One good sign: Hansen in fold
CHICAGO -- The Red Sox have a new closer, but it may be awhile before he lands in Fenway Park.
Craig Hansen, the highly touted pitcher from St. John's University, came to terms on a four-year, major league contract that will pay him a total of $4 million. The deal has not been announced, but Hansen is expected to be at the team's training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., today.
The expectation is that Hansen will remain in Fort Myers, getting himself in pitching shape, before he is assigned to one of the team's minor league affiliates. The assumption is Hansen will either be assigned to Single A Wilmington in the Carolina League or Double A Portland.
Although remote, it's possible the Sox could add Hansen to the big-league roster before the end of the season to bolster the bullpen, depending on what other moves the club makes.
With a week remaining before the July 31 trading deadline, the Sox have not abandoned hopes of landing lefthanded reliever J.C. Romero from the Twins, though they were exploring other options. The Sox are down a lefty since designating Alan Embree for assignment, a move that shocked his bullpen mates. Embree, who had a clause in his contract requiring the Sox to pay him an extra $1 million if traded, is expected to have a number of suitors if the Sox are unable to trade him within the requisite 10-day period and he becomes a free agent. The Yankees, Padres, Mets, Diamondbacks, and White Sox could have interest.
The Red Sox may have picked up some serious competition in the A.J. Burnett sweepstakes. The White Sox have packaged top prospect Brendan McCarthy along with reliever Damaso Marte in attempt to pry the righthander from the Marlins. That's an attractive proposition for the Marlins, though there is a potential snag: The White Sox reportedly will not go through with that deal without signing prospective free agent Burnett to a contract extension.
The Orioles are also serious bidders for Burnett. They are currently in the process of unloading Sidney Ponson to the Padres for first baseman Phil Nevin in an exchange of unwieldy contracts. But Nevin has a no-trade provision in his contract that allows him to veto a trade, and the native Californian has exercised a veto in the past when he nixed a deal that would have sent him to Cincinnati for Ken Griffey.
Hansen was the 26th player drafted overall and the second player taken in the first round by the Sox, who earlier gave a $1.4 million signing bonus to Oregon State center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, currently playing for the Single A Lowell Spinners.
Hansen at one time was considered a possible No. 1 choice overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to Baseball America, but he may have slid in the first round because of signability issues and the fact that his agent was Scott Boras.
Hansen, who grew up in Long Island and was followed closely by Sox scout Ray Fagnant, throws a fastball clocked around 97 miles per hour and also has a plus slider. Last summer, he worked out at Fenway Park for general manager Theo Epstein and pitching coach Dave Wallace, who taught him his changeup, Hansen said in a recent interview.
The Big East pitcher of the year and a first-team All-America selection, Hansen's stock rose dramatically last summer after a dominating performance in the Cape Cod League, where he went 1-1 with 10 saves, did not allow an earned run, and struck out 41 while walking just two in 22 innings.
At St. John's, he was 2-2 with a 1.41 ERA and a school-record 14 saves to go with 77 strikeouts and 17 walks in 57 innings.