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AL powers aim to answer moves by Yanks, Halos

With Stanton, Ohtani set to join pennant battle, Astros, Tribe, Red Sox, Twins plot counter measures
MLB.com @philgrogers

Now that's how you head to the Winter Meetings.

The Giancarlo Stanton-to-the-Yankees blockbuster, following on the heels of Shohei Ohtani picking the Angels as his landing spot, has tightened the screws on the American League's established powers -- the World Series champion Astros and the two other reigning division champs, the Red Sox and Indians.

Now that's how you head to the Winter Meetings.

The Giancarlo Stanton-to-the-Yankees blockbuster, following on the heels of Shohei Ohtani picking the Angels as his landing spot, has tightened the screws on the American League's established powers -- the World Series champion Astros and the two other reigning division champs, the Red Sox and Indians.

What can they do to answer these moves?

Video: Ohtani chooses to join Los Angeles Angels

Glad you asked. How about:

For the Astros: Acquire lefty closer Brad Hand from the Padres in a trade and sign free-agent lefty setup man Tony Watson.

The bullpen was the one weakness exposed during Houston's run to a World Series title, and Tony Sipp is the only lefty currently in a mix headed by right-handers Ken Giles, Chris Devenski and Will Harris. Acquiring Hand won't be easy, but he's worth the sacrifice -- even if it is Joe Musgrove or Kyle Tucker.

Backup plan: Invest in Wade Davis or Greg Holland -- along with Watson, Jake McGee, Brian Duensing or another lefty setup man.

Out-of-the-box thought: How about Logan Morrison? As good as this lineup is, it lists to the right side. Morrison would add left-handed power and could split time with Yuli Gurriel at first base and Evan Gattis at DH.

Video: SD@SF: Hand strikes out Panik to earn the save

For the Red Sox: Pull off a blockbuster trade for Jose Abreu and others with the White Sox. The cost might be Andrew Benintendi, but what if Benintendi, Sam Travis and lesser prospects bring Abreu, Avisail Garcia and infielder Yolmer Sanchez to Boston?

Those were the White Sox WAR leaders last season, combining for 12.7 wins above replacement. As great as Benintendi's potential is, he's one guy and had a 2.6 rWAR last season. It's true that Garcia and Sanchez (who would start at second while Dustin Pedroia recovers from left knee surgery) need to show they can sustain their success. But Abreu is among the most consistent run-producers in the game, with 25-plus home runs and 100-plus RBIs in all four of his Major League seasons.

Backup plan: Sign J.D. Martinez to play left, move Benintendi to center field and trade Jackie Bradley Jr. to the Giants for first baseman-outfielder Chris Shaw, who hits for power and joins Travis and Michael Chavis as first-base options. The Giants won't want to deal Shaw, but might if the Red Sox take Denard Span and some of the $15 million he's owed.

Hot Stove Tracker

Out-of-the-box thought: Sign Martinez and convert him to first base -- even though he hasn't played there since 2009, when he was in the Appalachian League.

Video: Browne discusses Red Sox showing interest in Abreu

For the Indians: Re-sign first baseman Carlos Santana. This would be a default option if the Indians didn't already project to have a payroll of $127 million, a franchise record. They spent heavily to add Edwin Encarnacion when he lingered on the market last year and may have to be just as financially aggressive this year to stay near the top of the AL.

Backup plan: Re-sign workhorse reliever Bryan Shaw, maintaining the structure of one of baseball's best bullpens.

Out-of-the-box thought: Trade power-hitting shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang and other prospects to the Marlins for Marcell Ozuna. Acquiring a left fielder would have been a must if the Indians hadn't exercised Michael Brantley's option for 2018. But there's plenty of room for Ozuna if Encarnacion plays first base.

Video: CLE@CWS: Santana launches a two-run moonshot

For the Twins: Sign Yu Darvish. Minnesota general manager Thad Levine was with the Rangers for most of Darvish's time there. It's time to work those connections and pay the price to win the bidding for a top-end arm to work alongside Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. The chance to have Byron Buxton chasing down fly balls should be a nice deal-sweetener for Darvish (or Jake Arrieta).

Backup plan: Sign Alex Cobb and Jason Vargas, building depth in a rotation that currently lists Kyle Gibson as its No. 3 starter.

Out-of-the-box thought: Trade Buxton and other prospects to the Pirates for Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen. It's a short-term move for Minnesota, sure, but playing at the top level of the AL has become a tougher task. Who says no on this deal?

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.