1-24-2011: Papelbon and Ellsbury sign, looking at the recent AL East moves, SS controversy?, the farm system

Warning: long post ahead! If you get bored, check out the countdown to the pitchers and catchers report date here.

Sox avoid arbitration with Papelbon and Ellsbury

Never fear arbitration, Red Sox Nation – Theo Epstein is here. Jonathan Papelbon and Jacoby Ellsbury both agreed to new one-year contracts last week, avoiding arbitration despite what were seen to be complex cases. Epstein did the right thing by both players, finalizing the payroll and letting us move on to the more important questions.

For Papelbon, he’s accumulated elite closer stats at a young age, but there are indications that he’s losing his dominance in recent years, and reports that the Sox considered trading him this offseason; that didn’t prevent him from getting a $12M deal for his last year under team control. Should Papelbon leave via free agency after this season, he will almost undoubtedly be a Type A free agent. But those two compensation picks are not guaranteed, since Paps is someone who might actually accept arbitration should the Sox offer it. One look at this year’s reliever deals (apart from Rafael Soriano’s deal), and you’ll see why making $13-15M with the Sox for one season might look better than signing elsewhere, especially if the Yankees (currently with two closers under contract for 2012) are out of the running. Not to mention that several other big-name relievers could hit the market for 2012, including the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton and the Padres’ Heath Bell. This has led to speculation by some that the Sox will try to trade Papelbon during this season, so as to get something for him rather than let him walk for nothing. I think that if the Sox do as well as we all think they will, they will keep him on the squad, and he can walk. It’s worth it if he pitches well.

Then there’s Ellsbury, who looked to be on the up and up until the “unstoppable” Adrian Beltre derailed him for basically all of 2010. With a possible rift between him and the team, questions about his toughness and ability to play regularly, some were arguing that the Sox should try to lowball Ells. That would have been a bad move, and will not work with Scott Boras. As it is, he’s satisfied for now and will try to reestablish his value for next year’s arbitration negotiations.

Manny, Damon and Vernon Wells…

The Rays, Jays and Yankees all made some moves recently in what looks like a bid to catch up with the Red Sox. In what seems like a bad joke, Andrew Friedman reeled in both Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez this week. Damon gives them someone who can play left and give Desmond Jennings a chance to take his time, and he can even spell Dan Johnson at first. Manny will probably be the first legitimate DH they’ve ever had.

Damon LF 622 559 151 30 7 13 87 60 61 90 20 0.271 0.344 0.422 0.766 0.351
Ramirez LF 459 397 114 23 3 18 61 65 56 87 3 0.288 0.384 0.491 0.875 0.391

Damon is still a very solid hitter (though the defense is a problem), and with Manny, they may not even feel the loss of Carlos Pena. Both former idiots are aging players and Manny has got his team chemistry issues, but winning solves all ills, so it could work out well for them at a very low cost.

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Post-2009: Potential free agents

The best way for me to get my mind off the fact that the Red Sox are no longer in the hunt while the Yankees are is to get thinking on the 2010 season before the corpse of 2009 gets too cold. It’s good to know that Epstein sees this team’s core as having one more year left to contend; could that mean we’ll have a bit more of a “win now” approach this offseason?

Bring ’em back?

First we should address the expiring contracts. The Red Sox need to decide whether they want to re-sign these players or let them go to free agency. Then we can examine what to do about any holes.

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2009 ALDS Preview: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Now that we’ve clinched our playoff berth as the AL wild card, it’s time to scout our competition. First up, the LAAoA. If that ain’t a mouthful. The Red Sox have owned them in the postseason, but they are not as weak as they were last year. Here’s a quick look at how we stack up side by side.

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Trade Manny to Who?

I’ve said that I still believe that Manny Ramirez is still a highly valuable player. But Manny managed to do it again, and this might be the one that broke the Manny’s back. After being cleared by team doctors to play, he pulled himself out of the lineup with a sore knee. The Sox clubhouse was closed to the media, and after a team meeting, Manny was back in the lineup. Turns out he would have faced a team suspension if he had not played yesterday. Theo Epstein told Tim McCarver yesterday before the game that if Manny Ramirez is willing to waive his 10-5 no-trade rights, he would try to deal Ramirez before the deadline. All of this adds up to some bad juju for the long-time Sox slugger.

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Papi, Sox optimistic about wrist

Sox slugger David Ortiz has been diagnosed with a partially torn tendon sheath in his left wrist, and placed on the 15-day DL. He is wearing a cast for the next two weeks, at least. Different sources have estimated that he will miss 2-4 weeks. From the beginning, the front office has downplayed the severity of the injury (not that we’d expect anything else).

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ALDS Game 1: Sox continue to own Lackey

Steven Krasner has tonight’s lineup for us on the ProJo blog.

Pedroia 2b
Youkilis 1b
Ortiz dh
Ramirez lf
Lowell 3b
Drew rf
Varitek c
Crsip cf
Lugo ss

Beckett p

[Live blogging the game]

As I write, starter John Lackey is falling apart in the 3rd inning. The Red Sox have gone ahead 4-0 on two solo home runs by Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, and an RBI single by Mike Lowell. The Sox have tallied 8 hits already, and the only reason this game is not over already is that Julio Lugo was called out at 2nd on a VERY questionable steal call to end the second, and J.D. Drew grounded into a double play to end the 3rd.

Josh Beckett is just in control; his fastball has been humming at 97-98 mph since the first inning, so you know he’s pumped. He just struck out Orlando Cabrera on a nasty pitch on the corner. His command is on, and I have yet to see even so much as a hard foul off of him thus far.

Mark it down, Sox lead this series 1-0.

[Session 2]

Here it is, 7th inning stretch, and Beckett’s only given up 2 hits and thrown 88 pitches. The way this is going, Beckett’s gonna go eight and Papelbon will finish it off just to intimidate them. The Angels got nothin’ all night, and if they keep up their horrible road play, this series is all but over. If the Sox get ahead like this, the Angels’ small ball tactics won’t be of much use to them.

The Halos are pretty banged up, but look for them to play Guererro anyway on Friday in order to get one better bat into the lineup. They’ll probably DH Juan Rivera.

Ervin Santana in the game now. Coco Crisp has made a couple of heads up reads in centerfield already tonight, more than making up for a weak 0-3 at the plate tonight.

[9th inning]

Never mind, Beckett’s out there throwing gas in the ninth. Can you say complete game shutout? That’s a nice way to start the playoffs, with a very nice running, sliding grab in left from Jacoby Ellsbury.

If Lackey wins the Cy Young over Beckett this year, I’m gonna puke.