Rays headlist list of surprise teams this year (cont.)
Beckett deal a winner for Boston
The Red Sox and Josh Beckett will complete an extension by early next week that's for four years and believed to be for $68 million, which is a very good deal for Boston. "Great deal for the Red Sox,'' corrected one competing executive.
The contract has yet to be finalized, and if you look through the fine print of the CBA, you can probably find the reason. It is very likely that the finishing touches are being saved for after the start of the season so Beckett's extension won't count against Boston's competitive balance tax. Since the number is said to be in place at $68 million, that's probably the best explanation for why nothing has been signed or announced just yet.
When Beckett is asked about the negotiations, he gives as calm a "no comment'' as you're going to find, and did so again on Monday night after a nice tuneup. There's probably a very good reason for his placidity, and it's that he has nothing to worry about.
If baseball's tax situation is indeed the reason for the delay, look for an announcement either Monday or Tuesday of next week. Beckett is starting the opener on Sunday night against the Yankees, so he's bound to be a big part of the news the first week of the season.
Boston won't just give Lowell away
Mike Lowell is putting himself back into position to be traded with some nifty performances this week. The Red Sox believe that Lowell's value should be about the same as when they originally agreed to trade him to the Rangers at the winter meetings. In that deal, the Rangers agreed to pay $3 million of Lowell's $12 million salary and give Boston a decent hitting prospect in Max Ramirez.
That was before Lowell failed Texas' physical. But he has looked very good on the field in recent days -- a better test. The Rangers reportedly remain interested in Lowell, 36, who is showing that he's still an excellent hitter and adept on the infield (though with limited range, like last year). When Lowell was asked where he expects to be playing, he said, "[Red Sox GM] Theo Epstein's office is upstairs.''
Lowell also said, "I try not to dwell on things I have no control over. If they tell me 'You're going to Boston,' I'll go to Boston. If they tell me I'm going somewhere else, I'll go there.''
Lowell said he feels better than a year ago. "I'm better positioned to have a better year,'' he said. Though he remains uncertain where he'll be, and what position he'll be playing. He says first base, which he has never played in a major league game, is "not a complicated position by any means.'' And about third base, where he has played all but eight of his career games in the field, he said, simply, "I'm not opposed.''
He probably wouldn't be opposed to a deal that bring more playing time. But as he said, he's not dwelling on it.
Around the camps
The Mariners, who are concerned about their starting pitching depth, are trying to bring back Jarrod Washburn for a deal that's lower than the one they gave Erik Bedard, who got a $1.75 million guarantee and $7.5 million ceiling after an injury-racked season. Perhaps they're counting on the late date to help them lure Washburn back on a cheap deal, but so far Washburn doesn't seem to be anxious to become a great late bargain. The Royals are believed to be offering significantly more money. But it's thought that Washburn would prefer a return to Seattle, where he thrived last year. That's if the dollars can be worked out.
Aroldis Chapman is expected to be sent out within the next day after a brilliant spring training. Mike Leake, the No. 1 pick last year from Arizona State, plus left-hander Travis Wood remain the candidates to be the Reds' No. 5 starter.
Jordan Norberto may be beating out Clay Zavada for a spot in the Diamondbacks' bullpen.
Jenrry Mejia hit 98 mph on the gun and has the support of most of the Mets' decision makers to win a spot in their bullpen. GM Omar Minaya has said that he wants to go slow with Mejia, but he may become convinced to take him. Bobby Parnell hit 97 and is another candidate for the unsettled bullpen. Kiko Calero, who is throwing 85, won't make the team.
The Mets are wise to follow doctors' orders and start the season without Jose Reyes, who will be placed on the disabled list retroactively and could be back by April 11.
Congrats to class act Garret Anderson, who has won a spot with the Dodgers.
Jamie Moyer couldn't decide which he would rather do -- win 300 games or pitch in his 50s. "Interesting question,'' he said. He will pitch at 47 (and with 258 career wins) as the Phillies' No. 5 starter after a brilliant spring game against the Yankees.
Dontrelle Willis is a feel-good story for the Tigers' rotation, though skeptics remain. The Tigers think he has more upside than Nate Robertson, the disappointment who was dealt to the Marlins. Robertson didn't look great, but it's hard to question the Marlins, who almost never miss from a scouting standpoint.
The Pirates plan to bat their pitcher eighth for now. Interesting idea, but that alone probably won't turn them into a pennant contender.
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