Nine stolen bases?! Here's how the Red Sox can stop the running game

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Guerrero steals.jpgI mentioned it in ATH, but it’s worth mentioning again: the Rangers stole nine bases off the Boston Red Sox last night. Nine. As in, the most any team has stolen in a game in eight years. Even Vlad Guerrero — who walks around like Fred Sanford half the time — swiped two.

Obviously it’s going to be easier to run when a knuckleballer like Wakefield is on the hill, but it’s not like you can absolve Victor Martinez here. He has only caught one guy in 25 attempts all season. And most of those came with guys throwing real fastballs on the mound.  There are faster teams than the Rangers out there, and they no doubt watched last night’s highlights closely.  You can only assume teams will run on the Red Sox more and more until they show they can do something about it. But what to do?

For starters, you have to move Wakefiled out of the rotation when Daisuke Matsuzaka comes back to the big club, which could be as early as next week. This is not just a stolen base prevention move given that Wakefield hasn’t been particularly effective this year, but with an offense that is sputtering like it is, every bit of — dare I say it? — run prevention is needed, and keeping the running game in check is part of run prevention.

A more pressing problem is the man trying to throw runners out. Don’t get me wrong. I love Victor Martinez. But I watched him for years in Cleveland — years in which he was increasingly used at first base and DH because of his poor defense — and he is never going to be able to truly get the job done behind the plate for a contending team.

Something needs to be done about that, and I have an idea: move Victor Martinez to DH, cut bait on Big Papi and acquire a defense-first catcher to restore order on the basepaths.

Such a move may be painicky. It may be radical. But it may be the best option for the Red Sox. And most beautiful thing about it: it kills three birds with one stone: (1) it solves the defensive problem; (2) it moves Ortiz’s dead wood out of the lineup; and (3) it reduces Victor Martinez’s price in free agency, making him much easier to simply plug in as Ortiz’s permanent replacement next year and for a few years thereafter. Cheap? Sure, but it ain’t dumb.

The only problem would be the media ruckus that would be caused by so definitively moving Ortiz aside, but if the team keeps losing and/or playing ugly baseball like it has already the media din is going to be there anyway.

So, what say you Red Sox Nation?

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.