The Sox reached agreement on a two-year, $32 million contract last Friday, when Napoli tweeted the news himself.
In order to clear room to add Napoli to the 40-man roster, Boston designated outfielder Alex Castellanos for assignment.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and Napoli are scheduled to speak with the media Friday afternoon. We'll have it all covered here, so check back again tomorrow.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Normally in this space, you'd be reading the annual, ever-popular Winter Meetings Winners and Losers recap you look forward to all offseason.
Sorry. Not this year.
Can't do it. Only because so much happened the week before the winter meetings, it wouldn't be fair to grade just the goings-on of the past four days.
"Last week was so nuts," said one National League executive, "we couldn't possibly top it."
So this is the annual winners and losers recap. Although this year, we're also including the deals and signings that led up to the winter meetings. So everyone got that? Cool. Now heeeeeere we go:
• Fourth starters -- It has been a terrific winter to be Scott Feldman (three years, $30 million from the Astros, even though he has never had an ERA less than 3.86 in his career). ... Or Jason Vargas (four years, $32 million from the Royals, even though he has run off four straight seasons with an ERA-Plus of less than 100). ... Or Scott Kazmir (two years, $22 million from the A's, even though he hasn't pitched enough innings to qualify for the ERA title since 2007). With all the new national-TV money flowing into the sport, much of it has ended up in the pockets of pitchers whose names don't figure to be appearing on any Cy Young ballots near you. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
There are two items that lead his agenda:
- Determining whether Stephen Drew will be part of the Red Sox future. That may take a while, but there remains mutual interest, and if agent Scott Boras isn’t able to conjure the right multi-year deal, Drew could well be headed back to the Sox. If not, a backup shortstop will be sought.
- Sifting through the trade proposals Cherington is likely to receive from the teams who will become increasingly desperate for a starting pitcher after they whiff on signing some of the free agents that are available. The pitching market has been slow to develop, especially at the upper end, where teams are still trying to determine whether Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka will be posted, and Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Bronson Arroyo remain unsigned.
So far, at least a dozen starting pitchers have either signed a new deal, come to terms on a new deal, or are reported to have come to terms with a club on a new deal. Hiroki Kuroda returned to the Yankees. Bartolo Colon signed with the Mets. Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco went to the Twins. Scott Kazmir was signed by the Athletics. Tim Hudson signed with the Giants. Dan Haren signed with the Dodgers. Jason Vargas signed with the Royals.
John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Ryan Dempster. Lackey would bring the greatest return and has the most team-friendly contract. Dempster, who was dropped from the rotation, is the pitcher the Sox would probably be most willing to move.
“I wouldn’t say it’s definite the Sox will move a pitcher,’’ said one baseball source with direct knowledge of the Sox’s thinking, “but I would bet they will.’’
The Red Sox could trade one of those three and still have a rotation of five veterans, with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront filling three of the spots. Promising rookies Brandon Workman and Allen Webster both started games for the Sox last season, and head a group of young pitchers that could pitch at the big-league level next season.
Cherington has played down the likelihood of trading a starter, but the guess here is that eventually he will, for two reasons: greater financial flexibility should the Sox elect to make another move, and a chance to pick up a decent prospect or two.
The Sox could still patch and fill with another outfielder, preferably one who could play center, but unless they choose to revisit the Matt Kemp scenario in the spring after the Dodgers outfielder proves he is healthy, Cherington might be content to add big-league depth on the Triple-A level. Daniel Nava proved that he could handle right field when Shane Victorino was unavailable, so that makes it easier to stand pat in the outfield, with Mike Carp also in line to get more playing time after proving to be a valuable bench piece.
The Sox are expected to make the Mike Napoli signing official, perhaps as soon as Thursday night, and soon Cherington and his staff will be turning their attention to signing their arbitration-eligible players. The Sox have five such players, and according to projections made by the reliable Matt Swartz of MLBTradeRumors.com, they can expect to pay around $8.3 million to sign newcomer Burke Badenhop ($2.1 million), Andrew Miller ($1.9 million), Franklin Morales ($1.8 million), Carp ($1.3 million), and Junichi Tazawa ($1.1 million).
Counting Napoli ($16 million in 2014), the Sox have committed to around $151 million in guaranteed salaries to 15 players. Factor in the arb-eligible players, the payroll is around $160 million. Add another $4 to $5 million to sign the rest of the players on the 40-man roster, the $3.9 million the Sox are paying the Dodgers as part of the 2012 megatrade, and the nearly $11 million in medical benefits that are calculated for luxury tax purposes, and the Sox are approaching $180 million.
That’s still under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, but if the Sox intend to add Drew and stay under the threshold, moving one of their eight-figure starters becomes more pressing.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Takeaways from the winter meetings, where news of the new sled run at Fenway Park during Frozen Fenway trumped anything that the Red Sox did here Wednesday, which may be why general manager Ben Cherington expects to be on one of the first planes out of town Thursday morning.
Oh, the Sox did have their session Wednesday with agent Scott Boras, an annual exercise during the winter meetings, regardless of whether the team is engaged with a given Boras client at the time. There have been plenty of winters where that has been the case -- Johnny Damon, J.D. Drew, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Mark Teixeira, just to name a few -- and that is the case again this go-round, with free agent shortstop Stephen Drew still on the table.
Drew turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Sox last month, and the Boras camp was confident a month ago that he would land a multiyear deal from another team that would trump the short terms the Sox were willing to give. That hasn’t happened yet, and one reason the Red Sox have remained in neutral here this week is their belief that it may not.
The Sox can afford to wait. Finding a backup shortstop should not pose a challenge, even if this stretches deep into January, which it could. Obviously, the Sox don’t envision Drew as a backup; if he’s on board, you can expect a sharing of short and third by three players: Drew, Xander Bogaerts, who can play third and short, and Will Middlebrooks.
If Drew doesn’t sign, the Sox would look to sign your more typical utility player -- Cherington even has mentioned the possibility of re-signing John McDonald, who was not tendered a contract last month. They also have an in-house candidate in Brock Holt.
Boras’s contention that Drew has teams to choose from does not line up with the radio silence that apparently has descended here on that topic, because even the folks who like to pass on the flimsiest rumors have barely floated Drew’s name. The Mets have been mentioned, but they signed outfielder Curtis Granderson and came to terms Wednesday with pitcher Bartolo Colon, and there is considerable doubt they’d be willing to spend the money required to sign Drew.
Beyond that? Anyone’s guess, which is why it remains a possibility that Drew comes back to Boston, although it may take some creativity to fashion a face-saving deal after the qualifying offer was rejected. But the Sox obviously would be a stronger team with Drew on board.
• Cherington said he hopes the club will be able to make the Mike Napoli deal official by the end of the week. They’re in the “i dotting and t’s crossing” stage, Cherington said.
• Cherington would not confirm a report in Japanese media that the Red Sox had come to terms with Japanese pitcher Shunsuke Watanabe on a minor-league deal. Watanabe, 37, pitched for the Chiba Lotte Marines, played for Bobby Valentine in Japan, has an exaggerated submarine delivery that makes Chad Bradford look like he’s throwing overhand, and according to his Wikipedia entry, holds the Japanese record for skipping stones. OK, then.
• Cherington said it is unlikely the Sox will take a player in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft.
• Nick Francona, the former Marine lieutenant and son of Indians manager Terry Francona, recently took a job with the Los Angeles Angels as coordinator, major league player information. It’s an entry-level position that he hopes will lead to bigger and better things in baseball operations.
Francona was a former Marine Corps Ground Intelligence Officer with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. He served as a scout sniper platoon commander in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2011.
From Dec. 28-Jan. 13, the 75-foot sledding run will feature five paths and will stretch from the center field section of the Green Monster all the way to the Sox bullpen. Dubbed the “Monster Sled,” the ramp will be available for rentals for groups of up to 100 people (call 617-226-6791 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information).
“Frozen Fenway” will also feature a hockey rink that will host 12 games on the collegiate and high school levels from Dec. 28-Jan. 9.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Scott Boras, the agent for free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, said Wednesday that Drew will have “numerous options to choose from, options from a variety of teams,” but the Red Sox remain in play for his services.
In November, the Red Sox offered a $14.1 million qualifying offer for Drew, but he turned it down, evidently confident that he would receive more lucrative multiyear offers.
Last month, a baseball source said Drew would not be returning to the Red Sox because a number of teams are willing to make multiyear offers beyond anything Boston would do.
To date, no team willing to give him such a deal has surfaced publicly, and Boras acknowledged that the compensatory draft choice attached to Drew -- and any free agent who received a qualifying offer from his 2013 team -- has a dampening effect on that player’s market.
But when asked if Drew would have any problem receiving multiyear offers, Boras smiled and said, “No, not a problem.’’
“That’s not a decision Stephen has made yet,’’ Boras said. “We have to look at the totality of what’s available to him. Some of the offers are -- the positions teams are taking -- are somewhat contingent on another move. To have a full slate of what’s available to him is not yet something that is ripe.’’
That being the case, it appears that Drew will remain in a holding pattern until he has a clearer sense of what might be available. And the Red Sox, who have rookie shortstop Xander Bogaerts penciled into the lineup, are willing to wait along with Drew before widening their search for another shortstop, who would probably serve as a backup.
Drew, who made $9.5 million on a one-year deal last season, hit .253 with 13 homers and 67 RBIs in the regular season. His .777 OPS was second among American League shortstops with more than 500 at-bats. He played excellent defense during the postseason but struggled mightily at the plate, going 6-for-54 (.111).
"They said they have no plans to move him -- bottom line," Stewart told ESPN.com.
Stewart said both he and Kemp considered that to be good news because the two-time All-Star doesn't want to leave Los Angeles.
"We're both happy about it," he said.
The Dodgers have talked to several teams about Kemp during the winter meetings, as well as earlier in this offseason, and had even said they would take on some of the $128 million remaining on the center fielder's contract over the next six seasons.
But clubs that spoke about Kemp with Los Angeles said the Dodgers never appeared anxious to trade the 29-year-old even though his health is in question and his trade value is at a low ebb.
Kemp is recovering from surgeries on his shoulder and ankle this winter, after a season in which he spent three lengthy stays on the disabled list. He played in a career-low 73 games, hit just six home runs and slugged a career-low .395 -- more than 100 points lower than his career slugging percentage going into the season.
But more than a month into the winter, Drew's market has been relatively soft. The St. Louis Cardinals, the team most desperately in need of a shortstop, instead signed Jhonny Peralta. Other potential fits such as the New York Mets have spent their money elsewhere first, and rumored trade targets such as Elvis Andrus and Asdrubal Cabrera further complicate the market.
Considering Drew's rocky health history and the qualifying offer/draft-pick compensation that hangs over his head, he might not be finding a home as easily as we may have thought he would.
For the Red Sox, this presents the perfect scenario, one that they can use to their advantage: They need to bring Drew back.
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In other words, a day of no breaking developments on the news front. Sure, another report, this one from Fox Sports, surfaced Tuesday night identifying the Red Sox as one of several clubs talking to the Dodgers about outfielder Matt Kemp, which the Red Sox have done, but a Sox source reiterated moments later that it was “highly unlikely” Boston would move on Kemp.
Indeed, the biggest winner of these winter meetings for the Sox may well be rookie Jackie Bradley Jr., whose path to center field in Fenway Park was cleared last week when Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Yankees and may not face a challenger in spring training for the position.
Cherington and manager John Farrell repeatedly have expressed their satisfaction with that scenario should it come to pass, and while it doesn’t seem to be reflective of the “deep depth” the team made a priority a year ago, the Sox have yet to find a reason to upgrade on the five outfielders that would be on the 25-man roster if the season started tomorrow: Bradley Jr., Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava and Mike Carp.
That may well describe whatever other business the Sox elect to transact between now and when camp opens in February. The pitching market here has yet to move in any significant way, which leaves the Red Sox in something of a holding pattern in regard to the proposals they may field for any of their starting pitchers.
“Every time we think about potentially moving a starter, something in the back of our head reminds us, don’t do it unless it really makes sense,” Cherington said.
They also are in no rush to add a shortstop/utility type until they see whether a market develops for Stephen Drew -- the compensatory draft pick required is a hindrance -- or if he comes back to them. Cherington said he had yet to speak to Boras, Drew’s agent, at the meetings but expected he would do so soon.
Inevitably, the Red Sox will turn to another matter of considerable significance -- negotiating with pitcher Jon Lester on a contract extension before he becomes eligible for free agency after the 2014 season. But that, Cherington said, is a conversation for another day. Typically, he said, extensions are discussed later in the winter or during spring training.
Lester is due to be paid $13 million in 2014, the last year of a six-year, $42.75 million deal. Six pitchers already are being paid salaries that top $24 million in average annual value -- Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Zack Greinke, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels -- and there is speculation that Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw could command a total package of $300 million when he signs an extension. The floor for Lester probably will start at $20 million per season, and if he repeats his 2013 performance, there’s no telling what the ceiling will be.
That's another reason why teams are placing such a premium on their homegrown pitchers.
“He's a key guy,” Cherington said of Lester. “He's been a horse for us for a long time and didn't show any signs of slowing down this October. Obviously, he's a guy we would like to keep. The timing of those conversations, usually it's a later-in-the-winter or a spring training thing, or after the contract [runs out]. We'll see. I think there will certainly be a willingness to have a conversation, so we'll see where it goes, but we haven't done that yet.”
• Pierzynski, who lives in the Orlando area, conducted an impromptu media session after his lunch and told reporters that one of his goals next season is to hit a home run in Fenway Park. Pierzynski has played in 39 ballparks in his big-league career and homered in 28 of them. Fenway is one of the 11 in which he hasn’t gone deep. In 121 plate appearances on Yawkey Way, Pierzynski has 12 extra-base hits, all doubles. He also joked that the Sox told him that with Ellsbury gone, he would bat leadoff.
Hitting leadoff, in truth, is the only place in the batting order that Pierzynski has not started a big-league game. Most of his starts have come in the fifth through seventh spots in the order.
• Cherington said it was a couple of years ago that Sawdaye made his acting debut, playing Boras in a simulation of negotiations.
“A good exercise,” Cherington said. “You should know something about Amiel. Obviously, he is very good at his job, we think. But he was a hustler. He had a T-shirt empire in high school, growing up in Maryland. He made big profits selling T-shirts. Kind of a hustler.”
• Yankees manager Joe Girardi was noncommittal when asked whether Ellsbury or Brett Gardner would play center field for the Yankees, but it’s likely he was just being polite. The Yankees didn’t pay Ellsbury $153 million to play a corner spot.
“I think we've acquired a great player,” Girardi said of Ellsbury. “We've seen the damage he can do against us. We first-hand witnessed how he can change a game. I've seen him hit home runs to beat us. I've seen him steal home to beat us. I've seen him do it all, make great catches. So we added a great player.”
• Former Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen has signed a minor-league deal with the Nationals and has an invitation to big-league camp, according to his Amherst-based agent, Jim Masteralexis, with whom Delcarmen has reunited. Masteralexis said Delcarmen hit 97 mph pitching for Licey in the Dominican winter league. Delcarmen, who last pitched for the Sox in 2010, when he was traded to the Rockies, turns 32 in February. Delcarmen spent last season in Triple-A Norfolk, a Baltimore affiliate, posting a 2.83 ERA and opponents batting average of .229 while striking out 46 in 54 innings.
And in the spirit of the holiday season, they're reaching out to fans and businesses.
Besides a Holiday Trophy Caravan on Wednesday through Friday that will visit area schools and hospitals, the Sox are holding a "Holiday Pop Up Party" contest. Businesses are invited to tweet @red sox using the hashtag #WeWantTheTrophies explaining why their office should be visited by the Red Sox caravan (which they're calling -- what else? -- the "One Duck Open Sleigh").
On Thursday, the three winning businesses will get a "Red Sox Pop Up Holiday Party," which will include an office-wide photo with the World Series trophies, a visit from Wally the Green Monster, team merchandise and 20 free tickets to a 2014 Red Sox game.
The Holiday Trophy Caravan leads up to Christmas at Fenway on Saturday, which is the first chance to purchase Red Sox tickets for the 2014 regular season.
The unfinished business includes finding another infielder who can play shortstop, which could be code for waiting to see if the market comes back to them on Stephen Drew, or simply adding an experienced backup to Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks. They also will continue to have conversations regarding their starting pitchers, even while maintaining a public posture of being perfectly happy to begin the season with the kind of depth in the rotation they currently enjoy.
Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly.
Then the casualties came, fast and furious. Zack Greinke fractured his clavicle in a brawl with Carlos Quentin of the Padres. Chad Billingsley had Tommy John elbow surgery. Lilly strained his rib cage and went on the disabled list. Capuano strained his calf and went on the DL. That was just April.
In mid-May, Josh Beckett felt numbness in his fingers, went on the DL and two months later had season-ending surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Lilly would later have a neck injury and missed more than two months in all. Capuano also had lat and groin injuries and also missed more than two months.
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti went from answering questions about why he was holding on to all his starters to searching for more pitching.
In that context, it’s understandable why Cherington said the Red Sox might not make any trades involving a pitcher.
“We’re very comfortable not doing anything,’’ Cherington said when meeting with reporters Monday night. “We’re very comfortable just holding everyone. We all know that starting pitching, a supposed surplus, has a way of working itself out.
“There have been a handful of teams that have been calling since the beginning of the offseason, and that hasn’t really changed since some of the free agents have gone off the board. Some of those free agents landed in spots that weren’t necessarily matches, anyway. I wouldn’t say it’s changed much since the beginning of the offseason. That doesn’t mean we’re close to doing anything; we’re not. We’re still hearing from teams.”
The Red Sox, unlike the Dodgers, have a strong group of pitching prospects that stand poised to move into the rotation should a spot become available. Brandon Workman, who pitched effectively last season, would be in line to get the first crack. There remains some debate about how close Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa are, and Matt Barnes and Anthony Ranaudo may be a year away, or late summer at the earliest.
Still, with so many teams looking for starters, the Sox could find a match that prompts them to pull the trigger.
* I ran into former Sox pitcher and closer Tom Gordon, bursting with pride that he already has one son in the big leagues (Dee Gordon of the Dodgers) and another son, Nick, who is well on his way to launching a pro career.
Nick Gordon is a shortstop/pitcher for Olympia High School in Orlando and currently ranked in the top 10 of Baseball America’s top high school prospects list.
“He’s a definite first-rounder,’’ one major-league talent evaluator said Tuesday. “It’s just a question of who’s going to take him. He’s going to be better than Dee. He’s a terrific shortstop, and throws 95 as a pitcher. If he had better running speed, he’d be the total package.’’
Tom Gordon retired after the 2009 season with Arizona, the eighth team for which he played in a 21-year big-league career. He was with the Red Sox from 1996-99, leading the league with 46 saves in 1998. He said he’d like to get back into the game as a pitching coach, starting in the lower minors in order to learn as much as he can, but said he promised his daughter that he would stay at home until she turns 17.
There is some buzz regarding a deal for Matt Kemp, at least according to the agent for the Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder. Dave Stewart says "something was brewing" regarding his client, reports Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com.
The Boston Red Sox, who recently lost free agent Jacoby Ellsbury to the New York Yankees, and Seattle Mariners are viewed as prime candidates. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell both reiterated Monday that they are comfortable with Jackie Bradley Jr. penciled in as the Opening Day center fielder in place of Ellsbury, but that, of course, could change.
Here is a quick look of what is happening, or may happen, in Orlando:
- David Price: The race is on to acquire the 2012 AL Cy Young winner, whose value may never be as high as it is now. ESPN.com's Jayson Stark says Rays GM Andrew Friedman will get what he wants in return. “He's not going to budge, certainly not this week,” Stark says.
- Taijuan Walker: Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said Monday he has no plans to trade his top pitching prospect, but that may be what it takes to land Price.
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