The annual baseball winter meetings officially begin, this year in Nashville, on Monday December 7th. But many of the wheelers and dealers will be in Music City by next Sunday, one week from today. Let's take a look at some of the rumors involving Boston, and some situations that Dave Dombrowski may still need to address before the 2016 season.
1. Acquiring an ace. Dave Dombrowski, following the general manager meetings earlier in November and after swinging the Craig Kimbrel for kids trade, was very matter of fact about the likelihood the Sox would find their needed ace on the free agent market. And as the winter meetings approach there is only one name attached to Boston in any hot rumor. The rumor reported by various Boston and national reporters is David Price to Boston. There has been no confirmation from the Sox. Despite Dombrowski's openness in the likely method of obtaining the front man for his rotation, he keeps the names being pursued very close to his vest.
There are many observers who feel Price does not really want to pitch in Boston (I am one of them). But the current rumor is reported in a couple of different ways, that in the end might mean the same result: Price to Boston. Several reporters are saying execs around the game are telling them there is little doubt Boston will make the highest offer to Price. He may or may not decide to accept the highest offer, depending on the other contenders. Peter Gammons, for one, is reporting he has heard the Red Sox are willing to go $30-40 million above any other offer. The substantial overage would be an apparent enticement for Price to set aside any lingering doubts about Boston.
There ia a lot of speculation that David Price will sign first of the bigger names free agents, so the others( Zach Greinke, Johhny Cueto, and Jordan Zimmerman) can slot in behind Price. The next layer of starters, of whom there are many: Jeff Samardjiza, Scott Kazmir, Mike Leake, and several others, would fall in behind the front four. I do not see Price signing for less than the seven year, $210M, Max Scherzer received last winter.
So stay tuned to see if Price is the guy, and if he should bypass Boston's offer, who is next on the wish list (this Sunday, Nov. 29th, there are reports Jordan Zimmerman is in serious talks with Detroit, perhaps subtracting a name from Boston's list of second choices).
2. Bullpen depth. Adding Craig Kimbrel to the end of the bullpen, deepens the end of the game staff with Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara in front of Kimbrel. But you can be sure the Sox are on the look out for another power arm or two for the pen, hopefully one of those arms would be attached to the left side of the pitchers body. I do not believe any new relief pitcher acquired will have anywhere near the star power of Kimbrel, but I do expect more additions to the staff.
3. Outfielder. There are two schools of thought on any Sox activity here. The most likely avenue is to acquire a fourth outfielder ( or fifth depending on how Brock Holt is utilized). The Sox met with veteran Chris Young during the GM meetings. Young illustrates the issues with signing a veteran as a fourth outfielder, this time of year most guys, Young included, are looking for a full time gig. Other names mentioned in the rumor mill are Rajai Davis, Ryan Raburn, David Murphy, etc.
The other outfield type of rumor that will not quite die down is the Sox will trade either Jackie Bradley, Jr. or Rusney Castillo for pitching and then pursue a veteran outfielder in the free agent market or perhaps in a trade. Two of the biggest free agent outfield names that on more than one occasion have been attached to Boston are Alex Gordon and Jason Heyward ( with one or two speculative pieces suggesting Justin Upton could help replace the power loss from David Ortiz' impending retirement in a year). I do not find this type of rumor completely outlandish, but if the Sox sign Price for upwards of 200 mil, I think Heyward for sure is off the table.
4. Hanley Ramirez. Can the Red Sox find a taker for Hanley if they pay half or so of the remaining $66M? Do they even want to trade Hanley? Look there is not a question, the best case scenario for Ramirez is being able to handle first base well enough for a year and his bat plays like last April. Then in 2017 Hanley inherits Big Papi's DH role.
Personally I think Boston tries hard to trade him to a team really needing offense ( Baltimore if they lose Chris Davis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, or the Angles come to mind). The other way to move Hanley besides paying half his contract for little to no return, would be to trade him for another similar contract someone is having trouble to move. James Shields or the Padres and the Tigers' Justin Verlander are two names of that ilk being floated in the media. I do not see where Detroit plays Hanley and I am not sure any NL team takes a chance on him in the field. I think it is 60-40 Hanley stays in Boston.
5. Trading a current starting pitcher. If the Sox snag David Price, or some other numero uno for the rotation, the front three are likely to be mystery guest, Rick Porcello, and Eduardo Rodriguez. The next two spots would be up for grabs between Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Wade Miley, and Henry Owens. If Boston decides to trade for an outfielder or another starting pitcher, any of these four names could be dealt. For example, Atlanta has been collecting young pitching, could the Sox begin a package for Shelby Miller or Julio Teheran with Henry Owens? Or if the Sox are trying to obtain a younger starting pitcher from a team that is not in a rebuild mode, could the Sox send Buchholz, Kelly, or Miley back in a return package?
David Price is really the only name strongly connected to Boston at this moment but expect that to change as the meetings approach over the next week, and especially when the meetings commence.