Red Sox had scout tracking Carl Crawford “at the ballpark and away from the ballpark” last season

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During a radio interview on WEEI this morning Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein revealed some interesting details regarding the team’s pursuit of Carl Crawford, including the fact that they “had a scout on him literally the last three, four months of the season at the ballpark, away from the ballpark.”

That suggests Crawford choosing Boston wasn’t quite as surprising to the Red Sox as it was to most of the baseball public, but Epstein also said that he entered the courtship thinking the former Rays left fielder had his heart set on signing with the Angels:

I’ll say this, very early in the process, I had some skepticism. I thought it was more likely than not that even if we were very competitive, that we wouldn’t land him. We heard some things just anecdotally that perhaps he didn’t want to go to Boston. Perhaps he’s already dead set an Anaheim Angel.

It turned out that Crawford really wanted to remain in the AL East, so the Red Sox moved quickly because “we were scared … if it dragged on and the Yankees missed out on Cliff Lee, it would create a market that was difficult for us.”

It seems like the Angels gave him a deadline before the Cliff Lee negotiations reached their conclusion, and that played right into our hands. We had spent so much time thinking about it. We had ownership on board. We had to get a hold of them in England, but they moved very nimbly and we were able to wrap it up in a matter of hours when it all came together. We thought it was kind of dormant and we were just going to stay in touch, and five hours later, it was done.

There have been reports that the Angels matched the Red Sox’s seven-year, $142 million offer, but other reports have disputed that and Crawford has indicated that staying in the AL East was definitely a priority.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.