Red Sox interested in Korean lefty Hyeon-jong Yang
PHOENIX — The Red Sox have been cautious with pitchers on the international market since a $103.1 million investment in Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2006 produced only two good seasons.
But that could change next week when Korean lefthander Hyeon-jong Yang becomes available.
The Kia Tigers will post Yang on Monday, according to a baseball source. The 26-year-old was the top pitcher in the Korea Baseball Organization this season and has drawn attention from several teams, including the Red Sox.
Yang has a fastball in the mid-90s and throws a good slider, according to a scout who requested anonymity. For the Red Sox, he could be a cost-effective mid-rotation alternative, especially if they elect to spend heavily on bringing back Jon Lester.
Once Yang is posted, MLB teams have four days to submit blind bids. If the Tigers accept the high bid, that team has 30 days to sign Yang. The posting fee is paid only if the player signs.
The San Diego Padres won the bidding for Korean lefty Kwang-hyun Kim this week when SK Wyverns accepted a $2 million offer.
The Astros, Cubs, Giants, and Yankees also could have interest in Yang.
Backup catcher is well down on the list of openings the Red Sox need to fill. It could be a challenging proposition.
The Red Sox, ideally, would like an experienced player who hits lefthanded and has the ability to contribute offensively.
“In a perfect world, yes. But it’s not a perfect world,” general manager Ben Cherington said Wednesday night before the GM Meetings broke up.
In 24-year-old Christian Vazquez, the Sox have a catcher with advanced receiving skills and one of the strongest arms in the game. He hit a modest .240 in 55 games last season, but manager John Farrell has said he is confident Vazquez has the skills to improve at the plate.
“We’re happy we have him,” Cherington said. “We like him a lot.”
Cherington said no decision has been made on how many games the Sox want Vazquez to catch.
But Cherington and Farrell have said they view him as the primary catcher.
David Ross, the team’s backup for two years, is a free agent. The Sox appear to be seeking an upgrade, although Cherington said there is a chance Ross, 37, could return.
The Red Sox envisioned Ross playing more than a usual backup catcher when they signed him to a two-year, $6.2 million deal before the 2013 season. But because of injuries, Ross played only 36 games in 2013.
He appeared in 50 games last season but hit .184. Ross also will be 38 in March.
Outside of Ross, there are nine free agent catchers. One is A.J. Pierzynski, who was signed by the Red Sox last winter, played poorly, and was released in July. Cross him off the list.
Another is Russell Martin, one of the top free agents on the market. Cross him off, too.
That leaves J.P. Arencibia, John Buck, Ryan Doumit, Nick Hundley, Gerald Laird, Jeff Mathis, and Geovany Soto. All are righthanded hitters outside of Doumit, a switch-hitter who caught only two games for the Braves last season.
It’s an uninspiring bunch and Cherington conceded the Red Sox have looked at trade opportunities.
“We’re not closing in on anything,” the GM said.
The Detroit Tigers could be willing to deal Alex Avila, a lefthanded hitter. Detroit holds a $5.4 million on Avila for 2015 with a decision due on Nov. 20. If the option were declined, he would be eligible for arbitration.
Avila has been a starter for the Tigers but hit a career-worst .218 last season. He had 11 home runs and 22 doubles.
Damon in Portland
Johnny Damon will be the featured guest at the Portland Sea Dogs annual Hot Stove Dinner Jan. 16. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Sable Oaks Marriott in South Portland.
Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at Hadlock Field, by calling 207-879-9500 or at seadogs.com. Tickets include a buffet dinner and an autographed photo of Damon.
The dinner benefits the Maine Children’s Cancer Program.