Red Sox still need a taker for Lowell

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Already almost dealt in December, Mike Lowell is a man auditioning for work this spring, though he’ll do so with the comfort of a $12 million salary and a no-trade clause that gives him some control over his destiny.
Lowell took batting practice Monday for the first time since the thumb surgery that scuttled the trade that would have sent him and $9 million of his salary to Texas for Max Ramirez. He’ll probably sit out the first bit of the spring, but he isn’t far behind the rest of the Red Sox hitters following the relatively minor procedure.
Whether there’s any real interest in Lowell this spring will probably hinge more on his defense than his offense. Lowell showed diminished range at third base after his Oct. 2008 hip surgery, and the Red Sox weren’t content to go forward with him at the position this year. If he’s moving around better this spring, then he could still function as a legitimate regular for a contender. He’s finished with OPSs of 879, 798 and 811 the last three years.
Still, the Red Sox may need someone to get hurt if they’re going to net any real return for Lowell. The Twins are still undecided at third base, but they did get their second-base upgrade and they won’t mind going with the hot hand between Nick Punto and Brendan Harris at the hot corner. Florida would be an interesting option, given that Lowell was a fan favorite there. Jorge Cantu is penciled in at third base, but he could always be moved back to first if neither Logan Morrison nor Gaby Sanchez makes a splash this spring.
The Rangers added Vladimir Guerrero after the Lowell deal fell apart. They still might have some interest in him as a bench player, but probably not for $3 million. The Blue Jays could use a fallback at third and DH, as well as a right-handed-hitting first baseman. The White Sox might be another fit. Plus, injuries could change things in a hurry. The Braves and Reds are among the teams relying on corner infielders with durability issues. The Red Sox need someone to come calling eventually, because while they could carry him if they need to, Lowell isn’t in their plans for this year.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this:

Tony Clark responds to Rob Manfred’s claim that union had a “lack of cooperation”

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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Earlier, Craig covered Rob Manfred’s comments in which he accused the Major League Baseball Players’ Association of “a lack of cooperation” concerning some proposed rule changes. The union would need to agree to any such changes, which have included automatic intentional walks, limiting mound visits, pitch clocks, and swapping batting practice times for home and visiting teams.

Manfred went on to say that MLB will impose those rule changes unilaterally next year as allowed in the latest collective bargaining agreement.

Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLBPA, responded to Manfred’s comment. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

“Unless your definition of ‘cooperation’ is blanket approval, I don’t agree that we’ve failed to cooperate with the Commissioner’s office on these issues.”

“Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this off season we’ve been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened.”

“I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don’t continue, notwithstanding today’s comments about implementation. As I’ve said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open.”

“My understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2min limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of Game warning/fine adjustments.”

Clark’s response isn’t anything too shocking. Manfred’s accusation was pretty baseless, but it’s behavior to be expected of a commissioner who comes down on the side of the owners over the players almost always.