Links 5-7-2010: Yanks come to town, the Rays’ run, current outlook

I don’t need to add to the chorus of voices talking about how this is a must-win series for Boston, who comes in lagging 6-1/2 games behind first-place Tampa Bay. But this series will be a real test of this Red Sox team. Here’s a look at the matchups. Our guys have alternated between looking good and very bad this season, and the way they respond to this challenge may tell us a lot about whether they’re in it for the long haul or not.

The Red Sox need to get off on the right foot and win tonight’s game. There’s little excuse, with Josh Beckett on the mound against Philip Hughes. As Bloomberg Sports points out, you don’t need to fear Hughes’ 2.00 ERA too much.

For those of you interested in the whole Boston-New York game length thing, there are some in-depth studies here.

Speaking of unsustainable performances… Yes, the Tampa Bay Rays are unbeatable right now, but no, they won’t continue to be. Their starters can’t continue at this level, and their offense has been incredibly opportunistic in 2010. Once those things level out, they’ll be merely a very good team. Let’s just hope they’ll be merely a very good third place team.

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2010 AL East Preview: Sox, Yankees reloaded

As Spring Training finally dawns, we are looking at two teams at the top of the division with significant turnover from this offseason. The Yankees have shed several older, oft-injured players and added a powerful left-handed bat in OF Curtis Granderson. For their part, Boston has decided to focus on run prevention with the signing of John Lackey and even sacrificed OBP in order to improve their team defense in this “bridge year”. The Tampa Rays have another year of development and polish on their young and talented core. Meanwhile, Toronto has gone into rebuilding mode with the trade of Roy Halladay to the Phillies, and the Orioles’ youth movement is on the cusp of paying dividends. What can we expect to see in 2010? Read more of this post

7-6: Boston wins an ugly one, 8-5

It was a strange sight, seeing David Ortiz on the bench. I guess even DHs need a day off now and then. The number 3 spot was filled by J.D. Drew, who went 0-3 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored. The Red Sox were able to take game 3 of this first series against the bad boys from New York, thanks to some timely offense by Manny Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis and Sean Casey.

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Twins considering Boston offers for Santana

Well, Hank Steinbrenner’s so-called “deadline” has come and gone, and his constant yapping to the press has Bill Smith and the Minnesota front office steamed. Despite having the leading offer a few days ago, Steinbrenner has admitted that he thinks the chances of the Yankees landing Johan Santana are now slim. Multiple reports say they are turning their focus to other pitchers. This development has come as the Yankees continue to refuse to include prospect Ian Kennedy as part of the package with Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera.

Gordon Edes thinks that a deal could be very close. The two teams were talking past midnight, and are reviewing the medical records of Lester and Santana. It’s now thought that the Twins are considering two offers from the Red Sox:

1) Jon Lester, Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie, Justin Masterson
2) Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, Justin Masterson

It’s possible that they might like Michael Bowden better than Masterson, and ask for that substitution, but Boston appears to be the driver’s seat again. As much as I hate seeing Lester or Ellsbury go, I still think making this trade is the right move for the team. We have a lot of pitching prospects right on the cusp, so they are expendable, and our rotation slots are quickly filling up with potential Cy Young candidates. And even though we have far less talent for a position players perspective, Coco Crisp was good enough to take us to the playoffs last year, and we do have another very talented, very speedy centerfield prospect in Ryan Kalish. So even that would not be the end of the world, though I would still sigh and wonder what could have been every time I see the Twins play.

But once we make the playoffs, a four-man rotation of Santana, Beckett, Dice-K and Buchholz spells W-O-R-L-D S-E-R-I-E-S, maybe many times over. That might ease the pain just a little bit.

Lest you worry about team chemistry or jealousy, Curt Schilling has also weighed in favorably on making this move.

Miguel Cabrera may be available

Peter Gammons of ESPN mentions that the third base market may be improving quite a bit, as sources say that the Marlins are looking to trade big bat Miguel Cabrera this offseason.

Miguel Cabrera at the batOne look at Cabrera and you’ll see that his bat is not the only thing that’s big: the guy has put on a ton of weight since entering the league. That could mean that his days of playing third base are numbered. The Fielding Bible, newly released for 2007, agrees, as he was rated the worst defensive third baseman in the majors over the past three seasons. He’s really a better fit in left field or first base going forward. Still, he is one of the major league’s most talented hitters at just 24 years old, hitting .313/.388/.542 and averaging 31 HR in 5 big league seasons (162 game average).

The native Venezuelan earned $7.5 million this past year, and the Marlins will be stretched as tight as Miguel’s pants if they keep him for 2008 because of salary arbitration (he’s got two more years before free agency). They are looking for a top pitching prospect as part of a package in return for the third baseman. The Yankees have an option here, as they are facing starting Wilson Betemit or Robinson Cano at third this year, if they can’t pry Mike Lowell away from the Red Sox. It would likely cost them lefty Philip Hughes, which Brian Cashman can’t be enthusiastic about.

As far as the Red Sox are concerned, acquiring Cabrera would likely cost Clay Buchholz and another top prospect. You could think of Cabrera as an eventual replacement for Manny Ramirez; maybe he could man first base, and Kevin Youkilis could slide back over to third base for the time being. A very tough call, as no one wants to see Buchholz go, and this would mean losing Youk’s glove over at first AND Lowell’s glove at third in the same offseason. Because Cabrera is so young, however, this is a deal worth considering.