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Trade Talk

Red Sox-Yankees rivalry extends to offseason

MLB.com @RichardJustice

Your move, Red Sox. You're on the clock. All of a sudden, a six-year deal for free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel doesn't seem so outrageous, does it? That's especially true when you've just watched the Yankees construct baseball's best bullpen with a deal to bring back left-hander Zach Britton.

If the Red Sox planned to wait out the relief market and hope a front-line guy fell through the cracks, that's not happening. Andrew Miller, Joe Kelly, David Robertson and now Britton are off the market, leaving two unsigned arms among the top tier: Kimbrel and Adam Ottavino.

Your move, Red Sox. You're on the clock. All of a sudden, a six-year deal for free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel doesn't seem so outrageous, does it? That's especially true when you've just watched the Yankees construct baseball's best bullpen with a deal to bring back left-hander Zach Britton.

If the Red Sox planned to wait out the relief market and hope a front-line guy fell through the cracks, that's not happening. Andrew Miller, Joe Kelly, David Robertson and now Britton are off the market, leaving two unsigned arms among the top tier: Kimbrel and Adam Ottavino.

Wait, what's that? Yankees general manager Brian Cashman may sign Ottavino as well? Reports indicate that's a possibility.

Like the others at the back of the Yankees' bullpen, Ottavino's game is power: a 94-mph fastball and a knee-bending slider. He appeared in 75 games for the Rockies last season, averaging 13 strikeouts per nine innings and less than one baserunner per inning.

Even without Ottavino, here's what could happen when Yankees manager Aaron Boone gets five innings from a starting pitcher. He would then have Chad Green, Dellin Betances, Britton and Aroldis Chapman lined up for the final four frames.

Video: Britton, Yanks reportedly agree to a new deal

If you're working on your American League East power rankings, good luck. As ridiculously good as the Red Sox (108 wins) and Yankees (100 wins) were in 2018, prepare for more craziness.

Now, about the Red Sox. In re-signing first baseman Steve Pearce and right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, they accomplished almost everything on their to-do list.

Now, about a closer. Just like last season's deliberate negotiations with free agent J.D. Martinez, the Red Sox and Kimbrel are an obvious fit.

Boston has a pair of hard throwers -- Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier -- with closer-type stuff on their roster. But the two of them have two total career saves (both by Barnes), and the AL East -- and a chance to win back-to-back World Series -- is not for experimenting.

Kimbrel, 30, is five months younger than Britton, so it'll be interesting to see how similar the two contracts are. Britton's deal could run anywhere from $26 million over two years to $53 million over four years.

Kimbrel has been healthier than Britton the past two seasons, but in terms of stuff and performance, they're very close. Kimbrel's case for getting a fifth or sixth season is simply supply and demand.

Video: Craig Kimbrel's nasty curveball fools hitters

Oh, and Manny Machado. He figures into this as well. Are the Yankees the new AL East favorite? Probably not. The Red Sox still have a better offense and a better rotation. But the Yankees have gained some ground.

And the Yanks would gain even more if Cashman wins the Machado sweepstakes. To add him to a lineup that hit 40 more home runs than any other AL club last season could set up one of the great division races we've ever had. He'd be nice leverage for Kimbrel in his talks with the Red Sox.

Regardless, Cashman has had a great offseason by acquiring left-hander James Paxton and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and re-signing J.A. Happ and Britton.

This sport is better and more interesting when the Yankees and Red Sox are both good. They were both way better than good last season, and are on their way to being even better in 2019. Both teams would like to put impact finishing touches on their offseasons. These could be what decides things.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Craig Kimbrel