Red Sox

Nine Innings: No Giancarlo Stanton, No Jason Heyward … No Problem for the Red Sox?

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Playing nine innings while hoping the Red Sox come to an eight-figure deal for a certain full-figured third baseman …

1. I tried to mask this baseball wish out of an awareness that the bring-us-all-the-young-stars! approach is a bad look for someone writing about a large-market baseball team. I like seeing teams like the Royals, Pirates and A’s succeed and appreciate the relative degree of difficulty and discipline — even the era of revenue-sharing — required to do it.

But I might as well admit it now, since neither is happening this year or, probably, any time soon: I was hoping the Red Sox would find some way to acquire Giancarlo Stanton and Jason Heyward over the next few seasons.

I know. Greedy. It’s why they hate us — well, because of that and Sweet Caroline. We want this player and that one — even with some apparent redundancies in position or skill — when some franchises instantly are eliminated from a realistic pursuit of either.

The theory (espoused in roughly 325 columns over the past two seasons) that the Red Sox were a likely destination for Stanton when he became too costly for the Marlins was realistic, informed and logical Heyward was the presumed Plan B … but couldn’t you see them carrying the same lineup in, say, 2016? I could. Just didn’t admit it until now.

aking sentiment (and greed) out of it, the Cardinals deal for Heyward is one to be applauded, and it’s cool that Stanton is remaining with the organization that drafted and developed him.

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It’s tough to complain about a franchise paying out $325 million to a pre-prime superstar who may ultimately be worth it. Especially since I’d have been fine with the Red Sox paying the same price. If you want to complain about anything, complain about the Red Sox taking Ryan Dent 14 picks ahead of Stanton in the 2007 first-year player draft.

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2. One of the many admirable things about Andrew McCutchen is that he doesn’t strike you as someone who is particularly concerned about his place in the salary pecking order.

But with the announcement of virtually every new contract so far this hot stove season, the Pirates superstar becomes even more of an absurd bargain.

Over the next three seasons, through 2017, he will make $37 million dollars. That is actually more than the $30 million Stanton will make through 2017 in his back-loaded deal. But the Pirates have a $14.75 million option on McCutchen for 2018, when he’s 31, that they might as well pick up right this moment.

If Stanton chooses not to opt out of his deal after six years, he will be paid $218 million over the final seven years of his contract, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark. Stanton has the long-long-long-term security that McCutchen won’t lock down for a couple of more seasons.

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3. I understand why the Braves traded, in essence, Jason Heyward for Shelby Miller. Heyward is a free agent after next season, while Miller, a supremely talented if enigmatic young pitcher, is under team control for four more seasons. It makes business sense, and given that no one has more information on the semi-underachieving Heyward better than the only organization the eight-year professional has known, it may make baseball sense too. But that doesn’t stop me from loving this deal for the Cardinals, even with the inherent risk. The 2015 season will be Heyward’s age-25 year. He’s one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, and there’s plenty of time for him to live up to those Dave Parker comparisons. Bet he ends up staying there for the long run. Best fans in baseball, you know.

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4. Regarding the report that the Cubs suspect Jon Lester is headed back to Boston: Where there’s smoke … well, I still think it means there’s somebody smoking something. Does that count as actual fire? Unless there is a major — major — exception at play here with the Red Sox regarding their team-building philosophy, it’s still very hard to fathom that they are about to pay Lester more than twice what they offered him in the spring. A week or so ago, Peter Abraham put the chances of Lester returning at 2 percent. I’m not sure whether he’s wavered from that. But it sounds about right to me.

5. I’d rather see Joe Kelly starting the opener for the visiting team April 6 in Philadelphia than give up Mookie Betts in a deal for Cole Hamels.

6. Justin Masterson was mediocre-to-lousy last season for Cleveland (5.51 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 5.1 BB/9) and just plain lousy after he was traded to St. Louis (7.04 ERA, 5.84 FIP, 1.8 HR/9). And that does nothing to discourage my hope that he ends up with the Red Sox on a one- or two-year deal, provided he checks out as healthy. He’s thrived here before and John Farrell knows him well.

7. We’re all in agreement that the Yankees are going to do something big, right? You know the routine: When they make sure to get the word out that they’re sitting this one out, that’s a damn good sign that they’re ready to dance. I’m betting on Max Scherzer and a fairly serious pursuit of Jon Lester.

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8. I’m still not sure what surprises me more: That the Giants have won three World Series in five years, or that they claimed the most recent one with Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson starting the final two games. Dodgers fans must hate the Giants more than ever.

9. As for today’s Completely Random Baseball Card:

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Only a fool or an incurable pessimist would be able to dig up a lasting lament from the 2004 Red Sox season. I may be the former, but I believe there’s plenty of evident that I do not rank among the latter. I can admit, however, that it would have been cool if Ellis Burks — who retired 10 years ago this month — had a bigger on-field role that season.

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