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Bradley Jr. robbing Judge’s HR highlights Red Sox’s win over Yankees

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BOSTON — Major league home run leader Aaron Judge hit a towering fly ball toward the triangle in Fenway Park’s center field, and Jackie Bradley Jr. began drifting over toward the bullpen wall.

That’s when Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts knew.

“Jackie does this little thing where, midway, while the ball is in the air, he starts timing it,” said Betts, who hit a two-run homer and also scored Boston’s third run on Sunday night to help the Red Sox win 3-0 and split their doubleheader with the New York Yankees.

“Once I saw him start timing it, I figured he had a chance to catch it. He made it look easy,” said Betts, who had three hits in the night game but was happy to join the cheers for Bradley. “It made the hair stand up on my arms.”

David Price (5-2) struck out eight in eight innings, and Bradley went over the bullpen wall to rob Judge and send the Yankees to their first shutout of the season.

A day after the teams played 16 innings over 5 hours, 50 minutes, they spent another long day at Fenway Park and ended the four-game series the way they started: with the Yankees trailing the first-place Red Sox by 3 1/2 games in the AL East.

CC Sabathia allowed two hits over six innings in the opener, and Didi Gregorius hit a solo home run to give New York a 3-0 victory.

It was also 3-0 in the nightcap when Judge, the winner of the All-Star Home Run Derby, came up with a runner on first and launched one toward the 420-foot marker in center. Bradley stalked it, and at the last moment leaped against the wall that juts out from right-center to pull the ball in.

“I just hit it to the wrong part of the park and the wrong center fielder,” said Judge, who failed to reach base for the first time in 43 games. “Jackie’s been making plays like that for a long time.”

The sold-out crowd gave a huge cheer, and another after Matt Holliday struck out to end the inning. The Red Sox gathered at the edge of the dugout steps to congratulate Betts – with Price pushing his way through to thank him.

“It was special,” Bradley said. “It was electric. It was just a fun moment to be a part of.”

Price allowed seven hits. One night after giving up a tying homer in the ninth to send the game into extra innings, Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 24th save.

Masahiro Tanaka (7-9) gave up three runs on eight hits in 7 2/3 innings, striking out nine. The Yankees are the last team in the majors to be shut out.

“We probably gave one away and we stole one,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “They got one off our closer, and we got one off their closer.”

Betts homered over the billboard above the Green Monster, his 17th of the year, with one out in the third inning to end Boston’s scoreless streak at 24 innings. He made it 3-0 when he singled to lead off the sixth, took second on an error by second baseman Starlin Castro, third on a groundout and scored on Dustin Pedroia‘s second hit of the game.

Report: Qualifying offer to be in the $18 million range

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According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, teams have been told that the qualifying offer to free agents this offseason will be in the $18 million range, likely $18.1 million. The value is derived by taking the average of the top 125 player salaries.

At $18.1 million, that would be $900,000 more than the previous QO, which was $17.2 million. This will impact soon-to-be free agents like Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Yu Darvish, among others. That also assumes that the aforementioned players aren’t traded, which would make them ineligible to receive qualifying offers. We’ve seen, increasingly, that teams aren’t willing to make a QO to an impending free agent and that trend is likely to continue this offseason.

The QO system was modified by the newest collective bargaining agreement. The compensatory pick for a team losing a player who declined a QO used to be a first-round pick. That was a penalty to both teams and players, which is why it was changed. Via MLB’s website pertaining to the QO:

A team that exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season will lose its second- and fifth-highest selections after the first round in the following year’s Draft as well $1 million from its international bonus pool. If such a team signs multiple qualifying offer free agents, it will forfeit its third- and sixth-highest remaining picks as well.

A team that receives revenue sharing will lose its third-highest selection after the first round in the following year’s Draft. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its fourth-highest remaining pick.

A team that neither exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season nor receives revenue sharing will lose its second-highest selection after the first round in the following year’s Draft as well as $500,000 from its international bonus pool. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its third-highest remaining pick.

Additionally, if a player who rejected a QO signs a guaranteed contract worth at least $50 million and came from a team that receives revenue sharing, that previous team will receive a compensatory pick immediately following the first round in the ensuing draft. If the contract is less than $50 million, that team will get a compensatory pick after Competitive Balance Round B. If the player’s team is over the luxury tax threshold, that team will receive a compensation pick following the fourth round. If that team neither exceeded the luxury tax nor receives revenue sharing, the compensation pick will come after Competitive Balance Round B.

Yeah, it’s a bit convoluted, but you do the best you can with a flawed system.

The Astros’ pursuit of Sonny Gray is “heating up”

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Jon Morosi of MLB Networks reports that talks are “heating up” between the Astros and Athletics on a Sonny Gray trade. Gray, obviously, would represent a big upgrade for the Astros’ rotation. He has a 3.66 ERA and has struck out 85 batters while walking 28 in 91 innings.

Morosi adds that Gray is not the only option for the Astros, as they are also talking to the Tigers about a potential acquisition of Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson. That would obviously be a much tougher deal to negotiate given Verlander’s 10/5 rights giving him veto power over any trade, not to mention the massive amount of money he’s still owed on his contract.

Also: I’m pretty sure that it’s in the MLB rules that any trade between the Tigers and the Astros has to involve Brad Ausmus, C.J. Nitkowski and Jose Lima, and that’s not possible given their current occupations and/or their deaths in 2010.