Friday, March 24, 2006

Sox claim Hee-Seop Choi 

Sean McAdam on WEEI is reporting that the Red Sox have claimed first baseman Hee-Seop Choi off of waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers. This adds to the growing suspicion that Mike Lowell may no longer be an everyday player. This move would allow the Sox to move Youkilis back to third, while plugging Choi at first.

More as this develops...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Papelbon to the bullpen 

Howard Ulman of the Associated Press reports that Terry Francona said Thursday the promising and versatile Papelbon will start the season as a reliever, and Foulke, who is still recovering from offseason knee surgery, will pitch in a minor league game Friday. He could work in his first major league game this spring on Saturday.

Not exactly surprising news. With David Wells rescinding his trade request, it was pretty much expected that Papelbon would be squeezed out of the rotation and into the bullpen.

Papelbon's usage will be very interesting to follow. Will he be the long-reliever/swingman or will he be used in high-leverage situations? Personally, I think Papelbon should be used as the relief ace, a la Scot Shields of Anaheim. Let him go out there, make 60 appearances, total 100 innings, and just slam the door shut. If someone in the rotation goes down, he can jump right in, and Timlin or whoever else is dominating in the pen can step into Papelbon's vacated spot.

In other news, Sean McAdam of the Providence Journal gives his take on how the Opening Day Roster will shake down. He expects Tony Graffanino to be traded, with the New York Mets being the most likely destination. He also mentions that the Florida Marlins and Chicago Cubs continue to be other potential landing spots.

He also expects Dustan Mohr to exercise
the "out" clause in his contract that allows him to elect free agency on March 30 if the Sox haven't purchased his contract. While the Phillies have shown interest, it's doubtful they'd give up anything of value for Mohr, knowing that he could soon be on the open market.

Beyond that, here's McAdam's projected Opening Day roster:

Curt Schilling
Tim Wakefield
Josh Beckett
Matt Clement

Keith Foulke
Jonathan Papelbon
David Riske
Rudy Seanez
Mike Timlin
Julian Tavarez
Lenny DiNardo (Will sacrifice his spot when Wells returns from the DL)

Manny Ramirez
Coco Crisp
Trot Nixon
Wily Mo Pena
Adam Stern (Must spend the first 17 days on the 25-man roster to fulfill Rule V obligations)

Jason Varitek
Josh Bard

Mike Lowell
Alex Gonzalez
Alex Cora
Mark Loretta
Kevin Youkilis
J.T. Snow
David Ortiz

McAdam expects utilityman Willie Harris, who can play both second base and center field, to start the season at Pawtucket and eventually replace Stern when the his 17-day-stint is complete.

The move will allow Stern to play regularly in Pawtucket, while allowing Harris to provide speed on the roster and give manager Terry Francona a late-inning pinch-running option in addition to providing a defensive replacement for Pena.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Juan Gone...to Oakland? 

El Nuevo Dia, the newspaper that broke the original Juan Gonzalez signing, is now reporting that Juan Gone is set to sign a minor league deal with the Oakland Athletics.

Gonzalez wasn't going to see the field in Boston following the Wily Mo Pena trade, so I can't blame him for changing his mind at the last minute. Personally, although the signing was essentially risk-free, I didn't really see the need for the signing. I kept having flashbacks of Juan Gone trying to field Pokey Reese's inside-the-park home run in 2004, and I cringed each and every time.

I can't see the situation being much better for him in Oakland, at least not until Frank Thomas gets injured. He'll likely start the season at Oakland's Triple-A Sacramento affiliate.

Update: Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Gate reports tha contrary to a report in a Puerto Rican newspaper, the A's have no interest in Juan Gonzalez, according to assistant general manager David Forst.

So as of now, Juan Gonzalez is merely "missing."

Monday, March 20, 2006

Wily ever improve? 

We've all seen the quotes from Theo in which he explains that Wily Mo Pena brings something for now and he brings a lot of potential for the future. As a 24-year-old, Theo believes he can get whole lot better. If Wily Mo can learn to control the strikezone, he could turn into an unbelievable talent.

His kryptonite is when he chases sliders from right-handed pitchers on the outside-half of the plate. Can Papa Jack teach him to lay off this pitch? If he can -- watch out. The strikeouts will decrease, and the walks will increase.

Below is a look at Wily Mo's stats from the Dominican Winter League.

The 1.8 K/BB ratio is farrrr superior to the 5.7 ratio he posted during the 2005 regular season. Put it this way, Wily Mo drew 15 walks in 112 at-bats in the DWL, while he drew 20 in 311 at-bats in 2005. Let's just hope he can continue to improve.

Sox trade Arroyo for Wily Mo 

The possible deal that was reported by Ken Rosenthal last night came to fruition less than 24 hours later. The Sox have traded Bronson Arroyo and cash to the Cincinnati Reds for Wily Mo Pena.

Although I wrote earlier in the offseason that I didn't not want to trade Arroyo and his discounted contract, this is a deal that I have no problem with. It's a positive trade for both clubs. The Reds receive an extremely cheap starter that should bolster their rather horrendous pitching staff, while the Sox receive an outfielder that absolutely bombs lefthanded pitchers, who will obviously be able to serve as a perfect platoon-mate with Trot Nixon. Also, should Trot Nixon leave following this season, Wily Mo will be able to take over in right field.

Wily Mo is under the Sox' control through the 2008 season. On WEEI, Theo Epstein explained how Pena has the potential to be a legitimate middle-of-the-order power hitter. The track record for players this young with this power is pretty good. Unfortunately for Wily Mo, he was signed to a major league contract at the age of 16, so he was rushed to the majors and hasn't been given the typical conditions for development that other prospects receive.

Look for Wily Mo to also get at-bats in CF, LF, DH, and possibly 1B.

While Sox fans are mostly in favor of this deal, Reds fans hate it. Here's some assorted quotes from the RedsZone.com message board:
Needless to say, the leader in the clubhouse is certainly the Red Sox.

As for the "gentleman's agreement" that stated Bronson wouldn't be traded, Theo claims there was no such thing. Theo explains that the topic came up, but that he and Jed Hoyer told Bronson that they cannot guarantee he’ll not be traded. At the time of the contract signing, there were no imminent trade talks, but obviously things cab change over time. In Theo's words, "there was no gentleman’s agreement. No handshake. Obviously he wanted to stay in Boston. It’s tough to do to someone who’s been a loyal soldier, enjoys being in Boston. But have to do what’s best for the organization."

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Red Sox sign Juan Gone; Looking at Wily Mo? 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is confirming the El Nuevo Dia that the Red Sox have signed Juan Gonzalez, 35, to a minor league contract.

Gonzalez had only one at-bat last season with the Indians due to a strained right hamstring, and appeared in only 33 games with the Royals because of injuries in 2004.

I'd have to assume that Gonzalez will either begin the season in Pawtucket or in extended spring training. Then once Adam Stern fills his Rule V responsibilities and is returned to Pawtucket, Gonzalez will come north to Boston.

For whatever reason, it doesn't appear that the front office has much faith in Dustan Mohr, especially in the long-term.

In Rosenthal's column, he also mentions that the Sox are talking to the Reds about a deal for Wily Mo Pena.

Cincinnati is in desperate need of starting pitching, and could be targeting Bronson Arroyo. One of their top scouts, Gene Bennett, watched Arroyo pitch against the Orioles today. It didn't hurt that Arroyo had his first good outing of the spring. Arroyo pitched 5 innings, surrendered 4 hits, and struck out 4, while walking none.

Rosenthal reports that the Red Sox are also shopping right-hander Matt Clement and left-hander David Wells. They reportedly offered Clement to the Phillies and several other clubs last week, and are discussing him in a possible deal for Pirates first baseman/outfielder Craig Wilson.

Pena would be a huge deviation from the typical Red Sox offensive mold. He owns a career OBP of .303, and has struck out 288 times, while only walking 54 times, in 898 career plate appearances.

It's worth noting that Pena had a .339 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) in 2006. Is this number sustainable? In the previous two seasons, Pena's BABIP was .302 and .290, just about average. Obviously, if you smoke pretty much everything you hit, your BABIP is going to be higher, but there's really no proof right now that he could sustain such a high BABIP.

One incredible stat, courtesy of Ron Shandler, is that 43% of Pena's ended in a strikeout or a home run. Talk about all or nothing.

We all know that Pena has ridiculous power. As Rosenthal notes, he averages a home run every 16.2 at-bats. According to ESPN's scouting report, "he has excellent range and a cannon for a throwing arm, and the Reds think his tools could allow him to play center field, though his experience largely has been in the corner outfield positions."

Obviously, he could serve as a backup to Nixon or Manny in the corners, while also spelling Crisp in center, a position that the Sox definitely want to address.

It's also clear that the Sox are thinking long-term with these possible acquisitions. Nixon is a free agent after this season, and there hasn't been any talk about re-signing him. Pena is only 24 years old, and obviously could be a fixture in right field for years to come. Besides Nixon, the 2007 free agent class is rather thin in outfielders. Other names include Carlos Lee, Jose Guillen, Cliff Floyd, and Shannon Stewart.

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