With J.D. Martinez heading to Boston, the Red Sox are facing somewhat of a roster crunch, writes Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston. It is not, however, at first base as many have suggested. Manager Alex Cora suggested Tuesday that he views Hanley Ramirez as his No. 3 hitter and primary first baseman, even though the team re-upped Mitch Moreland on a two-year deal this winter. As Drellich points out, though, each of Moreland, Ramirez and Martinez have dealt with injury issues in recent years, so Moreland still figures to get his share of at-bats.

Rather, Drellich observes, the bigger crunch will be on the bench. Sandy Leon is the favorite to serve as the backup catcher, and one of Moreland or Ramirez will be on the bench most days. The Sox have two out-of-options players in Deven Marrero and Blake Swihart that are current bench options, but they also have Brock Holt who agreed to a $2.2MM arbitration salary earlier this winter. That deal, like the vast majority of arb deals, is non-guaranteed, but Holt’s versatility has been valuable for the Sox in recent seasons and he seems unlikely to be cut loose. Holt does have minor league options remaining, though obviously paying him to play in Triple-A is suboptimal as well.

A bit more on the Sox and their division…

  • The Red Sox are unlikely to trade Jackie Bradley after signing J.D. Martinez this week, tweets MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. That’s not much of a surprise, as Bradley’s name hasn’t come up on the rumor circuit much in recent months, and the trio of Bradley, Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts should be among the best defensive outfield units in all of baseball.
  • The Blue Jays are still seeking upgrades after last week’s signing of lefty Jaime Garcia to round out the rotation, and GM Ross Atkins suggested to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet that there’s a strong likelihood that they’ll make a move before Opening Day (Twitter links). Atkins somewhat candidly said he felt there’s about a 90 percent chance the Jays have another addition in store, citing a reliever as the likeliest pickup. Notably, Atkins added that improving at backup catcher, where light-hitting Luke Maile projects as the reserve behind Russell Martin, “is less likely at this point.”
  • Troy Tulowitzki is making progress from last year’s ankle injury, which included torn ligaments in his foot as well as a compression factor, writes Nicholson-Smith in a full column. However, he has yet to begin running this spring. Tulowitzki’s goal is to be ready for Opening Day, though the 33-year-old veteran said he’s not putting any timelines on his recovery and won’t risk a setback by pushing himself too far. He fielded grounders thrown to him by the coaching staff today, though the drills “weren’t designed to test his range too much” just yet, per Nicholson-Smith. Even if Tulo isn’t ready for Opening Day, the Blue Jays are much better prepared from a depth vantage point up the middle, where they’ll have offseason trade acquisitions Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz backing up Tulowitzki and Devon Travis.
  • Following the trade of Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, the Rays plan to use a four-man rotation of Chris Archer, Nathan Eovaldi, Jake Faria and Blake Snell for the first six weeks of the season or so, manager Kevin Cash tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The increased amount of off-days in the schedule this year due to the season’s earlier start will allow the club to use fifth starter Matt Andriese as a multi-inning reliever. The Rays, unsurprisingly, plan to keep top prospects like Brent Honeywell in the minors to begin the season, which will allow them to gain extra control and avoid Super Two status for arbitration purposes.
  • The most likely scenario for the Yankees and newly acquired Brandon Drury is that Drury opens the season as the team’s starting third baseman, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. That’d allow the Yankees to go with either Ronald Torreyes or veteran Danny Espinosa at second base and avoid rushing prospects Miguel Andujar or Gleyber Torres early in the season. Interestingly, despite the fact that Torres missed half the 2017 season with Tommy John surgery (in his non-throwing arm), the Yankees view Torres as closer to the Majors, per Sherman. Andujar is nearly two years older than Torres and has twice the Triple-A experience, though neither has even appeared in 60 games at the top minor league level yet.

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The Yankees announced that they’ve designated outfielder Jabari Blash for assignment in order to clear a roster spot for newly acquired infielder Brandon Drury.

The 28-year-old Blash has long boasted impressive power in the minors but hasn’t put that together in the Majors. Blash logged a career-high 195 plate appearances with the Padres this past season, hitting .213/.333/.341 with five homers and six doubles but an alarming 66 strikeouts in that time (33.8 percent). While he’s limited to the outfield corners, Blash has strong on-base skills to go along with his considerable power, as evidenced by his career .258/.381/.571 batting line and 65 homers through 235 games at the Triple-A level.

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The Rays, Yankees and D-backs have agreed to a significant three-team trade that’ll send infielder Brandon Drury to New York and outfielder Steven Souza to Arizona. FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweeted that Drury is on his way to New York, while Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweeted that the D-backs were set to land Souza. FanRag’s Robert Murray first got the ball rolling, reporting that second base prospect Nick Solak is going from New York to Tampa Bay.

More to come.

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Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez has been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and will be free to sign with a Major League organization beginning on March 6, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America. The 21-year-old Martinez is subject to international bonus pools due to his age and lack of professional experience in the Cuban National Series, so he’ll now have to decide whether to sign with a team during the current signing period (when many teams have already spent the bulk or entirety of their league-allotted budget) or after the July 2 kick off the 2018-19 period.

According to Badler, the Rangers, Yankees and Marlins are the current favorites for Martinez, who is one of the more touted prospects to come out of Cuba in recent seasons. If Martinez opts to sign with the Yankees or Marlins, per Badler, he’d likely be waiting until this coming summer to sign so that both teams could tap into their 2018-19 pools.

Texas, though, had $3.535MM in pool allotments to spend on Shohei Ohtani before he opted to sign with the division-rival Angels. They’ve since reallocated some of their pool by signing shortstops Yenci Pena (for $675K) and Keithron Moss (for $800K) as well as outfielder D’Vaughn Knowles (for $500K). That’d still leave as much as $1.56MM to offer Martinez to begin his pro career in the current signing period (though it’s possible the pool is a bit lesser depending on whether Texas has made some smaller-scale signings that were not widely reported).

Certainly, other clubs could enter the mix for Martinez — especially if he is keen on waiting until July to sign a contract. Far more teams would be able to weigh a pursuit of the 21-year-old at that time, and given the appeal touted by Badler in his scouting reports on Martinez, several teams would figure to have interest. Badler lists Martinez at 5’10” and 180 pounds, praising a blend of power and speed, and he’s expanded on the talented young outfielder in a pair of prior columns — both of which those looking to learn more about Martinez will want to check out.

The left-handed-hitting, left-handed-throwing Martinez hit .333/.469/.498 with six homers, 11 doubles, two triples and 24 steals (in 29 attempts) during his most recent professional effort in Cuba. More impressively, he drew 52 walks that season against just 30 strikeouts in 264 plate appearances.

He also appeared in 57 games and tallied 255 plate appearances in the 2017 Can-Am Association — the same independent league that was previously home to big leaguers Chris Colabello, Andrew Albers, Craig Breslow, Steve Delabar and Tim Adleman, among others — where he hit .297/.345/.449 with seven homers and 20 steals. In today’s piece, Badler notes that Martinez is likely of an appropriate skill level to begin his path to the Majors in Class-A Advanced or in Double-A.

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For the Royals, replacing Eric Hosmer likely won’t mean paying another veteran significant dollars to line up at first base. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star writes, the current expectation is that Logan Morrison is an “unlikely” target. GM Dayton Moore tells Dodd that while the organization has long “admired” Morrison’s ability, the “economic part of it … is very real to us.”

It also does not seem that the Royals will pivot from Hosmer to fellow former K.C. star Mike Moustakas. Dodd runs down some of the team’s internal options at the infield corners and the organization’s current thinking as it bids adieu to Hosmer. While it’s largely of historical interest at this point, it’s also worth noting a recent report from Robert Murray of Fan Rag suggesting that Kansas City never dangled more than five years and around $100MM to Hosmer. While multiple prior reports had pegged the organization’s interest in the seven-year range, that lesser price point would certainly have left Hosmer with an easier decision.

More from the AL Central…

  • Notably, too, the Royals seem inclined to give an opportunity at third base to Cheslor Cuthbert, as MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan writes. GM Dayton Moore says the organization values Cuthbert “a great deal,” though the 25-year-old will need to turn things around after a tepid 2017 season. To be fair, he did miss quite a lot of time due to injuries and hit at close to a league-average rate over 128 MLB games in 2016, when he carried a .274/.318/.413 slash line. Moore also cited Hunter Dozier as a candidate to see action at the corner spots.
  • The Twins are still considering additions, it seems, with Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweeting that the organization has “flexibility” remaining despite bringing in a variety of veteran hurlers. Because the team did not end up landing Yu Darvish, there’s still some payroll space left to work with. Certainly, the market still includes some notable pitchers that would no doubt like to see the Minnesota organization make a run at their services. Whether or not the team is willing to extend itself for one of the remaining free-agent starters, though, remains largely unclear at the moment. Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn are the top names left, though each rejected a qualifying offer and is there for attached to draft forfeitures.
  • One area of uncertainty entering camp for the Twins is young star Miguel Sano, who is coming off of surgery and was accused recently of assaulting a photographer. MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger has the latest, via Twitter. On the health front, the 24-year-old is said to be “doing baseball activities,” though he will surely be handled with care as things ramp up. In regards to the investigation of the troubling claims leveled against Sano, the league has yet to speak with him. It remains unclear just how that investigation is proceeding and when it will be concluded.
  • White Sox slugger Jose Abreu seems comfortable with remaining on hand as the organization continues to bring along its young talent. And he’s even hoping to expand his repertoire as he ages, as James Fegan of The Athletic writes (subscription link). While the post focuses on Abreu’s self-declared intention to begin swiping more bags, it ultimately delves into the notion that he’s more than a lumbering slugger — and suggests his broader importance to the organization.

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MLBTR Live Chat

Posted: February 20, 2018 in Uncategorized
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Click here to join Tuesday’s chat with MLBTR’s Steve Adams.

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MLBTR Live Chat

Posted: February 20, 2018 in Uncategorized
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Click here to join Tuesday’s chat with MLBTR’s Steve Adams.

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