MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Sox, Yanks may cross paths in offseason pursuits

Seeking to bolster rotations, AL East rivals have hot prospects to deal

Sox, Yanks may cross paths in offseason pursuits

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The Yankees and Red Sox are looking for starting pitching, both of them. Both see it as a ticket back to the postseason. Best of all, both have hotshot prospects to trade.

Connect the dots. Hey, this might be fun.

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If you enjoy a Red Sox-Yankees donnybrook, this offseason could offer a special kind of entertainment, and that's one of the subplots of this week's General Managers Meetings.

Paths are sure to cross.

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One reason is there's a limited supply of quality pitching available for trade. Both teams almost certainly will attempt to convince the A's to part with Sonny Gray, who would be the grand prize of the trade market since he's under control through the 2019 season.

Oakland has shown no willingness to trade Gray, but it might discuss right-hander Jesse Chavez, who is a year from free agency. That's also true of Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner and Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg. As with Gray, neither player appears to be available, so it would take a deep package of prospects to even get a conversation started.

Trading for pitching is difficult anyway since virtually no team believes it has enough. The Cardinals might consider trading one for the right offensive piece. Likewise, the Mets and possibly the Rays.

These are the kind of trades that require time and patience. Also, if, say, Gray were made available, the bidding would be intense and would go beyond a Sox-Yanks slugfest.

Anyway, that's where both teams begin this offseason.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman could go to Spring Training today and have seven pitchers competing for five spots: Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Adam Warren, Luis Severino, Nathan Eovaldi and Chase Whitley.

However, Yanks starters finished 10th in the American League in ERA (4.25) and 12th in innings. Improvement could come from Severino and Warren spending full seasons in the rotation and from Tanaka being healthy. But Cashman will shop for upgrades.

For the right deal, Cashman might consider offering one of his late-inning relievers, perhaps left-hander Andrew Miller.

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"Pitching's always an area," Cashman said. "That's almost half your roster. I think the position players are fairly well set. If we can find upgrades, great. But overall, you're always better trying to service the staff."

Boston also has rotation depth: Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Eduardo Rodriguez, Joe Kelly, Steven Wright and Henry Owens.

At various times, Buchholz, Porcello and Kelly have been projected as top-of-the-rotation starters. So far, though, health or production has limited them.

"I think [acquiring] one [starter] is enough depending on who it is and what other things you do if you help the bullpen," Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. "With Buchholz coming back [from injury], that's a pretty good addition we didn't have the last half of the year. He feels good. If you add Buchholz plus someone else, you're really adding two people.

"One thing we do have is depth at the mid- to back end -- three, four, five, six, seven, eight. We've got quite a bit of depth, and a lot of people have approached me about that depth. Other people are looking for those type of guys."

Boston appears to be in a stronger position because there's more, young controllable Major League talent and more farm system depth.

One of the ways teams get a gauge of their young talent is the number of times teams ask about a player. In that way, Dombrowski has been impressed with what he has heard.

"There is a lot of interest in our young players," Dombrowski said. "I'll say that unequivocally. They must be good, because a lot of people ask about them. We're not looking to get rid of all of our depth by any means, but we do have quite a bit of depth and a lot of guys that people like."

As for New York, its farm system is in better shape than it has been in years. With Severino, first baseman Greg Bird and second baseman Rob Refsnyder having gotten a taste of the big leagues this season. and with catcher Gary Sanchez having a nice season in the Arizona Fall League, there could be enough pieces to make a trade work.

In the end, both teams could end up bidding for one of the top free agents, say, David Price or Jordan Zimmermann. But the bidding for those guys could get crazy and come down to where they want to pitch.

So the Red Sox and Yankees are exploring their alternatives to see if they could find another way to do it. That's the alternative they prefer. Even if they do bump into one another a time or two along the way.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.