Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew come up big in possible Fenway finales

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As the Red Sox celebrate their third World Series victory in a decade Wednesday, the likelihood exists that several key players won’t be back in 2014.

Red Sox free agents this winter include Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Ellsbury and Drew in particular delivered big games on Wednesday, with Ellsbury reaching three times and scoring two of Boston’s six runs. Drew went 2-for-4 and homered to snap a postseason-long slump that had led some to call for his benching.

Of Boston’s free agents, those two seem the least likely to return. Ellsbury is in line for the second biggest contract of any free agent this winter (behind Robinson Cano), and the Red Sox have a center-field replacement ready in Jackie Bradley Jr. Drew likewise can be replaced by a youngster, Xander Bogaerts. The Red Sox will probably make Drew a qualifying offer, giving him the chance to return on a one-year, $14.1 million contract. However, he should be able to get at least a three-year deal as the top shortstop in free agency.

The Red Sox don’t have such ready-made replacements for Napoli and Saltalamacchia and could be more aggressive about re-signing them. They’ll certainly have plenty of flexibility, particularly since they can go cheap in center, shortstop and at third base.

One spot the Red Sox won’t have to worry about: Koji Uehara in the closer’s role. While the deal he signed last year was reported as a one-year pact, it included a $4.5 million option for 2014. The Red Sox will be on the lookout for some additional setup help, but the ninth appears locked down.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.

Former Cardinals pitcher Anthony Reyes is now a firefighter

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Anthony Reyes pitched for the Cardinals for four years and the Indians for two years. If you remember him, you probably remember him beating Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the 2006 World Series against the Tigers, in which he allowed two runs and retired 17 consecutive batters at one point.

After that his career sort of fizzled. His last big league game came in 2009 and he knocked around the minors until 2012. But that’s not the end of the Anthony Reyes story. Only the end of it in baseball:

Reyes pitched in 15 big league games a reliever, but he was never a candidate to be fireman of the year. Now he has a much better shot at it.

Congratulations, Anthony Reyes!