It’s the Yankees’ move after Red Sox add Crawford

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Boston’s big investment comes with big ramifications, and since the market’s top position player is off the board, several pieces should fall into place over the next couple of weeks.

– The Yankees pretty much have to do what it takes to land Cliff Lee now, and that probably means upping the ante to seven years. After all, that’s what Crawford and Jayson Werth received. The only viable plan B for the Bombers is Zack Greinke, and the Yankees would face stiff competition for him as well.

– The top remaining position player on the board, Adrian Beltre, seems destined for Anaheim. The Angels have plenty of money to spend and a clear need at third base. All indications were that Crawford was their top priority, and they’re going to be very disappointed to have missed out on him. However, they could end up spending $14 million per year on Beltre and use the rest of the money earmarked for Crawford on bullpen help. They’re the clear favorites for Rafael Soriano now.

– The Rangers could be left with a lot of money and nothing to spend it on. Signing Beltre and trading Michael Young might work in theory, but it’d be difficult to pull off. Beltre presumably prefers the West Coast anyway. The Royals aren’t happy with what they’ve offered for Greinke. The return of Vladimir Guerrero to Arlington is appearing more and more likely.

– Now that the Red Sox have already committed their first-round pick to signing Crawford, expect them to go hard after Scott Downs. They might not have wanted to give up a first-rounder for a reliever, but a second-rounder is just fine, particularly since they’ll be getting two picks apiece for losing Victor Martinez and Beltre.

Mariners sign Ichiro to a minor league deal

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USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners will sign Ichiro Suzuki to a minor-league deal. If he makes the roster he’ll make $750,000. At least until he retires.

I say that because it seems quite clear that the idea here, telegraphed since last season, is to activate Ichiro for the Mariners’ series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 20-21 and for hoopla surrounding it all. The Mariners and A’s will have a 28-man roster for that series, which is officially part of the regular season schedule, but it will be pared back down to 25 once games begin in the United States.

Suzuki, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances through May 2 last season, at which point he agreed to be deactivated to join the Mariners’ front office. Many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later that season or during the offseason, but the Japan Series soon crystalized as an obvious way for him to offer his final farewell to both his American and his Japanese fans.

Unless of course he goes 6-10 with three doubles in that series, at which point everyone will be tempted to keep him on the roster past Japan. Which, given the Mariners’ rebuild and likely poor performance this coming season, wouldn’t exactly be hurting anyone, would it?