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A look at which Red Sox might be getting qualifying offers next time around

01.24.13 at 12:35 am ET
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The first year of going through this ‘Qualifying Offer Era’ has shed some light on what awaits potential free agents following the 2013 season. Nine players were offered qualifying offers, with all but one, David Ortiz, declining the chance to make $13.3 million for the 2013 season. (Ortiz signed with the Red Sox before hitting the free agent market.) Here are the results for the other eight:

Josh Hamilton: Angels, five years, $125 million.

B.J. Upton: Braves, five years, $75 million.

Nick Swisher: Indians, four years, $56 million.

Rafael Soriano: Nationals, two years, $28 million (with enough deferred money to push the present-day value of the deal to about $11 million per season).

Adam LaRoche: Nationals (his previous team), two years, $24 million.

Hiroki Kuroda: Yankees (his previous team), one year, $15 million.

Kyle Lohse: Not signed.

Michael Bourn: Not signed.

Of course, the reason a qualifying offer was presented to these players was to siphon a draft pick if they sign with another team. (The signing team — if not the one previously employing the free agent — would have to surrender a draft pick.) The risk of extending the offer is that the player accepts the chance to make $13.3 million, a cost that might put a short-term strain on some payrolls.

It all opens up an interesting conversation regarding what might transpire for a collection of Red Sox players following the ’13 season.

There are five players currently on the Red Sox’ roster — Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalmacchia, Joel Hanrahan and Stephen Drew – who have legitimate chances to be offered qualifying offers. For most, it would require near-career years for such an opportunity to be presented, while Ellsbury could be just pretty good and still get the star treatment.

Here is a look at whether those players might be in line for qualifying offers, in order of likelihood of getting the one-year offer of what figures to be more than this year’s $13.3 million level: Read the rest of this entry »

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Terry Francona on Big Show: ‘I actually think they’re really good owners’

01.23.13 at 6:22 pm ET
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Former Red Sox and current Indians manager Terry Francona, in an interview on WEEI’s Big Show on Wednesday afternoon to discuss his new book (“Francona: The Red Sox Years”), co-authored with Dan Shaughnessy, suggested that while he was unhappy with the fashion in which his Sox career came to an end after eight years, he still believes the Red Sox have a strong ownership group. While he suggested in the book that the group of principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and CEO Larry Lucchino represent a group that likes but does not love the game, he said that he did not mean for that statement to come across as disrespectful.

“I think they’re real good owners. In fact, I said that in the book. I wouldn’t have written the script ‘€“ the way it ended, I wouldn’t have written it for me, personally. That doesn’t mean they’re not good owners,” said Francona. “I actually think they’re really good owners. I was disappointed in some of the things, in my communications with them, I was very disappointed. That doesn’t mean they’re not good people or good owners.

“Where some people said it was critical, I didn’t view it that way. I think I went out of my way and called them good owners. They’re not bad people. I had some issues with the way some things were handled. That doesn’t mean they’re bad people nor does it mean they’re bad owners,” he added. “I don’t think that’s saying anything that is disrespectful. … They’ve come in the game and they’re going to leave the game. This is what I’m going to do the rest of my life. I also said in that statement that they’re very good owners. I don’t view that as disrespectful.”

In the book, Francona did suggest that there were times when the team seemed to place greater emphasis on marketing and revenues than winning, as when the team flew back-and-forth across the country to play an exhibition game in Arizona prior to the 2005 season, when the team opened the 2008 campaign in Japan and when batting practice turned into something of a circus as throngs of fans started standing on the warning track between the dugouts. Read the rest of this entry »

Terry Francona joins The Big Show Wednesday at 5 p.m.

01.23.13 at 8:21 am ET
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Former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, whose new book offers a revealing look at his relationship with Sox ownership, is scheduled to appear on The Big Show on Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Francona, recently hired to manage of the Indians after one year as an ESPN analyst, left the Sox following the collapse of September 2011. In “Francona, The Red Sox Years,” he discusses his often-tumultuous eight-year relationship with players and executives in Boston. Francona accuses the ownership group of caring more about public relations and TV ratings than baseball success. He also explains his difficulties in dealing with mercurial personalities such as Manny Ramirez.

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Offseason odyssey of Mike Napoli comes to an end as Red Sox deal becomes official

01.22.13 at 9:14 pm ET
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“Thank you for your patience.”

That greeting, which opened the conference call to announce the signing of first baseman Mike Napoli, couldn’t have been more apt. After all, a span of 51 days elapsed between Napoli’s agreement to a three-year, $39 million deal with the Red Sox on Dec. 3 and the official announcement of his one-year, $5 million deal with the Sox on Tuesday.

The seven-plus weeks were head-spinning. When Napoli arrived in Boston for a physical on Dec. 10, he expected the procedure to be routine. Certainly, he had no way of knowing that an MRI on his hips — regions that had never hindered him, and that had come up clean as recently as his physical with the Rangers last March — would lead to a renegotiation, a host of medical consultations and the ultimate revelation that he has avascular necrosis (AVN) in both hips, a degenerative condition in which a lack of blood flow to the region creates the potential for arthritis or even the destruction of the hip joint.

“I didn’€™t know I had it. It was definitely a shock to me,” said Napoli. “I’€™m able to put things behind me, and there’s nothing I can really do about that. I put it behind me, and I’€™m going to do whatever I can to keep myself healthy and move forward. I’€™m just going to have to deal with it and put it behind me and try to do the best I can to keep myself on the field and help us win in any way.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox announce one-year deal with Mike Napoli; designate Chris Carpenter for assignment

01.22.13 at 3:32 pm ET
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The Red Sox officially announced the signing of infielder Mike Napoli to a one-year deal worth $5 million, that can get to $13 million with incentives. If counted from the day the original three-year, $39 million was agreed upon, on Dec. 3, to Tuesday’s announcement, it took 51 days for the contract to be reworked due to concerns regarding Napoli’s hip. (For details of the contract, click here.) To make room for Napoli on the 40-man roster the team designated Chris Carpenter for assignment.

The following is the complete press release from the team:

The Boston Red Sox today signed first baseman Mike Napoli to a contract for 2013.  To make room for Napoli on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Chris Carpenter was designated for assignment. The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Ben Cherington.

Napoli, 31, hit 24 home runs in 108 games for the Rangers in 2012, his first All-Star season.  It was his third consecutive year with at least 24 homers.  In addition, Napoli ranked sixth in home run rate (14.7 AB/HR) and eighth in walk rate (56 walks , 7.5 PA/BB) among American League players with at least 400 plate appearances this past season.  Adam Dunn was the only Major Leaguer with better rates in both categories (13.2 AB/HR, 6.2 PA/BB).

The right-handed batter saw 4.41 pitches per plate appearance, trailing only Dunn (4.43) and A.J. Ellis (4.43) among big leaguers.  His career rate of 4.27 pitches seen per plate appearance ranks fifth among Major Leaguers active through 2012 (min. 2,500 PA).

Napoli, who will wear Number 12, split time between catcher (69 starts), first base (24 starts) and designated hitter (9 starts) last year, totaling a .227 average (80-for-352) with 56 RBI to go along with his 24 home runs.  He hit seven homers and drove in 16 runs over his final 16 regular season games following a stint on the disabled list.

Among American Leaguers with at least 700 plate appearances over the last two seasons, Napoli ranks fourth with a .931 OPS behind Miguel Cabrera (1.017), Jose Bautista (.990), and David Ortiz (.981).  He set career highs in most offensive categories in 2011, including a .320 batting average, 30 home runs, 75 RBI, and 58 walks in 113 games.

Napoli is one of six American Leaguers with at least 20 homers in each of the last five seasons.  Among all Major Leaguers, only Jose Bautista (14.0) and Albert Pujols (14.8) have averaged fewer at-bats per home run than Napoli (14.9) in those five years (min. 1,500 PA).

Since 2008, Napoli ranks fifth in the American League with a .522 slugging percentage and ninth with a .879 OPS.   He leads big league catchers in home runs (120) and slugging during that time.

Napoli is the only catcher ever to reach double-digits in home runs in each of his first seven seasons appearing in the majors (min. 60 games caught per season).  Brian McCann is the only other catcher with at least 20 homers in each of the last five years.

A seven-year Major League veteran, he has hit .259 (587-for-2,270) with 113 doubles, six triples, 146 home runs, and 380 RBI in 727 career Major League games.  He spent the last two seasons with the Rangers (2011-12) after beginning his big league career with five seasons for the Angels (2006-10).

Of his 146 career homers, 109 have come while catching.  His career average of 15.3 at-bats per home run as a catcher is the best among all Major League backstops over the past 35 years.  In that time, only Mike Piazza (.559) has a better slugging percentage while at the position than Napoli (.516).

The Rangers went 79-47 (.627) in his 126 starts behind the plate over the last two seasons, the best winning percentage for any Major League catcher with at least 65 starts.  His 3.80 catcher’€™s ERA since 2011 ranks fifth in the AL (min. 1,000 innings).

Napoli, selected by the Angels in the 17th round of the 2000 June draft, was signed by Todd Claus, now the Red Sox’€™ Latin American Coordinator and International Crosschecker.

In 19 career games at Fenway Park, Napoli has hit .306 (19-for-62) with four doubles, seven home runs, and 17 RBI.  His .710 slugging percentage ranks third all-time at the ballpark (min. 70 PA) after Dave Kingman (.816) and Frank Robinson (.724).  He also leads active players with a 1.107 OPS and just 8.9 at-bats per home run in Boston.

Napoli’€™s clubs have reached the postseason in five of the last six seasons (except 2010).  In 32 career postseason games, he has hit .272 (25-for-92) with five home runs, 19 RBI and 13 walks for a .373 on-base percentage.  He led the Rangers with a .328 batting average (19-for-58) while starting all 17 postseason games during the club’€™s run to the World Series in 2011.

Carpenter, 27, opened the 2012 season on the disabled list after undergoing surgery to remove a bone spur in his right elbow on March 29.  Before joining the Red Sox as a September call-up, he posted a combined 2.08 ERA in 21 appearances between the Gulf Coast League Red Sox, Greenville, Portland and Pawtucket. With Pawtucket alone, Carpenter pitched to a 1.15 ERA with four saves in four chances in 16 games.  He finished the season making eight relief appearances for Boston, and earned his lone win, the first of his major league career, on September 14 at Toronto.

Details of Mike Napoli’s contract

01.22.13 at 3:10 pm ET
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According to a baseball source, the one-year, $5 million deal with the Red Sox and Mike Napoli includes the following incentives that could increase the value of the deal to $13 million:

Active roster bonuses

$500,000 each for 30, 60, 90, 120 days on the active roster

Plate appearance bonuses

$500,000 each for 300, 325, 350, 375 plate appearances

$1 million each for 400, 475, 550, 625 plate appearances

Catch-all bonus

If Napoli is active for a minimum of 165 days in 2013, he will get the full $8 million in incentives for a total of $13 million

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: ‘When I catch, that’s when I play my best’

01.22.13 at 12:37 pm ET
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The Red Sox have a need for a left-handed complement to Mike Napoli at first base. They also are heading into spring training with three catchers ‘€“ Jarrod Saltalmacchia, David Ross and Ryan Lavarnway ‘€“ who are all at points in their career which would suggest they would each be earning spots on the major league roster.

So, where does that leave the starter of a season ago, Saltalmacchia?

He is heading into what would be perceived as the prime of his career at 27-years-old, and will become eligible for free agency following the upcoming season. Saltalamacchia is also fresh off showing the kind of power (25 homers) most teams drool over when trying to lock in backstops.

According to Saltalmacchia, little has changed.

At no point this offseason has he been asked to break out a first baseman’€™s glove for spring training. ‘€œI haven’€™t had any conversations about first base,’€ he said by phone from his Florida home.

Catching, he reiterates, is still his thing.

‘€œWhen I catch, that’€™s when I play my best,’€ said Saltalamacchia, who started a career-high 95 games at catcher in ‘€™12.’€œI’€™ve learned that about myself. I’€™m a better player when I catch, and catch on a regular basis. I think that’€™s something a lot of people learned last year.’€

Saltalmacchia did hit all but two of his home runs while catching, finishing with an OPS .143 higher (.755-.612) catching than his 47 plate appearances as a designated hitter. It was DH he spent quite a bit more time at in the final month or so, with Lavarnway getting to 15 September starts at backstop, compared to Saltalmacchia’€™s 11.

The discussions he has had with Red Sox manager John Farrell over the past few months, in fact, have done nothing to dissuade the switch-hitter from believing Saltalmacchia won’€™t get further opportunities to prove his theory regarding production in relation to playing time.

‘€œI’€™ve had a few conversations with Farrell and every conversation is great,’€ Saltalmacchia said. ‘€œHe told me, ‘€˜Listen, we signed Ross to complement you. You’€™re going to get right-handed at-bats.’€™ Stuff like that. I’€™ve been happy with it. I’€™m just looking going into spring training having already gone through the mental grind of the game, so it’€™s just best to go out there and let your play show for itself. You can’€™t control what the manager does. We have to go out there, and if the manager says, ‘€˜You’€™re going to play one day this week and get two at-bats,’€™ that one day and those two at-bats have to be the best they possibly can be. I just have to be prepared at the max level.’€

Although Lavarnway could very well enter the playing time equation, he does still hold an option, allowing the Red Sox the flexibility of returning the righy hitter to the minor leagues to start the season.

The challenge in identifying plate appearances for last season’€™s starter comes primarily when looking at Ross’€™ success ‘€“ and Saltalamacchia’€™s struggles — against left-handed pitching.

The dynamic may not be all that different than when the right-handed hitting Kelly Shoppach resided on the roster. Although there was some grumbling from Shoppach regarding playing time, the situation seemed to fit Saltalamacchia, who just missed out on making the American League All-Star team after having totaled an .807 with 17 homers in the first half.

But while Saltalamacchia would catch 472 2/3 innings in the season’€™s first three months, he served as the Sox’€™ backstop for just 353 2/3 frames in the final three. Despite the role change (which was pushed along by a combination of David Ortiz‘€™ injury and the team’€™s desire to see more of Lavarnway), Saltlamacchia felt like the ‘€™12 experience was still a big step in the right direction.

‘€œA lot of times I forget where I was at two or three years ago, and a lot of people forget that, as well,’€ he said. ‘€œJust physically and mentally, what your body goes through, nobody understands your body is really, really tired and you have to depend on skill. But I always felt differently with myself where I felt as the year goes on I get better and better and my body gets used to it. Last year splitting time and really DHing in the last couple months of the season, it was tough. I had to learn on the go again.’€

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