NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Good morning, all, from the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. It is here, in this sprawling biodome, that the Red Sox will over the next three days at baseball’s winter meetings attempt to accelerate their offseason plan to remake their roster after their worst season in 47 years.
With only about $68 million committed to eight players, the Sox have money to spend. But after freeing themselves from the twin albatrosses of seven-year contracts for Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, they lack the appetite for long-term deals. Team president Larry Lucchino and general manager Ben Cherington continue to preach a disciplined approach, but at some point, they likely will have to extend themselves to sign players who can improve the team. By now, the Red Sox’ myriad needs are familiar:
- Starting pitching.
- A first baseman.
- One outfielder, maybe two.
- A veteran shortstop.
It has been nearly 10 days since the Sox wined and dined free agent slugger Mike Napoli, whom they view as a potential fit at first base. But while they wait for him to decide whether to accept their overture of three years, one year less than he is believed to be seeking, or to instead sign with the Seattle Mariners or the Texas Rangers, there will be other players worth monitoring. A list of a few items that may be on the Red Sox’ radar this week:
Adam LaRoche: Another potential solution at first base, the 33-year-old prefers to stay with the Washington Nationals, for whom he hit a career-high 33 homers this year. But LaRoche reportedly is looking for a three-year contract, while the Nats prefer to cap their offer at two years. If the Red Sox move on from Napoli, or vice versa, LaRoche could be a solution. One potential snag: LaRoche got a qualifying offer from the Nats, so signing him would require the forfeiture of a draft pick.
Cody Ross: The Red Sox maintain interest in re-signing him, preferably on their terms. That likely means a two-year deal rather than the three-year contract Ross (Stuart Cahill photo, above) is said to be seeking. Regardless, he’s coming off a 22-homer season and has proven to be comfortable in the spotlight of baseball-crazed Boston. That has to be worth something, right?
Nick Swisher: According to an industry source, he’s willing to sign as a right fielder or as a first baseman and has drawn interest from a half-dozen teams, including the Red Sox. Swisher also is a switch-hitter known for grinding out at-bats and his frequency of reaching base, although his dreadful performance in four consecutive postseasons for the Yankees may hurt his value. Also, like LaRoche, he received a qualifying offer, so signing him would mean sacrificing a draft pick.
Shane Victorino: The Red Sox have expressed interest in the switch-hitting outfielder, multiple industry sources have told the Herald, likely as an alternative to Ross. He’s coming off a down season and lacks the plate discipline of Napoli or Swisher. But he also would bring speed to the lineup and play solid defense in right field.
Josh Hamilton: OK, it’s still probably a long shot, as long as he wants a long-term deal. But as John Tomase writes in today’s Herald, the longer Hamilton remains on the market, the better the chance that he won’t get the contract he wants, perhaps opening a door for the Red Sox to swoop in with a short-term, high-salary offer.
Ryan Dempster: When the 35-year-old right-hander was available at the trade deadline, the Red Sox didn’t show much interest. But given the lack of quality options on the free agent market, they may view him differently. Dempster profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation starter and could provide depth behind Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. He also doesn’t figure to require the long-term commitment of 29-year-old right-hander Anibal Sanchez, who reportedly is seeking a six-year contract.
Dan Haren: Bet you didn’t know that CC Sabathia is the only pitcher to log more innings than Haren over the past eight seasons. But Haren’s durability was tested this year when he missed time with a back injury. According to at least one industry source, the 32-year-old is healthy, and his performance over the final two months of the season support that notion. Assuming that’s the case, the Red Sox may take a closer look at Haren to bolster their rotation.
Gavin Floyd: Free agency isn’t the only way for the Red Sox to fill their pitching needs. They also could use their surplus of catchers and/or relief pitchers to make a trade. The Chicago White Sox may be a willing partner. They have pitching depth and may be in the market for a catcher if they don’t re-sign 36-year-old A.J. Pierzynski. Floyd, 29, is 62-56 with a 4.12 ERA in 948-1/3 innings over the past five seasons and easily profiles as a reliable No. 4 starter. He’s also entering the final year of his contract, allowing the Red Sox to make the short-term commitment they are looking for.
Those are just a few of the names you’ll be hearing about over the next three days. So, please keep it here and follow along on Twitter as Herald baseball writers Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) and John Tomase (@jtomase) bring you the latest from Nashville.
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