While the Red Sox seemingly endless search for a new manager continues, the team's roster needs have gone unaddressed.
Other than offering salary arbitration to David Ortiz and Dan Wheeler and losing free agent Jonathan Papelbon to the Philadelphia Phillies, the team has seem stuck in place since its season ended so ignominiously on September 28.
The winter meetings begin Monday in Dallas, by which time the team will finally have a manager in place. In the meantime, the club's options for replacements for Papelbon seem to be dwindling.
Two closers in whom the Sox had shown some interest have already signed elsewhere. Joe Nathan agreed to a two-year, 14.5 million deal with the Texas Rangers and Jonathan Broxton signed a one-year, 4 million deal plus incentives Tuesday morning with the Kansas City Royals.
Both were attractive to the Red Sox because they had enjoyed success as closers for playoff teams and were seen as relatively affordable because they were coming off injury concerns. Nathan underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2010 while Broxton appeared in just 14 games last season for the Los Angeles Dodgers before undergoing a surgical procedure to remove bone spurs in his right elbow.
Nathan was apparently determined to pitch in Texas. As for Broxton, the Sox had made contact with his agent before the pitcher's decision to accept a deal with the Royals, with the Sox sending the message that they weren'tyet ready to move aggressively on the closer.
It's unknown how much -- if any -- of that decision was driven by their
focus on a manager, or whether the Sox don't want to make a significant pitching acquisition before choosing a manager and pitching coach.
To be sure, there are still a number of options remaining on the free agents market, including Heath Bell, Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Matt Capps, Frank Francisco, Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson.
Many of these options would seem to be have circumstances or demands that would not make them a good fit for the Red Sox. Bell, for example, has made it known that he would prefer to remain in southern California. And Madson is said to be looking for a deal similar to the one he nearly signed to return to the Phillies (four years, 44 million) before the Phils abruptly shifted gears and opted for Papelbon instead.
If the Sox weren't willing to make that kind of long-term commitment to Papelbon, it's inconceivable that they would do so for Madson, since the two are essentially the same age, though Madson has far less experience closing than does Papelbon.
There are trade options, too, in the closer market. Colorado has let it be known that Huston Street is available and the Sox have at least made initial inquiries with the Rockies.
The danger for the Sox is, that following the Nathan and Broxton signings, a run on closers could begin, leaving the Sox on the sideline, either unwilling or unprepared to move quickly.