Red Sox’ Off-Season Plans Come Into Focus At GM Meetings

John Farrell has settled into his job at Red Sox manager and the Sox brass has convened in California for the annual MLB GM meetings.  The Red Sox are not likely to make any major moves during the meetings but these yearly affairs are usually used to plant the seeds for whatever the teams have planned out for their off-season.  If you read the tea leaves you can see a strategy coming together for the Sox.

Torii Hunter could be a LF option for the Red Sox

First is the outfield.  The Red Sox have both corner positions to fill and Cody Ross is a free agent and no sure bet to return.  They have been linked to young Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton but the price tag seems to be a bit high.  The Diamondbacks are keen on getting a young infielder for the left side of their infield and the Sox are not about to give up Will Middlebrooks or Xander Boegarts for Upton.  The other big name going around is Torii Hunter.  Hunter will be 38 next season but has still been productive and relatively healthy over the past few seasons.  He’s also always enjoyed success at Fenway Park.  Another name intriguing to some is Jason Bay.  Bay had a nightmare stint in New York with the Mets after leaving Boston following the 2009 season but his agent swears that he is over the post-concussion issues that plagued him during his New York run.  You’d have to have a really good back-up plan but he would be cheap and a high-risk/high reward type of signing.

Then there is 1st base.  The Red Sox chased Adrian Gonzalez for many years and we thought that we had him for the long haul after the Sox traded for him before the 2011 season.  Gonzalez was shipped off to LA and the Sox now have a gaping hole at first.  The two big names on teh Sox radar are Mike Napoli and Adam LaRoche.  Napoli is another guy the Sox have long coveted but he may not be able to handle 1B full time and won’t likely cut into David Ortiz’ DH time so the Red Sox will have to make a decision whether or not he’d be an every day option at 1st.  LaRoche was actually a Sox for a week in 2010 before being traded for Casey Kotchman.  LaRoche had a stellar year in Washington, winning both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award for National League 1st Basemen.  He is 33 and will likely be seeking a 3-year deal.  He was tendered an offer by the Nationals but the Red Sox would only have to give up a 2nd round pick for him since their 1st round pick is protected.  Of the two I see better value in LaRoche, who has a Fenway Park swing to go along with better defense.

The Sox have interest in their former farmhand Anibal Sanchez

Finally the other big hole to fill is starting pitching.  The Red Sox need at least one solid starter to fill the rotation.  They’ll pick up where they left off last off-season when they courted Hiroki Kuroda, who eventually signed a 1-year deal with the Yankees.  Kuroda is back on the market and despite interest from the Yankees to bring him back Kuroda is willing to listen to offers from other teams, particularly if he can find himself a 2-year deal.  The other guy on the Red Sox radar is Anibal Sanchez who the Sox traded to Florida to get Josh Beckett in 2006.  Sanchez has turned himself into a dependable middle of the rotation workhorse, which is exactly what the Red Sox need.  The Red Sox could also look into a trade for Marlins’ starters Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle and see if the price tag might fit.  One guy you won’t see the Red Sox sniffing around is Zack Greinke.  He’s been a great pitcher but his past issues and lack of experience in big markets make him a less than desirable target for Boston.

The Red Sox really do have a ton of money to burn and there are not a heck of a lot of big ticket items out there which means the Red Sox should be able to get more bang for their buck.  More good news for the Sox is that despite the public discourse over the past two years players are not scared away.  Nick Cafardo noted on boston.com today that a prominent agent sees the Red Sox as a potential contender since they have more than enough financial flexibility to build a winner around what they currently have.  And players like Hunter and Bay have expressed interest in playing in Boston.  It will be interesting to see what path the Red Sox take but it is encouraging to think that they have enough flexibility to go in whichever direction they’d like.  That August trade with the Dodgers really will end up as the shot that rang through Red Sox Nation for many years to come.

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