Lucchino: Teams 'different animals'

Not even the first competitive pitch of spring training has been thrown, and the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are already trading insults through their front offices.

After all, it wouldn't be spring training without Red Sox president Larry Lucchino taking a shot at the team's AL East rival.

Or without the Yankees firing back.

Lucchino didn't drop an "Evil Empire" reference on Friday, but he did discuss what he sees are increasingly divergent paths between the two teams.

"We're very different animals and I'm proud of that difference," Lucchino said. "I always cringe when people lump us together with other baseball teams.

"[The Yankees] are still, this year at least, relying heavily on their inimitable old-fashioned Yankee style of high-priced, long-term free agents. I can't say I wish them well, but I think we have taken a different approach."

As expected, Yankees president Randy Levine didn't take too long to respond.

"I feel bad for Larry," Levine said. "He constantly sees ghosts and is spooked by the Yankees. But I can understand why. Two years ago, under his and Bobby Valentine's plan, the Red Sox were a last-place team.

"Ben Cherington and the Red Sox did a great job in winning the World Series last year, but I'm confident that (Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, manager Joe Girardi) and our players are ready to compete with a great Red Sox team to a win a world championship."

While the Red Sox have spent less on free agents the last two years, the Yankees continue to open the safe and hand out big-time contracts.

This offseason, the Yankees inked Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year deal worth $153 million, right-hander Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million deal, and committed a combined $130 million to outfielder Carlos Beltran (three years) and catcher Brian McCann (five years).

"Maybe, if you compare what we did last year in the offseason to what they've done this year; there is quite a contrast there," Lucchino said, referring to Boston's strategy of signing players with less star power to much shorter deals. "But I'll quickly say we do keep open the prospect of signing a long-term deal with a free agent, or paying a sizable amount of money to attract a star in his prime. We haven't ruled that out.

"There's just a rebuttable presumption against doing that, but you can rebut it. The circumstances can allow for you to go ahead and do it, and the Yankees do it more often as a matter of course. For us, it would be more the exception than the rule."

Late last month, Lucchino called the Yankees "a different flavor of ice cream than anyone else in baseball" when asked what he thought of them shelling out nearly $500 million in free-agent contracts this offseason.

ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald and The Associated Press contributed to this report.