Report: Red Sox aggressively pursuing Ryan Dempster

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A source told ESPN’s Buster Olney that the Red Sox are aggressively pursuing the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster in a bid to shore up their rotation.

The Red Sox have already worked out one deal this year with their former employees in Chicago (team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer), but the Marlon Byrd trade was small potatoes compared to a potential Dempster deal.

Dempster, a free agent at season’s end, is currently working on a 33-inning scoreless streak and is 5-3 with a 1.86 ERA in 92 innings for the season. The Cubs are thought to want young pitching and perhaps a third-base prospect in return for him.

The Red Sox have maybe the game’s best third-base prospect in 19-year-old Xander Bogaerts. He’s currently a shortstop, but he is outgrowing the position and most project him to shift to third or the outfield. It’s doubtful they’d part with him for a rental, though. They do have 21-year-old Garin Cecchini they can make available. He’s hitting .309/.389/.441 in low-A ball.

Young pitchers the Red Sox could deal include right-handers Anthony Ranaudo, Stolmy Pimentel and Alex Wilson and left-handers Henry Owens and Drake Britton.

A less likely possibility is that they could send left-hander Felix Doubront to Chicago. Doubront has nine wins for Boston this year, but he’s struggled some lately. With Matt Garza and Paul Maholm also potentially on the block, the Cubs would certainly appreciate some young pitching capable of stepping right into the rotation.

Cardinals encourage players not to hide injuries

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In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.

Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”

Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.

I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.