee surgery later. Does he have anything left? He was good in 12 minor-league starts in 2011, but had a 6.43 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in the small sample of 21 innings pitched for the Blue Jays. Drabek was a top 30 prospect each of the past two years, according to Baseball America, but he fell flat last season for the Jays. He had a 6.06 ERA, 1.81 WHIP and more walks than strikeouts for the big-league club. Even worse, he was knocked around for Triple-A Las Vegas, to the tune of a 7.44 ERA and 2.03 WHIP in 75 innings. Walks, again, were an issue with Drabek issuing 41 compared to 45 strikeouts. Prospects Deck McGuire and Drew Hutchison could also figure in the mix eventually, but this feels like Drabek vs. McGowan heading into March.
The entire pitching staff: Johnny Wholestaff vs. Joe Allstaff
So let's see ... the following pitchers might have a chance at the starting rotation: Zach Britton (very safe bet), Jason Hammel (safe bet), Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Dana Eveland, Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada, Alfredo Simon and Tommy Hunter. That's quite a mix of pitchers to sift through, but the job isn't overwith yet, because we have to look at the bullpen.
Three pitchers -- Jim Johnson, Matt Lindstrom and Kevin Gregg -- will compete for the closer job, with Troy Patton, Pedro Strop and Darren O'Day also being part of the bullpen mix. Of course, guys like Simon, Hunter and Bergesen will get a shot in the bullpen if they miss out on the rotation, too. There are more (Willie Eyre, Armando Galarraga, etc.), but I already named 17 pitchers vying for 12 spots.
We could probably move Simon and Hunter to the bullpen while eliminating Eveland from the starting mix, but that still leaves eight guys in competition. In the bullpen, Johnson seems the best bet to win the closer gig, with Lindstrom and Gregg setting up. Add Strop, Patton, Simon and Hunter and you have your seven. But, again, we've thrown out Eveland and there would still be three extra starters along with O'Day, Eyre et al on the outside looking in.
I'll say one thing: Orioles manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair won't be bored this spring. Maybe frustrated, but definitely not bored.
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Tags: AL East, Alex Rodriguez, Alfredo Simon, Andruw Jones, Blue Jays, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Carl Crawford, Chris Tillman, Cody Ross, Colby Rasmus, Dana Eveland, Darren O'Day, Derek Jeter, Dustin McGowan, Eric Thames, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Jeff Niemann, Jim Johnson, Johnny Damon, Jose Iglesias, Kevin Gregg, Kyle Drabek, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Moore, Matt Snyder, Mike Aviles, Nick Punto, Orioles, Pedro Strop, Rajai Davis, Rays, Red Sox, Russell Branyan, Ryan Sweeney, spring position battles, Tommy Hunter, Travis Snider, Troy Patton, Tsuyoshi Wada, Wade Davis, Wei-Yin Chen, Yankees, Zach Britton
Posted on: May 8, 2011 1:09 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2011 1:23 pm
By Matt Snyder
The promotion of light-hitting yet slick-fielding prospect Jose Iglesias makes a lot more sense Sunday morning, as Marco Scutaro has been placed on the 15-day disabled list. Red Sox manager Terry Francona told reporters Scutaro is going to miss a good amount of time with an oblique injury (what else, right?).
“He’s over getting get an MRI,” Francona said. “His left oblique had been a little tender for a few days and after the rain delay [Saturday] he went back out, and I don’t know the exact incident, it started grabbing at him, and actually started grabbing at him pretty good. Even knowing the MRI wasn’t going to be till this morning, we know he’s going to be down for a while with his symptoms so we got Iglesias here.” (WEEI.com )
Don't expect to see Iglesias used as a regular, though. He's the backup to Jed Lowrie at shortstop and Francona has said he's only planning on using Iglesias as a late-inning defensive replacement or a pinch-runner. With good reason, because Iglesias is hitting .253 with zero extra base hits and a .278 OBP in Triple-A.
“I think we all think he’s got a bright future here,” Francona said. “I don’t think right now is his time to be our starting shortstop.” (Clubhouse Insider )
In other news, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that the Red Sox have contacted Bengie Molina, but aren't yet ready to make a strong push. The reason is simple, they are not getting much from the behind the plate. Jason Varitek works well with the pitching staff, but he's one of the worst hitters in the majors at this point. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was supposed to take over catching duties this season, but he has been suspect defensively and hasn't been much better than Varitek at the plate (.203/.247/.275). The Red Sox seem to be constantly looking for ways to improve their catching situation, but there just isn't much out there at this point. Things should change when it gets closer to the trade deadline (a Ryan Doumit, perhaps?), but for now it appears they're stuck hoping Salty starts swinging the bat.
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Posted on: May 7, 2011 10:58 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 11:00 pm
By Evan Brunell
At first blush, this is a panic move by Boston, but the Red Sox didn't have much leeway here. Marco Scutaro told reporters after Saturday's game that his left side bothered him Friday and became an issue in Saturday's 4-0 win over the Twins. There's no indication what his injury is, but Scoot went 2 for 3 before being yanked from the game with J.D. Drew pinch-hitting. It's difficult to imagine that manager Terry Francona would have pinch-hit Scutaro if he didn't have to. The pinch-hit appearance forced Boston to give up the DH so that Kevin Youkilis could take the field at third, with Jed Lowrie sliding over to short.
Down on the farm, Yamaico Navarro is injured himself with an oblique strain, otherwise he would have been the obvious promotion to replace Scutaro on Boston's bench. Navarro can play second, short and third (he also has made a few appearances in the outfield) and made his big-league debut last season for Boston. The other infielders in Nate Spears and Drew Sutton are not on the 40-man roster, so the Red Sox would have had to designate a player for assignment to promote one of the two, which is not an option at the moment. The Red Sox don't plan to make the move until Sunday as they will evaluate Scutaro first before making a decision.
The Cuban is considered to be Boston's long-term solution at short, but Iglesias has a putrid .229/.256/.229 mark in 88 plate appearances for the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox. Last season, the 21-year-old spent the majority of the year at Double-A where he hit .285/.315/.357, outperforming expectations before going down to injury. Iglesias' calling card is his defense, and if he delivers on the hype that has followed him since defecting to America on defense, the Red Sox will gladly live with any kind of offense he can give.
Posted on: March 12, 2011 6:14 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2011 6:25 pm
By Evan Brunell
The Red Sox are busy making several players available for trade, reports Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston. Players thought to be available include right-handers Daisuke Matsuzaka (pictured) and Tim Wakefield along with outfielders Mike Cameron or Darnell McDonald and shortstop Marco Scutaro.
Out of these names, Matsuzaka is both the most well-known and also unlikeliest to be traded. After taking America by storm his first two seasons in town -- nabbing a ring in his rookie campaign back in 2007 -- Matsuzaka has struggled with injuries, integrating himself into the clubhouse and being completely ineffective as his 11.42 ERA in three spring training starts reveals.
"His rhythm was all out of whack,'' the source who indicated Dice-K was on the block said. "I don't know if it's because that's what the team wants, but I think he's become too much of a conventional pitcher. He's got to go back to pitching 'left-handed' again, dropping down at times, throwing from all kinds of angles, turning the ball over. He's not doing that as much.''
Matsuzaka has a full no-trade clause and is due $20 million over the next two seasons, making it difficult for a team to jump for Matsuzaka, no matter the talent that caused Boston to splurge for a $51.1 million posting fee just to talk to the Japanese phenom. However, there are enough teams in need of pitching and Matsuzaka's ace-caliber talents remain hidden somewhere in his body. It appears, though, that both Matsuzaka and the Red Sox are ready to move on, and Boston would do just that if they could add a young catcher to the team.
The Red Sox are set to go into the season with Jarrod Saltalamacchia starting with team captain Jason Varitek backing up. While the club has a few young catchers in the minors, they lack someone with a high ceiling. Despite Salty's pedigree, he has yet to put it all together in the majors and Boston would doubtless prefer to create more depth in the position.
One potential thought could be the Nationals, who have Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores as young catchers. While Ramos is expected to open the year as backup catcher to Ivan Rodriguez and eventually supplant the Hall of Fame catcher, Flores is out of options. Flores is likely of little concern to Boston, who would prefer a player they can send to the minors and groom. Washington has such a catcher in Derek Norris, who was ranked as the No. 47 prospect in all of baseball by CBS Sports.
However, while the Nationals would love to stockpile quality pitching and could be intrigued by Matsuzaka, all the issues surrounding the 30-year-old and Norris' ceiling would make any such deal difficult to bridge unless Boston is willing to eat some salary.
However, Wakefield is thought to be on the block himself despite stating he has no interest in playing for another team. Due just $1.5 million in 2011, the Red Sox could dangle the swingman for left-handed relief. The club has no shortage of left-handed relievers in camp vying for a job, but none are clear front-runners. If both Wakefield and Matsuzaka remain, the knuckleballer will pitch out of the bullpen.
Also available are backup outfielders Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald. Cameron is due $7.25 million in the final year of a two-year deal. Slated to start in center for the Red Sox last season, injuries derailed his season and now have him set to be the No. 4 outfielder. McDonald, meanwhile, took advantage of all the playing time afforded him in the outfield last season to finally establish himself in the majors after being a minor-league journeyman. He's making the league minimum so is the more valuable outfielder from a cost perspective, although Cameron holds the edge on offense and defense, which he is renowned for.
The Red Sox do need right-handed outfielders to complement their all-lefty outfielder along with DH David Ortiz, also a lefty. Given right fielder J.D. Drew has a checkered injury past, there's plenty of playing time in store for Cameron and McDonald. One of them is being made available likely to fill more pressing holes, such as left-handed relief. In addition, both outfielders rake against left-handers and are effectively filling the same role.
Cameron and McDonald could draw interest from the Phillies, who have to deal with top prospect Domonic Brown (No. 3 on the Top 100 prospects list) fracturing his hamate bone and likely out for all of April. He appears ticketed for Triple-A after that given his poor start to spring training and newfound need to get at-bats. That opens up a gaping hole in right field for Philly, trying to withstand the loss of incumbent Jayson Werth while worrying about replacing the offense of second baseman Chase Utley, who is unlikely to begin the season with the team. Backup outfielder Ben Francisco is expected to win the starting role.
The Phillies already have a payroll in the mid-$160 million range and would like to avoid paying a payroll tax that would be incurred upon hitting $178 million, so while Cameron makes more sense to become the starter, McDonald appears the more cost-effective solution who could platoon with Francisco as well as fill in for Raul Ibanez in left field. The Red Sox would replace their backup outfield spot with one of Ryan Kalish, Josh Reddick or Daniel Nava.
Boston will also listen to offers on starting shortstop Marco Scutaro, who is in the final year of a two-year pact paying $5 million. He would be attractive to other teams given the price and ability to play second, short and third base, with a team option of $5 million for 2012 or a player option of $3 million. The Sox are able to listen to offers on Scutaro thanks to the play of backup Jed Lowrie, who has struggled with injuries the last few years but turned heads with his play late last season. The club also has heralded prospect Jose Iglesias (No. 36) who is widely considered Boston's shortstop of the future. While he could stand to cut his teeth a bit more in the minors with the bat, it wouldn't be outrageous for Boston to promote him.
Posted on: December 4, 2010 10:13 am
Edited on: December 4, 2010 1:00 pm
The Red Sox have indeed agreed to a deal to bring Adrian Gonzalez to Boston pending a physical, multiple outlets are reporting.
Several sources indicate the Padres and Red Sox have agreed to a deal that would send the first baseman to Boston, while the North County Times ' Dan Hayes reports no major-league players will be headed to San Diego. However, because Gonzalez is negotiating a contract extension, the Padres may receive a better group of prospects in return.
FOXSports.com notes Red Sox top prospect, right-hander Casey Kelly, is likely in the deal, while shortstop Jose Iglesias and first baseman Anthony Rizzo would be the two other possibilities.
If Boston does land Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis would move to third base. Last month he told CBSSports.com he was preparing during the offseason to play third base this season.
The Red Sox may not be done adding players, either. The team is still wooing outfielders Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth.
UPDATE: Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com tweets that Padres will receive Kelly, Rizzo and outfielder Reymond Fuentes in exchange for Gonzalez.
UPDATE: On Twitter , Kelly reacts thusly:
Just waking up beautiful day in sarasota about to get some breakfast. Can't worry about things that are out of your control
UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal tweets that the Red Sox will also send a player to be named to the Padres. That could be a minor prospect of their choosing, or it could be a draft pick from the 2010 draft.UPDATE: The Boston Globe reports Gonzalez has been at Massachusetts General Hospital this morning undergoing his physical and MRIs on his shoulder.
-- C. Trent RosecransFor more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 20, 2010 6:00 pm
Bryce Harper has yet to see a major-league pitch and yet he is already a champion.
The Arizona Fall League has come to a close, with the Scottsdale Scorpions defeating the Peoria Javelinas, 3-2, in the championship game.
Scottsdale got a gem of a start from the Nationals' Sammy Solis, who went four innings, giving up one earned run (plus another run) and walked one, whiffing three. On offense, Rockies prospect Charlie Blackmon went 2-for-2 with a walk before being removed from the game.
Top prospect Bryce Harper was responsible for an RBI in his first at-bat of the day, ripping a first-pitch single just past the Red Sox' Jose Iglesias at short. Harper finished with the sole hit and two strikeouts in four trips to the plate.
Although Harper got most of the attention in the AFL on the days he played, the overall MVP came from Peoria, as second baseman Dustin Ackley (pictured) walked away with the honors.
"Dustin Ackley produced one of the most consistent offensive performances in the history of the Fall League," AFL director Steve Cobb said. "His ability was obvious a year ago when the Mariners also sent him to the Fall League to refine his skills against other top prospects just four months after making him the No. 2 pick in the 2009 draft. His development has been rapid. Combined with his leadership traits, Dustin’s future is bright."
The Mariners' pick batted third in the championship game and went 1-for-4. He finished the AFL regular season with a stellar .424 average and may push for a big-league spot in spring training.
Ex-Oriole pitcher Adam Loewen, now 26 and in the Blue Jays system as an outfielder, shined with a 3-for-3 night and a walk, all hits as singles.
Alas, Ackley, Loewen and Iglesias (who turned a beautiful double play) weren't enough to win the game. The two runs the offense scored couldn't overcome Kyle Greenwalt's two runs allowed in three innings, with Tom Wilhelmsen coughing up the winning run in the fourth.
-- Evan BrunellFor more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.