As expected, Boston’s Dustin Pedroia was named the 2008 American League MVP earlier today, becoming the first 2B to earn the award since Nellie Fox in 1959. ESPN’s Rob Neyer, an advocate for Joe Mauer’s candidacy, takes exception to colleague Joe McDonald’s characterization of the diminuitive Pedroia as “a unique player”.

Aside from his height, there’s nothing unique about Dustin Pedroia. Unusual: yes. Unique: no. Chase Utley plays the game right, and is a better hitter and a better fielder than Pedroia. Utley stole 14 bases this season, and was caught twice. Pedroia stole 20 bases, and was caught once. I’m sorry, but one steal per month just doesn’t contribute much to uniqueness.

Clutch hitting? Pedroia’s career numbers in the clutch are nothing special.

The Red Sox wouldn’t have reached the playoffs without Pedroia? That’s a mighty tough case to make. At season’s end, the Red Sox owned a six-game lead over the Yankees in the wild-card standings. I dare say that even if Dustin Pedroia had never been born, the Red Sox would still have finished ahead of the Yankees in 2008. (And if it’s really Pedroia’s pure force of will that’s driving the Red Sox to win, then they won’t have to worry about retaining Jason Varitek. Might as well measure Pedroia for that captain’s C right now!)

Despite the franchise being for sale in the middle of a brutal recession, the Chicago Cubs retained P Ryan Dempster, courtesy of a 4 year, $52 million pact that was inked Tuesday.  The Star-Ledger’s Dan Graziano reasonably concludes Dempster’s deal could well help establish the market value of A.J. Burnett, amongst others.

As they wait to hear back from CC Sabathia, the Yankees are now pursuing the next starting pitchers on their shopping list, and A.J. Burnett is said to be the guy they want. There’s a belief in the industry that the Blue Jays have offered four years and $54 million to keep Burnett, and that that Yankees will top it, in dollars if not in years. If they do, it gives some insight into the Yankees’ operating philosophy in the second year of the Steinbrenner sons’ regime.

Last year, the Yankees overbid wildly (and against themselves) to keep their own free agents — Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez. This year, they need outside free agents, and they appear set to overbid to get them. Their offer to Sabathia is $40 million higher than anybody else’s so far, and one person with knowledge of their plans said they’d be willing to pay Burnett $15 million per year (which would mean $60 million over four years, and $75 million over five, if they want to go totally nuts and add a fifth year).

They’re also going to be in on Derek Lowe, who may not get the four-year deal Dempster got but could get an average annual salary higher than the $13 million Dempster got. The Yankees, Mets and Red Sox are all in on Lowe, and if that sounds like the kind of thing Scott Boras can milk for big, big money, that’s because it is.