By Sean McAdam
Here is a look at the Red Sox' options at first base. See links at the bottom of the story for an analysis of other positions.
Youkilis is expected to be fully recovered from thumb surgery, which cut short his year in August, and has signaled a willingness to play either corner infield spot -- so long as he doesn't have to move back and forth between the two during the season.
There's no shortage of possible first-base options on the market. And remember, with Adrian Gonzalez headeded for free agency after 2011 -- to say nothing of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder -- the Sox might be wise to have Youkilis move to third permanently and concentrate on a short-term fix at first. Then they could either open their checkbook and sign one of the premium first basemen next winter, or see if top prospect Anthony Rizzo is ready to take over the position in 2012.
FREE AGENT TARGETSPaul Konerko is the best of the potential free agents, but because he'll be seeking a multiyear deal for serious dollars (and will turn 35 in March), we're ruling him out of the running here. Same for Adam Dunn, who as a first baseman remains a pretty good DH.
Adam LaRocheLaRoche is seemingly forever linked to the Red Sox. He was obtained in a deal with Pittsburgh at midseason in 2008, only to be sent off at the deadline when the Sox got Casey Kotchman. Then, last summer, with Youkilis out and the Sox not getting much production at the position, they gave thought to bringing backLaRoche at the Aug. 31 deadline to acquire players who would be eligible for the postseason, a move which was ruled out as they drifted further from contention.
LaRoche enjoyed his time here and would have an interest in returning. But after a career-high 100 RBI with Arizona last season, will he settle for a one-year deal?
Pena could well be this year's Adrian Beltre - a player who takes a short-term deal with the hopes of having a bounceback season, then returning to the market again the following winter. He had decent production for the Rays (28 homers, 84 RBI) but his average was an embarrassing .196 and even his slugging percentage was off sharply (.407, down from .537 the season before).
Pena was here before, of course, and has local roots, having played at Northeastern and grown up in Haverhill. His play at first has dipped some, but he's hardly a liability.
One potential problem: if the Sox are fortunate enough to land Crawford and then add Pena at first, they would have five everyday regulars who are left-handed (Crawford, Pena, Ellsbury, Drew and Ortiz).
Lyle OverbayLike LaRoche, Overbay was on the Red Sox' watch list in August as a potential late-season pickup before an injury took him out of consideration.
Overbay has less power than the other candidates, having never hit more than 22 homers and failing to collect as many as 70 RBI in any of the previous four seasons. He's more of a doubles-hitting first baseman, and is adequate at first. But, at 34, Overbay is more likely to agree to a one-year deal than, say, LaRoche.
Other names of noteDerrek Lee, Ty Wigginton.
OUTFIELD---> Will the Red Sox be willing to spend on the bigguns?
THIRDBASE ---> How will Theo Epstein deal with a thinmarket?
FIRSTBASE ---> Could a former Sox slugger be the answer in2011?
CATCHER---> Is there a bargain backstop to be had on thecheap?
BULLPEN---> Which relievers could be headed toBoston?