Jose Abreu

What if Jose Abreu had chosen the Red Sox over the White Sox?

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BOSTON — Jose Abreu has enjoyed his first look at Fenway Park, the historic venue that very nearly was his home.

While the first-time All-Star said Tuesday he left the free agency process that brought him to the White Sox to his agent, Barry Praver, multiple sources said the Boston Red Sox were a very serious player for the first baseman’s services.

Ultimately, Abreu signed a six-year, $68-million deal with the White Sox, who have begun to emerge from the depths of a 99-loss season in part because of how the slugger has brought vitality to an offense that failed to score 600 runs in 2013.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn told the Boston Herald on Monday he knew of the Red Sox interest in Abreu, an attraction that was in part kept out of the spotlight because of Boston’s postseason run.

[MORE: Abreu, Ventura believe Viciedo has untapped potential]

Given how Abreu has energized the franchise, Hahn doesn’t know how the White Sox offseason would have gone had the Cuban free agent wound up in Boston, which reportedly offered only $5 million less.

“It’s tough to know exactly what would have followed had we not been able to convert on that deal,” Hahn said on Tuesday. “But it certainly addressed a very important hole for us and plugged a need for the next several years and allowed us to sort of move on to some other (moves). Whether we would have been able to plug that hole through other moves, hard to say. But certainly its pretty safe to say it wouldn’t have been as strongly as we were able to by getting the deal done.”

An All-Star in his first season, Abreu’s arrival was significant for several reasons. First and foremost, the White Sox added a middle-of-the-order bat at the start of his physical prime, a player Paul Konerko has described as a rookie without being a rookie.

Given this is Abreu’s first go-round through the league, the White Sox feel as if they’ve tapped into a gold mine.

[ALSO: Dunn hopes Monday’s effort starts heat wave]

Even though he’s seeing many pitchers for the first time and acclimating to life in a new culture and a new league, Abreu has already clubbed 27 home runs. He also has become a leader by example in the clubhouse and the team believes there’s more growth potential as Abreu learns English.

Then there’s the other aspect — Abreu came at only the cost of money.

The White Sox didn’t have to surrender any draft picks to sign Abreu because no team held his rights, nor did they have to use any of their own players to acquire him in a trade. That proved valuable in December when the White Sox traded Addison Reed for third-base prospect Matt Davidson and Hector Santiago for leadoff man Adam Eaton.

Hahn likes to joke that his selling point to White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf on the Abreu deal was ‘Its just money.’ ”

“But there’s some truth to that,” Hahn said. “Obviously it was very real money and would put a significant dent into our payroll, especially if it hadn’t gone right. But ultimately it didn’t cost us any other assets. That was a big part of the reason we were willing to take that risk, because it was just cash.”

In need of revitalizing an aging offensive core, the White Sox liked Abreu so much they gave him an international-record deal at the time. Some early estimates suggested Abreu would fetch in the $40 million range. But Praver said in November five teams crested $60 million in pursuit of Abreu.

Boston was one of the closest, Hahn told the Herald.

“I certainly felt there were numerous teams, any of whom could jump up and jump over us or push us to a higher level,” Hahn told the Herald. “After the fact, we got a better sense of who was there and where they were going, and it turns out there were several teams, not just us and Boston, that were awfully aggressive and pretty close to where we were at the end.”

[MORE: Hahn keeping trade deadline plans close to vest]

Asked how close the Red Sox were to signing him, Abreu said through Lino Diaz, the team’s manager of cultural development, that he didn’t want to know. But he would agree that he is impressed with Fenway and it’s storied past.

“I am aware of the history and to be honest with you it is an honor to play here,” Abreu said. “And given the age and everything, it’s a place that has a great environment to play in. It’s an honor to play here for the first time.”

Hahn doesn’t want to think about any what ifs.

He and the White Sox are ecstatic to have Abreu on board. That, and he has already seen a preview of what 2014 might have looked like with Abreu and wasn’t happy with the image.

“I didn’t like how it looked those two weeks he was on the (disabled list),” Hahn said. “So hopefully had we not signed him we would have found another way to try to plug that hole and it would have looked a little different than it (has). But obviously he’s a huge cog in that lineup and hopefully will be for the next five-plus seasons.”

Michael Pineda hopes to reach 200-inning mark for first time

New York Yankees' Michael Pineda delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP Photo/Adam Hunger
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It was reported on Friday that Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for Opening Day as he makes his way back from arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. His health will be crucial to the Yankees’ chances this season, but the same goes for rotation-mate Michael Pineda, who hopes that this is the year he’ll be able to take on the workload of a frontline starter.

Pineda was on pace for a career-high in innings last season, but he landed on the disabled list in late July with a right flexor forearm muscle strain and missed a month. He struggled upon his return and ended up with 160 2/3 innings, so he fell short of his career-high of 171 innings as a rookie with the Mariners way back in 2011. Now going into his age-27 season, Pineda told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that his goal for 2016 is to reach 200 innings for the first time in his career.

“For me, this year, I’m coming here early to be strong and working hard to pitch 200 innings this year,” Pineda said at the club’s Minor League complex. “I want to throw 200 innings this year. This is my goal, and help my team.”

Pineda had a mediocre 4.37 ERA (90 ERA+) last season despite impressive peripherals with 8.7 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. Among pitchers with at least 160 innings pitched, only Bartolo Colon of the Mets had a lower walk percentage. Pineda managed to increase his ground ball rate to 48.2 percent and also saw an uptick in velocity from 2014, so there’s reason to believe in improvement if he can stay healthy.

Brewers GM: Acquiring Jacob Nottingham doesn’t change Jonathan Lucroy’s status

Jonathan Lucroy
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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The Brewers acquired prospects Jake Nottingham and Bubba Derby from the Athletics on Friday in exchange for slugging outfielder Khris Davis. The hope is that Nottingham will develop into the Brewers’ catcher of the future, so you could say that the club is planning for life after Jonathan Lucroy. However, Brewers general manager David Stearns said today that the trade doesn’t change Lucroy’s immediate status.

The Brewers are in rebuild-mode and Lucroy is an excellent trade chip if healthy, as his contract includes a $5.25 million club option for 2017. It’s likely just a matter of time before he’s shipped elsewhere, but yesterday’s trade shouldn’t change the timeline for a potential deal. Nottingham doesn’t turn 21 until April and has yet to play in Double-A, so he’s still a ways off from the majors. The Brewers can afford to wait on the right offer for Lucroy, whether it’s in spring training or at the trade deadline or perhaps later.

Checking in at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Nottingham batted .316/.372/.505 with 17 home runs over 109 games last season between Class A and High-A. He was traded from the Astros to the Athletics as part of the Scott Kazmir deal last July. It’s worth noting that Stearns was the assistant GM for Houston when Nottingham was drafted in the sixth round back in 2013, so he’s clearly a fan.

Joe Panik says he’s “100 percent” recovered from back injury

San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik follows through on a single off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Scott Oberg in the eighth inning of Game 1 of a baseball doubleheader Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Denver. The Giants won 10-8. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Giants second baseman Joe Panik missed nearly all of August and September last season due to a nagging back injury, but he told Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com on Friday that he’s feeling “100 percent.”

Panik, who earned his first All-Star selection last season, originally landed on the disabled list in early August due to what was described as lower back inflammation. He made his return in September, but appeared in just three games before being shut down. The good news is that he was cleared by doctors in mid-December and considers himself “back to normal.”

“It was right around the time of all the signings,” he said, smiling. “I was able to fly under the radar. I got tested and everything had healed up. I got cleared and was able to have my full offseason workouts. I’m good to go. I’m happy to be feeling good and going back out on the field to show that I’m healthy. My swing feels strong.”

Panik altered his offseason workout routine and plans to spend less time in his spikes in the early part of spring training. The hope is that these changes will prevent future issues.

After a strong showing as a rookie in 2014, the 25-year-old Panik proved to be one of the best second baseman in the majors last season by batting .312/.378/.455 with eight home runs and 37 RBI over 100 games while playing solid defense.

Baseball America names Corey Seager as baseball’s top prospect

Los Angeles Dodgers' Corey Seager follows through a single that scored Austin Barnes, in front of Colorado Rockies' Wilin Rosario during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
AP Photo/Danny Moloshok
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Baseball America unveiled their top 100 prospect list Friday night during a special on MLB Network. It should come as no surprise that Dodgers infielder Corey Seager came in at No. 1.

This makes Seager the consensus top prospect in the game. He was also ranked first by MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, and ESPN’s Keith Law. Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was ranked second on all four lists.

Baseball America has the most aggressive ranking of Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada from the Red Sox, who checked in at No. 3. He was followed by pitching prospects Lucas Giolito from the Nationals and Julio Urias from the Dodgers to round out the top five.

You can see Baseball America’s full top 100 list here.