Red Sox still need a taker for Lowell

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Already almost dealt in December, Mike Lowell is a man auditioning for work this spring, though he’ll do so with the comfort of a $12 million salary and a no-trade clause that gives him some control over his destiny.
Lowell took batting practice Monday for the first time since the thumb surgery that scuttled the trade that would have sent him and $9 million of his salary to Texas for Max Ramirez. He’ll probably sit out the first bit of the spring, but he isn’t far behind the rest of the Red Sox hitters following the relatively minor procedure.
Whether there’s any real interest in Lowell this spring will probably hinge more on his defense than his offense. Lowell showed diminished range at third base after his Oct. 2008 hip surgery, and the Red Sox weren’t content to go forward with him at the position this year. If he’s moving around better this spring, then he could still function as a legitimate regular for a contender. He’s finished with OPSs of 879, 798 and 811 the last three years.
Still, the Red Sox may need someone to get hurt if they’re going to net any real return for Lowell. The Twins are still undecided at third base, but they did get their second-base upgrade and they won’t mind going with the hot hand between Nick Punto and Brendan Harris at the hot corner. Florida would be an interesting option, given that Lowell was a fan favorite there. Jorge Cantu is penciled in at third base, but he could always be moved back to first if neither Logan Morrison nor Gaby Sanchez makes a splash this spring.
The Rangers added Vladimir Guerrero after the Lowell deal fell apart. They still might have some interest in him as a bench player, but probably not for $3 million. The Blue Jays could use a fallback at third and DH, as well as a right-handed-hitting first baseman. The White Sox might be another fit. Plus, injuries could change things in a hurry. The Braves and Reds are among the teams relying on corner infielders with durability issues. The Red Sox need someone to come calling eventually, because while they could carry him if they need to, Lowell isn’t in their plans for this year.

Yankees decide to keep Luis Severino on regular rest, give Twins potential Wild Card preview

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
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Yankees starter Luis Severino pitched last Friday, putting him on track to start Wednesday’s series finale against the Twins. The Yankees mulled the possibility of pushing him back to start on Friday against the Blue Jays after an off day on Thursday so that the Twins wouldn’t get an early look at Severino in a potential AL Wild Card matchup.

However, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports that Severino will indeed start on Wednesday against the Twins instead of Masahiro Tanaka. Hoch adds that Severino’s preference is to pitch on regular rest.

Severino, 23, has been the Yankees’ best starter this year and would be the most reliable arm in a must-win game. The right-hander is carrying a 13-6 record with a 2.93 ERA and a 218/49 K/BB ratio in 184 1/3 innings.

Entering Tuesday’s action, the Yankees hold a five-game lead over the Twins for the first Wild Card slot. The Angels hold a 1.5-game lead over the Angels for the second slot. The Yankees are also very much in the AL East race, trailing the Red Sox by only three games with 12 games left in the regular season.

You should probably pay attention to Matt Olson

Associated Press
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The claim of “East Coast Bias” is often hurled as an accusation of smug superiority, and it’s often met with denial, but it’s a thing. It’s not the exact thing the west coast people think it is — it’s not hate, it’s just a function of time zones and TV ratings — but there are certainly factors that cause stuff that happens in California to get shorter shrift than that which happens back east, where most of the national media people are.

One thing getting short shrift this year: the performance of Oakland A’s first baseman Matt Olson, which one has to imagine would be getting all kinds of press if he played back east.

Wait, we don’t have to imagine that at all. Because Olson is doing basically the exact same thing Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez did last year, and Sanchez got tons of headlines for it while I’m guessing most baseball fans who either (a) live outside of the Bay Area; or (b) aren’t big fantasy players, attuned to all of the latest callups, haven’t heard Olson’s name much if at all . Their respective lines:

  • Sanchez 2016: 53 games, .299/.376/.657, 20 HR, 168 OPS+
  • Olson 2017: 54 games, .267/.360/.663, 22 HR 168 OPS+

Sanchez’s rate stats were better but Olson is doing it in tougher parks for hitters. Obviously Sanchez is catching and Olson playing the corner, but a dude coming out of the minors to put up these kinds of numbers in the final two months of the season is rare. That it’s happening again, in almost the same way, is quite the thing.

Part of the reason for the discrepancy in press is that Sanchez was making a strong argument for the Rookie of the Year Award despite playing less than half the season whereas Olson has no shot given what Aaron Judge has done this year. But I’m guessing more of it is simply a function of Olson’s games starting at 10:30 or so back east and most of us not seeing what he does unless we look at the box scores the next day.

Still, Olson, the A’s first round pick from 2012, is not someone to sleep on. And, given that he hit 23 homers in 79 minor league games this year — the last guy to hit 20 in both the bigs and minors in the same year was Giancarlo Stanton — he’s not a fluke. Indeed, he’s one of the few rays of sunshine for the Oakland Athletics. And someone to whom us folks back east should pay a bit more attention.