Has Jose Iglesias Done Enough to Be the Red Sox SS?

During pregame drills March 16, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine thought shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias was still favoring his sore groin. As a result, Iglesias was scratched from the lineup.

Lately, though, Iglesias has caught Valentine’s eye for other reasons.

Entering spring training, Valentine had heard all about Iglesias’ shortcomings as a hitter. The 22-year-old batted .235 with only 10 extra-base hits in 357 at-bats at Class AAA Pawtucket last season, and he was so impressionable that he would watch a game on television and adopt Alex Rodriguez’ batting stance.

But Iglesias has worked with hitting coach Dave Magadan and minor-league coordinator Victor Rodriguez to develop better mechanics and his own identity at the plate.

“What I heard wasn’t good, and what I saw (on video) wasn’t good, and what I was hoping for him to do was make necessary adjustments, and I think he’s made them,” Valentine said. “His approach is now balanced. It’s correct mechanically. The only thing lacking now is proper timing. Once he really gets accustomed to his swing and figures out when to start it, I think he has a chance at being an offensive player. This is a real swing he has now.”

But is it enough to prove he should be the Red Sox’ shortstop?

Jason Varitek to Retire Thursday After 15 Season with the Sox

The Red Sox will be looking for a new captain.

Catcher Jason Varitek has decided to retire after 15 seasons with the Red Sox, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Monday night. The person requested anonymity because Varitek had not made an announcement.

The Boston Globe first reported Varitek’s decision.

Varitek is expected to make it official Thursday at Boston’s spring training camp in Fort Myers, Fla.

A first round draft pick in 1994, Varitek came to Boston with Derek Lowe in a trade from Seattle for Heathcliff Slocumb in 1997 and spent his entire big league career with the Red Sox. He caught four no-hitters, made three All-Star teams won two World Series titles, all the while endearing himself to the team’s demanding fan base with his unyielding work ethic and a refusal to back down.

Varitek surpassed Carlton Fisk for most games caught in a Red Sox uniform back in 2006 and finished with 1,488 games behind the plate. He has a career average of .256 with 193 home runs and 757 RBIs. His best statistical season came in 2003, when he hit .273 with 25 homers and 85 RBIs, giving the Red Sox the luxury of having some offensive punch from the catcher position.

But it was always about more than numbers with Varitek.

His icy stare, rugged beard and crew cut hairstyle was the perfect look for a rag-tag group that helped end decades of inferiority to the hated Yankees with a magical run to the World Series title in 2004. He caught no-hitters from Hideo Nomo in 2001, Derek Lowe in 2002, Clay Buchholz in 2007 and Jon Lester in 2008.

Sox get their Closer in Andrew Bailey

According to a tweet from Buster Olney of ESPN.com the Boston Red Sox have acquired Oakland Athletics closer Andrew Bailey. According to Olney, the Red Sox will send Josh Reddick to Oakland as part of the deal. The 24-year-old outfielder hit .280/.327/.457 with seven home runs and 28 RBI in 87 games for Boston last year.
To complete the deal, the Sox also sent minor league prospects Miles Head ( Infielder) and minor league pitcher Raul Alcantara.

Head, a first baseman, batted .299 with 22 home runs and 82 RBIs in 129 games with the Red Sox two Single-A affiliates, at Greenville and Salem.

The right-handed Alcantara, 19, combined for a 1-4 record and a 2.20 ERA in 13 starts with Single-A Lowell and the Red Sox affiliate in the Gulf Coast League. He struck out 50 and walked just 12 while holding opponents to a .208 batting average.

Bailey, 27, has served as the Athletics closer over the past three seasons. In 2011 he posted a 3.24 ERA with 24 saves in 42 appearances. He boasts a career ERA of 2.07.

The Red Sox have been looking to fill a gap in their bullpen after losing longtime closer Jonathan Papelbon to the Philadelphia Phillies in free agency this winter. Earlier this offseason they also acquired Houston Astros closer Mark Melancon for infielder Jed Lowrie. Melancon recorded 20 saves in 2011 while posting a 2.78 ERA.

He’s young and hasn’t yet reached his potential. Look for the Sox to be in good hands closing games.
Bailey, a two-time All-Star, was the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2009. That year, he finished the season with no less than 26 saves and an outstanding 1.84 ERA over the course of a little more than 83 innings. The next year, Bailey would prove that his rookie season was no fluke, posting a 1.47 ERA by the end of 2010.

Bailey ran into some speed-bumps this past season, however, staying on the disabled list with a forearm strain until the end of May, and then getting hit in the head with a line drive during batting practice in September. To be clear, Bailey returned after a clean bill of health, and there’s no reason to expect that he won’t be healthy in 2012. Nevertheless, it’s worth pointing out that his ERA spiked to 3.24 last season.

Bailey — the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year who made the All-Star team that season and again in 2010 — has been the subject of trade talk this offseason.

Sox name MrClure as new Pitching coach

Former Royals pitching coach Bob McClure will assume the same position with the Boston Red Sox in 2012, according to multiple reports.

McClure, who spent the past six seasons as the Royals pitching coach, was let go on Sept. 29 and later replaced by Dave Eiland.

The Red Sox hired McClure as a special assignment scout and instructor in late November, and now McClure will assume a more important role under first-year manager Bobby Valentine.

Sox in on Oswalt ?

Roy Oswalt has the sound of sincerity when he says he would like to sign a one year contract to prove he’s worth a big free agent contract.

The question is, is Ben Cherington listening ?

With Bostonin need of starting help, but not wanting to commit big money to 2013 because of the luxury tax implications, there’s no better fit on the market than Oswalt.

The 34-year-old right-hander is exactly what the Red Sox need. He’s a proven veteranwith an extensive track record and a history of big-game experience.

If there’s a concern, it’s Oswalt’s back. Disc injuries limited him to 23 starts last season and briefly had him talking retirement. He averaged a career-worst 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings and is clearly a player on the decline.

Dawg says ” Oswalt is the ultimate #4. If he is healty, then this is a no brainer.”

Last season, Oswalt  struggled with his health and several injuries. But if healthy, he is a 200 + innings horse that can win 15-17 games in the American league East. A three-time All-Star has finished in the top six of the Cy Young voting six times in 11 seasons and boasts a lifetime record of 159-93 with a 3.69 Era.

The fact that he’s willing to play next season on a one-year contract before jumping back into free agency in 2013 could be construed as a “gift” for general manager Ben Cherington.

While a source yesterday said Oswalt’s not on the front burner, the fact is that the Sox have had interest in him before — nearly acquiring him at the 2006 trading deadline — and they’ve maintained an interest in him all winter.

Last October, the Sox met with his agent, Bob Garber, at the general managers meetings, and they’ve kept in periodic contact since.

At 6′ 0″ and 190 lbs. Oswalt has reached double digits in wins nine times and owns a lifetime strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.52. He won the NLCS MVP award in 2005 while leading the Astros to the World Series, and went 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA after joining the Phillies for the 2010 stretch run.

That’s why the one-year deal is so inviting to the Sox. Signing Oswalt long-term might be a mistake. But signing him for one year when he has every incentive in the world to dominate before re-entering free agency? It’s a no-brainer.

Sox name Royster as 3rd base coach

Former National leaguer Jerry Royster will be joining Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine’s staff as third-base coach, replacing Tim Bogar, who will move to bench coach, according to team sources.

Bogar, who was third-base coach under Terry Francona the past two seasons, becomes an obvious candidate to succeed Valentine in two years when his term with the Red Sox ends.

“One of my former pupils,” Valentine said of Bogar during an ESPN broadcast of a Red Sox game last season. “A very good baseball man and future manager at the big league level, no doubt.”

The Red Sox still need to name a pitching coach. One rumor flying around was that they were giving serious consideration to former big leaguer Neil Allen, who managed Tampa Bay’s Triple-A team last season. Red Sox officials later said that this was simply not the case.

Royster and Valentine never played together in the Dodgers’ system, except in spring training. Valentine made it to the big leagues with the Dodgers in 1972 but was traded to the California Angels a year later, when Royster made his big league debut with the Dodgers.

Royster, an infielder, played for five teams in 16 seasons, 15 of which were spent in the National League.

The Dawg looks at relief options.

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What relievers are still available, and how much would they cost ? These are two important questions that Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington needs to find the answer to sooner better then later if the team is going to seriously contend for a World Series title next season.

Today, the Bigg Dawg takes a look at some of the possible arms the Sox may be concidering.

Francisco Cordero-

The 36-year-old Francisco Cordero had an amazing year last season. In 68 games Cordero’s record was 5-3, and he recorded an excellent ERA of 2.45 and WHIP of 1.02. Regardless of where Cordero signs, expect that his contract will be in the ballpark of eight million per season. Cherington, who has been conservative ( maybe overly )  thus far. I don’t see this one happening, because the team would have to offer Cordero a contract worth at least eight million over two or more seasons. The suddenly frugal Sox would be well advised to open the purse strings in order to add this valuable arm to a bull pen in need.

Ryan Madson-

Ryan Madson, who is known for his splendid changeup, would also be a good fit for Boston. The 31-year-old pitcher had a great season last year: he posted a 4-2 record with a 2.37 ERA and managed to save 32 games. Though Madson will probably demand around 10 million per year over three or four seasons, he would instantly strengthen the Sox’s bullpen and most likely become the closer. Another not-so-likely scenario. Madson would probably excel in Boston. He is seasoned as a closer in Philadelphia so he is used to and has proven he can handle the pressure. Alas, unless he comes off his huge asking price, he likely will be ending games for someone else.

Kerry Wood-

Kerry Wood, who was once a dominant starting pitcher, has faced numerous physical injuries throughout  his career. Fortunately for the former Yankee, Wood’s 2011 season was relatively a success. In 55 games he parlayed a record was 3-5 and his ERA was a solid 3.35. Though Wood is always a risk because of his history with injuries, he could be a serviceable relief pitcher for the Red Sox. Over the last 2 years, he has been a very servicable and valuable commodity. Sox fans would love this guys grit and gut mentality.

Andrew Bailey-

Andrew Bailey, whats not to like about a 27 year old fireballer who stands 6’4″ and weighs 240 lbs. Throws in the upper 90′s with a plus curveball. Last season he was 24 for 26 in save opportunities, has a WHIP of   0.95 and a career ERA of 2.07.  Lifetime, he is 75 out of 84 in save opportunities and he has not reached his peak yet. He won’t come cheap, but is probably the best available closer on the market and might be the closest thing that Sox fans will get to forget about losing Jonathan Papalbon.

Koji Uehara -

Koji Uehara, a 36 year old reliever with a career ERA of 3.13 with a WHIP of 0.98. He has 188 k’s with just 26 BB in 174 lifetime innings. Last season, he sported an impressive ERA of 2.35 with an even better WHIP of 0.72. His contract is affordable at just over 4 million per season, and his age makes him a less expensive option then some of the aforementioned. He throws a nasty sinker/slider, changes speeds well keeping hitters off balance, and has tremendous control. He would be a terrific 7th -8th inning bridge to the set-up men and closer that the Sox dearly need.

Joel Hanrahan-

Joel Hanrahan, Pirates closer was 40 for 44 last season. He had an ERA of 1.83 with a WHIP of 1.05. 61 k’s and 16 BB in 68.2 innings. His 1.4 mil. salary would fit in nicely with the teams new philosophy of tight purse strings. He is another hurler who is just coming into his own as a dominant closer, and as such, would require the commitment of several young players to make any deal with the Pirates work. Unlikely, but worth pursuing for Ben Cherington.

Does the Bailey to Boston rumor have validity ?

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An old rumor that is starting to revive itself has the Red Sox looking to add a closer to the bullpen by acquiring young fireballer Andrew Bailey of the Oakland A’s in a deal that would cost Boston a couple of their top minor-league prospects.

This deal may be expensive, but if the Sox truly want to compete with the Yankees and Rays this may be a necessary evil.

Earlier this monrth, the Red Sox made a trade with the Astros Houston to obtain reliever Mark Melancon. He has closer experience, but may not be ready for the big stage as the Fenway closer. Bailey, however, is the real deal and would ideally fit the Boston need for a top closer while Melancon could become a setup man.

Bailey has 75 saves over the last three seasons and a career ERA of just 2.07.  He averages one
strikeout per inning, making him a prolific power pitcher needed to regain a spot in the post-season and contend for an MLB World Series title.

Look for both these teams to make a few more moves, but for different reasons, before the start of spring training as the Red Sox will look to add the players needed to contend and Oakland to rid themselves of players that could cost them big money in a year or two and rebuild with youth and low-cost veterans.

Currently, the Sox still find themselves in need of a closer, a left handed set-up man and bullpen depth. They also need a legitimate number 4 starter and a right handed bat in right field.

So far, new Sox GM Ben Cherington has been understandably cautious in making moves, but the closer we get to March, the harder it is getting to find the players they need as other more aggressive GM’s continue to improve their clubs.

Stay tuned as the Dawg monitors and reports developments as they occur.  – Out !