The 2012 Winter Meetings are half over and the Red Sox have been the busiest team so far. The Red Sox had plenty of money to spend in Nashville and it appears that their plan was to use that money to get players to sign shorter deals. By upping the annual salary average over less years they were able to land Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli. Rumor has it that the Indians offered Victorino 4 years and 44 million, but Victorino took the higher annual salary and a chance to play for a big market team and the shorter deal which is what the Sox wanted. So far that plan has worked, which begs the question: What's Next?
Their biggest need now appears to be starting pitching. There are a number of free agent options like Ryan Dempster, Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson. Those three guys would all appear to fit the Red Sox free agent strategy. There are a number of trade possibilities as well. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe mentioned Cliff Lee, but there are other pitchers who are available. Some of the rumored names available in trades are Chris Capuano, Homer Bailey, R.A. Dickey, Gavin Floyd and Derek Holland. The Rangers need a CF and now that the Sox have signed Victorino perhaps a trade could be worked out for Ellsbury to go to the Rangers for Holland.
Other needs appear to be a left handed hitting first baseman for when Napoli catches, a veteran SS to provide insurance for Iglesias, perhaps a relief pitcher and another outfielder if Ellsbury gets traded.
I think, and it's only my gut instinct, that the Red Sox want Nick Swisher to take one of those 3 year deals with a higher annual salary so that he can split 1B with Napoli and RF with Victorino. He would fill 2 of the four needs listed in the paragraph above. If the Sox trade Ellsbury then I think the Sox will go after Swisher very aggressively. Or they may sign Swisher first (who is supposedly waiting for Hamilton to sign to set the market) and then trade Ellsbury from a position of strength. We could do a whole post on Ellsbury trade options and we probably will soon if rumors start to heat up, but overall I think that Sox fans should temper their expectations for what they could get in return for Ellsbury. If they can get one blue chip pitching prospect I would take it. The Atlanta Braves have the prospects and need a CF so that could be a fit. If the Sox could get one strong SP for this year's rotation, I would take it, like the Rangers and Derek Holland mentioned above or the Phillies and Cliff Lee. One thing is for sure, he is as good as gone after next year. Get something for him now.
The Sox could also trade from their catching depth and bullpen depth to get a starter with a little less talent then what they could get in return for Ellsbury. Then they could keep Ellsbury and get one good year out of him and an extra draft pick after he leaves.
There are some decent free agent bullpen options available like Mike Adams and Rafeal Soriano. However, I think this need is of much less importance than the others.
The Red Sox have been busy so far in Nashville, but I think they've got one more move left in them before they leave. If Ellsbury is going to be traded it will happen after the meetings, but I look for them to sign a free agent SP before they leave the Opryland Hotel. Let's hear who you think they should pick up to fill their remaining holes at SP, left handed hitting 1B, OF (if Ells is traded), RP and SS. Leave your thoughts in the comments section.