David Price (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Its no surprise to anyone that the Red Sox are planning to play at the top of the starting pitching market this offseason, both in trades and free agency. David Price has been seen as the top available arm, along with Zack Greinke and sometimes Johnny Cueto. Each would be a pretty significant upgrade over what the team currently has in its rotation, but there are legitimate risks associated as well. Those risks seem to make the trade market a more desirable upgrade route for the Red Sox, although Dave Dombrowski has strongly alluded to the free agent market as the most likely option to add a starter. This news came following the team’s acquisition of Craig Kimbrel from the Padres, though it wasn’t entirely surprising.

The story has gotten interesting over the past five days, as reports are now pouring in from reputable sources that the Red Sox are prepared to be the highest bidder for Price’s services. Ken Rosenthal made the first public connection on Monday, though that was allegedly more his own opinion than real speculation. But he then followed with a report of a handful of teams who should have the best shot at landing Price, with the Red Sox included as a favorite. Buster Olney followed by reporting his “high expectation” that the Red Sox would outbid the field on Price, and Tom Verducci concurred. There could be some pack mentality going on, based on the obvious fit between team and player, but that is a lot of agreeing from a lot of different sources.

But the biggest domino fell on Wednesday when Peter Gammons reported that his industry sources agree with the speculation. Not to say that Gammons has never been wrong, but he is one of the more plugged-in reporters in the country, so his opinion should carry a good deal of weight. Nothing appears close at the moment, but with so many people saying the same thing it appears that momentum could be building toward an agreement in the near future. Fans will want to stay tuned to the situation, especially as we get closer to the start of the Winter Meetings in December.

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James White crosses the goal line for his first NFL touchdown and gave the Patriots the 10-3 lead just before halftime. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Monday night was far from pretty but the Patriots stand at 10-0 and could officially clinch the AFC East next week. With the offense devastated by injuries, the defense played some of its best football of the season. The offense is clearly dealing with communication and trust issues with all the new pieces being plugged in along the way. For the first time in weeks the offensive line was healthy but ironically it was the worst they’ve looked all year. Tom Brady’s most reliable receiver with zero dropped passes, Danny Amendola, left with an apparent knee injury. After his exit they had three healthy receivers. One was Matthew Slater and another was Chris Harper who has never caught an NFL pass. With all that they still made the plays to win a divisional game in prime time.

– Aside from a few big plays the defense showed again how good they can be. The front seven was holding contain on Tyrod Taylor for the majority of the game. Pressure caused by the pass rush directly led to multiple poorly thrown passes. LeSean McCoy did break the 27-yard touchdown run but was held to just 55 rushing yards other than that. By his standards that’s a relatively calm day. Rob Ninkovich continued his solid campaign by adding another 1.5 sacks and pressuring Taylor throughout. Rotating defensive linemen throughout the game has paid off for the Patriots as each group knows exactly what their job is, and they’re doing it well. Continue reading Notes and Observations Week 11: Defense Leads Battered Patriots to Victory Over Bills 20-13 »

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Isaiah Thomas had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but fumbled the ball much like the Celtics fumbled an early 18-point lead to the Dallas Mavericks. (USA Today)

Do you remember those Kevin Garnett commercials after the Boston Celtics won the NBA title in Year One of the Big Three era? “It’s all about eighteen.”

The 2015-16 Celtics may not be quite ready to contend for the franchise’s 18th championship, but Wednesday’s loss was all about the number 18: the first quarter lead the Celtics held over the Dallas Mavericks before blowing it all in a 106-102 loss at home in the TD Garden.

A blown early lead isn’t particularly shocking in the NBA, as the tide almost always turns. (The Celtics could hardly be over .500 otherwise.) But what was frustrating was that the 31-13 advantage was just one of many sizable leads the Celtics held throughout the night. They led by 15 after one, 9 at halftime, 8 after three quarters, and another double digit lead early in the fourth. With less than eight minutes to play, Brad Stevens’s squad was still holding on to a seven point lead.

But alas, all good things must come to an end, and the Mavericks went on a run to take their first lead of the game (!) with 4:31 remaining. Behind Dirk Nowitzki’s ageless (and game high) 23 points, and Deron Williams’s improbable resurgence after escaping Brooklyn Nets purgatory, the Mavs surged ahead to a seven point lead of their own late in the game, and it seemed that the tide had irrevocably turned, with no winds to fill the Celtics’ sails.

But these overachieving Celtics, as Stevens has always had them do, scrapped their way back into the game by forcing some timely turnovers, making some big shots, and getting some help from Raymond Felton at the charity stripe. That left the Celtics with the ball in Isaiah Thomas’s hands, trailing by two with the clock winding down. The script was on schedule.

But Thomas lost his handle as he tried to drive into the lane, the Mavs’ Williams upped his streak of consecutive free throws to 30 to start the season, and Mark Cuban got some measure of revenge for the ill fated Rajon Rondo trade last year by celebrating a Mavericks win on he parquet floor.

Not only did the loss drop the Celtics to 6-5, it represented a missed opportunity to capitalize on a doubly meaningful win. No, it wouldn’t have counted twice in the win column, but the Celtics own the Mavericks top-seven protected pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Adding to the Dallas loss total while also walking away with a win would have helped the Celtics cause both this year and next year by perhaps inching the Mavericks that much closer to the back-end of the NBA lottery. Blast!

Luckily, the Celtics are going to have two more chances to help their own cause in more than one way with a home-and-home against the one and only Brooklyn Nets. The Nets, of course, owe the Celtics their unprotected first round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft thanks to their trade for Paul Pierce and “all about eighteen” star Kevin Garnett. And with just two wins on the season (really, Rockets and Hawks??) are poised to deliver a prime pick at the top of the lottery. A couple of wins over their divisional counterparts will only push those lottery odds higher (can you say Ben Simmons??).

Hopefully the Celtics can do a better job of improving their playoff odds for both this season and next against the Nets than they did against the Mavericks. That way the next “all about eighteen” is actually about another Celtics championship, not a lost opportunity in November.

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Stephen Gostkowski stands tall among fallen Giants after kicking the game winning 54-yard field goal. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

There is nothing quite like a good old fashioned nail biter to get the blood pumping on a Sunday afternoon in November. The Giants have been the one team to have the Patriots figured out. For most of the game on Sunday it appeared like it was going to be more of the same. We were going to be subjected from a perfect performance from Eli Manning, while Tom Brady looked as mortal as he has all season. Luckily for the Patriots and their fans they were the recipient of the lucky break at the right time.

– No doubt about the fact that Danny Amendola was the savior of that game. His punt return sparked some much needed life into a team that was dragging. I, like everyone else I imagine, have zero idea what Duron Harmon was trying to accomplish. Amendola walks into the end zone if Harmon stays far, far away from him. On the last drive he was right where he had to be to haul in a laser of a pass to keep the drive going on 4th and 10. His awareness produced the necessary yardage on his catch setting up Stephen Gostkowski for the game winner. If Amendola goes down right where he catches that pass there’s a real chance Gostkowski doesn’t make that kick.  Continue reading Notes and Observations Week 10: Gostkowski’s Game-Winning Field Goal Sends Patriots Past Giants 27-26 »

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Craig Kimbrel (Matt York/Associated Press)

The Red Sox made headlines on Friday night with their surprising acquisition of Craig Kimbrel from the San Diego Padres, marking Dave Dombrowski’s first significant roster move in Boston. Kimbrel immediately becomes the closer for the Red Sox since he has been one of the most dominant relievers in the history of the game, and provides an enormous upgrade from what the Red Sox had at the back of the bullpen in 2015. In fact, Kimbrel would be an upgrade over just about any closer in the game, so Dombrowski got good value in this trade, even though most people think he gave up too much prospect value. We don’t want to get too into that argument yet, but we can analyze how Kimbrel can improve the Red Sox bullpen aside from a flamethrower-fastball and a wipeout breaking ball. Following is our list of current Red Sox relievers who stand to gain from Kimbrel’s addition to the bullpen, and how they might benefit.

Koji Uehara:

Kimbrel’s acquisition comes with an automatic demotion for Uehara, who has been brilliant for just about his entire Red Sox career, including their World Series run in 2013. But his “demotion” only comes through the fact that Kimbrel is the best closer in the game, not by any fault of his own. Uehara maintained great strikeout (10.49 K/9) and walk (2.01 BB/9) rates into the latest stage of his career, even as his velocity has started to disappear (87.0 average fastball velocity in 2015). If he can manage to sustain his effectiveness even somewhere close to his current level, he will turn out to be an invaluable setup man for the eighth inning, and can combine with Kimbrel to shorten a game to seven innings.

Continue reading Kimbrel’s Effect on the Red Sox Bullpen »

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Dave Dombrowski announced the start of his presidency by acquiring closer Craig Kimbrel from the San Diego Padres. (MLB.com)

The Boston Red Sox held a press conference back in August to introduce Dave Dombrowski as the new president of baseball operations, in the midst of (another) failed season en route to a third last place finish in four years. But throughout the remainder of the season, Dombrowski’s presence was more felt than seen or heard – assessments of the 25-man roster, speculation on what he’d do with Clay Buchholz’s option, expounding on his team-building philosophies, and finalizing his front office. He seemed more of a looming figure in the owner’s suite than the president of baseball operations.

All that changed when Dombrowski shipped four prospects to the San Diego Padres in a blockbuster trade for All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel. (So much for those Aroldis Chapman rumors!) With that announcement, Dombrowski has put his fingerprints on the 2016 Red Sox with the acquisition of a single player, and that more than any press conference announces his arrival as the president of baseball operations for the Red Sox.

Continue reading Dombrowski Announces His Arrival to Red Sox with Trade for Kimbrel »

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Tom Brady goes to celebrate with Brandon Bolden after he hauled in a nice touchdown catch replacing the injured Dion Lewis. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Last week I talked about how spoiled we are in New England basically being able to pencil the Patriots into the AFC Championship every year. This week was another prime example of just how good we have it here. The Patriots handled the Redskins all game and the win was never in doubt. Tom Brady finished just one yard shy of 300 for the day and threw for two more touchdowns. The defense played as good as they have been the past few weeks. Even with all that it was a bad game by Patriots’ standards.

– Tom Brady put up another solid performance with 299 yards, going 26-39 with two touchdowns. He had a very uncharacteristic interception that made me do a double take to make sure it was Brady throwing the ball. It was a rare instance where he didn’t read the defense correctly and just never saw linebacker Keenan Robinson playing zone. Credit to Robinson for reading the play and making the interception, but that was a bad pass by Brady. Again, that’s how great it is to be a Patriots fan. These awful plays are so few and far between that it’s actually shocking when it happens. Continue reading Notes and Observations, Week 9: Patriots Beat Redskins 27-10 to go 8-0 for 2nd Time in Team History »

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