John Farrell still hopeful Stephen Drew will return to Red Sox

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The Red Sox acquired utility infielder Jonathan Herrera from the Rockies yesterday in exchange for left-hander Franklin Morales and minor league right-hander Chris Martin, but manager John Farrell confirmed during an appearance on WEEI’s Hot Stove show this evening that the move doesn’t mean that the team has ruled out the return of Stephen Drew. In fact, he indicated that there’s mutual interest in getting something done.

“Herrera, this is a guy that’s played all over the infield. We like him from the left side a little bit better — he’s had better performance as a left-handed hitter. He is a switch-hitter, but better from the left side. We feel like with all the other right-handed infielders, it’s a good complement to those who are already here. At the same time, if things fall a certain way with Stephen Drew, it doesn’t prohibit us from adding Drew as well.”

Indeed, Farrell suggested that mutual interest exists in having the shortstop return to the team with whom he signed a one-year, $9.5 million for the 2013 season.

“Both sides would like to see this come together,” Farrell said of talks with Drew. “But at the same time, as we all know, he’s looking to see what best opportunities would be out there for him.”

Drew’s market has been slow to develop this winter, in part because he is attached to draft pick compensation. The Mets have been mentioned as one possibility, but general manager Sandy Alderson has said that if the team does upgrade at shortstop this winter, it will likely be via trade and not the free agent market.

As of now, the Red Sox are expected to go with top prospect Xander Bogaerts as their starting shortstop in 2014. If Drew returns, Bogaerts would likely get every opportunity to be the starting third baseman. Will Middlebrooks, who hit just .227 with a .696 OPS last season, could be pushed to the minors in such a scenario.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.