A lot can change over the course of an offseason. Nobody knows that more than Billy Beane.

Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray

A lot can change over the course of an offseason. Nobody knows that more than Billy Beane.

The A’s chief decision-maker was the one who reversed course last year after stiff-arming inquiries on Josh Donaldson, finally giving the OK to Toronto for a deal involving the probable American League MVP.

This year, the Red Sox are probably hoping Beane has a similar change of mind.

Talking to Peter Gammons, Beane said that he didn’t believe that the starting pitcher so many believed would be a target for the Red Sox, Sonny Gray, would be in the conversation when it came to making a deal in the coming months.

As Beane explained to Gammons for GammonsDaily.com, “trading Gray is not something I think we could do. We have to put a representative product on the field, and continue to dream we get a ballpark. We should have good pitching, with Gray, Jarrod Parker, Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt, maybe Sean Manaea during the season. I just cannot see us trading Gray or (Josh) Reddick.”

Sources have said that the Red Sox have at least previously asked about Gray, a 26-year-old who finished seventh among all pitchers in Wins Above Replacement this past season. In his second full big league season, the righty went 14-7 with a 2.73 ERA while pitching 208 innings. Over the past two seasons, Gray has totaled the exact same ERA (2.88) as David Price.

It isn’t surprising that Beane wants to hold on to Gray, who has just 2 1/2 years service time. (He was taken one spot ahead of where the Red Sox selected Matt Barnes with the 19th overall pick in the 2011 draft.)

The A’s head of baseball operations clearly wants some sort of players to serve as a foundation while he tries to rebuild a team that went just an American League-worst 68-94. For now, he’s identifying Gray as one of those guys.

“Good question, but I think so,” said Beane when asked if he thought Gray would be affordable by the time the A’s young players are ready thrive. “I look at the way the market is going and realize the teams with the money are going to spend it on free agent pitching rather than trading three or four top prospects. Good young players are worth too much today.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Yawkey Way honors a man who fought the integration of baseball.</p>
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The Red Sox recently took one step towards addressing the need for power in their bullpen by informing right-hander Matt Barnes that he’ll be shifting to relief full-time.

The Red Sox recently took one step towards addressing the need for power in their bullpen by informing right-hander Matt Barnes that he’ll be shifting to relief full-time.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski revealed that news on WEEI’s Hot Stove Show on Tuesday night while also addressing the bigger-picture question of how to build a bullpen in an age where teams like the Royals are winning on the strength of their lockdown pens.

“It’s a great question,” Dombrowski said. “What you really try to do is . . . project some people’s performance taking a step forward, through scouting and analytics, and try to go that way.

“Because other than premium guys that are your premium closers, there’s so much inconsistency in bullpen performances throughout the years. So the good arm just doesn’t settle, because you can have a good arm and still get hit. The projection of stuff, command, secondary stuff, the ability to deal with the pressures of closing. And I think sometimes you have to look at the year before, was somebody overworked, were there any injury factors? You have to look at all of those things and hopefully make wise decisions that end up working for you.”

Step one: shifting Barnes, who bounced between the rotation and bullpen all season at Triple-A and in the majors.

“With Matt Barnes, our plans are for him to come to spring training, and we’ve already talked to him about this, and really focus in on the bullpen, to try to help us with that power arm out there,” Dombrowski said. “[Prospect] Pat Light is pitching winter ball in Puerto Rico and he’s just started to pitch. You never can tell when those guys take that step to really be that important arm. Ideally you want to have somebody out there that can strike out a hitter with above-average stuff.”

Closer Koji Uehara gets strikeouts without being overpowering, while setup man Junichi Tazawa averages roughly a strikeout an inning.

“Tazawa in the eighth can do that when he’s throwing the ball well, but really somebody before that point, you’d like to have somebody out there that can get a groundball for you at times, get a left-handed hitter out, but also get a strikeout,” Dombrowski said. “So that’s what you’re trying to do when you build that bullpen.”

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

Nobody should have been surprised Zack Greinke took the route he did earlier Wednesday morning, opting out of the final three years of his current deal with the Dodgers.

Sure, the 32-year-old pitcher surrendered a guaranteed $71 million, but coming off the season(s) he produced, it was absolutely the logical move considering where the age Greinke would be hitting free agency if staying with his previous deal.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility we’re talking a six-year deal for Greinke, who has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past three seasons. Since 2013, he has gone 51-15 with a 2.30 ERA. (As a quick aside, how in the world have the Dodgers not won more considering their other top starter, Clayton Kershaw, is 53-19 with a 1.92 ERA over that same span.)

So, with the Red Sox very publicly stating finding a pitcher like Greinke this offseason is their top priority, the pitcher’s newfound life as a free agent should be a top priority Dave Dombrowski and Co.

The fly in the ointment is the perceived hesitation Greinke might have when it comes to playing in a place like Boston. Having battled a debilitating social anxiety disorder, the righty has been on record saying he couldn’t envision himself pitching in a place like New York. But what about Fenway Park?

Greinke did have Boston, along with New York, on his no-trade list, but that doesn’t necessarily mean much considering such a move is used for contract leverage more than anything.

There is seemingly a strong support system for the former Royal, Brewer and Dodger, with his former general manager Allard Baird serving as the Red Sox‘ senior vice president of player personnel, and Brian Bannister, the Sox’ director of pitching analysis and development, having a long history with the pitcher. Bannister and Greinke developed a close relationship while playing together in KC, having shared a common interest in advanced pitching metrics and analytics.

The question might come down to whom the Red Sox feel more comfortable unloading the coffers for: Greinke or David Price?

Greinke might cost at least one fewer years due to his age, but he would necessitate the Red Sox surrendering their first round draft pick (No. 12 overall) with the Dodgers undoubtedly planning to offer the pitcher a qualifying offer. Price, because he was trade midseason, can’t be offered a QO from the Blue Jays.

“I think it’s a case-by-case basis and you analyze that based upon the player you have a chance to sign,” said Dombrowski on the Hot Stove Show Tuesday night when asked about his willingness to part with a draft pick in order to ink a free agent.

Price has thrived in the American League East, garnering more wins (43) than any pitcher in baseball against AL East teams since 2010 by a margin of 10 victories. During that time, he also carries a 3.14 in the division.

The lefty’s effortless motion also might placate some suitors considering the age he will be finishing his next contact at.

Greinke’s durability also presents an interesting case, however, with his aforementioned passion for the mechanics seemingly translating into both superior performance and good health.

It might just come down to which pitcher takes what the Red Sox are willing to offer. Unlike the next tier of free agent starters — which, yes, would include Johnny Cueto — Greinke and Price are about as palatable as high-priced pitchers in their 30’s can be.

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Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

ESPN analyst Curt Schilling checked in with with Dennis, Callahan & Minihane show on Wednesday morning to discuss the Red

ESPN analyst Curt Schilling checked in with with Dennis, Callahan & Minihane show on Wednesday morning to discuss the Red Sox‘ offseason and other MLB news. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

There has been speculation that new Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski will attempt to rid the team of the hefty contracts of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, who arrived in Boston last season as free agents but underperformed as the team struggled to another last-place finish in the American League East.

“I don’t know if they can do that without eating at least 90 percent of the money,” Schilling said. “Because it’s not like you have these hidden flaws that no one else knows about, that you can sneak him out the door and somebody will go, ‘Wow, I didn’t notice that.’ Pablo, the question’s always been around his weight. And I love the guy. He’s a tremendous clubhouse guy — funny, great guy. But this is what everybody was afraid of.

“With Hanley, is anybody surprised by what happened? This was the guy they traded [in 2005]. He didn’t change. They just got an older version of him.”

Schilling said he never supported the acquisitions last year.

“I was a pariah at the winter meetings, because I was the only guy at ESPN that said, ‘I don’t like either one. I don’t like either signing.’ I don’t get the give [$]80 [million], $100 million to a guy — and then find him a position? That seems kind of backwards to me.

“And Sandoval — you’re literally going to have three first baseman/DHs maybe, going into the season. I don’t think they have a choice. They have to get rid of at least one. And if they can get rid of two, my God, go for it.”

The Red Sox picked up the $13 million option on Clay Buchholz, but Schilling said that doesn’t mean Schilling will be the ace of the staff.

“He’s not a one,” Schilling said. “He knows he’s not a one. I don’t think anybody would act and fake or think or tell him he’s a No. 1. John Farrell if anything is pretty upfront.

“Has anybody ever felt like that’s what he wanted to be? I haven’t. And when I played with him I didn’t. And that’s not a bad thing, because there’s a lot of guys in the big leagues that are competitors and they like to pitch and they don’t want that expectation of, ‘Hey, if we lose on a day you pitch, it’s a fluke.’ That’s not who is he, not who he’s ever been.

“He’s got the potential to be kind of a Zack Greinke in the two-hole. Win-or-go-home game, do you think he’s going in the office saying, ‘Give me the ball’? I don’t think he is. And that’s again, not bad. You’ve just got to know your personnel. You put him in a position to succeed. And for me the position for him to succeed is pitching a game other than Opening Day.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

On Blake Swihart’s future as a Red Sox catcher: “You can’t fit a guy behind the plate. To me, that’s the one position where I can forgo a bat. I’ll take a .245, 12-homer, 55-RBI guy if I’ve got a [Jason] Varitek mentality and the [Doug] Mirabelli or Varitek or whatever desire to call a great game. Because those are runs on themselves.”

On the Royals’ formula for success: “I’m a baseball fan. I think they just bored the hell out of people and just ended up winning games. They were hard to watch. I said this last year: I thought that of World Series teams, they might have been one of the worst World Series contenders I’ve ever seen. Because you looked at the lineup and you didn’t see anything. … There’s that intangible piece. They found a way to win. They played unbelievable defense, obviously, and it showed itself show glaringly against the Mets.”

On the two key pitchers in free agency, David Price and Zack Greinke: “I think Price is going to go to the Cubs. I think they’re going to pay big for him. I think the Cubs are going to sign Price, and they might sign Greinke, too. Because I think that they recognize that there’s a chance to put those arms on a rotation that gives them six, seven years of competition.”

On if he will back with ESPN next year: “Yeah. I got a month off [suspension]. Back at it.”

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski joined the Hot Stove Show on WEEI on Tuesday night and discussed his belief that Jackie Bradley Jr.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski joined the Hot Stove Show on WEEI on Tuesday night and discussed his belief that Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo will be starting outfielders on Opening Day, that Hanley Ramirez is healing, and that whether through free agency or trade, the Red Sox hope to add a No. 1 starter.

“I think you’re always careful when dealing with players that you’re really not going to tip your hand on what you’re going to exactly do,” Dombrowski said. “We do want to get somebody that can lead the top of the rotation. You’re open to signing free agents, and you’re also in a position from our perspective where you’re open to trades. Those are different areas that we would explore. Where it eventually would take us, only time will tell.”

Dombrowski touched on a host of topics.

On Bradley and Castillo in the outfield:

“I would feel comfortable going into the season with them. I think they have the ability to be a real dynamic group together. . . . Jackie Bradley and Rusney Castillo are in a spot where they showed a lot of good things, and there’s no question they’ll go into the season as our starting group. But they have to continue to grow like a lot of young players do. Jackie’s one of the best defensive outfielders I think I’ve ever seen. So that’s a plus, and Castillo’s got the all-around game. But you look for young players to continue to grow and continue to work hard, which they do now. I think they want to be excellent players, so they’€™ll have to continue that growth spurt. They’ll also be in a position where they’re going to have make adjustments, because the league will adjust to them and expose their weak spots. They’ll have to work hard to eliminate those weak spots and make the adjustments.”

On whether Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are untouchable:

“I have always tried not to say players are untouchable. The reason I have done that is because you never can tell when somebody makes you an offer you just can’t believe. If you have Miguel Cabrera, somebody may offer you two Miguel Cabreras. Probably not going to happen, probably never will happen, but unless you listen, you don’t know.

But I do think when you talk about talented young players, Mookie and Xander are two you think are going to be backbones of the organization for years to come. So that’s how you approach it, and then you see what’s taken place. I would be very surprised if they’re not strong parts of our lineup next year.”

On Hanley Ramirez’s offseason:

“Hanley actually was away for a while. He spent the first couple of weeks doing some conditioning. Then he went away for two weeks and he just got back from vacation with his family, so he’s just getting back in the country and just beginning his workouts at this time.

“We do think that his shoulder will be fine. It’s a situation where he’s rehabbing it, of course, and will continue to do that. We project that it will be fine going forward. He’s always going to have a little bit of structural problem with it. He’s had that for years. But nothing of major consequence to keep him out of the lineup. We do think that he will be fine.”

On the risks of signing an ace:

“It’s always costly if you’re going to get top of the rotation starters, not only from a trade perspective, but also from a free agent perspective. Either way, it’s costly. We’ll have to just determine who we pursue, and I think also, as time goes on, I’ve seen organizations that try to get some players and it doesn’t end up working, well you have to go to Plan B, and a lot of time Plan B can get you to a situation where you have a good club. Ideally we’re looking for that type of guy, but only time will tell where it takes us.”

On when he knew he’d re-sign veteran Clay Buchholz:

“I remember the last homestand we had here, I watched him throw a side session, I think it was the Sunday. I know at that time, people had been telling me he was healthy and had been throwing for a while. But I saw the bullpen session and he threw the ball outstanding at that point. He had an outstanding curveball, in addition to the pop on his fastball. You could tell he was healthy. He had that look in his eye. At that point, in my own mind I thought, ‘If he comes back tomorrow and he feels good, we need to pick up that option and we’re going to pick up the option.’ So that was really the time.”

On Matt Barnes:

“Our plans are for him to come to spring training, and we’ve already talked to him about this, and really focus in on the bullpen, to try to help us with that power arm out there.”

On copycats trying to steal the Royals’ championship formula:

“When we were in a position where we watched San Francisco win (last year) and I asked the general public at that time, ‘If I told you we were going to go into the postseason with one real strong starting pitcher, and that would be the only one that would be effective in the postseason, would you want me to build a club that way?’ And people shook their head and said no. Well that worked this year, because Madison Bumgarner basically put the Giants on his back.”

Blog Author: 
John Tomase