AL East Notes: Abreu, Tanaka, Lester, Sox, Jays, Headley, Yanks, O’s

The Red Sox were within $5MM of the final bidding (six years, $68MM) for now-White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, reports Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. Interestingly, Boston felt that Abreu could be used across the diamond at third base. Chicago GM Rick Hahn said that, in learning more about the bidding after landing Abreu, “it turns out there were several teams, not just us and Boston, that were awfully aggressive and pretty close to where we were at the end.” As things stand, it looks like Hahn made the right choice to outbid that dense market.

Here’s more from Boston and the rest of the AL East:

  • Prized Yankees hurler Masahiro Tanaka is set to undergo an MRI on his right arm, reports George A. King III of the New York Post. Made available by his Japanese club in December, the righty inked a seven-year, $155MM contract (with an opt-out after four seasons). He has been outstanding, compiling a 2.51 ERA with 9.4 K/9 against just 1.3 BB/9 in 129 1/3 frames, but has recently worked through two rough starts. After his most recent outing, he reported “a little discomfort,” according to a tweet from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
  • For now, the situation warrants close attention, though it would be unwise to jump to conclusions. Obviously, a layoff of any significant duration would have critical implications for a New York club that has relied heavily on the 25-year-old, who has notched a league-leading 12 wins. The club has called up outfielder Zoilo Almonte but has yet to announce a corresponding roster move, leading Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News to suggest (via Twitter) that the Yankees could be waiting to learn more about Tanaka’s status before acting.

Earlier Updates

  • The Red Sox are having ongoing “conversations” that may result in a new, increased offer to lefty Jon Lester, reports ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Edes. Boston should — and probably will — reach an extension with Lester, opines Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. At various points, the on-again/off-again talks have variously made a deal seem close and free agency appear inevitable. Abraham ticks through the reasons that keeping Lester in Boston makes good sense for both sides.
  • Meanwhile, the club may be close to making some kind of change behind the plate, according to a tweet from Abraham. Veteran A.J. Pierzynski has scuffled to a .254/.286/.348 line in 274 plate appearances after joining the Red Sox on a one-year, $8.25MM deal. While he might appeal to some contenders, that contract means that Boston would likely need to eat some cash to get any kind of return. Well-regarded prospect Christian Vazquez is waiting in the wings at Triple-A, and could be given a taste of MLB action.
  • Mired in last place in the division, Boston is highly likely to sell, but there are many permutations that could take. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal takes a look at the possible chips and names their likeliest suitors. While rumors reached crescendo without a deal yesterday, MacPherson still sees the Cardinals as a good fit for Jake Peavy. He goes on to name several players with potential matches: outfielder Jonny Gomes (Mariners), Pierzynski (Pirates), Koji Uehara (OriolesTigersAngelsPirates), and shortstop Stephen Drew (TigersBrewers) as other possibilities to be flipped.
  • In yet another reminder of how quickly things can change, the Blue Jays now seem to have a greater need in their lineup than the rotation, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. A right-handed hitting second or third baseman, right-handed outfield bat, and potentially a catching upgrade all rate as areas to explore, according to Nicholson-Smith. The team could stand to add a starter if an impact arm could be had for a reasonable price, he adds, and may also look to pick up a righty for the pen.
  • One possibility for the Blue Jays could be Chase Headley of the Padres, with Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reporting on Twitter that the two clubs have had discussions on the third baseman. Headley is a switch-hitter, which would open up some flexibility for the Jays. On the other hand, he has generally been more successful against righties, reducing the utility of playing him in some form of a platoon with the righty-mashing Juan Francisco.
  • The Yankees are going to go for it, but should not gut the farm to do so, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman says that the Brandon McCarthy acquisition was a good model, because it did not require the sacrifice of a player with a significant part in the club’s future plans, and that the organization can always utilize its unmatched financial capacity to add talented players on big contracts. But with a roster that looks to have a less-than-even chance to take the division, says Sherman, the organization’s best minor league pieces should not be sacrificed for pure rentals.
  • Implicit in the above notes, I would suggest, is that the Orioles may have an unmatched window to make a run at the division. The Rays and Red Sox probably have too much ground to gain, the Yankees don’t look to have the youth or across-the-board talent, and the Blue Jays have faded quickly of late. While the loss of Matt Wieters certainly hurts, the Orioles look like they could be the odds-on favorite. Should the club move to bolster its chances with a mid-season addition or two, it could easily achieve bottom-line impact because it has two positions ripe for upgrade in second base and catcher. Of course, a rotation acquisition may also make sense. While Baltimore will surely be loath to do so, it does have a relative abundance of high-end young pitching to deal from.


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