Joe Castiglione did something today that I’ve wanted to do since it opened: he went and visited the MLB Fan Cave in New York City! Below are a few pictures of Joe enjoying the Cave…now, I just gotta get there!!!
Joe Castiglione & Jon Rish open up 2013 in style, hoping to bring you a Red Sox victory for a 1-0 start. How much better will the Red Sox’ new-look team perform than last year’s squad? I mean, it can’t get any worse than 2012…right?
After 51 days of physicals, negotiations, and a reworking of his contract, the signing of first-baseman/catcher Mike Napoli is officially official. The Red Sox made the announcement today, placing Napoli on the 40-man roster and designating reliever Chris Carpenter (Theo Epstein’s compensation) for assignment. Napoli was introduced via a conference call to writers this afternoon, and cleared up a few unanswered questions.
Rumors had been swirling throughout the last month or so about Napoli’s physical, the results of which appeared to be holding up the finalization of what was then a three-year, $39 million deal. Today, we learned that Napoli has avascular necrosis (AVN), in both his hips. The disease causes deterioration of bones because of an interruption of blood supply to the bone, and is common primarily in the shoulders, knees, and hips. It’s the same disease that ended the career of baseball and football star Bo Jackson, though Ben Cherington assures that the two cases are different. Napoli believes he’s been playing with the condition for at least the last season, though he was surprised by the diagnosis.
Upon researching the disease a bit, the most common treatment for those who suffer from AVN in their hips is a total hip replacement or other surgeries, but Napoli says he’s taking medication and is performing all baseball activities without any restrictions. The cause of the AVN is not known at this time, and hadn’t been apparent in Napoli’s March 2012 MRI. The disease was caught early and it seems the prognosis for 2013 is good. The discovery of the condition accounts for the shortening of the deal to one year and $5 million (plus performance bonuses) since the disease is degenerative. This likely means that Napoli will be limited to first base exclusively, unless there are no other options behind the plate on a given day.
In other, far less significant news, Napoli won’t be wearing the #25 that he donned in Texas. Instead he’s switching over to #12, left unclaimed after Ryan Sweeney was non-tendered. His former number was also available, but Napoli wanted to go with the number he wore growing up.
Now Boston’s next priority should be securing a solid back-up at first, preferably a defensive-minded, left-handed hitting 1B. There are a few trade candidates (Smoak and Carp from Seattle) and choices on the free agent market (Kotchman, Overbay), but with Napoli’s health a concern going forward, the Sox would benefit from having a capable and reliable back-up plan.
Earlier this evening, sources reported that the Washington Nationals shipped first-baseman/outfielder Michael Morse to Seattle (the team he played for from 2005 until he was traded to the Nationals in 2009) in a three-team deal that also saw catcher John Jaso traded from Seattle to Oakland and prospects A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen (along with a PTBNL) moved from Oakland to Washington. The move could actually benefit the Red Sox, who are looking to acquire a left-handed hitter who could presumably act as the back-up for the still-unsigned Mike Napoli and act as depth in the outfield. With the acquisitions of first-baseman/DH Kendrys Morales from the Angels earlier this offseason and the arrival of Morse, who can play both first base and the outfield, the Mariners have a couple players who could fill the Red Sox needs who have just become expendable.
Right now, the Red Sox depth chart at first base looks like this:
which is, I would say, less than ideal a month away from spring training. The Red Sox still have hope that they can work out a deal with Mike Napoli, but it’s been well over a month since the free agent first baseman first agreed to terms with Boston, and there’s no indication that a deal will be done in the near future. So if the agreement falls through, who mans first for the Sox in 2013? The options are few and far between this late in the offseason, but the Sox still have a few choices.
This morning, the Red Sox signed free agent catcher David Ross to a two-year, $6.2MM contract. The 35-year-old is widely regarded as one of the reliable and best-hitting back-up catchers in baseball.
Ross has served as the backup to Brian McCann for Atlanta since 2009, and spent time with Cincinnati, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and even Boston for 9 plate appearances in 2008. He hasn’t racked up more than 200 plate appearances since 2007, but consistently puts up solid numbers in his limited role. Defensively, Ross is more than solid and makes it tough for other teams to run, throwing out 44% of runners last year.
Ken Rosenthal hears that Ross will be “more than a backup but not a starter,” leading me to believe the Sox will set out to deal Saltalamacchia and set up a platoon situation with Ross and Lavarnway. Lavarnway would pull in much more in a trade, but the Sox have put a lot of work into him and are getting ready to reap the benefits and keep him in their long-term plans. It’s possible that Salty could move to first, since he’s capable of playing there, but I find it unlikely that the Sox will go that route. With so many teams in need of either a starting or back-up catcher, Salty is valuable trade bait and there are other options for first base.
Overall, I like this move. A veteran backstop like Ross can be a massive help to this pitching staff, and he provides a solid platoon option for Lavarnway, who I’m not convinced could be the sole starter at this point. It’ll be interesting to see what the Red Sox can pull in for someone like Salty, but it’s obvious Cherington has something up his sleeve.
The Sox are heading into this offseason with three major areas of need: starting pitching, first base, and the outfield. The exclusivity window with free agents has come and gone, and the Sox find themselves with two wide-open corner outfield spots. Luckily, they have a healthy amount of external and internal options to fill these holes, and with a ton of money available to spend, the Red Sox should be able to find an outfield combination that is affordable, productive, and that doesn’t alter their future plans.
While in Seattle, Joe Castiglione decided to take a ride on his bike (not a unicycle)…he wanted to go check out some football at the University of Washington. Before the staff kicked Joe out of the closed practice, what did he see?
Jackie Bradley Jr. is one of the most exciting and most talked-about prospects in the Red Sox system, and for good reason. The 22-year-old outfielder has put up impressive numbers in his first full year in professional ball, hitting .359 with 26 doubles, 34 RBIs, and 53 runs scored in 67 games with single A Salem before being promoted to double A Portland. Sea Dogs radio voice Mike Antonellis recently caught up with Bradley.
Travis Shaw has spent most of the year in single A Salem, but his .305 batting average, 16 home runs and 31 doubles in 99 games earned the first baseman a promotion up to double A Portland. Shaw is only in his second year of pro ball, but has impressed thus far, leading the Lowell Spinners in RBI and walks and ranking second on the team in doubles, homers, and runs scored last year. The 22-year-old Kent State alum has taken over the role of everyday first baseman for Boston’s AA affiliate.Shaw recently caught up with Sea Dogs voice, Mike Antonellis.