Wagner Signs With Braves, Sox Grab 2 Draft Picks

Not long after the Red Sox offered arbitration to Billy
Wagner
, the reliever they picked up in August from the Mets, they found
themselves in exactly the situation they desired. While they would have worked
around it had Wagner accepted arbitration, the two draft picks netted by the
departure of the pitcher represent an even better outcome for the team.-Full Story

This is one of those deals that goes unnoticed by the mainstream media. By signing with the Braves and not accepting arbitration the Sox will get 2 draft picks from the Braves one would be the Braves first round pick. This is actually a best case scenario for the Sox considering Wagner wasn’t going to be resigned here anyway.

Boston Celtics Starting To Heat Up

C’s On A Roll With Five-Straight Wins

So much for the Boston Celtics getting old — fast.  The 34-year-old Ray Allen led the Boston Celtics to their fifth-straight victory with 27 points on 5-of-6 shooting from long range as the Celtics became the first team to score more than 100 points against the Bobcats this season with a 108-90 victory over Charlotte.

As a team, Boston hit 10-of-17 3-pointers in Tuesday’s matchup as the C’s have reeled of five in a row after skeptics rumored that the Green Team was running out of steam at this early juncture of the season.

So much for that talk.

The Celtics are 7-1 on the road this season and with the resurgence of Kevin Garnett, in the past two weeks, Celtics fans can become giddy at the play of their team.  

Boston is in the midst of a four-game road trip as the C’s head to San Antonio to take on the Spurs on Thursday before heading to Oklahoma City on Friday.  Doc Rivers team is facing its biggest challenge of the season with two road games down and five more coming in their next six games.

Celtics fans now have a reason for some Celtic Pride as some may start to Bleed Green.  

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Sox Set To Receive Compensation As Wagner Signs With Braves

Atlanta Gives Billy Wagner A Shot At Closing

Ask any Sox fan or executive if they would have welcomed Billy Wagner back as setup man for the Boston Red Sox next season, many would have obliged.

But draft-pick compensation isn’t bad either.

Billy Wagner and the Atlanta Braves agreed on a one-year contract that will pay the veteran left-hander $7 million in 2010 and includes a club option in 2011 for $6.5 million.

The Boston Red Sox offered Wagner salary arbitration but the 38-year-old wanted a shot at closing and knew that wouldn’t happen in Boston with Jonathan Papelbon already manning the closer position.  So with Wagner leaving for the NL East, Boston will receive draft-pick compensation with his departure but it could eventually become a swap of draft picks as the Red Sox are eyeing free agent relievers Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano, both of whom pitched for the Atlanta Braves last season.  

With Wagner gone and Manny Delcarmen on the trading block, the Red Sox will look to improve their bullpen for 2010 via free agency.  

Patriots Will Run The Table For Rest Of Season

The Patriots got their behinds kicked this past weekend. Nobody can argue that but don’t get too excited folks.

They are still a team that can win on any given Sunday and that includes beating the Saints if they face them again.

They will win out their remaining schedule (Dophins, Panthers, Bills, Jaguars, Texans), finish the season 12-4, and go into the playoffs on a high note prepared to contend for a championship.

It’s not over yet!

Red Sox Off-Season Devolpments

Updates On The Hot Stove & Red Sox Action

The hot stove has been on the cool side of the burner for the better part of this off-season but in the past fews days things have started to sizzle up for Major League Baseball and the Boston Red Sox.

With an everlasting question mark still looming at the shortstop position, it was reported today by Peter Gammons that Dustin Pedroia may be more likely to get the nod at shortstop in 2010 in lieu of free agent Marco Scutaro.  Pedroia would return to his natural position as the former AL MVP played shortstop at Arizona State and in the minor leagues for the Red Sox.

Shifting Pedroia over the bag would make a more managable hole at second base to be filled.  With free agent options like Orlando Hudson and Placido Palanco, or Brandon Phillips via trade, the Sox could elect to go this route and save their draft picks.  However, it is yet to be seen or heard how Terry Francona and the Sox brass would feel about moving Pedroia over to the shortstop hole as questions of his range and arm strength will surely arise.

Another topic happening around the league involving the Red Sox, is that of Roy Halladay stating he will veto any trade after Spring Training, thus forcing the Blue Jays either to ship the 32-year-old Cy Young award winner or hold onto him in 2010.  He will inevitably leave for free agency, if they decide not to trade him, Toronto will net only two draft picks.  This could be good news for Boston, as the asking price for the treasured Halladay could go down as the Jays may want to move Halladay in favor of risking just draft pick compensation with his departure. Stay tuned with this one.

There was speculation that the Boston Red Sox are now more interested in signing Matt Holliday over Jason Bay.  This would only be true if the Sox sign Marco Scutaro and Bay’s asking price gets a little to steep for his skill level.  Although the prospect of Holliday at Fenway Park intrigues me, and the strikeouts from Bay frustrate me, you cannot deny the fact that Bay put up solid numbers in a year and a half in Boston and his stats are also backed up by a world-class demeanor.   

Either option would suit many Boston fans but with Scott Boras looking for a Mark Teixeira-like contract for Holliday, I doubt the Sox bite at that bait as they already know what they have in No. 44.  

Breaking News: Bruins Sign Savard To Extension

TSN Reports That Savard Signs 7-Year Contract

The Boston Bruins, surging on the ice as of late, added some more good news to their team on and off the ice with a seven-year contract extension with center Marc Savard.

Recently returning from a broken foot that sidelined for a good portion of the first part of the season, has four goals and six assists this season in 11 games but the center’s leadership and tremendous 2008-09 season proved to be enough for Peter Chiarelli and company to lock up their premier forward for seven more years.

Although it hasn’t been confirmed yet, the details of the deal, according to TSN and Mark Kalman, are believed to be $4.2 million per year as the two-time All-Star was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

UFC Will Come To Boston

The sport of mixed martial arts has been approved for sanction in Boston opening up the door for UFC and other events to come to town.

Massachusetts has become the 42nd state in the country to regulate MMA, as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law today a bill that would allow the Department of Public Safety to oversee regulation of the sport in the state.

“Mixed martial arts events are enormously popular in Massachusetts and held in venues across the state every day. That is why passing legislation to regulate the sport was so important: We want it to be safe for everyone” said State Senator James Timilty, chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security who led the effort to regulate MMA.-Full Story

AFC East Gets A Lot Easier

Dolphins Loss Gives Patriots Breathing Room At The Top

So much for the Miami Dolphins making a run to the top of the AFC East.  A week after many Dolphins players were saying they were in perfect position to supplant the New England Patriots from their spot atop the AFC East due to a manageable schedule for the Fins’ and a tough one for the Pats, Tony Sparano’s gang lost grip of an “easy” win over the Buffalo Bills with a 31-14 drumming on Sunday.   

With 24 points in the fourth quarter, the Bills overpowered the Dolphins as the Bills improved to 4-7 with the Fins falling to 5-6, tying themselves with the New York Jets for second place in the division, 2 1/2 games behind the first place Patriots.  

So, even if the Pats do lose to the undefeated New Orleans Saints on Monday, the Patriots could afford a loss next week to the Dolphins and still maintain control of their destiny atop the AFC East.  But then again, Bill Belichick and company never lose two games in a row and haven’t lost a game in Foxborough since Nov. 30 last year.

Also, lets not look past the Saints on Monday as a solid game from the Patriots could break the Saints perfect season and give the Pats a lot of breathing room in the division.  Silly Dolphins, you had your chance last season without Tom Brady under center for the Patriots, this is Mr. Brady’s and New England’s division now.  

Celtics Hit The Road With A Win

C’s Put The Heat On Ice In Miami

With the turkey and stuffing digested into their system, the Boston Celtics hit the road to start a four-game road trip with a contest against Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat on Sunday.  The C’s showed up in style in Miami, providing the stuffing and gravy to win their fourth straight. Boston improved to 13-4 on the season with a 92-85 victory over the Heat at American Airlines Arena on Sunday.  
Kevin Garnett looked like the KG of old with 24 points on 11-of-12 shooting, with eight rebounds as Garnett notched his second 20-point game of the season.  The Celtics, despite a meager 12-point third quarter, managed to hold off Wade and the Heat in the fourth quarter with solid play from Rajon Rondo, 12 points with 11 assists, and a key three-pointer from Ray Allen in the final two minutes.
Kendrick Perkins set up the perfect screen for Allen on the crucial three-point play as the Celtics big man added 14 points of his own with a team-high 13 rebounds and three blocks.  Boston has now won nine of their last ten contest with the Heat and will look to extend their four-game winning streak to five on Tuesday when the C’s head to Charlotte to take on Larry Brown and the Bobcats.

(AP Photo) (AP Photo)

With Gonzalez Gone, What’s Next For Red Sox?

Who Will Fill The Void Left By Alex Gonzalez?

Theo Epstein’s Achilles heel during his tenure as general manager for the Boston Red Sox has been the shortstop position.  Epstein has overseen and assembled two championship teams in Boston but in his time in the front office at Fenway Park, he has never been able to find an answer to the riddle of shortstop.

With the midseason acquisition of Alex Gonzalez last season, all the problems seemed to be solved, at least temporarily, as the Red Sox shored up their defense and had a steady .300 hitter in two months at Fenway.  The Sox proceeded to be eliminated from the playoffs in three games and the time for decision making had snuck up on Epstein and the Red Sox for 2010.  

Step one.  The Red Sox declined Gonzalez’s $6 million option for 2010.  A no-brainer.  But when Epstein and company pretty much stated that they were looking for better options, Gonzalez did the smart thing and secured himself a one-year, $2.75 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays with a $2.5 million team option in 2011.  

So now the Boston Red Sox are in a little bit of  a predicament with their ever-revolving door at shortstop.  With no “backup” option available anymore, what lies in the cards for Boston?  Well, hot shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias is merely 19-years-old and is not slated to be playing in the big leagues until 2011 or 2012.  So whose the stop-gap for Iglesias?  Who will stop the bleeding?

For many Sox fans, Gonzalez was their guy.  He provided stability at the position with sure hands, a calm demeanor, and an inconsistent bat.  But many fans were willing to overlook the shaky offense in lieu of a superb-defensive shortstop.  

Theo Epstein thought otherwise, or at least we think.

Maybe the Blue Jays deal snuck up on Epstein like the snatch on a mouse in a trap.  Yes, the cheese may not have been that good, but we were use to the smell, the texture and the consistency.  At least Gonzalez was our bread and cheddar.  So why wouldn’t the Red Sox bring back Gonzalez at the $3 million a year?  Who knows.  But now we are left with a few viable options.

Marco Scutaro.  A 34-year-old coming off of a career year in Toronto, will demand a multi-year contract from the Red Sox.  Boston will be careful in offering Scutaro a deal for only one reason.  He will cost the Sox two draft picks.  Scutaro is a Type A free agent which means if the Blue Jays offer him arbitration, which they will, the team that signs him will have to forfeit two picks called “sandwich picks” to the Blue Jays in exchange.  Epstein values his draft picks more than any other general manager which could stop this signing from happening.  

But the wildcard in this situation is whether or not the Sox offer Billy Wagner, a Type A free agent as well, arbitration.  If they do, the Sox may not feel as bad about giving up two picks since they will receive two others if Wagner signs elsewhere, assuming someone will sign him and he doesn’t accept arbitration with the Red Sox.

One thing is for certain though, Epstein is looking to upgrade his offense and Scutaro would be an improvement offensively over the likes of Gonzalez, Nick Green, and Julio Lugo.  In 2009, he hit .282 with 12 home runs, 60 RBIs, 90 walks, 100 runs scored and a .379 on-base percentage as Toronto’s shortstop.  But buyer beware, as the 34-year-old had the best season of his career and his career averages are well, quite average.

Another option that looms as a possibility for Boston is signing Khalil Greene, a power hitting shortstop who spent the beginning of his career with the San Diego Padres before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals last year.  They could also sign Miguel Tejada for his bat but rumors have it that Tejada is no longer viewed as a shortstop in the MLB and could be moving to third base next season.

The Sox will not be in market for Adam Everett or Bobby Crosby as they are looking to improve and not get worse at the position in 2010, they would rather go ahead with an uncertain Jed Lowrie than sign any of the middle-of-the-bag players available.  

So with Scutaro and Greene as the only two plausible free agent shortstop replacements, Boston’s only other option would be to trade for one.  There are rumors that the Cincinnati Reds might be involved in a fire-sale this offseason, unloading talent and money to anyone willing to take on a hefty contract.  This could bring second-basemen Brandon Phillips to Boston and move Dustin Pedroia over to his natural position of shortstop.  Also, their is talk that the Sox are interested in acquiring Dan Uggla from the Marlins and either plugging him at third or second, and if the latter is true, it would move Pedroia over to the shortstop void.

Although it may seem like their is a laundry-list full of options for Theo Epstein and the Red Sox at shortstop, there simply just isn’t.  The free agent market is thin all the way around and the market for shortstop is even thinner.  With Alex Gonzalez now off the board, the Sox best bet may be offering Billy Wagner arbitration and signing Marco Scutaro.  

Hit or miss, bust or not, Scutaro could be the stability the Sox need until the shortstop of the future, Jose Iglesias, is ready to kick in with the big boys.  Until then, stop the bleeding, sign someone to a two-year deal and focus on other needs of the ball club.   

But then again, this is your weakest link Mr. Epstein, you should have something up your sleeve if you want management and the fans to know your serious about winning in 2010.  But as always, after two championships in a span of five years, in Theo we trust.