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NICK CAFARDO | SUNDAY BASEBALL NOTES

Just how interested are the Red Sox in Giancarlo Stanton?

(Lynne Sladky/AP)

The Red Sox’ interest in Giancarlo Stanton, according to a Marlins source, is “tepid” for the moment. As we’ve learned with other Dave Dombrowski transactions, that’s not necessarily the way it’s going to remain.

While Dombrowski tried to downplay adding a big hitter at the General Manager Meetings last week, nobody really bought it. After all, the Red Sox need a big bopper in the middle of the order. Everybody in baseball knows it. The Marlins know it. Scott Boras, who represents J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer, knows it. The White Sox, who have Jose Abreu available in trade, know it.

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Last offseason, Dombrowski downplayed questions about a Chris Sale deal just a few hours before it happened. So keep an open mind.

In regard to trading for Stanton:

The Marlins, first and foremost, are looking for a team to take on the $290 million remaining on the contract.

The Marlins would love to get top prospects in return, but the guess is no team would be willing to do that unless Miami pays some of the contract.

The more of Stanton’s contract a team takes on, the lesser the prospects it has to give up. Think back to the Dodgers taking on $260 million in contracts when they acquired Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto from the Red Sox. In return, Boston got Ivan De Jesus, Jerry Sands, James Loney, Allen Webster, and Rubby De La Rosa. In other words, it was a salary dump.

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Stanton would be exciting at Fenway, for sure, but you’d have to cross your fingers that he would remain healthy. Stanton played in a career-high 159 games in 2017, and according to his hitting coach, Mike Pagliarulo, got rid of all the demons associated with getting hit in the face by a Mike Fiers fastball on Sept. 11, 2014. Stanton adjusted his stance and his swing and hung in there on pitches he used to bail out on. He didn’t miss many mistakes, and pitchers made a lot of them.

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But Stanton has a history of getting hurt, and that creates a lot of anxiety when investing in a $290 million player.

A Red Sox lineup with Stanton would be pretty tough. You’d have Mookie Betts likely hitting third, ahead of Stanton, and that would be hard on opposing pitchers.

Stanton does have a 2020 opt-out, which also might restrict how much the Marlins get in return.

The Red Sox would have to decide how much of the contract they could comfortably assume. They have the means to assume all of it. What they don’t have is the prospects Miami wants. The Marlins want the best of both worlds — a team to take on all or a majority of the contract, and young players/prospects.

According to a Marlins source, the Red Sox don’t rank very high in Miami’s assessment of other teams’ farm systems. Could something be cobbled together? Perhaps. But from the Red Sox’ perspective, their strongest position in such a trade would be to assume a big part of Stanton’s contract.

Eight years in A year-by-year look at Stanton's production.
Year G AB BA OBP SLG OPS HR RBI BB SO
2010 100 359 .259 .326 .507 .833 22 59 34 123
2011 150 516 .262 .356 .537 .893 34 87 70 166
2012 123 449 .290 .361 .608 .969 37 86 46 143
2013 116 425 .249 .365 .480 .845 24 62 74 140
2014 145 539 .288 .395 .555 .950 37 105 94 170
2015 74 279 .265 .346 .606 .952 27 67 34 95
2016 119 413 .240 .326 .489 .815 27 74 50 140
2017 159 597 .281 .376 .631 1.007 59 132 85 163
Career 986 3,577 .268 .360 .554 .914 267 672 487 1,140
SOURCE: baseball-reference.com

The Giants have a similar problem. Major league sources said San Francisco has shown the most interest in Stanton. The Giants also don’t have much to give up in their farm system, but they are willing to take on a lot of Stanton’s contract, though that would put them over the luxury tax for the fourth straight year and subject to a hefty tax. But they’re willing to do it.

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The Cardinals, another very interested team, seem to have the best of both worlds — very good pitching prospects and money. In a perfect scenario, this is the team that makes the most sense for the Marlins to deal with. We still haven’t heard from the Yankees, who also have pitching prospects and money.

And then, of course, there’s the obstacle of Stanton’s no-trade clause.

Does Stanton really want to come to Boston, some 3,000 miles away from his Southern California home? There have been reports that Stanton has already nixed Boston as a landing spot, but those are apparently premature because the Red Sox have not ruled out a bid for Stanton. If Stanton had already nixed Boston, there would be no dialogue between the teams.

Stanton also purchased a massive penthouse overlooking Biscayne Bay in Miami for about $6 million. He likes Miami and really doesn’t have to go anywhere. He could wait out the trade market until the Dodgers or Angels show interest. The Dodgers would like to get under the luxury tax threshold, but their fans are impatient for a World Series winner. Mike Trout could leave the Angels after 2018, so the Angels could have space for another superstar if Trout goes.

The Red Sox are always in the mix for big-ticket players because Dombrowski has a history of being drawn in that direction and he’s had owners who have been willing to oblige him. That happened with the late Mike Ilitch in Detroit. Dombrowski traded for Miguel Cabrera after the 2007 season and then signed him to an eight-year, $152 million extension. When that deal was close to ending, Dombrowski signed Cabrera to an eight-year, $248 million extension that goes through 2023. Dombrowski also signed Prince Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million deal with the Tigers, Justin Verlander to a seven-year, $180 million deal with Detroit, and David Price to a seven-year, $217 million deal with Boston.

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(John Amis/AP)

Big deals don’t bother Dombrowski if they’re given to the right players. But is Stanton the right player?

Cabrera was 25 and already had dominated for five consecutive seasons when Dombrowski traded for him. Stanton is 28. Fifty-nine homers and 132 RBIs from the NL MVP sounds really good to the Red Sox. But the commitment is staggering.

Is Martinez a better option? His contract numbers may get up there as well, but his deal is likely to be for half of what Stanton is owed, with no compensation required. Just money.

Since 2014, Martinez has a .936 OPS and 262 extra-base hits while Stanton has 248 extra-base hits and a .939 OPS.

We’ll see if Boston’s “tepid” interest in Stanton starts to boil as we go forward. The Red Sox have a new manager (Alex Cora) whose job it is to lead the team to the next level, beyond a division title and early playoff exit.

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It’s a lot easier to do that with Stanton — or a close facsimile — than without.

DECISION TIME

Ohtani will soon make his choice

The long-awaited posting of Japanese star Shohei Ohtani is upon us. By the end of this coming week, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters will have posted Ohtani and several MLB teams will have committed a $20 million posting fee in hopes of negotiating with the two-way superstar.

Ohtani, who is 23 years old and desires to be both a pitcher and a hitter in MLB, will have 21 days to negotiate with teams that paid the posting fee. The process should be complete a couple of days before Christmas.

No Japanese player has created this much excitement since Daisuke Matsuzaka, according to the Japanese media.

So which team gets him?

The most often mentioned are the Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers, Cubs, Mariners, and Cardinals. But don’t be fooled. This is not necessarily a big-market/small-market situation.

Shohei Ohtani is 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA in 85 games (82 starts) in the Japan Pacific League.
Shohei Ohtani is 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA in 85 games (82 starts) in the Japan Pacific League.(Toru Takahashi/AP/File 2015)

Technically, Ohtani will sign a minor league contract and make the major league minimum if he makes a 40-man roster. He can receive a bonus from what the signing team has remaining in international pool money, but it’s not break-the-bank money and those close to Ohtani have said it’s really not about the money for him. He wants to come to MLB and then earn his payday.

The Red Sox have kept a low profile when it comes to Ohtani. They only have $462,000 in international pool money compared with the Yankees’ $3.5 million (which is second only to the Rangers, who have about $3.53 million). But the Red Sox have other things going for them.

They have employed several Japanese players and Matsuzaka still lives here with his family. The Red Sox have built-in support systems for Japanese players, including translators.

The Yankees have the same type of support staff, and they also have potentially a great recruiter in Masahiro Tanaka, which is why they’re seen as the front-runner for Ohtani.

The Dodgers also are seen as a desirable team for Ohtani because of their history with Japanese players (they currently have Kenta Maeda), home climate, and endorsement opportunities.

But because of the relatively low cost associated with signing the 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound righthanded pitcher and lefthanded hitter, any team has a legitimate shot. It’s all about Ohtani’s preference and the commitment teams will make to allow him to play both ways.

“He throws 100 miles per hour with four big-time pitches and he has pure raw power as a hitter. He could win 20 games and hit 40 home runs,” said one AL East GM, who was expressing a “perfect world” scenario.

Ohtani had an injury-filled season in 2017, limited to 65 games as a hitter and five starts as a pitcher. He hit .332 with a .942 OPS and went 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA.

Ohtani is a career .286 hitter with a .859 OPS in the Japan Pacific League, and is 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA in 85 games (82 starts).

Apropos of nothing

1. That seven-year, $145 million deal Adrian Gonzalez received from the Red Sox is over after the 2018 season. Gonzalez has been a good player through the majority of the contract, but with NL Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger the Dodgers’ present and future first baseman, it appears Gonzalez’s days as a regular in LA are over. Complicating things is Gonzalez has a full no-trade clause, according to his agent, John Boggs. Gonzalez missed a lot of time last season with back problems. The Dodgers just may eat the remaining $21.5 million.

2. Jake Arrieta has already received a lot of interest as arguably the top free agent pitcher, or at least co-No. 1 with Yu Darvish. The Brewers, Twins, Blue Jays, Rockies, and Rangers are known to have checked in with agent Scott Boras. It’s still not out of the realm of possibility that the Cubs attempt to re-sign him.

Gerrit Cole has a 3.50 ERA through five seasons.
Gerrit Cole has a 3.50 ERA through five seasons. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

3. Will the Pirates finally trade righty Gerrit Cole this offseason? It was a hot rumor at this time a year ago, and the closer he gets to free agency — he’s eligible in 2020 — the higher the likelihood he will be out of the Pirates’ financial structure. The 27-year-old, who was 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA this past season, will start to get expensive in arbitration. He appears to be an ideal fit for the Orioles, Twins, Brewers, and Angels.

4. With plenty of teams looking for affordable back-end starters, there would seem be a market for guys such as Clay Buchholz, Doug Fister, Jeremy Hellickson, and Chris Tillman. Buchholz appears fully recovered from forearm surgery in April. The prognosis for recovery was 4-6 months.

5. Dave Dombrowski has said he’s not interested in moving Jackie Bradley Jr., but the Giants and Royals will likely keep inquiring. Should the Red Sox acquire a power-hitting outfielder, they could deal Bradley and move Andrew Benintendi to center.

6. Jayson Werth is 38 and a free agent, but he could interest a contending team in need of a veteran leader in the mold of Carlos Beltran.

7. Boras made it very clear at the GM Meetings that Matt Holliday wants to play in 2018.

Jordan Zimmermann posted 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 2017.
Jordan Zimmermann posted 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 2017.(David Zalubowski/AP)

8. The Tigers are hoping that the neck injections Jordan Zimmermann received at the end of the season will allow him to pitch as he once did for the Nationals and become a tradeable commodity again. Zimmermann is 17-20 with a 5.60 ERA in two seasons with the Tigers after he signed a five-year, $110 million deal. The Tigers would subsidize some of the contract. The Nationals have some interest as they search for a back-end starter.

9. Lance Lynn, Jason Vargas, and Alex Cobb are among the second-tier pitchers in free agency. But the demand is very high for all them and their price will be relatively high as teams like the Twins, Brewers, Cubs, Orioles, and Blue Jays compete for their services.

10. Joe Morgan’s plea to Hall of Fame voters not to elect known PED users was heartfelt and a great attempt to state what he feels is the cause of many Hall of Famers. But the problem for voters is there already are offenders in the Hall and distinguishing between those who cheated and those who didn’t is almost impossible. Therefore, the voting trend is to ignore the PED offenses, especially those who were caught when there were no penalties for usage. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds both exceeded 53 percent last year, their fifth on the ballot, and it appears they’ll receive more support as time goes on.

Extra innings

From the Bill Chuck files — “Only eight players in MLB history have 2,700-plus hits, 500-plus doubles, 1,000-plus walks, and 400-plus steals: Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Roberto Alomar, Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Craig Biggio, Paul Molitor, and first-time Hall of Fame candidate Johnny Damon.” . . . Also, “The Red Sox took called strikes 4,767 times in 2017, by far the most in the majors; the Twins were second with 4,404.” . . . Happy birthday Saturday to Mark Whiten (51), Chico Walker (59), and Mike Ryan (76).

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.