Astros, Pence set date for arbitration hearing

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The Astros and outfielder Hunter Pence are going to an arbitration hearing.

According to Stephen Goff of the Houston Astros Examiner, the two sides will meet on February 18 in front of a panel of independent arbitrators who will decide between the $6.9 million that Pence asked for and the $5.15 million that the Astros offered when arbitration figures were exchanged in mid-January.

Pence, 27, registered a .282/.325/.461 batting line, 25 home runs and a career-high 91 RBI last season for Houston while showing plus range in the outfield. He boasts an .817 career OPS through his first four seasons in the major leagues.

Pence made $3.5 million in 2010 in his first-year of arbitration eligibility. He achieved Super Two status in ’09.

Report: Red Sox sign J.D. Martinez

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Update (5:16 PM ET): ESPN’s Pedro Gomez is reporting that the deal is final.

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Red Sox and outfielder J.D. Martinez are close to a deal. He takes care to note that the deal is not done yet and the details are not known yet.

Martinez, 30, entered the offseason as the top free agent hitter. Last season, between the Tigers and Diamondbacks, he hit a lusty .303/.376/.690 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI in 489 plate appearances. He missed the first 33 games of the season with a sprained right foot; one wonders what his numbers might’ve been like if he hadn’t been injured.

The Red Sox were the team most strongly linked to Martinez throughout the offseason, despite the relatively slow-moving market. Martinez said he wants to play in the outfield and the Red Sox are currently spoken for at all three positions with Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, and Mookie Betts. Hanley Ramirez is also penciled in at DH. Should the Martinez deal become official, the Red Sox may try to trade Bradley and move Benintendi to center field. If Martinez is willing to concede his outfield wishes, the Red Sox could slot him in at DH and move Ramirez to first base.

The AL East is shaping up to be a familiar two-horse race between the Red Sox and Yankees. The addition of Martinez, in a way, answers the Yankees’ addition of Giancarlo Stanton.