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Hot Stove: A’s reiterate interest in Manny Ramirez 01.30.12 at 10:39 am ET
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Manny Ramirez might get another shot in the majors. (AP)

A’s assistant general manager David Forst, during a Q&A with fans at a team event Sunday in Oakland, said the team would consider signing Manny Ramirez.

“We’re open to it,” said Forst, backing up a comment from owner Lew Wolff last week. “We do have other things going on, and we expect other additions between now and Opening Day. We have never been in a situation where we had too many good players.”

Ramirez, who started last season with the Rays but abruptly retired after failing a drug test, must serve a 50-game suspension for his second violation of baseball’s policy on banned substances before he can suit up.

The former Red Sox slugger would turn 40 on or about the day he would be eligible to play.

“I think at this point it’s probably still speculation,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said, adding: “There’s probably some momentum to it, but certainly not anything that I’m in position right now to comment on.”

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Hot Stove: Kevin Millwood signs with Mariners 01.23.12 at 8:32 am ET
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Right-handed pitcher Kevin Millwood agreed to a minor league deal with the Mariners, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday night.

Millwood signed with the Red Sox last May and pitched in Pawtucket until asking for and receiving his release on Aug. 7. He then signed with the Rockies and pitched in nine games, going 4-3 with a 3.98 ERA.

A 15-year veteran, Millwood has a 163-140 career record with a 4.10 ERA.

Millwood is reunited with managed Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis, who coached Millwood with the Indians.

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Hot Stove: Carlos Pena reportedly has one-year deal to return to Rays 01.20.12 at 11:26 am ET
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Carlos Pena

Carlos Pena reportedly has agreed to a one-year deal to return to Tampa, where he played from 2007-10 before signing a one-year deal with the Cubs last season. ESPN reports the deal is worth $7.25 million.

Earlier in the day, Yahoo! Sports baseball writer Tim Brown tweeted: Tampa Bay Rays are in pretty deep on Carlos Pena. Would be a great fit, of course.

Pena, who grew up in Haverhill and attended Northeastern University, has played 11 major league seasons with six teams — including an 18-game stint with the Red Sox at the end of the 2006 season. In 1,226 career games, he’s hit .239 with a .352 on-base percentage and .486 slugging mark. He has 258 home runs and 730 RBIs.

His best season came in 2007 with the Rays, when he hit .282/.411/.627 with 46 home runs and 121 RBIs.

Last year in Chicago, Pena hit .225/.357/.462 with 28 home runs and 80 RBIs.

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Hot Stove: Mariners sign Hisashi Iwakuma 01.06.12 at 6:51 am ET
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Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma agreed to a one-year $1.5 million deal with the Mariners, with another $3.4 million in incentives.

“Seattle really wanted to get me,” the right-hander said in a conference call Thursday through an interpreter. “That was the most important thing.”

Iwakuma went 107-69 in 226 games with Kintetsu and then Rakuten in the Japanese League. he was named the league’s top pitcher and MVP in 2008.

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Five quick thoughts on the Red Sox trade for Andrew Bailey 12.28.11 at 5:52 pm ET
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A major league source has confirmed that the Red Sox have traded outfielder Josh Reddick, first baseman Miles Head and right-hander Raul Alcantara to the A’s for closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney. A few quick reactions to the trade:

1) The Red Sox have built a solid back-end of their bullpen, with further reinforcements such as Ryan Madson unlikely. Both Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon, along with — in all likelihood — either Daniel Bard or Alfredo Aceves (one of whom is likely to end up in the rotation, the other in the bullpen) and Bobby Jenks (whom the Sox expect to have back) creates late-innings depth, particularly if Matt Albers and/or Felix Doubront and/or Franklin Morales can further lengthen the group.

The Sox have seen Bailey — a two-time All-Star — show the kind of stuff to be one of the elite closers in the American League. He’ll almost surely be the end-of-game option for the Sox as well. Though there have been health questions about him in recent seasons, the other pitchers with closing experience and/or potential (Melancon, Jenks, Bard/Aceves) permits the Sox to be insulated (at least on paper) should he be sidelined.

2) The Sox still have money to spend. They won’t be spending a ton, but in adding Melancon and Bailey through trades, the Sox acquired two solid late-innings arms who will cost less than a third of Jonathan Papelbon next season. As such, the team still has some money to either sign or trade for a starter. That will be their primary offseason need going forward.

3) In exchanging Reddick for Sweeney, the Sox parted with a major league outfielder with upside in Reddick in exchange for a player whose on-base skills and ability to play all three outfield positions will fit into the club’s short-term needs. Right now, Sweeney and Darnell McDonald wouild be the Sox’ right field combination, though the Sox are still looking at right-handed outfield bats. Regardless, the Sox were likely going to get to a point where they had to trade either Reddick or Ryan Kalish at some point given the potential positional redundancy of the two. In a best-case scenario for the Sox, Kalish would be ready to be an everyday big league outfielder by the middle of 2012. Reddick would have been that for them right now, but the upgrade to Bailey with the anticipated availability of Kalish in the not-too-distant future made this deal feasible.

Sweeney, a former second-round pick, is a career .283/.342/.378/.720 hitter. The Sox believe that his swing and approach will both play well at Fenway Park.

4) Alcantara was the clear second component of the deal. When the Sox were scared away from the Rich Harden trade this summer, it was because they couldn’t stomach the prospect of losing Alcantara as the second piece in the deal.

It’s almost impossible to say what the 19-year-old will be. He’s a relatively raw right-hander with a big arm. He dominated in the Gulf Coast League (0.75 ERA in 48 innings) and faced adversity after a mid-year promotion to Lowell (6.23 ERA in 17 1/3 innings). His fastball/breaking ball combination suggest at least long-term big league bullpen potential, and he has the upside of a starter. Still, he’s likely at least five years from a regular job in the majors, and there’s immense uncertainty about his future. That being the case, he’s precisely the type of player for whom the A’s (whose visions of contention are entirely driven by the long term) should deal, and the type of player for whom the Sox cannot sabotage a deal.

5) Head made a significant jump in his prospect status this year by producing a dominant stretch with Single-A Greenville and then holding his own as a younger player in the Carolina League with High-A Salem. He doesn’t wow anyone with his physique or athleticism (he would be an atypical success story, having to follow a path of someone like a Billy Butler), but the 26th rounder (who signed for $335,000 in 2009) has always left the Sox convinced he can hit.

The first baseman garnered little attention in the Sox’ system while hitting .240/.328/.341/.669 with one homer in Short-Season Lowell in 2010. But in Greenville this year, Head asserted himself in a way that ensured he could no longer be overlooked.

The 20-year-old earned a promotion to Hi-A Salem in late-June after leading the South Atlantic League in average (.338), slugging (.612), OPS (1.022) and extra-base hits (41 in 66 games). His consistent results reflect both improved conditioning as well as an improved mental approach to the game.

“Last year, I was getting myself out chasing pitches or swinging at maybe not a hitter’s pitch in a hitter’s count,” said Head. “This year, I’ve figured out my approach and stuck with it.”

Still, Head was never going to leapfrog Adrian Gonzalez as the first baseman of the future, so he represented a moveable piece. He hit .254/.328/.405/.733 with seven homers in 63 games with the Salem Sox.

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Time to trade Kevin Youkilis? 12.27.11 at 10:45 am ET
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Kevin Youkilis hit a career-low .258 in 2011. (AP)

Kevin Youkilis hit a career-low .258 in 2011. (AP)

Is it time to trade Kevin Youkilis?

Well, not ideally. We are clearly at the 70 cents on the dollar stage with Youkilis, who had his worst offensive season in 2011, a batting average 41 points below his career number and an on-base percentage 18 points lower than his .391 career mark. Throw in that he played 120 games last season — and 102 the year before — and will be 33 in April and you’ve got kind of a lousy trade chip, no?

But this is where the Red Sox are. I’m not certain they occupy a position of real strength when it comes to trade talks. Has Ben Cherington been cautious in his first three months as GM? You could call it that, I suppose — not sure I would have given up top prospects for Gio Gonzalez (career 1.49 road WHIP) or handed Carlos Beltran a two-year, $26 million deal. No problem with the Sox punting on both.

I have no clue if Cherington (or Larry Lucchino or whoever is calling the shots) is going to be a competent general manager, but I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt for now.

Here’s the problem, though: The Sox have been the third-best team in the AL East each of the last two seasons and right now are no better than the team that walked off the field after Game No. 162 in Baltimore. They’ve basically flipped Jonathan Papelbon for Mark Melancon. Makes sense from a business perspective — no way I’m giving any closer 50 million bucks — but you can’t make the case with any confidence that Melancon has a better year than Papelbon in 2012. What else you got? Nick Punto with his career .327 slugging percentage and intangibles to spare?

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A no-go for Gio in Boston: Red Sox see A’s deal Gonzalez to Nationals 12.22.11 at 4:55 pm ET
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Gio Gonzalez (AP)

The A’s traded left-hander Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals in exchange for a four-prospect package of 23-year-old right-hander Brad Peacock (who reached the big leagues this year) 22-year-old catcher Derek Norris (who spent the year in Double-A), 19-year-old power right-hander A.J. Cole (who spent the season in Single-A) and 24-year-old left-hander Tom Milone (who finished the year in the majors). The trade was first reported by Keith Law of ESPN.com (via twitter)

The deal removes one of the top available starters from the trade market, someone whom the Sox had pursued with the A’s through the end of the process. Indeed, the Sox were one of the last teams with whom the A’s were talking.

Gonzalez is 38-32 with a 3.93 ERA in parts of four seasons. He has emerged as one of the better starters in the American League in the last two years, putting up somewhat similar numbers to fellow southpaw C.J. Wilson (who signed a five-year, $77.5 million deal with the Angels this winter).

In 2010-11, Gonzalez is a combined 31-21 with a 3.17 ERA, with 8.2 strikeouts and 4.1 walks per nine innings, having pitched just over 200 innings and made 32 and 33 starts in those two seasons. He has held opponents to a .229 average during that time, sixth lowest in the AL among pitchers with at least 300 innings pitched over the last two years. Wilson, by contrast, was 31-15 with a 3.14 ERA, 7.9 strikeouts and 3.5 walks per nine innings, a 1.215 WHIP while averaging 214 innings. Read the rest of this entry »

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