Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew come up big in possible Fenway finales

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As the Red Sox celebrate their third World Series victory in a decade Wednesday, the likelihood exists that several key players won’t be back in 2014.

Red Sox free agents this winter include Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Ellsbury and Drew in particular delivered big games on Wednesday, with Ellsbury reaching three times and scoring two of Boston’s six runs. Drew went 2-for-4 and homered to snap a postseason-long slump that had led some to call for his benching.

Of Boston’s free agents, those two seem the least likely to return. Ellsbury is in line for the second biggest contract of any free agent this winter (behind Robinson Cano), and the Red Sox have a center-field replacement ready in Jackie Bradley Jr. Drew likewise can be replaced by a youngster, Xander Bogaerts. The Red Sox will probably make Drew a qualifying offer, giving him the chance to return on a one-year, $14.1 million contract. However, he should be able to get at least a three-year deal as the top shortstop in free agency.

The Red Sox don’t have such ready-made replacements for Napoli and Saltalamacchia and could be more aggressive about re-signing them. They’ll certainly have plenty of flexibility, particularly since they can go cheap in center, shortstop and at third base.

One spot the Red Sox won’t have to worry about: Koji Uehara in the closer’s role. While the deal he signed last year was reported as a one-year pact, it included a $4.5 million option for 2014. The Red Sox will be on the lookout for some additional setup help, but the ninth appears locked down.

Minor League Baseball eclipses 40 million in attendance for 14th consecutive season

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Minor League Baseball announced on Wednesday that, for the 14th consecutive season, the league has eclipsed 40 million in total attendance. 20 teams set single-game attendance records and seven teams set franchise records for single-game attendance in their current parks.

ESPN’s Keith Law, who has been covering the minor leagues for quite a while, did the math:

Minor League Baseball president and CEO Pat O’Conner, whose most prominent stint in the public eye involved him disingenuously justifying the underpaying of his players, said, “Minor League Baseball continues to be the best entertainment value in sports, and these numbers support that. For us to top 40 million fans for the 14th consecutive season despite the weather challenges our teams faced in April and May is a testament to the continued support of our loyal fan bases and the creative promotions and hard work done by all of our teams across the country.”

Major and Minor League Baseball are quite happy to make money hand over fist on the backs of their players, but are too cheap to pay them adequately for their labor.