Cafardo On Rays, Lee, Fielder, Cubs, Eckstein

At Thursday's Baseball Writers Dinner, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said that he felt good about his rotation heading into Spring Training, but admitted that the Yankees and Rays have fewer question marks in their respective rotations, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.  The GM might now have the payroll flexibility to bolster the starting five after sending Marco Scutaro to the Rockies for Clayton Mortensen last night.  Here's more from Cafardo..

  • After taking care of their first base vacancy, the Rays can now accelerate a deal for B.J. Upton to get a shortstop.  Currently, Sean Rodriguez is slated to play there over Reid Brignac.  Tampa Bay could also use an everyday catcher, with Jose Molina currently slated to start.
  • Astros first baseman Carlos Lee has to approve any deal because of his 10-5 rights, and hasn't been receptive to waiving those privileges in the past.  The veteran is scheduled to make $18.5MM, but the club has said that they are willing to eat half of it to get a deal done.  Cafardo thinks they'd cover even more of it to appeal to a team like the Tigers.
  • One AL East GM thinks that the Prince Fielder sweepstakes will come down to the Rangers and Nationals, with the Brewers and Cubs taking a shot if he settles for a one-year deal and elects to become a free agent again.
  • There has been talk that Victor Martinez’s injury could open the door for the Cubs to unload overpriced players such as Alfonso Soriano or Marlon Byrd, but Cafardo isn't buying it.
  • David Eckstein, who didn't play last season, has decided to retire even though there were teams willing to bring him into camp.  The 37-year-old hit .280/.345/.355 in his ten-year Major League career.
  • If the Orioles, Tigers, or Yankees don’t come through soon, Johnny Damon could be in a real bind as far as finding a job.  Cafardo opines that he would be a great fit in Detroit to replace the veteran leadership of Martinez.
  • With DH openings few and far between, Cafardo also wonders about the futures of Vladimir Guerrero, Hideki Matsui, Magglio Ordonez, Raul Ibanez, and J.D. Drew.
  • Cherington says that he won't consider bringing Drew back to Boston.  Recently, an National League GM told Cafardo that he believes that Drew can be a great bat off of the bench for an NL team.
  • Larry Lucchino won’t say whether he has re-upped with the Red Sox on a long-term deal, but Cafardo takes that as a yes.