Red Sox pass on Bautista
Free agent outfielder Jose Bautista wanted to “work something out” with the Red Sox, but agent Jay Alou was told–via Peter Gammons–that the club had maxed out their payroll for the year. Christopher Smith of MassLive.com suggests that the Sox still have some wiggle room before they hit the new luxury-tax threshold of $195 million, but if they want to make a serious play for any other free agents this winter, they’ll need to shed some of their more substantial contracts first.
The Red Sox aren’t the first team to pass on the 36-year-old Bautista, who was shut down by the Orioles last week after Dan Duquette called him a “villain in Baltimore” and declined to make an offer. “We told [Bautista's] agent that we are not interested because our fans don't like him,” Duquette told Sportsnet Radio 590 The Fan, referencing the long-standing feud between the free agent and various members of the Orioles.
Bautista’s polarizing personality hasn’t scared off the Blue Jays, Indians, or Rangers just yet, though he hasn’t made any significant progress in contract negotiations, either. While he’s open to a two-year deal, any team outside of Toronto will have to forfeit a draft pick to land him, which could be hard to swallow after his production fell in 2016 with a pedestrian .270 TAv and 0.6 WARP.
Holland seeking two-year deal
Right-hander Greg Holland is back on the market, recovering from Tommy John surgery, and hoping to net a contract in the two-year, $22 million range. It’s been about a month since he held a pitching showcase for interested teams, drawing scouts and representatives from approximately 18 clubs as he demonstrated his return to full health after undergoing elbow surgery in late 2015.
On Sunday, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that Holland had been in talks with several “contending teams” during the winter meetings, including the Dodgers. Another interested contender appears to be the Royals, who were linked to their former reliever by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick last Wednesday. While Holland assumed the closing role in Kansas City’s bullpen during the 2015 season, prior reports from Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star hinted that the righty might be open to a number of roles in the back end of the bullpen. That way, Holland’s agent Scott Boras figures, he’ll widen his pool of potential landing spots in 2017.
Pinpointing that landing spot shouldn’t be too difficult for the 31-year-old, notwithstanding his age and injury risks. In addition to the Royals and Dodgers, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman named the Cubs and “most/all teams involved with Chapman and Jansen” as possible suitors. That was before the Cubs dealt for Kansas City right-hander Wade Davis, of course, which opens a spot for Holland on the Royals’ roster once again. The Dodgers, on the other hand, might be wise to opt for Holland’s affordable price tag considering the stiff competition for former closer Kenley Jansen’s services.
Papelbon not ready to sign yet
Free agent reliever Jonathan Papelbon is not seeking a major-league contract at the moment, per a report by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The 36-year-old was released by the Nationals in August and has been drawing interest from a variety of teams, most notably the Red Sox. According to Papelbon’s agent, Seth Levinson, the reliever is working through a personal family matter and will not pursue any opportunities until everything has been resolved.
The undisclosed family issue could be the reason why Papelbon didn’t progress in talks with Red Sox’s president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who cited similarly vague reasons in August when the closer was first approached by the club. On the mound, he struggled with the Nationals before being supplanted at closer by Mark Melancon, posting a 4.71 DRA and 0.1 WARP and wrestling with a career-high 112 cFIP. Should Papelbon elect to continue his career in Boston next season, it’ll be his second such stint after a seven-year run with the team from 2005-2011.