So, these are the new Boston Red Sox?
I bumped into my buddy Mike at the gym this morning. He was wearing his Red Sox jacket, a rare sight in Venice Beach (as is his occasional Celtics T-shirt).
They broke his heart, he was saying, meaning the Red Sox in September, meaning the Red Sox the past two Octobers.
Mark Melancon, I told him.
And he said, "Who?"
Right-hander from the Houston Astros, I said. The Red Sox like him as a setup man, which means Daniel Bard can go to the rotation. Maybe Melancon can be the closer one day. And, oh, I said, Kyle Weiland went to the Astros, too.
And no Bailey, he repeated. What about our closer, he asked.
No Bailey. Not yet.
By the time I got home, the Red Sox had signed Nick Punto to play the Lowrie role. I'm guessing that didn't satisfy Mike, either.
It's mid-December, there's no clear closer, right field is a mystery, the rotation is in flux, and while everyone is sure there's a game plan – Yoenis Cespedes? Roy Oswalt? Carlos Beltran? – everyone also is waiting on what that is, exactly.
Like the New York Yankees, they've sat out – or appear to be sitting out – the big boys, in part because they're big-boyed out at first base, in part because they're more inclined to believe in May through August than they are September, and in part because it is still mid-December.
And, like the Yankees, perhaps they believe there's more to be had in pitchers by trade than by free agency, and they're probably right, though the Yankees did jump in on the Yu Darvish auction, while the Red Sox did not.
[ Related: New Red Sox reliever has history in AL East ]
GM Ben Cherington told Boston reporters last week, "We're a really good team that really just needs complements and needs to be put in a better position to win over a six-month stretch. That's what we're focused on."
So, it sounds like there might not be a Beltran in right, and maybe no Cespedes (though both make a ton of sense to me – and Mike), and we've already learned there will be no Mark Buehrle or C.J. Wilson or Darvish. Also, in the ninth inning, no Jonathan Papelbon and no Heath Bell.
Maybe these are good things. But waiting around is tough on Mike and all the other Mikes out there, still sorting through September and waiting for something bigger than Mark Melancon and Nick Punto, capable pieces as they may be, and Daniel Bard in the rotation.
It's a hard sell in Boston, just as it is in Venice Beach, and so the baseball world waits and wonders just what the Red Sox will bring.
Personally, I agree with Cherington. That was a good team in Boston that went sideways for a lot of untowardly reasons. And it won't take much to fix that. Which is exactly what's happened so far.
• In spite of appearances, insiders insist the market for free agent Prince Fielder is strong and varied. In fact, as many as eight teams are in. Based on Fielder's preferences, agent Scott Boras appears to be at the stage of eliminating peripheral teams. Various reports say some of the wealthier franchises – Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees and, ahem, Miami Marlins – are not currently bidding, though that could change. (The Mariners are believed to have interest, but it's hard to imagine Fielder wanting to play through his prime there.) Generally, Boras negotiates not with general managers but owners on contracts of this size. …
[ Related: Jeff Passan's ultimate free-agent tracker ]
• From various reports on Yu Darvish posting: Yankees, Cubs bid; Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Mets, Miami Marlins, Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles did not bid. Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers were presumed to have bid, but that is unconfirmed. Teams will learn by Tuesday if they've won the right to negotiate a contract with the 25-year-old right-hander. Yahoo's Jeff Passan reports Darvish's team, the Nippon-Ham Fighters, is expected to accept the posting bid. …
• Baseball people expect Michael Cuddyer to end up in Colorado, though the Mariners were giving him some play and the Twins haven't given up hope. …
• The Phillies and Jimmy Rollins still appear to need each other. Part of Rollins' market softened with the signing in St. Louis of Rafael Furcal. While the San Francisco Giants have suggested they're tapped out, Rollins remains a possibility for them. …
• Matt Kemp, to reporters in Los Angeles, on Ryan Braun and the MVP: "It's just an unfortunate situation. Everything will probably pan out and we'll see what happens at the end. It's just speculation. Nobody knows anything. Everybody's guessing. The truth will come out."
I'll echo that, at least until the result of the appeal is known. And, even as someone who voted Kemp for NL MVP, the notion of stripping Braun of MVP or a revote is to me a dangerous and unwieldy precedent. BBWAA members vote with the information available at the time and live – no matter how uneasily – with the result.
I will argue one point with Kemp. Somebody knows something. Braun knows. …
• More than one agent believes the offseason is being held up by the Tampa Bay Rays and their plan to trade a starting pitcher, most likely James Shields, and their conversations regarding pitching with the likes of Texas, Cincinnati and Florida.
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