After making perhaps their key moves of the off season all ready by re-upping Mike Napoli at 2 years, 32 Million and fortifying their bullpen by adding two more strike throwing machines in Burke Badenhop and 2013 closer for the NL champs Cardinals, Edwin Mujica, the Red Sox move on to Orlando and the 2013 Winter Meetings. Ben Cherington in a pre meetings address to the Boston media, said the Red Sox would be moving into the more "opportunistic" portion of the off season. Here are five possible opportunities for the Red Sox while in Orlando, in an approximate order of likelihood.
1. Do Nothing. Or at least nothing earth shattering. In the same pre meetings chat with the media, Ben C said if Opening Day was tomorrow, he would be fine going to battle with the team he has now. The biggest thing this statement points to would be starting jobs for Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Jackie Bradley, Jr. in center field. If this is the case, the "do nothing" may become do nothing except acquire a backup shortstop ( or SS-3B) and a right handed hitting center fielder to complement Bradley, Jr. More on the infield later in this post, as far as centerfield the two names mentioned most often are free agents Franklin Gutierrez and Rajai Davis. Gutierrez is a Gold Glover whose career has been derailed with injuries, while Davis is one of the few players around to match the departed Jacoby Ellsbury in stolen base abilities. However it is almost certain if this type of center field backup is added, either Daniel Nava or Mike Carp ( or Jonny Gomes) would have to go to make room. These are moves more likely to made later this winter not in Orlando.
2. Trade for Matt Kemp. This is the only trade rumor really out there currently attached to Boston. This would be a tough call for Cherington and his baseball ops team. Kemp is only 29 and just two years ago was in the discussion as the best player in the game. But a series of injuries, including serious should and labrum injuries, have turned Kemp into a question mark. His current contract along with the injuries probably would be a deal breaker. His deal runs 6 more years at 126M ( 21M per year). But the Dodgers are looking to move an outfielder among Kemp, Carl Crawford, and Andre Either, because they have these three plus Yasel Puig and upcomer Joc Pedersen. And reportedly LA would eat a portion of one of their outfielder's deals to move them. If the Dodgers would eat the same 30M Detroit ate when dealing Prince Fielder, that would make Kemp's deal 6 years at 96M, or 16M per year, the same AAV the Sox just gave Napoli ( granted at three times as many years). In addition to the lower priced deal, there is speculation the Sox would require LA to take Ryan Dempster as part of the package saving another 13.25M for next year. Not a lot of talk about who else would be in a package, but LA needs a left side infielder. They are not getting Bogaerts, so maybe Will Middlebrooks, Dempster, and perhaps Allen Webster going back to LA? Because teams like Texas and Seattle are also interested according to reports, the Sox could get out bid even if they are interested. I see the Sox in the hunt for Kemp but not at all costs.
3.Trade a veteran starting pitcher. I still adamantly believe this will happen before 2014 begins, but this week may not be time yet ( unless Dempster goes to LA in the scenario above). The Sox have six experienced starters in Lester, Buchholz, Doubront, Lackey, Peavy, and Dempster. They also have another half a dozen or more young starters who are ready or damned near ready for the show, The Sox have enough depth to move one and with all teams looking for hurlers, the Red Sox could get a nice return in either an usable player for 2014, or some prospects. But the reason Orlando may not be the time and place is the are still a number of starting pitchers on the free agent market that need to find homes. Guys like Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, and Bronson Arroyo to name four. Once the free agents sign up, the teams that miss out may be willing to shell out something good for Dempster, Peavy( the most likely to go?), or John Lackey. In a bigger deal you could even see Felix Doubront go, but the Sox are not giving him away( they would not "give away" any of them, well maybe Dempster.)
4. Sign Stephen Drew ( or Not). This option also could be called "Resolving the Left Side of the Infield". From every reporter's opinion out there it is a 50-50 split between the Red Sox wanting Drew back for shortstop and the other half feeling they want him to walk so they can cash in another draft pick and put Xander Bogarts at shortstop along side Will Middlebrooks at third. The bring Drew back theory includes the feeling the Red Sox have soured on Middlebrooks and would rather have Xander at third. Depending on how down Boston is on Will they would either trade him or have him backup third and maybe first. The other part of the Drew returns theory is with a draft pick attached to Drew no one else will sigh him and he will come back to Boston on a cheap one or two year deal.
If Drew does leave and Boston goes with the kids on the infield's left side, they will need to acquire a backup shortstop, who can third as well perhaps. It could be the return of John MacDonald, but hopefully someone with a little more pop. Drew and his agent Scott Boras may very well have to wait until February to find someone willing to give up that draft pick and the Sox will wait along with them.
5. Make a Blockbuster. Now there are no rumors of this at all except for the Red Sox should package six of the best young players not named Xander to the Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton crowd. Since Miami continues to insist Stanton is not available it is likely not happening this week. But the reason I include this option is this: the Red Sox, perhaps more than any other team ( except maybe Texas or St. Louis) are perfectly positioned to make a huge offer on whatever young star becomes surprisingly available to trade. Boston of course has the money to spend on the right player, but they also have a deep inventory of players at all levels and nearly at any position ( with exception of first base). They have young players with big league experience ( Middlebrooks, Doubront), they have a wave of players on the cusp of big league ready ( Xander, Bradley, Jr. Workman, Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, De La Rosa) catchers ( Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart, Ryan Lavarnway) middle infielders a step or two away from the bigs ( Deven Marrero, Mookie Betts) even more pitching than listed above ( Henry Owens, Matt Barnes).
So I do not expect this blockbuster, but if any team pulls a headline deal out of the blue in Orlando, it could be the World Champion Boston Red Sox.