Varitek deal not done yet and other Red Sox tidbits

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Contrary to yesterday’s reports that he had already exercised his $3 million option, Jason Varitek held out yesterday, apparently trying to get the Red Sox to renegotiate its terms in an effort to make the incentives more attainable. That according to the Globe’s Pete Abraham, who reports that Scott Boras and Theo Epstein had a late meeting about it all last night. Pete notes, however, that Theo doesn’t sound all that enthused about renegotiating anything, saying that the existing option “seems like a straightforward thing.”  Varitek has until today to make his decision. I can’t feature him having any other prospects out there apart from minor league deals and non-roster invites, so if he doesn’t exercise it, it would suggest that he doesn’t want to play anymore.  I think he exercises.

In other Sox news Theo strongly hinted that Matt Holliday was a possibility for Boston, saying “Hopefully we’ll sign Jason Bay. But if we can’t, we’ll
have to get creative in left field. It could a big-money guy . . .”  The only bigger money guy in left field is clearly Holliday, and a move for him is totally consistent with what we heard yesterday about the Sox’ willingness to spend this winter.

Finally, Pete notes that Daisuke Matsuzaka is going to return to the U.S. relatively early in the offseason for the express purpose of embarking upon a conditioning program.  Remember over the summer Dice-K was saying that the Sox were full of it and that he was going to stick with his old Japanese conditioning habits? Yeah, forget that. Theo wins. Theo almost always wins.

Reds having Michael Lorenzen prepare as a two-way player

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For decades, a legitimate “two-way player” — a player who functions as both a pitcher and as a position player — was nothing but a fantasy. The skill sets required for both are too distinct and require too much prep work, it was thought. The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani shattered that illusion in 2018, posting a .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances as a hitter while posting a 3.31 ERA in 51 2/3 innings as a pitcher.

Since then, several more players have been considered in two-way roles. The Rangers signed Matt Davidson earlier this month and could potentially use him as a corner infielder as well as a reliever. Also earlier this month, James Loney signed with the independent Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters, who plan to use him as both a first baseman and as a pitcher.

You can add Michael Lorenzen of the Reds to that list. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports that the Reds will have Lorenzen prepare this spring as a two-way player. He could both start and relieve while occasionally playing in the outfield. Lorenzen, in fact, took batting practice with the outfielders on Thursday. Previously, he had taken batting practice as extra work following a workout with fellow pitchers.

Lorenzen said, “It’s fantastic, the effort they’re putting in. A lot of the excuses were, ‘You know, we don’t want to overwork him.’ Well, let’s just sit down and talk about it then. They were willing to sit down and talk about it, which is one of the reasons why I love this staff so much and why I think the front office did a great job [hiring] this staff. They’re willing to find solutions for problems.”

New manager David Bell said, “We’ve put together a plan for the whole spring, knowing we can adjust it at any time. We didn’t want to go into each day not knowing what he’s going to do. We all felt better, he did, too. He was part of putting it together.”

Lorenzen, 27, pitched 81 innings last year with a 3.11 ERA and a 54/34 K/BB ratio. He’s one of baseball’s best-hitting pitchers as well. Last year, he swatted four homers and knocked in 10 runs in 34 trips to the plate. The last pitcher to hit at least four homers in a season was the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, who did it in both 2014 (four) and 2015 (five). Lorenzen also posted a 1.043 OPS. According to Baseball Reference, there have been only 11 pitchers to OPS over 1.000 (min. 30 PA). The only ones to do it in the 2000’s are Lorenzen last year, Micah Owings in 2007 (1.033) and Dontrelle Willis in 2011 (1.032).