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.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.