Tuesday, December 30

Ring in 2009 with Baseball 24/7

Here is another reason to believe my fiance' may call off our wedding before the summer.....the MLB Network. Starting Thursday, the MLB Network, a 24-hour a day baseball channel, will launch into 50 million households. It's the largest cable launch in history, and it appears to be free (for now, until Comcast screws me again).

According to its website, the channel will cover everything from baseball news and trade rumors, show classic games, and provide professional analysis. In addition, they claim... "It (MLB Network)will be on the air 24/7/365, and it gradually will morph into whatever fans dictate that it must be. No other sports cable network is more suited for its subject, given baseball's seemingly endless summers, its incomparable tradition (look for Don Larsen's 1956 World Series perfect game on Opening Night) and its highly active offseasons. It will bring the latest TV technology, marquee talent, energy and passion."

This all sounds good to me, I just hope it doesn't suck and keeps the East Coast bias chugging along....because if I have to sit through Pittsburgh Pirate news before hearing about the Red Sox or AL East, I'm going to change the channel. Baseball 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year....this could be great. For now I'll attempt to keep my potential wedding day on target and phase myself into it.
.... I should also mention that the MLB Network will have to go a long way to tear me away from NESN and Heidi Watney come February/March.

Hanely Ramirez, Oh What Could Have Been

According to a report issued last night by Jon Heyman and Tom Verducci, after losing out on the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes to the hated Yankees, the Sox called the Marlins to discuss the idea of bringing Hanley Ramirez back to Boston. The 2006 rookie of the year is signed at a major discount through 2014, and the Red Sox saw him as an alternative source of offensive firepower after missing out on Tex.

The Marlins reportedly listened to the Red Sox, but needed to be completely blown away by an offer to truly consider moving their young franchise shortstop. Reportedly, the Marlins had the most interest in Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz, but needed more to seal a deal. Boston mentioned they were happy with Jed Lowrie at shortstop and would have used Ramirez in center field.

Ramirez is a major offensive threat at the plate but somewhat of a liability at short. It is expected by many that he will eventually move to roaming the outfield, most likely center field to utilize his speed. A deal that included Ellsbury and Buchholz alone seems too good to be true, and since the Marlins know the Sox are in a somewhat desperate position to match some of the Yankees off season moves, they would have likely needed additional big name prospects (Bowdin, Lars Anderson, Masterson etc).

At present time, the thought of seeing Hanley in a Red Sox uniform in 2009 is nothing more than wishful thinking by RSN. The talks were short and appear to have ended... I hated writing this post in past tense....but there is nothing wrong with holding out a little bit of hope and optimism.....I've already had daydreams of Hanely doubling home Dusty with a line drive double to the gap. News like this is similar to showing a 7 year old kid a brand new bike to play with but not giving it to him. I almost wish I didn't hear about this....unless Theo somehow gets them back to the table....

Monday, December 29

Swing and A Miss; Adam Dunn Whiffs Again.

Tired of waiting for Manny Ramirez to sign a contract the Dodgers contacted Adam Dunn about playing left field for them in 2009. Dunn would add a little bit of pop to a line up in desperate need of a bat if Man-Ram signs elsewhere, however you can pencil in more then a strikeout/game to go along with that.

Dunn has averaged 40 home runs and 190 strike outs in an 8 year career, take the good with the bad I suppose. There's been some discussion about the Sox getting in on the bidding for his services and incorporating him as their 4th outfielder. Personally I hate that idea. Dunn strikes out way to much and sported a .236 average last year, .247 in his career.

Throw out those numbers since the Red Sox subscribe to the Bill James Theory of OBP (on base percentage) and Dunn chimes in with an OBP of .380 (38%). Comparing out corner outfield spots, Drew's OBP was .408 last year, .392 in his career, and Jason Bay gets on 37.5% of the time, rounded up 38%.

Pretty much a wash in terms of OBP and Bay bats 40 points higher and struck out 100 less times last year.

Dunn can't play center so throw Jacoby's numbers out, and if you factor in that Dunn would get at most half the at bats he did last year the Sox would be looking at paying a guy $12 million + for 20 home runs and 100 strikeouts.

In Dunn's case it's not about the money so much that he's not a good fit for the 2009 Red Sox in my opinion. The move makes sense for the Dodgers who are without a left fielder and need some power; just be prepared for this guy to be taking 180+ trips from the on deck circle, to home plate, and back to the pine, STRIKE 3 HE'S OUTTA THERE!

The Baseball Bubble -- NYT shops its Stake in Sox

As promised, ITM will be providing regular analysis of our national pastime's place in our national recession. First up---our very own Sox. Reports from multiple sources have indicated in recent days that the New York Times is actively shopping its interest in New England Sports Ventures (NESV)---its interest, that is, in the Sox, Fenway, and NESN.

While some have trumpeted this as another indicator of the Sox vulnerability in the face of the Yankees financial juggernaut, the truth is just the opposite. In terms of profit margins, NESV has been one of the best performing assets in the NYT's portfolio. Unfortunately, the paper is cash-starved. They have slashed jobs, begged for staff buyouts, and recently even floated the idea of borrowing against their brand-new Renzo Piano designed headquarters across from Port Authority.

In 2002, the NYT paid about $75m for its 1/6th ownership stake in NESV. They got carried along the tidal wave that later took the name of Red Sox Nation. They saw two World Series and profits from endless, endless marketing opportunities opened up by the creative group at the helm. They achieved synergies (damnit, I apologize for that word, but what can you do?) for their big Boston-based investment---the Globe. Unlike 2002, the Sox are now a financial juggernaut, too. The NYT is reportedly asking $300m for its stake, but would take substantially less. Either way, the NYT will get what it desperately needs---cash.

The real takeaway from all this is not so much about baseball but about the struggles of old media. The NYT says this move is about slimming down and getting back to its core business---newspapers. To some extent, this is true---nytimes.com has finally started to establish itself as an online power.

But this move also indicates that the NYT has not succeeded in its first wave of new media expansion. NESN was the crown jewel in the NESV stake. Like its competitor News Corp, the NYT---fearing the death of print and following an FCC rule that allowed greater media conglomeration---wanted to expand into cable in order to generate video content, both for wire-transfer and online delivery. They bought up some disastrous assets from Discovery Channel and asked after many other high profile video operations. This strategy has not worked. Outside of NESN, the NYT has made very little headway into cable outlets or online video. So the NYT is cutting its losses and hoping that it can make a go of straight-newspapers online. What this likely means is less regional news and fewer media jobs. That's because the real success model for online news is the Drudge Report, the Huffington Post, and Deadspin---not content producers, in large part, but content distributors with low overhead.

We love the Sox and NESN because they're content producers---content meaning a 12 pitch Youk at-bat, video of Pap dancing with a beer carton on his head, and Remy, Don and Heidi Watney. Right now, that doesn't fit into the NYT's long-term strategy. The only thing that fits the bill is cash---to pay for the "core" of what the NYT does best---hard news. Cash is what the Red Sox are certainly good for.

So cheer up, Nation, this is a good sign. The Sox are thriving, and I don't think John Henry is losing much sleep over the departure of the old gray lady.

Sunday, December 28

Shifting Boston's focus from the Pats to baseball, Sox sign Penny, Bard.

With the Patriots officially out of the playoff hunt, and the Celtics and Bruins essentially on cruise control until the playoffs, the Boston sports scene can officially turn back to the Sox. Conveniently enough for New England, shortly after Brett Favre threw about 18 interceptions to make sure the Pats didn't make the playoffs, word came out that the Sox have agreed on deals with both Brad Penny and Josh Bard for the 2009 season.

Penny's one-year deal will have a base salary of $5 million but is laced with incentives and performance bonuses that can increase the total amount of the deal to $8 million. Part of the incentive is if Penny pitches more than 160 innings, which will require a healthy year, a chief concern for the Sox. Penny, 29, struggled last year with the Dodgers going 6-9 with a 6.27 ERA in 17 starts, he finished the season on the 60-day disabled list with a sore right shoulder. It is widely assumed he was suffering from a shoulder injury all season but did not mention it to Dodger management until later in the year (stubborn like Beckett?).

Most who like this deal point to 06' and 07' where Penny went 32-13. He has a career record of 94-75 with a 4.06 ERA. Personally I think this is a good deal for the Sox who have been looking to solidify their starting rotation. There is limited risk with a high ceiling of upside (see Bartolo Colon except with more success potential....and less fat). If Penny can return to form, the Sox would boast one of, if not the best rotation in baseball. The move will also allow for Justin Masterson to stay in the bullpen as the bridge to Pap.

Josh Bard was also signed by the Sox in a move that will get much less ink. Bard will likely serve as the back up (again), but his ultimate amount of playing time will depend on who the Sox have as a starting catcher on opening day. Bard hit .202 in 57 games for the San Diego Padres last season. In 2006, Bard served as a backup catcher for the Sox before being shipped to San Diego in favor of bringing back Doug "Dougie's going deep" Mirabelli.

Saturday, December 27

New York: A nous deux, maintenant

A week later, ITM is in full coping mode after the Teixeira debacle, but I'm going to take a little more time. New York and I have a very visceral relationship---I stare at its damn skyline for about 90% of my waking hours, and at the moment it feels like the Chrysler Building is a giant middle finger aimed right at me. I'm taking this personally. But lest you think this is purely a venting post, think again.

Much has been said of late about the Yankees bottomless purse strings. But every time another sports reporter parrots that line I wonder what numbers he's seen, what documents he has.

NYC had a lot of people riding in Bentleys on their way to bottle service the last couple years, but I don't assume they're all swimming in Scrooge MacDuck gold vaults. If we've learned anything from the current economic mess, it's that certain people have been living beyond their means, assuming the money would never stop coming in. But it did.

Do the Yankees have limitless funds? Are they completely untouched by the recession? Possibly. But ITM is going to find out. And that goes for the Red Sox, too.

Over the remainder of the offseason, ITM will be taking a detailed look at the finances of the Yankees and Red Sox. And we need your help. Organizations like these can be byzantine, and it takes more than one pair of eyes to figure them out sometimes. Any public documents you know about, send 'em over. We'll review them and let you know what we find. Check back in for regular updates. If there's a baseball bubble, it's better that we find out now.

Wednesday, December 24

The Day After...

Well Mark Teixeira is going to be playing first base for the New York Yankees in 2009, that much has sunk in within the last 24 hours. No matter how you are reacting to this, the Sox got burned on this one. Make no mistake about it that Teixeira was the Sox top off season priority, so to lose out on him certainly stings.

Tex going to the Yanks sucks for two major reasons; first the Sox have to see him 19 times during the regular season when the play the Yankees. Secondly the Red Sox line up remains a bit of question mark. If Lowell and Ortiz both come back healthy the Sox will be in great shape, however if not the hole left by Manny Ramirez will be talked about, especially after failing to sign Teixeira.

To complicate things in Red Sox Nation Kevin Youkilis' agent said a long term deal will not be reached between his client and the Sox this off season. Youk can either go to salary arbitration or sign another 1 year contract, I'd guess he'd make about $11 million next year either way.

In my opinion this isn't as big of a deal as others are making it out to be. The Sox are probably offering a contract similar to Pedroia, where the last years are back loaded with money. Youk is seeing dollar signs in his head as Teixeira just signed for $180 million; why would he sign a home town discount and why would the Sox offer him a truck load of money when they still control his future for another two years.

Secondly, I've heard some people say Youk is worth Mark Teixeira type money. I have to disagree with that at his point in both players careers. Youk has 3 full seasons under his belt and in that time is averaging 19 home runs, 90 rbi, and a .292 average. Tex is averaging 36 home runs, 121 rbi and a .290 batting average in his 6 year career.

I'd also like to point out Tex's on base percentage has been .400 the last two season, he gets on base 40% of the time. Hopefully Youk can continue to improve and put up numbers in the 4 hole, however 2008 was his first complete season statically speaking.

Now that the ink has dried on Tex's contract it's time to move on as Sox fans. The 2009 team is definitely going to compete with starting pitching and reigning MVP Dustin Pedroia. As far as who is the division favorite now it's hard to say; the Yanks are certainly better after spending $424 million and the Rays are bringing just about everyone back.

The Sox still have a few moves to make in regard to a 4th outfielder and another starting pitcher. Theo and the Brass also need to address the catching situation. Until then 2009 is shaping up to be another highly competitive year of baseball, which is what we all really want anyway, whether we realize it or not.

Happy Holidays to everyone and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 23

Yanks Stun the Sox, Sign Teixiera

I can't wait until Mark Teixiera and his new team, the New York Yankees come to Fenway Park. I will boo until I need surgery on my throat in order to regain my voice. The Yankees, who stayed on the sideline for most of the negotiations, have swooped in at the last minute and persuaded Teix, with what else - millions, to spend the next 8 years in pinstripes. The deal, as reported by ESPN's Buster Olney, is for 8 years at 180 million dollars.....10 million more than what the Red Sox reportedly had on the table. There is also suspected to be a no trade clause included. Perhaps Teixiera decided that with their recent moves, the Yankees are the better team to play for if he wants to win, perhaps he is all about the money ... or REALLY NEEDED that 1.25 million per year....perhaps the Sox will be better off without him? (the last two I seriously doubt)

It has been reported that Scott Boras and the Yanks had a quiet agreement in mind all the time, that being; once all final offers were in, call the Yanks and they would offer more. It's that easy. It is possible that the Red Sox really thought they had Teixiera in the bag this afternoon and were shocked by the sudden turn of events. Either way, Theo will take some criticism for this. Losing Teixiera to the Nationals for more money is one thing, but to the Yanks, oh boy, we're lucky nothing is on fire yet.

Earlier today most of the media seemed convinced the Sox would land the free agent slugger and he wouldn't go to his hometown area to play for the Nationals. Now, everyone is trying to do the math to figure out how much the Yanks have spent this off season on three of the biggest players in the market. Just in case you don't have a calculator handy, 423.5 million....nearly half a billion dollars on three players....all of whom are signed until after they turn 35. What recession!? Good luck to people in New York when they have to pay over 2,500 for a seat at the new Yankee stadium (seriously, no joke there, it has been confirmed, some seats will cost over 2,500 per game).

I'm going to refrain from swearing repeatedly like most other blogs, or threatening to fight anyone who even looks like a Yankee fan tonight when I walk down Beacon street......instead I'm going to take some time for this to sink in and analyze further at a later date.

For now Red Sox Nation, here are a few things that are for certain:

-The Yankees are a much better team at this point than last year.

-Your starting first and third basemen will be Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell....provided Lowell comes back at 100%, that is nothing to sneeze at.

-The Yankees have the 4 highest paid players in baseball on their roster and could still sign Manny Ramirez. If they can't win it all in 2009, they should be banned from baseball forever.

-Scott Boras will never show his face in Boston, because he's actually a smart guy for a complete super chooch.

-The Yankees will pay their top 4 players more next year than about 10 other MLB team's entire payrolls (Do you think the Pirates agree that the Yanks are bad for baseball right now?)

More reactions to come....once I settle down.....I can hear my brothers swearing even though they're 50 miles south of me.

Decision Time...

The Washington Post's website is reporting that the long and drawn out Mark Teixeira negotiations will end with a decision today. The report has everyone on edge and most of us refreshing the major sports websites on a 15 second basis for updates....so much for getting much done this afternoon. The report comes on the heels of news that the Nationals had upped their offer for the free agent first basemen. Does this announcement of a decision mean Teix. has taken the new deal? ...not so fast....

Multiple sources give the edge to Red Sox as Teixeira highlighted that more than anything, he wanted to play for a team committed to winning. Here is an excerpt from the report:

"While the source declined to discuss specifics, there are strong indications that the Red Sox will announce that they have landed the highly-coveted slugger, who has been courted this off season by several major league clubs, including the Angels, Orioles and Nationals. "

"The Red Sox have been considered one of the lead contenders in the Teixeira sweepstakes, but it was unclear whether the team would be able to meet the asking price from agent Scott Boras, who had hoped to land a contract for as much as $200 million over ten years. Last week, Red Sox owner John Henry told reporters that the team was no longer pursuing the player, but the statement was widely seen as a negotiating maneuver."

It appears the Sox, like many of us thought, were never out of contention to land the coveted free agent, only holding their ground against a diggle of an agent.

I have a small case of the shakes and will likely be drinking coffee while waiting for news to break.....a little nervous for the announcement....stay tuned.

Nats Increase Offer for Teixeira

According to news coming out of the Mid Atlantic....the Nats have increased their proposal offer to MarkTeixeira, which is now reportedly an eight-year deal worth $178-184m. Word is also swirling that Washington is willing to go nine years and there's even been talk of a 10-year deal.

If we can take this as truth, it could push the Red Sox right back into the negotiations, or eliminate them completely. It is my opinion that if the Nats increase the years of the offer to nine or ten, the Red Sox selling point of playing on a winning team in Boston is overruled by an extended offer with more guaranteed money. The Sox have clearly stated they are not willing to go over eight years, which is already a significantly longer time frame than Boston prefers to lock players up for (pitchers no more than 5). 200+ million for nine or ten years is a lot of money and liability to lock up on a player who will be turning 29 by the time next season opens. If he was 25, that would be a different story. If the Nats do indeed offer him ten years at 22 or 23 million per, I don't fault the Sox for walking away from the table.

SI.com's Jon Heyman wrote last night that "things appear to be heating up in the Mark Teixeira talks, and baseball people believe now that Teixeira will have a new team before Christmas." The window is closing, and much like my Christmas shopping, it doesn't appear all that close to being done.

ITM Note:

According to Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees have no offers on the table to either Teixeira or Manny "i'm a five tool player" Ramirez. He did not rule out making an offer to either player but said, "There've been no offers made [since last week's news conference]." Brian Cashman has refused to comment on whether the Yankees plan on extending an offer to Teixeira or Ramirez or both.

Sunday, December 21

Tim Brown: Angels withdraw offer to Teixeira

According to Yahoo! Sport's Tim Brown, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have withdrawn their offer to free agent Mark Texieira. It was believed that the Halos were the next team in line to land the 28 year old first baseman once the Red Sox publicly walked away from the table late Friday night.

According to multiple sources, the Angels had an offer of around 160 million dollars for Teixeira's services over the next 8 years. Now it appears that the offer is no longer there....a source told Yahoo! Sports this afternoon that the Halos would not re-enter the bidding for Teixeira, whom they acquired from the Atlanta Braves at the trading deadline.

What happens now? Good question. Many sources are reporting that the Sox have not rescinded their offer completely, only stating that they are not willing to be pushed any further. Their offer is believed to be in the area of 170-180 million dollars over 8 years, Scot Boras has made it clear that as of right now, Teixeira is looking for 195 to 200 million (it must be nice to be fussing over 10-15 million in this economy).

ITM has continued to state that we expect Boston to still be an active part of the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes. Perhaps the Angel's actions this evening will drive Boras shamefully back into Boston's hands.....but something tells me he will give Brian Cashman a call first.....stay tuned.

Friday, December 19

Calling Boras' Bluff?

Around 11pm last night John Henry, Principle Owner of the Boston Red Sox, sent this email to the press, "After hearing about his other offers, however, it seems clear that we are not going to be a factor."

Oh really?

My gut reaction was "oh crap the Yankees just dropped $200 million on Boras and Tex". However after reading John Henry's quote again, talking about it with friends, and reading some of the sports columns this morning I don't think that all.

Sounds more like the Red Sox are still negotiating, albeit through the press. All indications are that the Sox have the best offer out there for Teixeria, and he hasn't signed anywhere else since last night. These negotiations have turned into classic Scott Boras, the mystery team involved to drive up the price. Boras tried using this against the Sox when they were negotiating with Varitek 4 years ago.

The Sox were smart to walk away last night. I'm sure they have a dollar amount they don't want to go above, so when Boras says I have another offer out there, Sox Brass said "ok prove it." John Henry's quote doesn't say that the Red Sox are ending negotiations or are withdrawing their deal; it's calling Boras' bluff.

We'll see where negotiations go from here with the Sox and Boras, certainly they've been down this road before. At the end of the day Boras wants to milk every dollar he can and the Sox won't pay a cent more then they feel they should. Stay tuned sports fan!

Thursday, December 18

John Henry: "Sox not going to be a factor in landing Tex"

Just when all of Red Sox Nation was ready to celebrate the signing of the biggest free agent on the market, there may be a twist. A major one. Breaking news out of the Texas meetings has John Henry texting media members saying (Henry's words) "We met with Mr. Teixeira and were very much impressed with him. After hearing about his other offers, however, it seems clear that we are not going to be a factor."

(my words)....WHAT!?!?

Most media outlets already have the "Sox finally sign Teixeira for 184 Million" articles typed up.....looks like that was a waste of time.

It's unclear as of right now what the real story is, but as we go to bed expecting a foot of snow tomorrow, as of right now, it looks to be very unlikely the Sox will land Tex.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this could be a result of Boras pushing the envelope too far and expecting too much from Sox management during their meetings in Texas tonight. This could be either the Red Sox saying enough is enough and the bridge has been burned, or a ploy by the Sox to use the media to let Boras know they're not moving on their offer.

I sure hope the two sides can somehow get this resolved. ITM will be covering any additional news as it breaks.

Teixeira Deal on the Horizon...

Mike Lynch of Channel 5 News in Boston (WCVB) is reporting that top Red Sox brass, John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein, are in Texas tonight meeting with Scott Boras to finalize a deal to bring Mark Teixeira to the Bo-Sox.

Lynch sites unnamed sources, always the best kind, that the Sox have offered an 8 year $184 million contract, $23 million a year. Certainly good work if you can find it. If the two sides agree to terms look for a deal to be announced tonight or possibly tomorrow morning.

ITM will bring you updates as they become available. Bring it home Theo!

Wednesday, December 17

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Mark Teixeira is on record as saying he would like to have a new team and contract before Christmas, and many news outlets are reporting he's close to making a decision about where he'll play in 2009. That said, every Red Sox fan should be wishing for Mark Teixeira this Christmas.

Boston is definitely a passionate city when it comes to sports, however that passion rarely translates into intelligence. I've read and heard some incredibly stupid comments regarding the potential signing of Mark Teixeira, perhaps some people playing devils advocate, and for the devil's sake, I hope they are.

With that said lets debunk some of the reasons fans don't want to sign Teixeira:

"If we sign Teixeira we would have to trade Lowell, I like Lowell ." I also like Mike Lowell and he's still a good player. However Lowell is going to be 36 and his best days are behind him, not to mention he's coming off hip surgery. Bottom line here is the Sox sign Teixeira, put him at first, and move Youk to third, overall you're a better and younger ball club.

"It will cost too much to sign Teixeira!" This is my favorite one. Of course contracts in baseball are ridiculous, but that's not going to change if the Red Sox make a stand with Teixeira. If the Sox don't offer him 8 years $160 million there are at least 4 other teams that will. Lets not think that beer prices are going to decrease if we cut payroll, if that was true I might be on the other side of this, however it's not so neither am I. Besides, they print their own money down on Yawkee Way.

"I'm not convinced he's worth the money." If you think this you are stupid and should never watch baseball again. Ok that was harsh, I apologize. In the real world no one is worth $25 million/year, however in the world of baseball some people are. Last year Tex hit .308 with 33 home runs and 121 RBI. By the way he's a switch hitter, gold glove first baseman, and he walked 97 times while only striking out 93 times! Lastly I'll point out his on-base percentage was .410 (thats right he gets on base 41% of the time) and he played half of last year on the Atlanta Braves, not one of their best years. A full season in Boston and I can see his numbers going up, why wouldn't you want this guy?

One of the reasons, other then injuries, that the Sox lost to the Rays in the ALCS was their lineup went to the plate without their bats, figuratively speaking. With the exception of the game 5 comeback in Fenway the Sox never found their groove last October. Pedroia and Youk had good Octobers, that's about it. No one knows for sure what Oritz is going to do this year, but I think his 50 home run years are behind him, point is the Sox could use some pop in their lineup.

Of course there are some good reasons not to sign Teixeira, the Sox might not want to commit to a 10 year deal, thats reasonable. However, the goal is to win a World Series, and not signing Mark Teixeira if the Sox have the opportunity is just stupid. As always, comments are welcome whether you agree or disagree or are somewhere inbetween.

ITM News and Notes:

The Yankees are reportedly pushing hard for Manny Ramirez, could be looking at a 3 year $25 million per year deal. The Yanks need someone to hit behind Arod if they don't get Teixeira.

Buster Olney of ESPN reported that Scotty Boras is trying to convince the Sox to sign Varitek and Mark Teixeira as a package deal. Interesting move by Boras, as the market for Varitek hasn't really developed, perhaps this pushes the Sox to offer Tek a contract if they want Tex bad enough.

One of the smartest moves Theo Epstien ever made was offering Jason Varitek arbitration. Tek of course declined as we all know, so if another team signs him the Sox would get a sandwich pick between the first and second round of the 2009 draft.

Monday, December 15

Keeping track of the Rays...

With most of the baseball media covering the Red Sox and Yankees within the AL East, ITM figured it was a good time to take a quick look at what the defending AL-Champion Rays have been up to.

As a result of their low payroll and young nucleus of players, the Rays have had a relatively quiet off season.....and this is expected to continue. There are however, a few small moves that could make a difference come April of 2009.

-First and foremost, the 2009 Rays will look a lot like the 2008 Rays, the only free agents on the team are the bulldozer Eric Hinske and Rocco Baledelli (who may get hurt just by reading this article). There have been rumors that the Rhode Island native Baldelli could be coming to Boston to fill the role of a 4th outfielder, but that rumor has lost its momentum over the last few weeks. I can't say I'm too mad about that either....I know I would go out, buy a Baldelli jersey T-shirt and scream "ROCCOOOOO" at my tv for the first few weeks of the season, and then want to burn it after he somehow manages to pull his hamstring while playing volleyball in Cumberland, RI and miss the final 5 months of the season (see my JD Drew jersey T-shirt story).......Cliff Flyod and Trever Miller did not have their club options picked up by the team and are therefore also free agents.

-Perhaps the most important move for the Rays was trading Edwin Jackson to Detroit for Matt Joyce. Joyce is a young outfielder with some pop who could settle in nicely with a young team. It can be assumed that Jackson was moved in order to make room in the rotation for the 23 year old phenom David Price.

-Coco Crisp's buddy and life long friend Jonny Johnson Gomes (seriously, that's his full name, nice parents huh?) won't be back with the Rays. Tampa decided to not tender him an offer and make him a free agent. ITM is praying he lands with the Royals just to see what happens.

-Without much money to spend on the free agent market, the Rays are also likely to spend much of the off season focusing on their farm teams. Ensuring there is a steady growth and pipeline of talent within the organization will be critical to long term success in Tampa.

All that said, with a few small tweaks and another year under their young belts, the Rays could possibly be an even better team in 2009 than in 2008.....but with the Yankees having more spending more money than God, and the possibility of the Sox bringing Mark Teixeira to Boston, they might have to be.

Friday, December 12

Yanks in on the Teixeira sweepstakes as well?

Don't look now, but SI.com is reporting that the Yankees are currently printing more money in order to make a play on Mark Teixeira. It had been assumed by most that the Yankees were not in consideration for the best player still on the market given their focus on (and overpayment for) starting pitching. The Yanks have locked up CC Sabathia for 161 million and have offered Derek Lowe and Jason Burnett well over 15 million per year in long term deals as well. You would think with that kind of reckless spending the Yankees couldn't possibly afford Teixeira, much less outbid the Red Sox, Angels and others who are currently pursuing his services.....right?

With Hank in the big chair, never say never. According the the SI.com report, the Yankees "aren't about to concede Teixeira to the rival Red Sox or anyone else," As of now, there has been no word of a formal offer from the Yankees, but we all know how quickly things can change. It is also unclear if the Yankees are sincerely interested in landing the slugger, or if they are simply using the media and Scott Boras to drastically drive up Teixeira's price. Prior to this report, there had already been accusations that Scott Boras was using the media to exaggerate and inflate the "offers" on Teixeira....and now this.

A few months back Tex told the media that he would like to know where he'll be hitting taters next season by Christmas, so a decision over the next few weeks is likely. He has said he prefers the East Coast (he's a Maryland native), but more importantly, he wants to play for a team and ownership committed to winning. Well Boston is on the east coast, the last time I checked we've taken home two world series rings since 04' and this city is winning in every other sport imaginable (I even heard the Boston table tennis team is tops in the nation).....come to Titletown Tex....do it.

Wednesday, December 10

Sox make Tek an offer

I'm in the camp of don't trust Scott Boras as far as you can throw him, but if you believe him, the Sox have made an offer to their catcher and captain Jason Varitek. No real details are known at this point, but judging by Scott's choice of words, the Sox have made a significant offer.

“Certainly, Boston let us know they want him back,” said Boras.

I can't say this is all that surprising given that the Sox are running low on behind the plate options next year. In addition, the number of teams with sincere interest in Tek is dwindling. We all know what assuming does, but I'll go ahead and assume the Sox offered Tek a two year deal at an overpriced market rate.

....I'm still holding out hope that we can pull in a guy like Salty, or another young catcher Tek could mentor for a season or two, setting the Sox up for the future. Wishful thinking I assume.

Other ITM Sox Updates:

-I'll go ahead and assume another thing, Julio Lugo's name hasn't been mentioned by a team outside of the Red Sox this week.

- Word on the street in Vegas is that the Red Sox have contacted Youk and his agent in regards to a long term deal. Get out your check books.

- Another rumor heard around the strip is that Jason Bay is also looking to extend his stay in Boston beyond next year.....calling his move to Boston "invigorating".

Sabathia to Wear Pin Stripes

Multiple sources are saying that the Yankees and CC Sabathia (photo courtesy of the AP) have agreed on a 7 year $161 deal, the richest contract ever for a pitcher at $23 million/year. This deal doesn't surprise me, I didn't think any other team would shell out that kind of money for Sabathia. A 7 year deal for a pitcher who's thrown 220+ innings the last 3 years, who's not the most slender guy in town seems like reckless spending.

I think there's a reason why the Red Sox have won 2 World Series titles in the last 5 years and the Yankees are in a drought, anyone born after October 2000 has never seen the Yanks win a World Series, how long must those kids wait! The Sox are much more frugal with their contracts, and would never sign a pitcher to a 7 year deal. The Sox are said to have had no real interest in signing Sabathia, probably for the reasons outlined above.

On the flip side look at the Yankees, they just offered about $60 million more then anyone else was offering to Sabathia. The Brew Crew offered 5 years $100, and I bet on some level they are happy the aren't going to be paying that. The Giants are handcuffed with Barry Zito's deal, the Dodgers would probably prefer to have Manny in their line up and need money to sign him; same can be said for the Angels and Texeria. Make no mistake about it, the current economic recession is going to affect the way every team negotiates with free agents; except the Yankees.

In 2012 we'll look back and see how Sabathia is holding up and how wise of an investment New York made. Will they have won a World Series, maybe, maybe not. If Sabathia hits the downside of his career in 2011 or 2012 the Yankees will be looking at another $70 to 90 million they have to pay to Sabathia, just the latest in a string on bad contracts.

Although as I wrote that last paragraph I heard that the Sabathia might have an opt out clause after 3 years. Not sure if it's only Sabathia that has the right to opt out of his contract, we'll have to wait and see what the final deal looks like.

Other Hot Stove News:

The Tigers traded for Rangers catcher Gerald Larid, and the Orioles traded Ramon Hernadez to the Reds for second baseman Ryan Freel and some cash. Scratch those two teams off the "need catching" list. It looks more and more like Tek could end up back with the Sox, although no real discussions have taken place about a contract.

The Mets signed closer Francisco Rodriguez, Krod, to a 3 year $37 million deal. Going back to a past post I believe I made this my Tim Murphy Stone Cold Locke Lead Pipe Keystone Light A1 prediction, mark it zero, next frame prediction. I have a gift my friends.

No real movement on Mark Texeria. The Red Sox, Angels, and Nationals (really?) are said to be the top 3 teams in the hunt. Don't count out the Yankees either, I'm sure they don't have a problem getting in a bidding war for Tex's services.

Tuesday, December 9

Sox Sportin' New Uniforms in 2009?

The Red Sox reportedly plan to unveil a new logo and an alternate uniform on Thursday. The Pride of Hyde Park Manny Delcarmen, potential Hall of Famer Jim Rice, and tv color analyst and President of Red Sox Nation Jerry Remy will be in the house for the announcement.

My immediate reaction is light something on fire, although I've seen no definite logo changes I've heard and read ownership is thinking of scrapping the traditional Boston B with the twin red socks (see picture). I myself would choose to remove the New Era stickers before wearing a new hat, however to each his own. Another popular rumor is that the alternative uniform is changing from the red jersey to something new, hopefully it's not pink.
This appears to be nothing more then ownership attempting to make a few more bucks, and it will probably work, cha-ching. If they are looking at adding a revenue stream because they are about to sign a big free agent...say Mark Teixiera, that will soften the blow, however overall I'm not thrilled with the idea of a new logo.

This is undoubtedly going to piss off many in Red Sox Nation, myself included. I am reminded of improvements Ownership has made to Fenway Park, and the surrounding area which have led to more money and 2 World Series titles, although I'm not ready to jump on board with a logo change.

ITM will cover the unveiling on Thursday.

Monday, December 8

All is quiet in Vegas

...never thought I'd ever use that phrase, but apparently, it is true. The first full day of the 2008 winter meetings is coming to a close and especially from a Red Sox standpoint, it has been quite uneventful.

Theo made a brief appearance and attempted to calm the story-starved Boston media by saying "prepare to be underwhelmed"....I can hear Mazz following up with a girlie-voiced question from here in Boston. Theo followed with "We're not really optimistic about our chances of getting anything done while we're here.l'' Sure it is Theo's job to keep any and all inside information just that...inside information, but it sure seems like the only deals coming out of these winter meetings may be small as groundwork for the larger deals is developed. It could all change quickly however...

ITM Winter Meetings update:

-Despite conflicting reports, it is understood that the Sox met with C.C. Sabthia today. This appears to be nothing but an opportunity for Boston to increase the price and pressure for the pudgy (can pudgy be giving this guy the benefit or what?). To be honest, I don't want Boston to pursue C.C.....at that price, with that body, and with the way he has been handle over the past two years (massive innings)...I'll stick with what we have and pursue a hitter or two.

-The Yankees also met with CC this morning, and reports coming out of the meeting indicate it went "great". Go for it NY, blow your load on this guy and then boo him when he shoulder falls off in June.

-Jake Peavey wants nothing to do with the AL...and why would he? If you were the best quarterback at a division 2 school, would you really want to come to division 1 and get hit?

-Julio Lugo couldn't get an offer from the Lowell spinners....the Sox are trying to move him, but there is simply no market. The only team the Sox were hoping to push him on, the Tigers, appear close to landing Adam Everret.

-Word on the street is Derek Lowe is drunk and walking around the Bellagio in a I heart Boston t-shirt.

More to come if/when it develops from Sin City.....

Sunday, December 7

Source: Tek declines salary arbitration

According to a source close to Sox catcher Jason Varitek, Boston's captain will decline salary arbitration from the Red Sox tonight before the midnight deadline. I can't say I'm all that surprised, especially with super chooch Scott Boras as Tek's agent, but it may be a tough pill to swallow to see Tek if he ends up in another uniform next year.

By declining salary arbitration, Tek can openly enter the free agent market and take offers from other teams. While the demand for an aging catcher that hit .220 last year seems like it should be low, there are plenty of national league teams who wouldn't mind the low offensive output as Tek would bring veteran leadership so some of the young pitching staffs in the NL. Think about some of the terrible NL catchers out there, and then remember that 75% of Tek's value comes from his defense, leadership and uncanny game prep.

Tek can (and most likely will) continue to negotiate with the Red Sox going forward, but the only difference is now the Sox are no longer dealing with Tek exclusively.

Boras is convinced he can get a longer term deal for big money in return for Tek's services.....the winter meetings start in just a few hours...time will tell.

Friday, December 5

An off-season factor….Mike Lowell is Ahead of Schedule:

This September all of us in Red Sox Nation could feel Mike Lowell’s pain. Lowell, who was suffering from a torn labrum in his hip, played through agonizing pain and garnered even more respect points from all of us. He gave it all he could, and when we watched him barrel down the third base line to field a bunt or squibber, we cringed and then limped a little as we walked over to the fridge to get another beer.

Shortly after being left off the ALCS roster, Mike Lowell had surgery to repair his torn labrum and since then has been relatively out of the media circus that is Boston baseball. Now the third basemen and 2007 World Series MVP is sneaking back into the spotlight. Word from the Red Sox organization is that they are very happy with Lowell’s rehabilitation progress and he is well ahead of schedule. The Red Sox are now very optimistic Lowell will be 100 percent by early March.

As the likelihood of a healthy Mike Lowell for the 2009 season continues to increase, so do the implications it has on the Mark Teixiera sweepstakes for the Red Sox. Depending on what source you trust, the Sox are either a leader in chase to land the best player on the market, or they are only testing the waters by lightly inquiring about the 28 year old first basemen (ITM note: with Manny on the market I was forced to call Tex the best player available and not the best hitter...that doesn't mean that Manny isn't a complete toolbag).

The Sox face a few questions in their pursuit of Teixiera. Do they push hard, spend the extra money (including offering 7 plus years) and move Youk from first to third if can they land him? At the same time, the trade value of a rehabilitating Mike Lowell will only reach fair market levels after it has been proven that he is healthy and shows no ill effects of the off-season surgery. Some argue for keeping Lowell and platooning the three players, but they have too much individual talent for that to be truly possible while keeping everyone happy.

My personal opinion? No team will get serious about the soon to be 35 year old Lowell until the end of spring training at the earliest. That said, you have to do everything you can to make your team better, especially in the AL East. It is quite difficult to separate business and emotion when a player has given so much to a team, but Theo needs to strike the correct balance between relationship management and fielding the best team possible on opening day 2009. Tex may be an expensive/risky get (especially given Lowell's situation), but he may also be the last piece to championship puzzle.

Go Sox.

Thursday, December 4

Tazawa Done Deal

The Red Sox officially announced the signing of 22 year old Japanese right hander Junichi Tazawa to a 3 year deal with a $1.8 million signing bonus.
Tazawa pitched in a Japanese amateur league for the last 4 years before signing with the Red Sox; he asked that Japanese teams not draft him so he could pursue a career in Major League Baseball. This past season in Japan, Tazwa was 13-1 with 5 saves sporting an era of .80 appearing in 21 games.
The word on the street is that Tazawa will start the year in the minor leagues, possibly in Double A affiliate Portland. He's been described as a first round draft pick, so I don't think we should expect him up with the big club anytime soon.

Multiple teams presented offers to the young Japanese pitcher, and the Rangers reportedly offered him more money, however Tazawa was only interested in pitching for the Red Sox. Growing up in Japan it comes as no surprise that he idolizes Daisuke Matsuzaka and would like to pitch with him some day.

Going Further Inside the Monster:

The winter baseball meetings start Monday December 8th; Theo and company are expected to meet with Scott Boras regarding the stable of clients he represents. General Managers and other executives from all 30 major league teams will be in Las Vegas to talk trades and free agents.

The Red Sox offered Jason Varitek arbitration which he is expected to decline in search of a long term deal. If Tek signs with another team the Sox would get a first round pick and sandwich pick between the 1st and 2nd round for losing a grade A free agent.

Tek hit .223 last year and he's a grade A free agent...try and wrap your head around that one.

In case you missed it, ticket prices at Fenway Park for the 2009 will not increase, staying at 2008 prices. Now if they could only do something about the beer prices...

Wednesday, December 3

Sox Lock Up Pedroia

The Red Sox and second baseman Dustin Pedroia have agreed on a 6 year $40.5 million dollar contract extension, an official announcement will come at 3pm today.

The deal is structured so Pedroia's base salary increases every year:

2009 $1.5 million
2010 $3.5 million
2011 $5.5 million
2012 $8 million
2013 $10 million
2014 $10 million

The Sox also hold a club option for 2015 at $11 million dollars. Pedroia would not have been able to file for free agency until the end of the 2012 season, so the Sox keep Pedroia happy with a long term deal that is backloaded with a modest $10 million for two years with the club option in 2015. Pedroia is the reigning American League MVP and Gold Glove winner at second base and many thought that a long term deal would follow. The option year will increase to $13 million if Pedroia wins another MVP.

Before the ink is even dry on Pedroia's contract the questions about Youkilis and Papelbon's contracts are going to asked, and asked loudly. Last spring training Papelbon made a minor grievance about his pay level, and certainly he is one of the top closers in the game. Youkilis is also under paid for his value, third in the AL MVP voting this year.

It will be interesting to see how the Sox approach contact negotiations with Youkilis and Paplebon, both players are arbitration eligible but can not file for free agency. Typically the Sox have been reluctant to give out long term deals to young players this still control without the threat of losing them to free agency.
Custom Search
Free Blog CounterEnglish German Translation