Padres Demote Will Middlebrooks to Triple-A

The career of Will Middlebrooks has taken another sour turn with the Padres demoting the third baseman to Triple-A on Wednesday as he continues to struggle at the plate.

When the Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval last winter, Middlebrooks spot on the roster was immediately in question. Will MiddlebrooksMiddlebrooks was traded to the Padres for Ryan Hanigan just before Christmas, in one of the smaller moves the Padres made this past winter after adding Justin Upton, Wil Myers and James Shields. Middlebrooks was the Padres Opening Day third baseman.

After making his debut with the Red Sox in 2012 the Bobby V year, Middlebrooks has not been able to make a real consistent stay in the major leagues. He claimed the third base job from Kevin Youkilis that year and was on track to be the third baseman of the Red Sox for years to come. He got hit by a pitch on his wrist late that season which cost him the rest of the season. In 2013 he was up and down with the Red Sox and even started games in the playoffs until Xander Bogaerts took over at third base, while Stephen Drew was still on the team.

In 2014 Middlebrooks was demoted to Pawtucket once the Sox signed Drew for a second time and rejoined the team after the fire sale that saw the Red Sox trade Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew. Last season with the Red Sox Middlebrooks hit a Mike Napoliesque .191 with only 2 home runs and 19 RBI. Sox brass wanted Middlebrooks to play winter ball but he declined.

With another slow start this season hitting .212 with the Padres he was demoted to El Paso after already losing his third base job to Yangervis Solarte. Middlebrooks had so much potential with the Red Sox. He had 15 home runs in his first 287 at bats in the big leagues and even hit for a decent average hitting .288. Many question the moves of Ben Cherington this past off-season but it seems the Red Sox got the better end of this deal.

Ryan Hanigan may not have been a flashy name but he is a major league catcher and the Red Sox would have forced Blake Swihart’s development even further after the injury to Christian Vasquez, something they may have done with Middlebrooks.

Daniel Nava Begins Rehab Assignment with PawSox

The PawSox got yet another player added to their roster for a rehab assignment this week as Daniel Nava was sent to Pawtucket to play starting on Thursday night. Nava was really lost in the shuffle with the Red Sox roster early on in the year and only collected 73 plate appearances, and has been on the disabled list since May 26 with a thumb bruise.

Nava had a great year in 2013 platooning in left field with Jonny Gomes but struggled last Daniel Navaseason even being optioned to Pawtucket in early May. Nava eventually made his way back to the major league roster but became more of a bench player. The versatility Nava serves is something that does not go unnoticed by Red Sox brass as he plays left and right field well and mixes in first base. Playing the left field wall as many have realized this year with Hanley Ramirez out there is not something that can be taken for granted.

The roster crunch will continue as Shane Victorino just finished up a rehab stint and is expected to be activated this weekend. Ryan Haniagan was activated in time for Thursday night’s blowout against the Blue Jays likely meaning a catcher will lose their roster spot. Which makes me you think, will Nava even have a roster spot when his rehab stint is over?

The chances are likely no but an injury could always occur and have Nava taken advantage of an unfortunate circumstance for someone else. Hanley Ramirez does not look like he will be going on the disabled list soon after a week off with a bruised wrist from a line drive. Shane Victorino hasn’t been healthy for much of his time with the Red Sox, so he might not be on the roster for long. Alejandro De Aza is someone who needs to stay on the Red Sox team as he looks to have provided some sort of spark for the team even if he is just a fourth outfielder on a good team he is a veteran.

Much has been made of Mike Napoli’s struggles this year and John Farrell has said they will stick with him as he has been dropped to as low as 8th in the lineup on some occasions. Nava could take advantage of some playing time if he can get it with Napoli continuing to hit under .200 and striking out a prolific rate as he continues to think the umpires are out to get him with the strike zone.

Daniel Nava began a rehab assignment with the PawSox on Thursday night, but a spot on the Red Sox roster when he is ready to be activated might be his for the taking.

Grading the Jon Lester, Yoenis Cespedes Deal for the Boston Red Sox

Jon LesterThe Boston Red Sox started looking toward the 2015 season with four trades at the deadline after completing two other deals earlier in the week.

The first deal of the day came Thursday morning in which Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes were sent to the Oakland Athletics for slugger Yoenis Cespedes. The deal also included cash considerations sent from the Red Sox and a competitive balance draft pick from Oakland.

For the Red Sox, losing Lester is the biggest loss of the trade deadline. He was the accomplished ace of the staff—with two World Series’ under his belt as well as a 6-4 record with a 2.11 ERA in the postseason, and a 3-0 mark with  0.46 ERA in the World Series. The 30-year-old compiled 110 wins over parts of nine seasons while ranking fourth in starts and strikeouts in team history.

Both Lester and Gomes helped win the World Series in 2013 with clutch performances and both are free agents at the end of the season.

The three-time All-Star will be missed, but the Red Sox knew they could get something of value for the ace, and they did.

Cespedes has 17 home runs in 2014, which is three more than the current Red Sox outfielders combined. The Cuban slugger has 23 or more home runs his previous two seasons and is under contract until after the 2015 season due to options in his contract to avoid arbitration. If the Red Sox can strike a deal to keep the right-hander in Boston long-term, then this deal could really benefit the team in the long run.

The Red Sox were going to trade Lester due to the last place play through the first 108 games, and getting a proven power bat was great for Ben Cherington and Co. If the Red Sox can sign Lester in the offseason, while also hanging on to Cespedes, then this trade will be an A+ all the way.

Grade: A- 

Red Sox First Half Report Card By Position: Outfield

Red Sox First Half

Boy, oh boy, was the outfield a mess in the Red Sox first half! With the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury in the offseason, Jackie Bradley Jr. was expected to be the everyday center fielder, and the signing of Grady Sizemore would create some competition. Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, and Mike Carp would all see some time in left and Shane Victorino would return to his spot in right. What the Red Sox didn’t know was that their outfield would be one of the worst offensive trios in team history.

Jackie Bradley Jr. knew he had some big shoes to fill after Ellsbury’s departure, and maybe they were a little too big for Bradley to handle. His defense has been spectacular and could potentially garner him some attention for the gold glove award, but his bat has hurt the club. In recent weeks, he has changed his stance and taken a new approach at the plate, resulting in a .375 average in the month of July. However, his .208 average prior to that would have probably sent him down to the minors if he wasn’t so good in the field. Will he ever be a .300 hitter? It’s possible, but I don’t plan on seeing it anytime soon. If he could hit around a .300 clip for the rest of the year though, that would make a lot of people forget his rough first half.

Daniel Nava was getting some All-Star votes last season, and this year he was taking bus rides in Pawtucket. Less than a month into the season, Nava’s .149 average, about half of his .303 average from last year, had him sent down for a one month stint. Since returning, he has done quite well. In the month of June he hit .313 and so far in July, he’s hit .373. It would be nice if he could find some pop (only eight extra base hits all year) and start driving in runners (10 RBI’s), but that is bound to happen if he continues to hit.

Shane Victorino was banged up last year, but was able to play through most of it and be a very important part of the team. He hasn’t been able to stay on the field this year though, adding to the outfield madness. His durability needs to be questioned, because a hamstring injury shouldn’t shelf a guy for so long, but perhaps making his way back to the club slowly will give him the best chance of staying healthy. When he has played, he hasn’t been that great either. Just a .627 OPS in the 21 games played so far is well below his .802 total last year. The Sox will need him hitting well when he returns because all this team needs right now is another strong defensive player who can’t hit.

Jonny Gomes has essentially been the same player that he was a year ago. He became a fan favorite last year with his clutch hits and playoff antics, but he may not be around much longer. With Victorino coming back soon, there isn’t much need for a player like Gomes and the Kansas City Royals have expressed interest in acquiring him. I wouldn’t like seeing him go, but in a business like baseball, a .234 hitting outfielder is very expendable.

Grady Sizemore was given a shot when Ben Cherington decided to make one of the most unexpected signings of the offseason. The oft-injured Sizemore had been out of the game for two years, so you couldn’t really expect much from him. I expected his downfall to come from injuries, but it turns out he just didn’t have the skills he had seven years ago. Shocking, right? The Phillies recently picked him up and have given him yet another chance to get back into the game, so I hope he is able to keep his job there.

Brock Holt has obviously been great wherever John Farrell sticks him, and recently that has been in the outfield. Mostly playing in right, Holt has been able to hit the lights out while still playing decent defense. Considering he had never played an inning of professional baseball in the outfield, Holt has really passed every test he’s been given with flying colors. It should be interesting to see where he plays once Victorino returns, but I am sure Farrell will find a spot somewhere.

Jackie Bradley Jr- Grade: C

Daniel Nava- Grade: C-

Shane Victorino- Grade: D-

Jonny Gomes- Grade: C-

Grady Sizemore- Grade: F

Brock Holt- Grade: A

The Red Sox Should Trade For Scott Alexander

Scott AlexanderNorichika Aoki has been nothing but disappointing for the Kansas City Royals this year, so it’s no wonder they are reportedly interested in Boston Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes. The 33-year-old is known for his clutch-hitting, history of winning, and ability to inflate left-handed pitcher’s ERAs substantially. He was a pivotal piece to the 2013 Red Sox World Series team, but all good things must come to an end. Boston will most definitely be sellers, and Gomes is a free-agent at season’s end. It’d be surprising if they didn’t deal, or at least try to move him. He won’t draw a huge return (top-prospect-esque), but could land the Red Sox a young and serviceable piece for the future. One guy Boston should be targeting on the Royals is relief pitcher Scott Alexander.

Alexander, age 25, was drafted by the Royals in the 6th round of the 2010 Amateur Baseball draft. He didn’t pitch in the Royals’ system in 2011, but did so in 2012, justifying his early-round selection. In 35 and 1/3 innings of work, the left-handed pitcher compiled an impressive 2.55 ERA and 3.87 FIP in Single-A Kane County.

He followed up with an arguably better year in 2013, dominating Single-A Lexington and High-A Wilmington with an ERA under 1.35 in each. He did, however, hit a snag when reaching Double-A later that year. Despite his ugly 5.18 ERA in 33 innings, Scott had excellent peripherals which resonated into a strong 2.54 FIP.

Now, this brings us to the current year. Alexander has compiled a nice 3.86 ERA and 3.57 FIP in 33 games out of the bullpen in, again, Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Scott’s shown throughout his professional career he has the potential to be a solid major-league bullpen piece, and Boston would probably like to supplement their farm with some relievers.

Andrew Miller, Koji Uehara, Craig Breslow, and Burke Badenhop are all free agents after this season, and I’m not too sure whom Boston will re-sign. Yawkey Way Report writer Thomas Joyce wrote a good article the other day looking ahead at next year’s Boston Red Sox bullpen. He made note at the end that Boston does not have too many left-handed relief pitchers within the system or at the MLB level — especially if Miller and Breslow leave — and they’ll need to target a southpaw in the offseason.

Acquiring Alexander will provide Boston with a left-handed reliever with a high-ceiling. Whether he’d be ready to go — and he probably won’t — or not to start the season in Beantown remains a question. Regardless, he’s an investment worth taking a chance on.

Alex Hassan: Next Red Sox Platoon Player?

alex hassanWhen the Boston Red Sox called up outfielder Alex Hassan from Pawtucket, he was hitting just .217 with a respectable .316 OBP. After recording a hit in two games totaling seven at-bats, Boston sent him back down to Rhode Island. Since getting the boot, Hassan looks hungry for another taste of the show. Raising his average up to .280 and OBP up to an impressive .372, Hassan is a legitimate call-up option for the Red Sox.
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As of late, Hassan is what the Spanish like to call “en fuego” (literally meaning “on fire”). Over his past 29 games, Hassan is hitting .367 and .415 in his last ten. Perhaps the most intriguing part of his game is his splits. Like Johnny Gomes, Alex Hassan is a lefty killer. In 85 at-bats against southpaws, Hassan is hitting .341 with a .418 OBP while clipping a pair of homeruns. Compare this to a .250 average and a ,350 OBP against 75% of pitchers who throw with their right hand.
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Although the .250 average is not great against righties, it is definitely a valuable asset to have someone who can clobber lefties on a big league club. With this being said, perhaps he could make a nice platoon partner for Daniel Nava in 2015 while occasionally playing first base. Of course the Red Sox outfield is already set for the 2015 season, but things could change, potentially giving Hassan a shot next year. Alex Hassan is not the veteran with a well-known beard that Jonny Gomes is, but he is a talented player nonetheless.
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Every good team needs at least one bat off the bench who can tear the cover off the ball when there is a lefty on the mound, and Boston is no exception. Assuming Jonny Gomes is either dealt this month or not re-signed, Boston will need another one. Alex Hassan,  who is already on the 40-man roster, is the perfect man for the job and would earn the league minimum, giving Boston more money to work with. Instead of paying an established veteran $5 million a year, why not pay Hassan $0.5 million to do the same thing?