December 2008

Junichi Tazawa Officially Signs with the Red Sox

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The Red Sox have added a third Japanese player to their pitchers. Junichi Tazawa and the Boston Red Sox officially announced the signing today. There can be a bit of speculation with this acquisition, the biggest question being: Why the Red Sox? The Braves, Mariners and Rangers (who reportedly offered more to the Japanese righty than the Red Sox) also had interest in signing the amateur who asked the Japanese pro-baseball division not to sign him. Luckily, this is NOT a rhetorical question!! Junichi Tazawa gave three specific reasons as to why he chose the Red Sox. 

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1. He likes our development program. He’s definitely right in liking it, look at the players we’ve produced from our farm system: Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, Kevin Youkilis, Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, etc. 

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2. Japanese players, staff, and speakers are all part of the Red Sox organization. The good thing about the Japanese pitchers, who have had huge success with the Red Sox, is that they’re pitchers, so they can help Tazawa out since he only played in Japan’s industrial league. 
3. The Red Sox were the first team to scout him. Hey, first come first served right? Apparently, the Red Sox keep a close eye on the Japanese market. Theo has the intentions of beginning Tazawa in Double-AA Portland, and seeing how he does in Spring Training. Theo first saw Tazawa in person last November, so they’ve been keeping an eye on him for the past thirteen months. Tazawa’s deal is not as substantial as Dice-K’s outrageous $103.1 million, Tazawa’s deal is for 3 years, at $3.3 million.  Tazawa is only 22, so if Theo and the international scouts of the Red Sox that landed Matsuzaka and Okajima see potential in him, there’s definitely something there. 
His fastball has increased in velocity, now ranging between 91-94 mph. according to Epstein. He also has great command, and can spot fastballs in all parts of the strike zone. *Tangent time* Speaking of the strike zone, does anyone know how the “BK Hot Zone” works? How do they get those stats? It’s crazy! 
Plus Red Sox fans, think how fun it is to say his name! Junichi Tazawa! TaZAwa. 
Two great days in a row for the Red Sox. 

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Hopefully Youkilis and Papelbon will get extensions in their contracts since they are eligible for arbitration. It’d be great to have them be a part of the Red Sox organization for many years to come. And of course we have our Varitek and Lowell wishes, but how many times have I put that in a blog post? 

Pedroia to be a Red Sox until at least 2014!!

“On behalf of John Henry, Tom Werner, and the entire Red Sox organization, I want to say that we are thrilled that Dustin has chosen to extend his contract with the Boston Red Sox…Dustin’s style of play and tremendous work ethic have quickly made him a fan favorite throughout the city of Boston and all across Red Sox Nation. He plays with a kind of gritty determination that serves as an inspiration not only to his teammates but to Red Sox fans of all ages, and we believe Dustin will play a key role in helping to bring more championships to Fenway Park in the years to come.”

-Club President/CEO Larry Lucchino
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Today, the Boston Red Sox and 2007 AL Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove Award, Silver Slugger Award, and MVP award winner (phew, that’s a lot in two years!) Dustin Pedroia reached an agreement that will guarantee Dustin a Red Sox until 2014. It was a 6 year, 40.5 million dollar contract, and included is a seventh year option (yay!) worth $11. By winning the MVP, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove award in the same year, Pedroia is now among only 8 others in AL history. Pedroia also joined only two others- Ryan Howard (’05-’06) and Cal Ripken Jr. (’82-’83) to win the MVP award the year after attaining the rookie of the year award. 
By signing this, Pedroia gave up two potential years of free agency, which would have started in 2013, but that’s okay, we want to keep Pedroia here for a long time. The deal included a 1.5 million dollar signing bonus, and Pedroia’s income will continually increase every year. From 1.5 in 2009, to $10 in 2014. However, it is a pay-raise from the $500,000 he made this year.

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Pedroia’s contract is near the largest given to a “non-arbitration eligible” player joining Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins, David Wright of the Mets, and Ryan Braun of the Brewers. The last time that the Red Sox signed a contract like this to a non-arbitration eligible player was in 1998 to guess who… Nomar Garciaparra after he won the Rookie of the Year award. 
“[Pedroia’s] a well-rounded player…Offensively, what he’s accomplished speaks for itself. Defensively, he’s made an unbelievable transition from shortstop to second, and we think he’s one of the best defensive second baseman in the game as well and runs the bases really well, despite his lack of blazing speed. What’s not to like about this guy?”
-Theo Epstein

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Theo Epstein seems to be very happy with this deal (his thumb appears to be up… he doesn’t smile too often), he, as well as virtually everyone else in the clubhouse, and even perhaps the major leagues, seem to enjoy Dustin’s confident (and hilarious) attitude, and his determined and hard-working mentality. 
“It’s something we’re thrilled about…It’s definitely something we wanted as a club and something I think Dustin was looking to do as well. It came together as a product of a lot of hard work. He really embodies just about everything we look for in a Red Sox player. That makes this a great day for the organization.”
-Theo Epstein
Equally as important, if not more, Pedroia is happy as well. 
championships. My first thought about the whole thing was, ‘I play for the best team in the Major Leagues.’ Who wouldn’t want to play for the Boston Red Sox? We’re going to have an opportunity to win every year. The fans are the best. The city embraces their team, so why not? It fits.”
-Dustin Pedroia

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 “That means I get to be here in the place I love for the next six or seven years. That’s the way I looked at it.”
It is obvious that Pedroia has grown to love the atmosphere that he is playing in, which I think is more important than how much money he makes. Money can’t buy happiness, and I think that when a player loves where he’s playing- loves the fans, loves everything about his environment- that’s when money stops mattering, all that matters is his happiness, and that’s when he plays the best. 
I am so happy that Pedroia is happy here, and I hope that he continues to be happy, and “love” the Boston Red Sox.

Around the Hot Stove- Arbitration

The arbitration deadline was last night at midnight, and some premier free agents received the offer, others (somewhat surprisingly) did not. 

As far as the Red Sox go, only Jason Varitek and Paul Byrd were offered arbitration. It was expected that Varitek would receive the offer, but with Byrd it was not so obvious. If he accepts, it would put him and the club in an awkward position because there’s not necessarily room for him in Boston’s plans. There have been rumors that the Braves have interest in him though. 

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Brian Fuentes received arbitration from the Rockies, which may (or may not) influence the Mets’ interest in him, and as we know, they’re also interested in K-Rod. 
The Yankees did not offer arbitration to ANY of their eight eligible free agents. The Yankees have interest in holding on to Petite, but not at the same price, which could cause a conflict (perhaps even reuniting him with his former manager!).

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  Bobby Abreu did not receive arbitration because he is seeking a three year deal which the Yankees are not offering. Plus, the Yankees have a pretty deep outfield already: Deamon (sorry), Cabrera, Gardener, and Nady. The top pitching interests for the Yankees were all offered arbitration (Sabathia, Burnett, and Lowe)

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The Marlins did not offer arbitration to their Type B Free Agents Luis Gonzalez, Paul Lo Duca, or Arthur Rhodes. The Reds have reported interest in the reliever Arthur Rhodes. With the Mariners offering arbitration to Raul Ibanez, it is unlikely that the Marlins will continue seeking him because they don’t want to sacrifice a draft pick. Since the Yankees did not offer arbitration to Ivan Rodriguez (known to us as Pudge), he might be the perfect fit for the Marlins organization since they are seeking an experienced catcher to help their young pitching staff. The Marlins have also experienced interest in Carl Pavano
If the Braves want to continue pursuing Burnett, they would not have to give up their first round pick if they signed him because they have one of the first fifteen selections. Their compensation would be a “sandwich selection” between the first and second rounds, and their second round pick. 
The Phillies did not offer arbitration to Jamie Moyer or Pat Burrell. They could be interested in outfielders Juan Rivera or Rocco Baldelli seeing that those two were not offered arbitration by their teams, so Philly would not have to compensate by giving up draft picks. 
Players have until midnight of December 7 (so technically December 8) to accept or refuse these offers. 
In other Red Sox news… the Sox will officially announce their signing of the Japanese righty Junichi Tazawa sometime this week, after his physicals go through. The terms of the deal were three years at $3 million. The Red Sox also signed left handed reliever Billy Traber to a minor league contract, and an invitation to Spring Training. However, a spot on the major league roster might be difficult to attain seeing that the Sox already have two lefties in the bullpen: Okajima and Lopez. Last year with the Yankees, Traber had a 7.02 ERA in 19 outings, and in 95 career appearances (28 starts) he is 12-14 with a 5.54 ERA. The Red Sox have really gone after some pitching this offseason! 

The Last Shot on the Ballot for a former Red Sox Captain-Jim Rice

Jim-Rice--C10107298.jpgThere have only been four captains of the Red Sox since 1923: Jimmie Foxx, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, and now Jason Varitek. The hall of fame ballots are out yet again, and it is Jim Rice’s final at-bat on this ballot. Just a year ago, Rice came so close to enshrinement, missing only 16 votes! He received 72.2% of votes, and he needed 75%… talk about close! Jim Rice played his entire career with Boston (1974-1989) gave pitchers a sickening feeling when he came to the plate (along with other Red Sox stars like Yaz, Fisk, Lynn, Boggs, Evans, Armas during that era). The left-fielder’s career statistics speak for themselves:

He had 2,452 hits, 382 home runs, 1451 RBI’s, batted .298, and slugged .502. If that’s not enough for you, the other two Red Sox captains, Jimmie Foxx and Carl Yastrzemski, have both been inducted into the hall of fame. 

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Jimmie Foxx played first base, batted an astounding .325, collected 2646 hits, 534 home runs, and 1751 runs, and 1922 RBI’s.  


Yaz played left field, first base, and was a designated hitter (and is notorious for his ability to track down flies), had 1816 runs, 3419 hits, 452 home runs, 1844 RBI’s, and batted .285. 
Even though these other captains have better career statistics (over all), remember Rice only played 16 seasons. Foxx played 20 and Yaz played 23, so if Rice had played longer, perhaps his stats would’ve reached this height. According to Bresciansi, a historian for the Red Sox, Rice topped 20 homers 11 times, 100 RBIs eight times, was an All-Star eight times, hit .300 in seven seasons and he finished in the top five in the AL MVP voting six times. Also, Rice hit 39-plus homers four times. During this time, most of Rice’s stats were leading in the AL. He’s been on the top ten list numerous times in numerous categories. Other players like Duke Snider and Billy Williams have similar career statistics and they’re in the hall of fame. In 1978 he played every single game. The list of his accomplishments go on and on.

So, I urge everyone with a hall of fame ballot to put a checkmark, bubble in, or do whatever it is that you do, to help ensure that Jim Rice gets the eternal honor that he deserves in Cooperstown.