Blake Swihart

Blake Swihart

Thursday represents a day of notable roster change, as teams face a deadline for adding players to the 40-man roster for the purposes of protecting them from the Rule 5 draft. The Red Sox appear likely to add four prospects to the 40-man, including top prospect Blake Swihart. That’s convenient, since the Sox have four open spots on their 40-man roster.

A brief look at the players expected to be protected:

Blake Swihart, C, 22 years old

2014: Double-A/Triple-A – 110 games, .293/.341/.469, 13 HR

The top-ranked Red Sox prospect is among the top catching prospects in the game based on his potential for above-average offense and defense. Swihart could become a big league consideration sometime in 2015, with a more likely lasting big league opportunity to come in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, 21 years old

2014: Double-A (Orioles and Red Sox systems) – 22 starts, 120 innings, 3.60 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 2.8 BB/9

Rodriguez probably has the best stuff of any starting pitching prospect in the Red Sox system, with the left-hander sitting at 92-94 mph and capable of reaching back for 96-97 mph while featuring an excellent changeup and a slider that shows the potential to be an above-average pitch. It remains to be seen if Rodriguez looks more like the pitcher who struggled through the first four months of 2014 in the Orioles system or like the singularly dominant pitcher who proved a head-turner once in the Sox system. Either way, adding him to the 40-man roster is a no-brainer. If Rodriguez builds on his Portland performance, he has a chance to force his way into the big league rotation sometime in 2015.

Sean Coyle, 2B/3B, 22 years old

2014: Double-A – 97 games, .295/.371/.512, 16 HR, 13-for-14 SB attempts

Coyle has well above-average raw power, his ability to drive the ball almost startling for a player who is shorter than Dustin Pedroia. Most also view him as an adequate to slightly above average defensive second baseman, and he carried himself well in his first professional exposure to third base in 2014. There is also some thought that he could handle himself adequately in the outfield based on his average to above-average speed and baseball instincts. The big question, given his ability to drive the ball, is whether he can make frequent enough contact for that skill to play out. Interestingly, his strikeout and walk rates remained essentially unchanged in 2014 as compared to his performance in High-A in 2013, but his batting average on balls in play jumped from .275 to .362. Nonetheless, what he showed makes it a relatively straightforward decision to add him to the roster given the paucity of right-handed power in the game, even though Coyle probably needs at least a full year in Triple-A before he’s ready for the big leagues.

Travis Shaw, 1B, 24 years old

2014: Double-A/Triple-A – 128 games, .278/.353/.473, 21 HR

Shaw led the Sox system in homers in 2014, leaving behind a 2013 season of struggle and looking more like the player who enjoyed one of the top seasons in the organization in his first pro season of 2012. While his numbers were far more impressive in Double-A (.305/.406/.548) than Triple-A (.262/.321/.431), he impressed against right-handed pitchers at both levels, totaling a .304/.384/.542 line against righties on the year. He may end up being a platoon corner (it’s worth noting that Shaw has played some third base in the past), but given that baseball is moving towards an embrace of just such players, and that his strength is against the most common kind of pitchers (righties), Shaw’s combination of power and on-base abilities makes him an immediate depth option (primarily at first base) for the Sox in 2015.

NOTABLE POTENTIAL OMISSIONS

Henry Ramos, OF, 22 years old

2014: Double-A – 48 games, .326/.368/.431, 2 HR

Ramos — a terrific athlete who was a relatively raw baseball player when taken as a fifth-round selection out of Puerto Rico in 2010 — offered hints of a breakout to open the year in Portland, with more in-game flashes of his five-tool talent than he’d shown in his career to that point. But he suffered a season-ending stress fracture of his tibia in late-May, and given the relatively limited exposure he’s had to the upper levels, he’d seem unlikely to stick in the big leagues even if selected. That said, if he shows well in the Puerto Rican Winter League (where he’s struggled early to a .180/.222/.280 line) — at least showing strong defense — could make him an interesting Rule 5 upside gamble. A normal developmental progression would see him emerge as a fourth or fifth outfield option in mid-2016.

Jason Garcia, RHP, 21 years old

2014: Short-Season Single-A/Single-A – 14 Gs, 56 1/3 IP, 3.67 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 3.8 BB/9

Garcia returned from Tommy John surgery with noteworthy power stuff, typically pitching at 93-98 mph while reaching triple digits. He also shows the potential for a slider that could make him a bullpen weapon. Still, Garcia’s control woes and distance from the big leagues — he’s never pitched above Greenville — likely militate against him being taken in the Rule 5. Still, he has the sort of head-turning arm that could convince a team to take a chance on him.

Jonathan Aro, RHP, 24 years old

2014: Single-A/High-A – 32 Gs, 87 1/3 IP, 2.16 ERA, 10.1 K/9, 3.0 BB/9

Aro is older than Garcia, diminishing his prospect stature, but he’s a strike-thrower who manages to get swings and misses with his mid-90s fastball and slider, so he could represent an interesting middle-relief lottery ticket.

Others: RHP Keith Couch, RHP Jake Dahlstrand, RHP Luis Diaz, OF Keury De La Cruz, RHP Dayan Diaz, LHP Robby Scott

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

According to a source familiar with the situation, the Red Sox have made it clear that there will be a “willingness to negotiate” with J

According to a source familiar with the situation, the Red Sox have made it clear that there will be a “willingness to negotiate” with Jon Lester and his representatives after extending an offer during the two sides’ meeting earlier this week.

While a Boston Globe report suggested the Sox’ offer was for six years at between $110-120 million, the source suggested the team’s initial offseason proposal was part of a more complex discussion about potential contract parameters.

Earlier Wednesday, one of Lester’s agents, Seth Levinson of ACES, emailed WEEI.com to state, “I will not comment on negotiations nor will I characterize a meeting other than to say that the Red Sox extended great respect to Jon.”

With a source suggesting six teams expressing “legitimate interest” as of last week, it is believed that the Red Sox would have to come up dramatically from their perceived comfort level prior to trading Lester at the non-waiver trade deadline. After a spring training offer of four years, $70 million, no formal proposals were extended by either side until the one this week.

Lester was slated to meet with the Braves Thursday after having already conducted get-togethers with both the Red Sox and Cubs (Tuesday).

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

The Red Sox announced that they’ve claimed corner infielder Juan Francisco off waivers from the Blue Jays. Francisco, 27, demonstrated considerable power when he made contact in 2014. In 106 games and 320 plate appearances, he hit .220/.291/.456 with 16 homers.

Juan Francisco

Juan Francisco

The Red Sox announced that they’ve claimed corner infielder Juan Francisco off waivers from the Blue Jays. Francisco, 27, demonstrated considerable power when he made contact in 2014. In 106 games and 320 plate appearances, he hit .220/.291/.456 with 16 homers. However, he struck out in volume, whiffing in 36.3 percent of plate appearances.

A massive (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) left-handed hitter, Francisco’s offensive abilities are typically limited to right-handed pitchers. In his career, he’s hit .248/.310/.476 with one homer in every 20 plate appearances against righties, with a .159/.213/.210 line and just one homer in 150 career plate appearances against lefties. In 2014, he hit .238/.306/.504 against righties (a 129 OPS+, meaning an OPS that was 29 percent better than the league against righties).

Francisco gives the Sox a potential power-hitting corner infield depth option who bats left-handed — a sort of platoon fallback to the free agent options such as Pablo Sandoval that the team is pursuing. That said, Francisco’s defense is below average (he graded as seven runs below average at third base in 2014 according to Baseball Information Solutions), further limiting his value to that of a potential bench reserve.

The Red Sox now have 36 players on their 40-man roster, with one day remaining prior to the deadline to add players to the 40 for the purposes of protecting them from the Rule 5 draft. Here’s the press release from the Red Sox announcing the addition of Francisco:

The Boston Red Sox today claimed infielder Juan Francisco off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays.

Executive Vice President/General Manager Ben Cherington made the announcement.

Francisco, 27, played 106 games for the Blue Jays last season, batting .220 (63-for-287) with 16 doubles, two triples, 16 home runs, and 43 RBI. A left-handed batter, 34 of his 63 hits went for extra bases.

He averaged an extra-base hit every 11.8 at-bats, the ninth-best rate among American Leaguers with at least 300 plate appearances.  His 34 extra-base hits were the most in the majors among players with no more than 350 plate appearances.

Francisco began 2014 with the Milwaukee Brewers and was released on March 24. He was signed by Toronto as a minor league free agent on April 1 and played 12 games for Triple-A Buffalo, batting .341 with two doubles, a triple, two home runs, and 11 RBI.  Selected to the major league roster on April 19, he remained with the Blue Jays for the duration of the season.

Against right-handed pitching, Francisco is a career .248 hitter (213-for-848) with 46 doubles, four triples, 47 home runs and 141 RBI.

Defensively, Francisco has played both first and third base in the major leagues. The majority of his time has come at third base where he has played 197 games (161 starts), compared to 87 games (77 starts) at first.

Over his major league career, the Dominican native has hit .236 (235-for-996) with 50 doubles, four triples, 48 home runs, and 152 RBI in 404 games for the Cincinnati Reds (2009-11), Atlanta Braves (2012-13), Milwaukee Brewers (2013), and Blue Jays (2014).

With today’€™s transaction, Boston’€™s 40-man roster is at 36.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier
Jon Lester finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting. (Getty Images)

Jon Lester finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting. (Getty Images)

The Red Sox have made no secret of their desire to make a push for Jon Lester, a notion that has gained further credence with the reports (the first one of which came from ESPNBoston.com) that the team has made an offer to the left-hander.

But, of course, it is one thing to make an offer, another to find common ground to satisfy Lester’s interest in a salary befitting his status as an elite pitcher and the Sox’ interests in accounting for the risks associated with a long-term deal for a pitcher in his 30s. In the absence of concrete details about what shape that offer has taken, here are a few potential models and/or features of an offer that the Sox may try to incorporate as they attempt to reacquire an elite pitcher while minimizing the risk on the back end of the deal:

Model 1: Cliff Lee (fewer years, more dollars)

In the 2012-13 offseason, the Red Sox proved aggressive in terms of the average annual value they put on the table while trying to limit the number of years they committed to players. In doing so, they got (for instance) Shane Victorino to pass on a four-year deal worth roughly $11 million a year from the Indians in favor of a three-year, $39 million deal to come to Boston.

In the winter following the 2010 season, left-hander Cliff Lee walked away from potential deals of six-plus years (with offers typically rumored to be for $23 million or so per year) in favor of a five-year, $120 million deal ($24 million per year) with the Phillies. It’s worth noting that there are similarities between Lester’s situation and Lee’s.

Model 2: Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke (market value)

Pitcher 1: 1,596 innings – 116-67, 3.58 ERA, 121 ERA+, 8.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9

Pitcher 2: 1,492 innings – 91-78, 3.77 ERA, 114 ERA+, 8.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9

Pitcher 3: 1,376 2/3 innings – 91-60, 3.34 ERA, 126 ERA+, 8.5 K/9, 2.2 BB/9

The differences are marginal, a fact that serves as a reminder that Lester (pitcher 1) can use Greinke (pitcher 2 – 6 years, $147 million as a free agent after 2012) and Hamels (6 years, $144 million as an extension months before reaching free agency in 2012) as baselines for establishing his market value. Of course, both Hamels and Greinke were entering their age 29 seasons when they signed their deals, which expire after their age 34 seasons. But, Lester isn’t so much older than those two that the market will penalize him significantly. Indeed, given the fact that he’s coming off the best year (year-plus, actually, dating to July 2013) of his career, he could be in line for just as many years with an even higher AAV.

Model 3: Dustin Pedroia (more years, fewer dollars)

Dustin Pedroia wanted to be a Red Sox for life. He was willing to make concessions to do so.

Pedroia’s priority was both to ensure his future with the only organization for which he ever played and to structure his deal in a way that it would maximize the likelihood of building a winner. He and the team accomplished that with an eight-year, $110 million deal — a deal that offered him, in absolute terms, a mammoth guarantee of career earnings with security for generations of little Pedroias while maintaining a comparably modest AAV of just north of $13 million a year that would both allow the Sox to pursue other big-money players and protect the team from being hamstrung by his decline years.

Model 4: CC Sabathia (opt-out)

What if the Red Sox could sign Lester for three years and, say, $72 million? A player opt-out creates just such a possibility.

After the 2008 season, the Yankees signed CC Sabathia to a seven-year, $161 million deal that included an opt-out after three seasons and $69 million. At the time of the contract, the industry offered some skepticism about the idea of giving a player added flexibility. In hindsight, it could have been a tremendous coup for the Yankees had they let the left-hander walk after three elite seasons as the anchor of a team that won a World Series. The Sox could consider including an opt-out in a deal for Lester as a means of letting him hop back on the market when he was 33 — after the team had captured some of the most attractive years of his career.

The problem with such a design, however, is that if Lester were performing at such a level that he exercised his opt-out, then the team could find itself in an even more compromised negotiating position with him than it is now. Pressure to re-sign him could be immense, just as it was when the Yankees extended Sabathia for another year in order to prevent him from opting out.

On the other hand, it’s possible that the team’s position would be considerably better than it is now after three more years for some of the young pitchers in the organization to mature. Whereas the Sox have three rotation holes right now including a pair at the front of the rotation, the situation might be somewhat less dire by the time an opt-out came into play. It’s worth noting that the Sox recently included an opt-out in Rusney Castillo’s contract prior to its final season.

Model 5: John Lackey/Cliff Lee/Cole Hamels/Jonathan Papelbon (the vesting option)

When an MRI during the pre-signing physical revealed that John Lackey’s elbow seemed likely to blow out early in his Red Sox contract, the Sox worked with Lackey to develop a form of insurance — chiefly, that if he missed a year due to recovery from Tommy John surgery, a team option would vest that permitted the team to add an extra year of control to his five-year, $82.5 million deal at the major league minimum ($500,000 and change). That option did indeed vest when Lackey missed all of 2012, adding considerably to Lackey’s trade value this summer when he was dealt to the Cardinals. Lee’s willingness to accept fewer years that he could have secured on the open market, meanwhile, may have been abetted by the fact that the Phillies included a provision that would tack on another guaranteed year (in place of a team option) if he met certain innings thresholds in either the fifth (final) year of the deal or over the final two years of the deal. The vesting option represents a form of risk sharing that can sometimes prove agreeable to both sides for longer-term deals.

Model 6: Ian Kinsler/Dustin Pedroia (the frontloaded deal)

Typically, players are never more valuable than at the beginning of their contracts, with steadily diminishing returns over the life of a deal. In recognition of that fact, some players — including Pedroia and Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler — take larger salaries up front that taper gradually in expectation of their declining performance as they move beyond their prime years. In so doing, the players remain both easier to fit into a team’s salary structure during their post-prime performance and they also remain easier to trade.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

While it is known the Red Sox ownership group extended an offer to Jon Lester during their meeting earlier this week, and that Lester also met with the Cubs Tuesday while planning on getting together with Atlanta Thursday, little is known abo

While it is known the Red Sox ownership group extended an offer to Jon Lester during their meeting earlier this week, and that Lester also met with the Cubs Tuesday while planning on getting together with Atlanta Thursday, little is known about the particulars of the Sox negotiations with the lefty.

One of Lester’s agents, Seth Levinson, did reply in an email when asked about the landscape, writing, “I will not comment on negotiations nor will I characterize a meeting other than to say that the Red Sox extended great respect to Jon.”

A source told WEEI.com during the general managers’ meetings in Phoenix that six teams had shown “legitimate interest” in the free agent pitcher, with the Red Sox, Cubs, Braves and Blue Jays known to be part of that group. Seattle, Lester’s hometown team, is not believed to be one of the interested parties.

Another Red Sox free agent target, Pablo Sandoval, had not been offered a contract by the Red Sox as of mid-afternoon Wednesday, according to MLB.com.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Despite his production, Hanley Ramirez is three years older and more often injured than Pablo Sandoval. (Harry How/Getty Images)In light of the semi-public courtship of Pablo Sandoval, a question looms: Why not Hanley Ramirez?



Free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval is in Boston and we now know what type of contract he may be seeking.