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Yankees must counter Red Sox's big moves

As Boston continues its offseason makeover, Bronx Bombers have been quiet

OK, Yankees, your turn. What do you have for us? How about Jon Lester? He'd look great in pinstripes, wouldn't he? If you're looking to rattle a few coffee cups in Red Sox Nation, this would be an excellent place to start.

Yes, friends, we've arrived at that point in the offseason where we find out if the Yankees really are committed to tending to their own business and not simply reacting to the latest news out of Boston.

Forgive them for being tempted. That was an impressive double the Red Sox pulled off by signing both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. And Boston made it clear there's more to come, because the club intends to add two veteran starting pitchers -- including Lester, the hottest free agent on the market right now.

If the Red Sox can pull that off, they'd be nicely positioned to trade for a starter -- say, Cole Hamels.

Just for grins, let's say they do exactly that. How does that change the American League East race?

Yes, that's a rhetorical question.

The Red Sox would have transformed themselves from a last-place team that lost 91 games to possibly favorites. If you lined 'em up, you might have:
1. Red Sox
2. Orioles
3. Blue Jays
4. Yankees
5. Rays

There's a large back story with every team, especially since we're still so early in the comings and goings.

For instance, the Orioles. They'll be favored to win again if Boston can't pull off a Lester/Hamels double play, or something close. Baltimore has made fewer headlines, but that's the norm.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and his staff find players here, there and everywhere. To dismiss the O's would be silly. Even if they don't re-sign Nelson Cruz, they'll be getting Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis back. Has any club signed three players that good? Nope.

The Orioles also still have that Showalter guy -- that would be AL Manager of the Year Award winner Buck Showalter -- who once more in 2014 proved his greatness in a variety of areas. With 1,259 career victories, he's up to 36th (and counting) on the all-time list.

Anyway, the point is that we should not sleep on Baltimore, even though its biggest moves have been the re-signing of shortstop J.J. Hardy and the continued pursuit of its own guy, right fielder Nick Markakis.

The Blue Jays also aren't finished, even though they've checked the No. 1 thing off their shopping list with the signing of catcher Russell Martin. With a deep rotation, they're good enough to go play now. Senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager Alex Anthopoulos is hoping to upgrade at either second base or third, or perhaps both. If he does just one, Toronto could win the AL East in 2015.

And then there are the Yankees. Regardless of what senior vice president and general manager Brian Cashman does, there's going to be a large unknown quantity with the Yanks. For them to contend, they're probably going to need healthy, productive seasons from CC Sabathia, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira.

Cashman's first priority seems to be the re-signing of third baseman Chase Headley, right-hander Brandon McCarthy and closer David Robertson. He also has to figure out shortstop, with Stephen Drew and others in the mix.

If Cashman brings those four players back onto his roster, the Yankees will be good enough to go play. Whether they'll be good enough to avoid a third straight season out of the playoffs is the interesting question.

The Yanks made their own big moves in free agency a year ago with the signings of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.

But it's a bottom-line business. The Yankees may not see a position player that would significantly upgrade their roster, but there are three starters -- Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields -- who'd make virtually any team better.

Video: No shortage of suitors for Jon Lester this offseason

With Lester the No. 1 target of several teams, including the Red Sox, the Yanks could alter the dynamics of two offseasons by grabbing his 200 innings and 200 strikeouts.

For now, at least, the Yankees say they're staying the course. Given that they usually get the people they want to get, it seems reasonable that Headley, Robertson and McCarthy will be back in the Bronx in 2015.

Headley is a hotter commodity with Sandoval off the market, but the Yanks say they'll go only so far. If they don't land him, they say they're prepared to shift Martin Prado from second to third and to put one of their kids at second.

But you just know that today they're at least batting around the possibility of responding. While the Orioles and Rays have been able to contend without going crazy with spending, Red Sox-Yankees has always had its own dynamic, that of punch/counterpunch.

Your move, Yankees.

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U.
Read More: Jon Lester, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval