When Koji Uehara signed with the Red Sox as a free agent last winter, it was reported simply as a one-year, $4.25 million contract. However, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo has learned that the deal also included a $4.25 million option that will vest with his next appearance, his 55th of the season.
WEEI’s Alex Speier adds that incentives will make the option worth $5 million if he reaches 35 games finished this year (he’s at 23 right now and should get to 35 as long as he remains in the closer’s role).
Either way, the 38-year-old Uehara is a bargain. This year, he has a 1.35 ERA and a 74/9 K/BB ratio in 53 1/3 innings. He’s had arm problems from time to time since coming to the majors in 2009, but in 199 career relief appearances, he’s amassed a 2.09 ERA and struck out more than 10 batters for every unintentional walk he’s issued. Despite his age and durability concerns, he was seemingly setting himself up for a deal in the two-year, $12 million range. That the Red Sox will already have him locked up will make their winter a little easier.
A pair of agents told El Nuevo Herald that first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu has defected from Cuba and is somewhere in the Caribbean, with separate reports placing him in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
If the news is true, Abreu would rate as biggest Cuban free agent ever. Arguably the country’s best hitter, Abreu is just entering his prime at 26 and he tied for the league lead in homers last year, hitting 19 in 264 at-bats. He finished the season batting .345 with a 39/54 K/BB ratio. In the World Baseball Classic, he went 9-for-25 with three homers and nine RBI.
Particularly in light of the success of Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig in the majors, Abreu will likely set off quite the bidding war if he’s made a free agent. Given that the Dodgers, Yankees, Tigers and Angels already have huge commitments at first base, the Red Sox and Rangers would seem to be in the best position to land him, with the Mets, Blue Jays, White Sox and Mariners rating as longer shots.
Personally, I think Abreu would immediately emerge as an All-Star candidate at first base. A contract exceeding $70 million-$80 million would hardly come as a surprise.
Those hoping the Red Sox would give top prospect Xander Bogaerts a shot should prepare to be disappointed. The team is instead recalling Will Middlebrooks to play third base, with Brandon Snyder going on the disabled list.
Middlebrooks had regained his stroke for Triple-A Pawtucket over the last week, hitting .333/.361/.545 with two homers in his last eight games. That followed a month of July in which he hit .238/.292/.390 in 105 at-bats. He hit .192/.228/.389 with nine homers and 25 RBI in 203 at-bats before being sent down in June.
Bogaerts was outhitting Middlebrooks in Triple-A, posting an .845 OPS to Middlebrooks’ .790 mark. Still, it seems as though the Red Sox prefer having him focus on shortstop for now. He had started at third base in just one of his last eight games for Pawtucket.
The Red Sox had been getting by with a Brock Holt-Snyder platoon at third base since trading Jose Iglesias, but that was nothing more than a stopgap situation until Middlebrooks or Bogaerts proved ready. If Middlebrooks struggles over the next couple of weeks, then maybe Bogaerts will get a look in September. However, if Middlebrooks hits, it’ll be his job the rest of the way.