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As Yankees close on Lee, would Sox counter?

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  July 9, 2010 11:01 AM

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The Yankees have three All-Stars in their rotation. But too much is never enough in New York.

Multiple reports have them close to swinging a deal that would bring Cliff Lee from Seattle to to the Bronx, likely in exchange for a package of players headed by prime-time young bat Jesus Montero.

Despite Javier Vazquez pitching well in his last seven starts (4-2, 2.93), the Yankees want Lee in their rotation. Vazquez would then get traded, perhaps, or be used to solidify their bullpen. Or the Yankees could shift Phil Hughes to the bullpen.

Montero is one of the best prospects in the game, a 6-foot-4 catcher who has hit .309/.368/.486 in four seasons in the minors. He has struggled a bit in his first year in Triple A, however. Some scouts believe the 20-year-old Montero will not be able to catch in the majors and is better suited to be a DH. The Yankees also have another well-regarded catching prospect, Austin Romine, in Double A.

Lee will be a free agent after the season. In previous years, the Yankees (like the Red Sox) have refrained from trading prospects for impending free agents, believing it would be foolish to pay twice for the same player. That philosophy apparently has changed.

(Lee, by the way, is scheduled to face the Yankees tonight.)

Should the Yankees obtain Lee, that would surely lead to calls for Theo Epstein to somehow counter the move with a major trade of his own. Epstein has a history of making major moves at the deadline and the Red Sox have the prospects to make a deal.

The Red Sox could use an outfielder and one possibility would be Jayson Werth if the Phillies make him available.

Keep in mind, the Red Sox will get Josh Beckett back right before the deadline. Victor Martinez should be able to come off the DL shortly after the break. Dustin Pedroia will be back, etc.

The Red Sox need relief help, outfield help and in a magical world in a far-off place, somebody willing to take Daisuke Matsuzaka off their hands. But once they get their players back, they can compete with the Yankees just fine, even if they have Cliff Lee.

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