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Is Bay Mets’ backup plan?

12.27.09 at 8:13 pm ET
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Speaking at the ninth annual “21 Days of Clemente” in New York, honoring the late Roberto Clemente, Mets’ general manager Omar Minaya told NY Sports Day that his team is, indeed, still interested in free agent outfielder Matt Holliday, as well as Jason Bay.

“We are pursuing Matt Holliday,” Minaya said. “It seems to be easier to make a deal for Jason Bay.”

It appears the St. Louis Cardinals have made the biggest push to sign Holliday, although according to ESPN.com if that plan falls through the Cards would turn their attention to pitching rather than make a run at Bay.

In other Hot Stove news, the Chicago Tribune is reporting that the Yankees may have interest in free agent outfielder Jermaine Dye.

Peter Gammons on Dale & Holley

12.25.09 at 1:42 am ET
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Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons appeared in studio on WEEI on Wednesday to discuss the state of the offseason and to discuss the upcoming Hot Stove, Cool Music events (on Jan. 9, 2010).

Gammons discussed several offseason topics, among them:

–There’€™s almost no way that the Red Sox can bring back Jason Bay. The offer that Bay received from the Sox is the best one he’€™s received, just as the Sox made the best offer (five years, $82.5 million) that Matt Holliday had received before they moved on to sign John Lackey.

–The Sox and Padres haven’€™t exchanged any names regarding a potential Adrian Gonzalez deal. It will be virtually impossible for the Padres to even think about trading Gonzalez before July.

–The availability of Miguel Cabrera in a trade will likely depend on the Tigers’€™ performance in the early stages of the season. If he does become available, the Sox would be interested, despite the inherent concerns about Cabrera off the field.

Jacoby Ellsbury could see the majority of his playing time in left field, which would help preserve his legs for offense.

Daisuke Matsuzaka is in ‘€œunbelievable shape.’€

–It remains to be seen how the Mike Lowell situation develops following the failed trade to the Rangers. Lowell could become an important contributor as a first baseman/third baseman/DH and right-handed bat. At the same time, the team believes in Casey Kotchman‘€™s offensive potential.

To listen to complete audio of the session, click here. A transcript of highlights is below. For details of the Hot Stove, Cool Music events, click here.

Any chance Jason Bay ends up back with the Red Sox as opposed to in Queens?

I think he’€™d rather be playing in Beirut than Queens. The sad part of this is that sometimes there’€™s so much competition between agents that the players become pawns. I think in Jason’€™s case, it would have been really easy to take 4 x 15 [million dollars] in July, which I thought, actually, at the time was a little bit high as an offer. It was clear that the Red Sox just wanted to get him signed and get him out of the way. While the Mets offer is four [years] for 65 [million], it’€™s so backloaded that I’€™ve been told by Mets people that it’€™s far less than what the Red Sox were offering in present-day value. And he obviously doesn’€™t want to play there. And they’€™re scared of having him play left field there for four years. It’€™s really a shame it’€™s worked out this way. I don’€™t see any way they’€™re going to add anybody else here. They’€™re not going to go above the luxury tax. They’€™re going to hold some money back to acquire a contract in July for whatever they need. It’€™s too bad. I know he wanted to go the free-agent route. But at the same time, he really found a home here. It’€™s really too bad.

It’€™s the same way with Matt Holliday. Scott Boras is brilliant. But I’€™m not sure Matt Holliday has anything comparable to the five [years] times 16.5 [million] that the Red Sox offered him at the winter meetings. I don’€™t think he’€™s going to get a Mark Teixeira contract.

Were you surprised that the Sox moved so quickly to sign Mike Cameron, with Bay and Holliday still out there?

I think they basically had spent five months with Jason Bay and Joe Urbon and just said, ‘€˜Okay, you’€™re not going to move? It’€™s been five months. We’€™re going to move on.’€™ The night before they did Cameron, they went to Boras, they had the five times 16.5, and he said it had to be a Mark Teixeira contract, so they moved on.

I know that defense has been the focus of this offseason. If you go to Baseball Prospectus and believe those defensive [efficiency] ratings, they were the second worst defensive team in baseball. Watching them, I would say that they were. However they configure the outfield, it’€™s going to be very good. I know they’€™d like to find one more right-handed hitting outfielder. And the left side of the infield will theoretically be better. It will be very interesting to see.

My theory is they want to play Ellsbury in left field as much as possible. I thought his improvement, getting to balls inside, I thought he started to make a quantum leap as an offensive player ‘€“ not Grady Sizemore, but not far removed. I think he’€™ll be a better offensive player than Curtis Granderson, for instance ‘€“ quite a bit better of an offensive player than Granderson.

I remember in ‘€™84 or ‘€™85, when the Yankees got Rickey Henderson in a trade with the A’€™s, I was doing a story on him in beautiful downtown Winter Haven. He said to me, ‘€˜The beating you take when you steal 70 to 100 bases a year is incredible.’€™ Now, with Rickey, he went into the bag so hard, head first, he was beating up his hands and legs. He said, ‘€˜It’€™s really hard to play centerfield and run 100 times a year.’€™ Barry Bonds has told me the same thing. That’€™s why he wasn’€™t playing centerfield in Pittsburgh. He was playing left field.

I think Ellsbury really wants to be a great offensive player. Boras is smart enough to know that a Gold Glove is not going to go to arbitration the same way that hitting .300 and stealing 80 bases will. So I think he’€™ll be open to it. He played left field in the Cape League. They’€™ll play Ellsbury in left field 80-100 games a year, rest his legs a little bit, and maybe it will keep him fresher over the course of the season.

One of the things, people all have their opinion about Boras, and he’€™s a tough agent, but he will work with teams if he thinks it’€™s right. Most farm directors will tell you that he’€™s the best agent because it’€™s in his interest and the club’€™s best interest to have his client succeed. So he’€™ll cooperate when it comes to that stuff. Like this year with Oliver Perez, he made Oliver Perez go to Arizona, get the work and lose weight to get in shape. I think he’€™ll understand that with Ellsbury. I think he’€™ll see, ‘€˜Oh boy ‘€“ he might make $7 million next year in arbitration.’€™

Boras told Alex Cora after he signed his two-year deal with the Red Sox to work out to set up for his next contract.

He’€™s very interested in that. More and more agents are realizing that part of their responsibilities back to teams is to get guys in facilities and get them in shape. I know that Vernon Wells is doing it, Carl Crawford, at a training center in Houston. A lot of guys go to Athletes’€™ Performance. My old friend Mike Roberts, who runs the baseball part of API, says that Daisuke [Matsuzaka] is in unbelievable shape and really working hard. He said, ‘€˜Do you think he was embarrassed last summer?’€™ I said, ‘€˜His criticizing the Red Sox was like his way of saving face in Japan.’€™ But he’€™s in tremendous shape.

Before Cameron, they offered the Holliday deal. Did they want Holliday or Lackey more?

I think they looked at it and said it’€™s going to be harder to get a big-time front-line [pitcher], once they knew that the Holliday thing was going to drag out into the middle of January, I think they said, it’€™s going to be easier to find a hitter on the market in June or July than it is to get a frontline pitcher.

I don’€™t think they ever thought he was that interested in coming to Boston. I didn’€™t know the whole thing about his wife going to the University of New Hampshire.

What is the situation with Mike Lowell?

I think Mike got frustrated and it’€™s my understanding he did say, or [agent] Sam Levinson said, it’€™s probably best if he got traded. Okay, that’€™s understandable. But at the same time, Mike wants to play full time. I understand that entirely. I talked to Mike Reinold after he had been down there to see him.

You have to believe a full offseason of rehab will help him. I remember calling Mike after the first of the year last year. He was really worried about being ready for spring training. One of Terry Francona‘€™s great lines was, ‘€˜Tell him we don’€™t need him to be ready for the Boston College game.’€™ I don’€™t know how this all works out. I really don’€™t. They’€™ve been looking for a right-handed hitting outfielder. They may not do that now, if he’€™s coming back.

They want to give Casey Kotchman every chance. I must say, a year ago in spring training, I did a thing on ESPN.com about the five guys I thought would have breakout seasons. Kotchman was one of them.

One of my favorite statistics in looking at young players as they come up, do they have more walks and more extra-base hits than strikeouts? On the major-league level, in the last 50 years, there are only 11 of them ‘€“ Pedroia and Pujols are two of them, by the way ‘€“ that have that. Kotchman’€™s numbers were unbelievable in the minor leagues. It’€™s such a good predictor of guys being really good hitters. Actually, he’€™s not that far from it on the major-league level. Except for the time, he was hitting .330-something in Anaheim in 2008 and got beaned. He struggled after that. Then, he didn’€™t play much here.

He’€™s a great first baseman. I get the impression Tito really wants to play him. I can see him, I talked to [Angels hitting coach] Mickey Hatcher about it a lot during the playoffs, he said if he can just relax, this ballpark was made for him. He’€™s Nick Johnson with defensive skills. So it will be interesting to see what happens with him.

The Sox probably don’€™t believe as much as Mike Lowell believes that he’€™s going to be a better, more mobile player.

You just never know who gets hurt, what happens. I remember the year he came over from the Marlins, people saying, writing, scouts saying, he’€™s done. He’€™s lost his bat speed. ‘€¦ And of course it turned out that he played great for them. Playing first, third, being a right-handed DH, maybe he ends up being an important part of the team. Who knows?

The thumb injury isn’€™t that dramatic ‘€“ plenty of guys come back from this. So why did Texas blow this up?

I don’€™t think Max Ramirez is any loss to Red Sox Nation.

I guess [the Rangers] got cold feet, having to spend $3 million. I don’€™t see it. I think they’€™re being a little bit silly here.

He has to be a little bit better in terms of the hip. Alex Rodriguez‘€™ operation was really minor. It can’€™t be compared to Lowell’€™s. But Chase Utley‘€™s, I still think he’€™s one of the five best players in the National League, but he was not quite the same defensive player this year after having the hip operation. I’€™m sure he will be this year. He’€™ll be the same guy again.

I think it takes some time. I didn’€™t understand that these operations didn’€™t exist a dozen years ago. It started in Europe and this is a very new technology. Mike’€™s a little bit older and a little different body type than Utley. It’€™s something that’€™s new. I have to believe it will be better.

It was tough at the end. The playoffs, he couldn’€™t move at all. I understand that. But he’€™d also been playing everyday for a full season.

What can be expected of Mike Cameron at this point in his career?

I think a great deal of energy. He is a really good defender. The only thing that worries me is that he’€™s so fearless that with all the things that jut out in Fenway that he’€™ll run into something. But I think he’€™ll hit 25 home runs, he’€™ll steal 20, 25 bases and be a really good outfielder. He is in great shape and he’€™s completely fearless. He will strike out a lot.

To me, he’€™ll probably hit seventh or eighth in the order. He hits left-handed pitching ‘€“ he has in the past ‘€“ pretty well. He’€™s a guy that good teams want him. The Yankees tried to trade Melky Cabrera for him the year before and the Brewers changed their minds on it.

He’€™ll be a good player. It’€™s one of those years, they make the deal with Florida [for Jeremy Hermida], they have Kotchman around, they have a couple of guys who people have loved for years. If all of a sudden one of them breaks out the way David Ortiz did, or even Kevin Millar did really here, then they get one or two pretty good players in terms of depth.

Where do you see the Adrian Gonzalez situation being right now?

I don’€™t think that Jed will even think about trading him until July. One of the things he found when he went out there, he’€™d always said all those years when he was with the Red Sox, they didn’€™t do deals based on how they thought the public would react, as we know ‘€“ trading Nomar, some other things. They did what they thought was in the best interests of the team.

They have to think about selling tickets in San Diego. Adrian Gonzalez is from there, he’€™s Mexican-American, he’€™s the most marketable player they have. This is a new ownership. They can’€™t afford for their first move to be trading their most important player. Now, if they’€™re 25 games out on July 1st, that may be a different story.

Another problem they have in making trades is that they played really well the last two months. I’€™ve always likened it to a college basketball game where a team is down 40 points and they rally to lose by 10, so everybody says, ‘€˜Wow ‘€“ they played great in the last 10 minutes.’€™ But actually, they’€™re going to be back to losing by 30 the next time they play that team. My guess is that’€™s what the Padres will be. They have to get much more athletic in the outfield. They’€™re playing [Kyle] Blanks in left field, which is going to be a problem. I don’€™t think he’€™ll even think about it for a while. I think they’€™ll go into this next season, then see where they’€™re at, and then talk.

I was talking to Jed a couple days ago. He said he was amazed reading some of the names that they supposedly exchanged. Because they hadn’€™t. The Padres now have the Red Sox’€™ assistant general manager and their scouting director. They know the difference between Casey Kotchman and Michael Bowden.

Are you surprised the Sox went five years with John Lackey, and how do you think it affects the Josh Beckett situation?

I was surprised. I understand that one of the things they really felt about Lackey the last year and a half is that he really developed feel ‘€“ changing speeds a lot better than he used to. He used to be a head-on guy. But I think it’€™s going to make it difficult.

I can come up with, okay, Beckett’€™s career ERA in Boston is 4.05. The last two years in the postseason he’€™s allowed 18 runs in 30 innings. Blah, blah. But the staff views Josh Beckett as the captain of the pitching staff. He’€™s a model guy who’€™s a leader, he cares about whether the team wins or loses. I think that’€™s going to be a tough negotiation. I do think they’€™ll make every effort to keep him. I really do.

If he has a normal season, the negotiations will start at five years.

I think that will provide for some interesting negotiations.

For Beckett, it’€™s a win-win ‘€“ Beckett is now clearly the top guy in next year’€™s free-agent market.

My guess is that Cliff Lee goes out on the market, but yeah, [Beckett] should be the No. 1 guy after Lee. If he has a really good year, and in fairness, I understand part of his reputation was that he was a great October pitcher, and he hasn’€™t been a good October pitcher the last two years, but he’€™s also been hurt. Okay, now, like A.J. Burnett, he has a history of some injuries.

At the same time, if he comes back and is healthy for a whole year, puts up 33 starts, doesn’t have a pull or a shoulder problem or hip problem, whatever different things he’€™s had, then in my mind, there’€™s no reason he won’t win 18-20 games, and as we’ve seen with Lackey and Burnett, that’€™s $16, $17, $18 million a year.

Who won the Halladay trade?

I think Seattle did really well. They’€™ve built that team up. Jack Zduriencik has done a great job with the defense. But I love Halladay pitching in Philadelphia. Jayson Stark, I don’€™t remember the numbers, but he had some great numbers on what the Toronto Blue Jays have been the last two years without Roy Halladay starting. It’€™s incredible. They have been like a .430 winning percentage team. In Philadelphia, with pretty good defense, a team that scores a lot of runs and a team that’€™s a lot of fun to play for ‘€“ that team, it’€™s crazy, they’€™re really fun ‘€“ he’€™s in the National League, I think that helps.

I’€™m a big Javy Vazquez guy. It’€™s hard not to like him. He’€™s one of the most likeable people. I know that Ozzie Guillen felt he was a National League pitcher, he wasn’€™t tough. I think that kind of drove him out of New York, although he did have some shoulder problems that he never talked about that one year with the Yankees. I know the Red Sox really wanted him before the Wagner signing. That will be very interesting to see, too.

One thing I’€™m impressed about by the Yankees is by bringing in Granderson and Vazquez, they’€™ve gone out to add to Rivera and Jeter, they’€™ve added incredible people. There’€™s nothing wrong with that. I think the character of the team has really evolved. To me, Melky Cabrera is a nice fourth outfielder. I understand Liberty Broadcasting, or whoever owns the Braves, in getting rid of Soriano and Vazquez, they’€™ve taken $16 million off their payroll. That deal wasn’€™t about getting players. I read today on MLBtraderumors.com, there was talk about Frank Wren yesterday saying we’€™re going to get a major bat. It turns out to be Troy Glaus.

Will Miguel Cabrera be out there?

I think a lot of it will depend on how the Tigers play for the first couple of months. It’€™s a different situation, because the owner there loves his city and he’€™s watched it die. He doesn’€™t really care about how much money he loses. It’€™s not just the pizzas ‘€“ he’€™s got casinos around Detroit. There was a lot of talk about a fire sale in Detroit this year. Jim Leyland called me [to say], ‘€˜There’€™s not going to be a fire sale. The owner’€™s not going to allow that.’€™

But, if they get off to a bad start, they’€™re not going to be able to move Dontrelle Willis. They’€™re not going to be able to move a couple of other pitchers. If they’€™re 12 games out on June 15, I could see Cabrera getting moved, and I could see the Red Sox being very interested. He’€™s got a huge contract, but he’€™s also a monster bat. Just don’€™t put him at third.

No reservations about bringing him to Boston, on or off the field?

I think there are always going to be issues off the field with Miguel. He’€™s a great kid. He just gets into these issues. But there are a lot of people who were with the Marlins who will tell you Miguel Cabrera was nowhere near the problem that Dontrelle Willis was. Dontrelle is a great guy.

The Marlins, there was a couple times when he was confronted by other players, but they really liked him. They traded him because they got Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Casey Kotchman, Cliff Lee, Curtis Granderson

Red Sox talking about Bay return

12.23.09 at 7:40 pm ET
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According to a team source, the Red Sox have had internal discussions about extending their organizational budget to potentially allow for another offer for free agent outfielder Jason Bay. The discussed proposal to Bay would be in the vicinity of the four-year, $60 million deal originally offered the outfielder by the Red Sox.

It was thought that the signing of pitcher John Lackey to a five-year, $82.5 million deal, along with the acquisition of outfielder Mike Cameron, would make make such a strategy by the Sox unlikely, with the Sox too close to the $170 million luxury tax threshold to make a run at a free agent the likes of Bay. The New York Mets are thought to be the team currently most interested in the services of Bay, who is seeking a five-year deal.

Youk, Cashman win Boston writer awards

12.23.09 at 12:51 pm ET
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Kevin Youkilis has been selected as the 2009 winner of the Thomas A. Yawkey Memorial Award as Red Sox Most Valuable Player in voting done by the Boston Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

The two-time All-Star hit .305 (150-for-491) with 27 homers, 94 RBI and 99 runs scored in 2009 while splitting time in the field between first base and third base. He finished second in the American League in on-base percentage (.413) and OPS (.961) and fifth in slugging (.548).

Youkilis played more than half of his games at first base and becomes the club’€™s first MVP at that position since Mo Vaughn in 1996.

The Boston Chapter, BBWAA also announced Tuesday that Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has been selected as Major League Baseball Executive of the Year.

Tickets for the January 14 dinner, to be held at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in Boston, are available for $150 each by sending a check to Boston Chapter-BBWAA, PO Box 7346, Nashua NH, 03060.

Read More: brian cashman, Kevin Youkilis, MLB, Red Sox

Westmoreland, Kelly Head Sox Prospect List

12.23.09 at 11:50 am ET
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Baseball America released its Top 10 Red Sox prospects on Wednesday. Ryan Westmoreland, who is recovering well from a season-ending broken clavicle, was named the organization’s top prospect. Westmoreland is regarded as a five-tool talent, and some talent evaluators have likened his abilities to those of Indians star centerfielder Grady Sizemore. Westmoreland was followed on the list by right-handed pitcher Casey Kelly, who recently made the decision to become a full-time pitcher, and is expected to compete for a spot in Double A Portland in spring training.

Last year’s top-rated Sox prospect, Lars Anderson, slipped to fourth on the list, between outfielders Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish.

For Baseball America’s complete Top 10, click here.

Read More: casey kelly, josh reddick, lars anderson, ryan kalish

Sox Prospect Westmoreland ‘Right on Track’ in Recovery

12.23.09 at 5:59 am ET
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Red Sox minor leaguer Ryan Westmoreland — considered the organization’s top position playing prospect — is recovering well from his September surgery to repair a broken collarbone. The 19-year-old suffered the injury while crashing into a fence while making a catch for the Lowell Spinners of the Short-Season New York Penn League in the final days of the regular season.

According to Sox farm director Mike Hazen, Westmoreland — who hit .296 with a .401 OBP, .484 slugging percentage, .885 OPS, seven homers, 35 RBIs and 19 steals (without getting caught) for Lowell — is “going to have a pretty typical offseason.”

“Everything looks great ‘€“ right on track. He’€™s doing his full strength and conditioning program at this point,” said Hazen.

Westmoreland’s condition at this point of the offseason, Hazen added, represents a “night and day” contrast with where he was last offseason. A year ago, Westmoreland underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, and was unable to engage in offseason upper-body strength work. Baseball activities, meanwhile, were nowhere near at hand. The Rhode Island native’s recovery from this surgery, on the other hand, will not be nearly as disruptive as he prepares for his first season at a full-season minor-league affiliate.

“He’€™d just had surgery at this point last offseason in November. He was still getting ready to rehab that thing. He wasn’€™t doing any upper body lifting,” said Hazen. “He’€™s been doing all of that stuff for a while right now. He didn’€™t start swinging the bat until spring training. He’€™s going to start swinging the bat in January. As far as strength and conditioning goes and swinging the bat, he’€™s going to have a pretty typical offseason. He probably lost about a month overall, which, in the grand scheme of things, we’€™ll make up for. ‘€¦ It’€™s a much different place.”

Hazen suggested that the surgeries have not interfered in any significant way with Westmoreland’s development. The centerfielder, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 draft and signed for a $2 million bonus, is regarded as a five-tool talent. The biggest impact on his development last year was that he played just eight games in the field (after spending most of the first two months of the season at Lowell as the designated hitter).

But Westmoreland — who started the year serving as a DH in extended spring training, and then spent almost the full year in Lowell — took plenty of at-bats, and the Sox are confident that he will be able to make up for lost time in the outfield.

“All he lost last year from a playing time standpoint was spring training, the last week of the season [when the broken clavicle was incurred] and instructional league,” said Hazen. “The outfield time we can make up for easily. The at-bats, he didn’€™t lose a ton in the grand scheme of things. I don’€™t think this impairs [his development] at all.”

Westmoreland will likely start the 2010 season in Single-A Greenville.

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Reports: Yankees Deal for Javier Vazquez

12.22.09 at 11:20 am ET
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The Red Sox made their move to add rotation depth when they acquired John Lackey last week. This morning, the Yankees appear ready to make a comparably significant splash, adding a strikeout-an-inning starter to a rotation that already includes CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte.

According to several reports, the New York has acquired starter Javier Vazquez and reliever Boone Logan from the Braves in exchange for outfielder Melky Cabrera, prospect Mike Dunn and a player to be named, reportedly Arodys Vizcaino. News of the Yankees’ pursuit of Vazquez was first reported by Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

Vazquez went 15-10 with a career-low 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts in 219.1 innings in 2009. He’€™s thrown at least 198 innings in each of the last 10 years, reaching double digits in wins in each of those seasons. While he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting in 2009, he has been more dominant in the NL than in two separate stints in the American League.

Vazquez, ,33, has spent eight seasons in the NL, going 90-93 with a 4.02 ERA. In four seasons in the AL (one with the Yankees in 2004, and three more with the White Sox from 2006-08), he had a 52-46 record and 4.52 ERA. As a member of the Yankees in 2004, he went 14-10 with a 4.91 ERA, and he gave up a grand slam to Johnny Damon in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Red Sox.

That said, Vazquez has virtually identical numbers in the two leagues in hits per nine innings (8.9 in both leagues), homers (1.1 per nine innings in the NL, 1.2 per nine innings in the AL), walks (2.3 in NL, 2.5 in AL) and strikeouts (8.1 per nine innings in both leagues).

Logan, 24, had a 5.19 ERA in 20 games for the Braves last year. He held lefties to a .231 average and .626 OPS.

The switch-hitting Cabrera, 25, hit .274 with a .752 OPS and 13 homers for the Yankees as their everyday centerfielder in 2009. He became expendable when the Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson, though the Yankees will now be in the market for a starting left-fielder.

Dunn, a 24-year-old southpaw, pitched in four games for the Yankees last year after forging a 3.31 ERA in 38 minor-league games at two levels last year. Dunn punched out 99 in 73.1 innings while walking 46.

Vizcaino, 19, went 2-4 with a 2.13 ERA in the short-season New York Penn League last year, punching out 11.1 batters per nine innings.

Read More: arodys vizcaino, boone logan, javier vazquez, melky cabrera

Sox Rank Fourth in MLB Payroll in ’09

12.22.09 at 3:31 am ET
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According to the Associated Press, the Red Sox ranked fourth in major-league payroll in 2009 with a $140.5 million payroll for luxury tax purposes. That mark ranked behind the Yankees ($226.2 million), Mets ($142.2 million) and Cubs ($141.6 million).

The Yankees were the only team that paid a competitive balance tax (CBT) in 2009. By blowing past the $162 million luxury tax, New York incurred a $25.7 million penalty that it paid into Major League Baseball’s central fund. The Yankees have now paid $174 million in CBT penalties since 2003.

The 2009 season marked the second straight year that the Sox — who paid a total of $13.9 million in CBT taxes from 2003-07 — had a payroll that fell below the luxury tax threshold. As such, if the Sox exceed the luxury tax threshold in 2010 (something that seems likely given the team’s current commitments), they will be penalized 22.5 percent on any payroll commitments in excess of $170 million.

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Lowell: ‘I don’t have a problem’

12.21.09 at 9:54 pm ET
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Speaking by phone from Orlando, Mike Lowell touched on the history of his injured right thumb — which is due to get surgery shortly after Christmas, as well as his thoughts on returning to the Red Sox after the team had agreed in principle to a trade that would have sent him to the Rangers along with $9 million in exchange for minor league first baseman/catcher Max Ramirez.

“I don’t have a problem. Absolutely,” Lowell said regarding whether or not he could return to the Red Sox. “I think everything is getting lost with all the other pieces of who they want. But I think I’m going to do much better than last year. I feel like there were close to 20 games I felt I should have been in the last two months of the season, which would have given me about three more homers and would have put me at 20 [homers] and 90 [RBI], which is about what I am.”

As for what he thinks is going to happen in regard to his future with the Red Sox, Lowell said, “I have no idea. I have absolutely no idea. That’€™s not my department.’€

Lowell clarifies thumb situation

12.21.09 at 8:52 pm ET
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Speaking by phone from Orlando, Mike Lowell clarified the history of the thumb injury that ultimately led to the cancellation of the trade that would have sent him and $9 million to Texas for minor league catcher/infielder Max Ramirez.

“I was in constant and open communication about my thumb situation from the moment it happened to every week after,” he said, pointing to a foul ball against Cleveland starter Jeremy Sowers as the cause for what is now diagnosed as a strain of the radial collateral ligament in his right thumb. Lowell said that he was asked by the Red Sox to take an MRI on Dec. 7 after being put in a splint at the suggestion of Red Sox trainer Mike Reinold, who had visited Lowell in Miami on Nov. 25.

“I’ve had very open and honest communication with the training and medical staff,” Lowell added. “The day this thing happened it was X-rayed and I told them about the pain, which was Oct. 2. That’s why I didn’t play the other two games [in the regular season]. We taped it up in a way that we thought would help me in the postseason. They thought it might be a strain or a bone bruise. I don’t want to lay blame on anybody because in ’07 my other thumb got hurt and they thought it was a strain as well and it ended up being that way and everything settled down nice and easy.

“I was in constant contact with the training staff and I told them at the two-week [mark] I didn’t feel a difference with my thumb and at the four-week mark it was the same thing and then at the seven-week mark Mike Reinold flew down to Miami to check it out and that’s when they decided to put me in the splint and keep it immobilized for a month. That’s when the thinking was that it might be something more than it was originally thought to be. The first day of the winter meetings was when I was ordered to get an MRI.

“I understand the business. That first day was to make sure the medicals could be sent to other teams. I have no problem in them shopping me around. But I would have preferred to have the surgery in October once the season was officially over [if the extent of the injury was known]. I don’t want to race to spring training.”

Lowell expects to be ready for baseball activities the first week of spring training, which will put him eight weeks out from the surgery, which is expected to take place shortly after Christmas.

“I was in constant communication with the training staff,” Lowell said. “This did not crop up anywhere. I told them two weeks later, four weeks later and seven weeks later until I finally got the MRI.”

Lowell also disputes the Red Sox’ assertion that the injury wasn’t a point of emphasis in the team’s exit interview.

“It definitely was [brought up],” he said. “You have to understand the exit interview is the last day and it was hurting at the time. That’s where I defer to the medical staff. If they had told me to get an MRI that day, I would have done it.”

The third baseman didn’t believe, however, at the conclusion of the season that the injury would result in surgery.

“Surgery? No,” Lowell said. “I was in a lot of pain in ’07 for a couple of weeks and the doctors told me it was going to get better and it did. I always defer to the medical staff. They know better than me, I’m not a doctor. So I did the same thing in this case, but I did mention concern [that] as the weeks went by I wasn’t getting better.”

When asked what he thought would ultimately happen in regards to another potential trade Lowell said, ‘€œI have no idea. I have absolutely no idea. That’€™s not my department.”

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