AL East Notes: Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tulo, Rays, Drury

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’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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