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.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”