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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- I've been thrilled to meet so many fans and loyal readers who come to spring training, some for the first time and others as regulars the past few weeks. I always encourage fans to leave the cold for a while and experience spring training, a chance to see the Red Sox in a far less formal setting.
Anyway, our mailbag this week had lots of duplication from readers who wanted to know the status of Grady Sizemore's chances of coming out of his return to baseball as the starting center fielder, the possibility of a Giancarlo Stanton deal down the road, and what might be a crowded outfield situation.
Some quick observations:
-- Don't think Xander Bogaerts will be as good a shortstop as Jose Iglesias, Stephen Drew, or Deven Marrero. There will be leaks on the left side of the infield. But I've been extremely impressed that his actions say he wants to be the best defensively. He's going to be an excellent all-around player. His work ethic and attitude are off the charts.
-- The Red Sox won't be able to replace Jacoby Ellsbury as a hitter and base stealer. But they will replace him as a center fielder. Jackie Bradley Jr can handle that aspect of it.
-- Grady Sizemore keeps making improvements and keeps showing he can play baseball again. None of of us, him included, knows whether he can be an everyday player again.
-- Francisco Cordero, who has 329 career saves, has looked very good after taking a year off. The righty reliever probably doesn't have a spot in this Red Sox bullpen, however, barring an injury to someone. He's under a minor league contract, so he could go to Pawtucket. But the Red Sox have indicated to me that they would let Cordero go if there was a major league deal for him out there. The Red Sox could deal him or just release him. They obviously would not want Cordero to go to the Yankees or Orioles. Scouts watching him have been impressed.
Here's the mailbag:
I enjoyed your article about the possibilty of a Giancarlo Stanton trade. My question is, why would the Sox not just wait until Stanton hits free agency? I don't know of anybody out there who can offer a package close to what the Red Sox can and then re-sign him (so less of a worry about another team cherry-picking him). Why not just trade in a 40-year-old Ortiz for a 27-year-old Stanton when the time is right? Plus, you will be able to see if the guy can stay on the field for the next couple of years.
Tyler M., Warrenton
You can approach it that way, but it's two years later and the price goes way up as well. You're also competing with other teams. You have the advantage now, as you say, because you have the prospects that some of the other teams don't have.
What's the over/under on number of HBP for Victorino if he decides to bat righty full-time? Could he challenge the all-time record?
Brian, Sparks, Nev.
I covered Don Baylor with the Red Sox in 1986 and he had 35 HBP. I would imagine Victorino could approach that. I would guess the Red Sox would discourage that because there might be the threat of injury associated with it and they'd like to keep him on the field for as long as possible this season.
Nick, Baseball salaries are crazy. It's good that players are no longer stuck with a team and forced to accept whatever salary the team offers. But the pendulum has swung too far since the reserve clause was struck down. Contracts for $150 million just don't make any sense. That's enough to run a small town for a couple of years. Really, even $1 million for a year of baseball is excessive. While we all want to make enough to be comfortable, this is well beyond that, and contributes to the high cost of a day at the ballpark. Other than having everyone refuse to buy tickets, is there any way to make this situation be reasonable?
Hal, the owners would have to lose a lot of money, and they're not. They're making it at record rates. I don't see an end to it. There might be a drag on them, but not so significant that ticket prices would be lowered. Every time I hear about about a fan boycott of tickets, I chuckle. The only "boycott" you see is when the team has a poor record. You probably don't want the team you root for to fail just so ticket prices go down. The other "solution" is the Tampa Bay way: go cheap, homegrown, payroll down. Not everyone can pull that off.
Not a question, just a comment. I just love it when you can work the word "MOOT" into a sentence!
Fran G., Middleboro
That's a moot point.
I feel a lot is going behind the cloud of questions at CF/3B. I feel Nava/Carp/AAA depth will sort out a lot. SBs and a power line is few and far between. With that said, do you think the chemistry and magic from '13 was why we never lifted our eyes this winter for Choo Too Cruz, who was a quick fix with already spent $?
Timothy F., Hermosa Beach Calif.
The Red Sox have adopted the philosophy -- for as long as it works -- that they aren't going to devote big dollars to outside free agents. Their system worked and won them a World Series, so they will stick to that until it's time for another solution. I think they are in a fertile time in their development system to replenish their team from within and not spend so much that they're over the luxury tax. They already get killed with revenue sharing, which seems to be an unfair penalty on big-market teams who spend to make their teams better but then have to give up their profits to small-market teams who don't always use the money to improve their teams. And of course, after you win a World Series, you don't want to tinker too much. Sure they have lost Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Stephen Drew, and Ryan Dempster from that team, but you have to have some leap of faith in the players being developed in your farm system. It's nice to have eight players in Baseball America's Top 100 prospects, but unless they become All-Star major leaguers, it doesn't mean a whole lot.
Nick, I assume Victorino, Nava, and Gomes are locks. What about Carp, Bradley, Sizemore and it appears Brentz? It would be awful hard not to consider Bryce in the mix? Haven't seen many games yet but I was very impressed the other day.
JM S., West Baldwin, Maine
Just wrote about this topic recently. Yes, you have identified the "locks" and then there are three players for two spots. The configuration really depends on Sizemore and what the final word is on him. If he can play every day, then maybe Bradley returns to Pawtucket. If he needs more time, than maybe he goes to Pawtucket and Bradley starts in CF. If they want Sizemore around as an extra outfielder, I guess Carp gets moved. My feeling is they want to protect all of these guys, so the use of the DL and Pawtucket would be the preferred options.
So, Jon Lester's agents are apparently of the opinion that if their client is in a happy environment, he should accept a reasonable offer. What does it say about our society in general and agents in particular that this is news?
Bill F., Bronx, N.Y.
I think what you're saying is that everybody should feel that way, but I disagree. If you feel you want to make the most money you can, you should have that right. You're an American living in a capitalistic society. If you feel your skills and talents warrant top-of-the-line compensation, then you should go for that. I go back to the Stephen Drew situation. All I hear is that Scott Boras and Drew messed up not taking the one-year qualifying offer. In hindsight, that may be true. But when you're an excellent shortstop who had just come off a World Series championship, why wouldn't you think you could get a multiyear offer? It turns out he didn't. I personally would have taken the one year at $14 million, but a professional athlete thinks differently. He gets to free agency and then he wants to be paid on an equal level or better than his peers doing the same job if he feels he's as good as them.
Nick, I've read a handful of reports and articles about Christian Vasquez. Seems like he's drawing attention and making noise in camp. What are your early impressions of him and how far is he from being an everyday catcher in the major leagues?
Harold R., Boston
He's been the talk of the camp. John Farrell made the point on Sunday that if a need arose, Vazquez is ready to play in the major leagues right now. He throws in the 1.8s down to second base, which is well above average. He calls a good game, is good with pitchers, and the biggest leap for Farrell is in Vazquez's hitting. Suffice to say, by next year at this time, barring injury or the acquisition of Yadier Molina, Vazquez stands to be the starter.
Can we please get a correct pronunciation of Garin Cecchini's last name (and then pass it along to Don Orsillo)? In Italian, a "c" beginning a word is pronounced "ch." A "cch" combination is pronounced as a "k" (e.g. Larry Lu-"keeno"). How Don doesn't know this amazes me.
D.N., Scottsdale Ariz.
Mr. Nutini, this has been a topic of conversation for sure. But I've heard he prefers to have his name with the hard "K" sound at the beginning. Both Don Orsillo and radio voice Joe Castiglione use the hard K sound at the beginning of his name. Don, Joe, and myself are of Italian heritage, so we do understand your point, but we also have to go by what the person's preference is in how to pronounce his name. Maybe it's evolved -- and Americanized, for lack of a better word -- over time.