When did the Red Sox get all thrifty?

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Nick Punto? A closer making the minimum? Nick Punto? NICK PUNTO?!?

And no Yu Darvish, in case you were wondering.

Now we know why the Red Sox were ticked off the White Sox sent Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays without ever shopping him around first.

Picking up Mark Melancon from the Astros in return for Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland did make sense for Boston. Lowrie may yet turn into a fine regular at second base, but his glove doesn’t quite cut it at shortstop and his injury history is truly worrisome. The Astros will play him at short for now, but they may end up putting him at third base for the long haul. Weiland profiles better as a reliever than as a starter, though he may turn into a quality setup man in time.

I’m a believer in Melancon, having had him projected for a 3.13 ERA and a 62/22 K/BB ratio in 69 innings next season. Anyone pointing to his walk rate as a reason to be nervous should take note that six of the 26 walks he issued in his 74 1/3 innings last season were intentional. Melancon will never be Jonathan Papelbon, but he should be a nice asset, particularly while he’s making the minimum these next two years.

The Punto signing, on the other hand, is pretty gruesome. Punto is a lot more likely to revert to 2010 form (.238/.313/.302) than he is to match the 2011 line (.278/.388/.421) that he acheived in limited action for St. Louis (133 at-bats). His signing makes one wonder just why the Red Sox are holding on to Mike Aviles. Aviles has some offensive ability, but if he’s not going to be trusted to backup the infield spots, there’s not much sense to keeping him around. If it’s going to be Punto, not Aviles and certainly now not Lowrie, getting the call at third base when Kevin Youkilis is banged up next season, the Red Sox will be taking a big hit at the bottom of the lineup.

But then the Red Sox are starting to get used to taking big hits.

Alex Bregman shows how easy it is to manufacture “controversy” in baseball

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In most sports it takes legitimate trash talk to create off-day “controversy.” In baseball, it takes the weakest sauce. We saw how weak that sauce was yesterday.

Alex Bregman and the Houston Astros are going to face off against Nate Eovaldi and the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALCS tonight. It’s worth noting that earlier this season, they hit back-to-back-to-back home runs off of Eovaldi when he was pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Yesterday, in an act which was likely somewhat inspired by self-motivation, somewhat inspired by getting in Eovaldi’s head and somewhat inspired by a simple interest in having fun, Bregman took the video of those back-to-back-to-back homers off of Eovaldi and posted it to his Instagram:

Of course, since this is baseball, where even farting off-key can be construed as “showing up” the opposition or somehow disrespecting the game, it became a thing. Or at least people tried to make it become a thing.

Indeed, it took them a bit to find someone who would help them make it a thing, because Eovaldi himself didn’t care about it a bit, nor did Astros manager A.J. Hinch or Red Sox manager Alex Cora. Eventually, however, they hit pay dirt. Here’s Sox infielder Steve Pearce talking to WEEI.com:

“Wow. I don’t know why he would do that. We do our talking on the field. If he wants to run his mouth now we’ll see who is talking at the end of the series.”

My guess is that almost no one on the planet, Steve Pearce included, would care about this in a vacuum or if they allowed themselves to think through it for more than a second. Baseball culture, though — and let’s be clear about it, baseball media culture — has conditioned most of its players and participants to think that stuff like this is supposed to be controversial, so it actually takes effort not to start dancing to this kind of tune on auto-pilot.

Kudos to Hinch, Cora and Eolvaldi for exerting that effort and not dancing to it. To the press that automatically sought out comment on this and Pearce who dutifully gave it: hey, I get it. It’s hard to resist one’s conditioning. Maybe you’ll be able to resist it next time.