Links 8-20-2010: Prospects post, playoffs slipping away, some bright spots, Papelbon

All told, the Red Sox spent a team record $10.66M on signing bonuses for this year’s draft class, guys who had not pitched a professional inning. It was a necessary infusion of talent into a farm system that has been drained of top prospects and had some of our best young guys get injured or tarnished this year. Considering we drafted well and signed all of our first 10 picks, evaluators have been picking the Sox draft as the best in our division this year.

Baseball America published their “best tools” series this week, and many Red Sox prospects got recognition, especially the superb defense currently at Double-A Portland.

Catching prospect Adalberto Ibarra did not pass his physical, so he renegotiated his contract with Boston to the tune of $700-800k. That’s a far cry from the $3M guaranteed deal that he originally agreed to. Sure, it saves money, but it must have been a significant issue for him to backtrack so much on the numbers.

Goodbye 2010?

Just when you think the Sox are ready to turn the corner, a day like yesterday happens. Dustin Pedroia is held out with foot pain, and Josh Beckett gets lit up by a so-so lineup in the Angels. Jarrod Saltalamacchia gets sent to the DL with a mystery leg infection. Add that up with no more Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron, and you’ve got a boring October looming.

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8-18-2010: So you’re saying there’s a chance, bullpen, outfield, draft signings, etc

This AL East race is just maddening. Every time the Sox look like they’re about to go on a run, they stumble, and every time they stumble, so does either New York or Tampa Bay. This is the season that just refuses to die.

The porous bullpen has been better of late, though it is still prone to blowups. It seems that Felix Doubront has surpassed Dustin Richardson on the depth chart, since Richardson was sent down to make room for Dustin Pedroia.

The outfield situation is beginning to look especially dire, given that Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron are out for the year. Yes, those would be our only real center field options for 2010. Add to that Eric Patterson going on the DL, and we’re looking at a whole lot of Ryan Kalish over the next two weeks. Hey, he’s been playing great for us, but any rookie who is pressed into duty will get exposed a bit… On a related note, Kevin Youkilis thinks he could play in October if we make it that far. Mike Lowell is filling in admirably at first base for now, and with Carlos Delgado on the shelf, we may not have many other options. The Diamondbacks’ Adam LaRoche just cleared waivers today, so there’s an off chance that we could try to bring him back if we get back in the race.

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Links 8-13-2010: Playoff hopes fading, Salty and Hall, draft deadline coming, Sickels reviews our farm

The Red Sox took two of three from the Blue Jays, which is okay, but we should have had game 3. If we let games like that slip away, I don’t see us getting back to the playoffs this year. The math is starting to get pretty tough for us, points out Rob Neyer.

It certainly won’t be any easier with Jonathan Papelbon lacking his previous dominance as a closer. It’s not just one game, but Pap is showing a gradual decline which started last year. He’s still a very good closer, but he’s rapidly losing elite status, and that’s bad with just one year of arbitration left.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia was called up this week, and did just fine in his first start yesterday. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we let Victor Martinez walk this offseason, but there’s some hope yet for Salty to become something.

Seems like people only remember a couple of botched plays when they think of Bill Hall, but he’s had a pretty good season at the plate. Jeremy Greenhouse points out that, in at least one situation, you’d rather bat him than Prince Fielder.

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Links 8-11-2010: Lowell/Delgado/Saltalamacchia controversy, roster moves, looking ahead

Despite yet more heroics yesterday, the Red Sox have made it abundantly clear that they don’t trust Mike Lowell to play every day at first base. Jerry Remy also thinks Lowell will be somewhat limited. First they signed Carlos Delgado to a minor league deal, and now with Kevin Cash on the DL, they have called up Jarrod Saltalamacchia, probably to be the backup catcher/left-handed first baseman. It makes sense to employ a platoon at first base to try and replace some of the production lost with Kevin Youkilis, says Matt Klaassen. For his part, Lowell is confident that he can play regularly, and he doesn’t see himself being ousted by former teammate Delgado.

Hideki Okajima hit the DL with a hamstring issue, and Felix Doubront has gotten the call to the bullpen. Apart from the solo HR he allowed yesterday, Doubront has looked every bit the part of a strong Major League reliever.

Jeremy Hermida cleared waivers and was outrighted to Pawtucket this week. That really says something about how far his star has fallen; nobody wanted him for free (besides his remaining salary, which isn’t nothing). He’ll be called up on September 1 when the rosters expand, but he’s running out of time to convince the Red Sox he’s worth a roster spot.

August 17. Circle that date on your calendar, because that’s when The Laser Show (TM) comes back to town. That’s right, Dustin Pedroia has a due date.

The Red Sox signed 6th-round OF pick Kendrick Perkins for a $600k bonus this week. Perkins is super-athletic and has drawn comparisons to Carl Crawford.

Beyond the Box Score ranks catchers by overall value this year, and finds that Red Sox catchers are smack in the middle of the road, thanks primarily to Victor Martinez.

MLB Trade Rumors looks at teams who may pursue Adrian Beltre in the offseason. I think if the Red Sox can’t land him, it’ll be the Tigers or Angels.

8-6-2010: Youkilis lost for the year, Cleveland redux, Yankees on tap

Now comes the disturbing and somehow predictable news… Kevin Youkilis will have surgery today and will miss the rest of the 2010 season. This news could not have come at a worse time, with guys like Dustin Pedroia and Mike Cameron still out, Victor Martinez playing hurt and Jacoby Ellsbury just trying to get back into the swing of things. We need to win now if we want to stay in the chase.

What will the Red Sox do about first base? For now, they will play Mike Lowell there every day. Despite his Daniel Nava-like heroics in his first at-bat, there are still some serious health concerns with Lowell. He may not be able to play every day, so we’re going to need a quality left-handed bat to complement him. For now, there are no plans to promote Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Lars Anderson. Theo Epstein would like to see if Salty can stick at catcher, so he’ll be working on that for now. J.P. Ricciardi really likes the addition of Salty, and says that it could really pay off down the line.

As far as other options, I think the Sox are trying to avoid paying any real talent to try and salvage what looks like it could be a lost year already. Jed Lowrie has reportedly taken some reps at first base as a fill-in for when Lowell can’t go. They will reportedly audition Carlos Delgado, and they do have room on the 40-man roster, but I’d be surprised if the Sox committed to play him while Lowell is around. He’s an option only if Lowell clears waivers and is traded. There are some other DFA/FA options out there as well, such as Casey Kotchman and Daric Barton.

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8-3-2010: Youk to the DL – nail in the coffin?

It’s official. Kevin Youkilis has been placed on the DL with a torn muscle in his jammed thumb. The Sox have activated Mike Lowell and expect for him to play first base every day until Youk returns. Jacoby Ellsbury went 3-5 at Pawtucket today, and looks like he could return any day now, but this latest injury could be the straw that broke the camel’s back in 2010.

Links 8-3-2010: Hanging on by a thread, outfield outlook, Dice-K’s future

After the loss last night, the Red Sox are seriously hanging on by a thread. This season is starting to circle the drain unless we right things, and fast. If Kevin Youkilis’ thumb keeps him out for more than a game or two, it could be the end. It’s that tight. Dustin Pedroia is getting closer, but every game counts for us right now, especially against lesser competition.

The Yankees and Rays are doing exactly what we don’t want them to do, which is continue to win at about the same rate. We need one of them to collapse if we’re going to have a shot at October. The other team can get hot or whatever. It doesn’t matter, really.

Mike Cameron has hit the DL, and Daniel Nava is back up. Based on what is being reported, there’s a good chance that Cameron will not be back this season. With Jeremy Hermida designated for assignment, we are now looking at an outfield of Nava, Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew with Darnell McDonald as the fourth outfielder. That’s passable, but if Ellsbury can’t return, we will be crippled out there. More than ever, our postseason hopes may hang on Ellsbury, who will play again at Pawtucket today, then decide if he’s ready to rejoin the team or not.

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8-2-2010: Minor moves at the deadline, Lowell still in play

The Red Sox, expected to land an additional bullpen arm by the deadline, dealt one instead, and made another small acquisition at catcher. It was hard watching the Yankees land Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns, and this is a signal from Boston’s front office that while we’re not giving up on this season, they’re content to let it play out and finish third if we have to. Theo Epstein is clearly thinking 2011 at this point, and I don’t really blame him.

What it will take

Currently at 60-45, the Red Sox sit 6.5 games back of Tampa Bay. If the Rays play .600 baseball the rest of the way, they will have a 100 win season, and we need to go 41-16 to edge them. If they play .550 baseball, they will still have 97 wins and we will need to go 38-19 (.667) the rest of the way. Is this team capable of that? With a healthy rotation, an easier second half schedule and the impending returns of Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury, you have to think that it’s at least possible. But it means we will have to win just about every series, and probably sweep the Rays in at least one of our two remaining series. We can’t play any worse than taking two of three from the Tigers, or we’re done. That’s why the management decided to go conservative at the deadline.

Let’s look at each move that was made:

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Links 7-30-2010: Down to the (waiver) wire, SoS

Those of us hoping for a last-minute Mike Lowell deal, it ain’t happening now (at least RIGHT now), even with his record-setting performance at Pawtucket this week. The two clubs who showed interest in the veteran have gone in other directions – the Rangers landed Jorge Cantu, and the Tigers traded for Jhonny Peralta. Can’t blame them for not wanting to make the Sox any stronger. J.P. Ricciardi still sees potential for this team to roar back and into the playoffs, and he’s not the only one. Lowell is no longer with the Paw Sox, so look for him to be activated today. Maybe we’ll get some production out of him yet.

As for the bullpen situation, the Twins paid a real premium to grab Matt Capps from the Nationals; I don’t see Theo Epstein approaching that kind of a haul for any available reliever, unless Dayton Moore goes insane and the Royals decide to sell off Joakim Soria (it’s a dream, people! give it up!). As usual, Epstein’s team is working hard to get an undervalued reliever from somewhere. The latest name is Joe Thatcher of the Padres.

Something that we’ve hinted at, but now it’s been quantified – the Red Sox have had a more difficult schedule than either the Yankees or the Rays. Still a glimmer of hope in there, as things even out more in the stretch.

Links 7-28-2010: Lowell making his case, Ellsbury, Pedey, the bullpen and patience

Holy Toledo! Mike Lowell turned some heads by slamming three home runs for Pawtucket yesterday against the Mud Hens. He’s making a pretty strong case for himself at the right time. I hope for his sake he can get traded somewhere where he can play regularly.

Jacoby Ellsbury continues to progress toward a return, but Dustin Pedroia was told to take it easy and stick to his original timeline. FWIW, Curt Schilling doesn’t think Ellsbury is dogging it. But Scott Boras might have some machinations at work throughout this whole thing.

This bullpen could look very different in a week or two, notes WEEI’s Alex Speier.

R.J. Anderson at FanGraphs points out that because of the particularly dire financial situation of teams this year, teams with money (like the Sox) might be able to land a fairly good player on waivers after the July 31 deadline. Another reason not to panic and pull the trigger on Scott Downs or a reliever of his ilk.

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