Free agency overview: First base

Free agency overview: First base

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?
Carlos Pena
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?

SeanMcAdam can be reached at Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Chris Sale had been the subject of so many trade rumors for the past year that he admitted feeling somewhat like "the monkey in the middle.”

On Tuesday, the rumors became reality when Sale learned he was being shipped to the Red Sox in exchange for a package of four prospects.
It meant leaving the Chicago White Sox, the only organization he'd known after being drafted 13th overall by Chicago in 2010. Leaving, he said, is "bittersweet.''
Now, he can finally move forward.
"Just to have the whole process out of the way and get back to some kind of normalcy will be nice,” said Sale Wednesday morning in a conference call with reporters.

Sale had been linked in trade talks to many clubs, most notably the Washington Nationals, who seemed poised to obtain him as recently as Monday night.

Instead, Sale has changed his Sox from White to Red.

"I'm excited,” he said. "You're talking about one of the greatest franchises ever. I'm excited as anybody. I don't know how you couldn't be. I've always loved going to Boston, pitching in Boston. (My wife and I) both really like the city and (Fenway Park) is a very special place.”
It helps that Sale lives in Naples, Fla., just 20 or so miles from Fort Myers, the Red Sox' spring training base. Sale played his college ball at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
"Being able to stay in our house a couple of (more) months,” gushed Sale, “it couldn't have worked out better personally or professionally for us.”
Sale joins a rotation with two Cy Young Award winners (David Price and reigning winner Rick Porcello), a talented core of mostly younger position players and an improved bullpen.

"There's no reason not to be excited right now,” said Sale. "You look at the talent on this team as a whole... you can't ask for much more.”

Sale was in contact with Price Tuesday, who was the first Red Sox player to reach out. He also spoke with some mutual friends of Porcello.

That three-headed monster will carry the rotation, and the internal competition could lift them all to new heights.
"The good thing in all of this,'' Sale said, "is that I can definitely see a competition (with) all of us pushing each others, trying to be better. No matter who's pitching on a (given) night, we have as good or better chance the next night. That relieves some of the pressure that might build on some guys (who feel the need to carry the team every start).”

But Sale isn't the least bit interested in being known as the ace of the talented trio.

"I don’t think that matters,” he said. "When you have a group of guys who come together and fight for the same purpose, nothing else really matters. We play for a trophy, not a tag.”

Sale predicted he would be able to transition from Chicago to Boston without much effort, and didn't seem overwhelmed by moving to a market where media coverage and fan interest will result in more scrutiny.

"It's fine, it's a part of it, it's reality,” he said. "I'm not a big media guy. I'm not on Twitter. I'm really focused on the in-between-the-lines stuff. That's what I love, playing the game of baseball. Everything else will shake out.”

After playing before small crowds and in the shadow of the  Cubs in Chicago, Sale is ready to pitch before sellout crowds at Fenway.

"I'm a firm believer that energy can be created in ballparks,” he said. "I don't think there’s any question about it. When you have a packed house and everyone's on their feet in the eighth inning, that gives every player a jolt.”