This weekend's series between the Rays and Red Sox has made things a little more interesting in the AL East. With another win today, Tampa Bay would pull to within 3 1/2 games of the second-place Red Sox. Both teams have only intra-division games left on the schedule, including four more against each other next weekend. Here's a round-up of the morning's AL East links, as Jon Lester and James Shields prepare to square off in St. Petersburg:
- Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald discusses the upcoming arbitration case for Jacoby Ellsbury, who is putting up MVP-caliber numbers while earning $2.4MM this season. As Lauber writes, it's not easy to find appropriate comparables for the Red Sox outfielder. Lauber cites Andruw Jones, Hunter Pence, and Carlos Beltran as some names that could come up during negotiations. Last month, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes explained that Ellsbury's salary should exceed $6MM.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post praises the Yankees' bench, pointing out that the club's depth is one reason for its AL East lead. GM Brian Cashman noted that the Yanks weren't desperate for reinforcements at the trade deadline this year: "We did our trade deadline deals in the winter. Our supplemental moves kept us from having to trade assets in July for answers."
- The Orioles can't go into next season with Kevin Gregg as their closer, argues MASN's Steve Melewski. The right-hander is under contract for 2012 ($5.8MM), but has been inconsistent at the back of Baltimore's bullpen this year, posting a 4.45 ERA and 6.3 BB/9. Another reason why the O's may want to keep Gregg away from the ninth inning next season? He has a $6MM option for 2013 that would vest if he finishes 50 games in 2012. As the team's closer this season, he has just 43 games finished, but he recorded more than 50 in each of his previous four seasons.
- For the latest updates on the Orioles closing situation, along with 29 others, be sure to follow @closernews on Twitter or visit CloserNews.com.