Could be a quiet week for Red Sox . . . or not

Could be a quiet week for Red Sox . . . or not
December 8, 2013, 7:15 pm
Share This Post

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Like seemingly half the teams in baseball, the Red Sox managed to get a lot of their offseason work done in the week prior to the annual winter meetings.

In the span of four days last week, the Red Sox addressed their catching needs (A.J. Pierzynski), added to their bullpen (Edward Mujica) and re-signed first baseman MiKe Napoli.

''Certainly the team is much more filled out than it was in the beginning of the offseason,'' said general manager Ben Cherington on Saturday. ''It could be that we've done most of our heavy lifting for the winter, but certainly we'll still keep working and see what else we can come up with.''

The winter meetings represent an opportunity to meet -- all under one roof -- teams and agents, and it's possible the Red Sox will be presented with something they didn't anticipate.

Perhaps the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are shopping outfielders, will make them the Red Sox a second offer they can't refuse and deal Matt Kemp. That much is unlikely, however, and so, too, is the chance that the Sox do something dramatic.

As Cherington noted, the Sox could field a competitive lineup if the season were to start tomorrow. It doesn't, however, giving them time to tinker on some minor items on the offseason to-do list.

"We're still exploring different things, different ways to potentially improve the team,'' said Cherington.

First, there's the matter of center field, in the wake of Jacoby Ellsbury's departure to New York last week.

The team seems perfectly comfortable opening the season with Jackie Bradley Jr. as its starting center fielder. If a better option -- such as Kemp -- presented itself at a reasonable cost, the Sox would have to explore it.

But the re-signing of Napoli may allow the Sox to go with Bradley. Without Napoli, the Sox would have been down a powerful bat in the middle of their order, and given the uncertainty surrounding Bradley's offense, that might have been too much of a gamble.

With Napoli back, however, the Sox have the luxury of seeing what Bradley can do, hitting him in the bottom third of the order.

Another area of uncertainty -- for now, at least -- is shortstop. The Sox would be fine with having Xander Bogaerts as their Opening Day shortstop, but there remains the possibility that Stephen Drew could come back to the club.

Drew is seeking the security of a multiyear deal elsewhere, but the fact that he has draft pick compensation attached to him will limit his value on the open market.

If Drew can't secure, say, a three-year deal elsewhere, he could end up back with the Sox on a shorter deal, reclaiming the shortstop job and pushing Bogaerts to third base.

That, in turn, would allow the Sox to deal Will Middlebrooks. But because Drew's situation isn't like to be resolved before the meetings end on Thursday, it's unlikely that the left side of the Red Sox infield will get any clarity this week.

Whether Drew returns or not, the Red Sox need a utility infielder, one able to play shortstop. John McDonald handled that role toward the end, but the Sox would probably like someone who can provide more offense off the bench.

Finally, there's the matter of the team's starting rotation, which, unlike most clubs, sports a surplus.

The Sox have six starters -- Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Ryan Dempster -- for five spots, which should, in theory, allow them to move one to address other needs. Peavy and Dempster would seem like the two most likely choices. Lackey, who is under contract for just over $16 million for the next two seasons, would have the most value of the three, but the Sox may not want to upset clubhouse chemistry by dealing off the popular veteran.

It may take some time before the best of the free-agent starters (Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza) sign, leaving the rest of the pitching-starved clubs to begin exploring trades

All of which could lead to a slow week for the Red Sox.

Then again, the same could have been said about them a week ago -- and look how that turned out.