David Ortiz has been the face of the Red Sox since he joined the team in 2003. Big Papi won his way into the hearts of Red Sox Nation with his infectious upbeat attitude, epic clutch performances and status as an elite middle-of-the-order hitter.
As they say, though, that was then, and this is now.
The Red Sox are a different team and David Ortiz is a different player. He may still be beloved by most of Red Sox Nation, but it's hard not to sense a little bit of growing frustration between the player and management this past season.
For what it's worth, Ortiz's frustration has not quelled any interest, on his part, of wanting to stay in Boston. He's been vocal about that, but Ortiz was still harboring resentment at not being given an extension on his contract.
Still, if Boston was skeptical about giving him a multi-year contract this past offseason, who's to say that they still aren't this offseason. And Ortiz is looking for that type of commitment again.
If the Red Sox do decide that Big Papi's time in Boston has come to an end, then they are going to have to replace the gaping hole he leaves in their lineup. And they should do so quickly.
Much like how Boston made quick work of finding a replacement for Bobby Valentine in John Farrell, who, ironically enough, Ortiz is a big fan of, Cherington would be wise to replace Ortiz in the lineup sooner rather than later.
The beauty of the middle-of-the-order spot is that it's not exclusive to DH, Ortiz's role, so it opens the list up a bit, though you will find that there is a pattern in terms of positional needs on the team.
Mike Napoli would be a great fit for the Boston Red Sox.
He fits a need by being versatile enough to play both catcher and first base. He's also a very good hitter, his below standard performance last year notwithstanding.
He has the type of pop in his bat that, to me, is suited very well for Fenway, and, more importantly, he gets on base which is something Boston struggled with last season.
Napoli would also bring with him a great postseason resume, including huge performances in last year's World Series, though Texas ultimately lost to St. Louis.
There's also the fact that Napoli absolutely KILLS the Red Sox. In 38 career games against Boston, Napoli holds a slash line of .288/.379/.696 with 15 home runs and 33 RBIs. A healthy portion of that damage has come over the last two seasons.
While it would be a mistake to use the "if you can't beat them, join them" mentality as the sole decision in signing a player, that wouldn't be the case with Napoli.
His numbers are on par with the type of production you want out of a hitter in the middle of your lineup. If the price is right, and it may be down a bit in correlation to his regular season performance, Napoli would be a great replacement idea.
This may be the most unlikely of the bunch, but it could happen. Obviously, for multiple reasons, the interest is there.
Who wouldn't want a player of Joe Mauer's caliber?
He's an All-Star catcher who is also a former MVP, multiple-time batting champion and gold glove winner.
Those players don't just grow on trees. If you have the opportunity to get one, there's very little that would persuade you not to take it.
Much like Napoli, Mauer could also play some first base. This would not only allow the Red Sox to be able to rotate players into the lineup, but it would also give guys like Mauer much-needed rest.
Mauer is one of the best catchers in the game, but there's very little evidence to say that it could last long term. Catcher is one of the most physically grueling positions, and, for most, the position ultimately takes its toll.
The Red Sox have long been interested in Mauer and put a claim on him when he was placed on waivers this past August, but, in trying to change bad habits, were hesitant on bringing in his big contract.
Still, Mauer's bat and skill would be an obvious fit in Ortiz's absence.
With the offseason, the Red Sox may find themselves in a more flexible position to take on money, and if Mauer is their guy, they can find the pieces to acquire him.
I've long been an admirer of Nick Swisher. I always thought he was the type of player who would fit in well in the Red Sox clubhouse.
He hits fairly well, plays decent outfield and first base (noticing a pattern with guys who can play multiple positions?), has handled a big media market, and most importantly, he plays the game like he wants to be there.
We often find it easy to criticize, whether we should be or not, players who look like they don't want to be there, but it is very refreshing to see players who love playing.
Nick Swisher is one of those guys. He plays the game with passion, he's not afraid to get dirty and he's definitely got a great clubhouse personality, which is a rare thing to find.
No doubt, he would have been a Dirt Dog.
Ironically enough, Swisher's situation is similar to another free agent's situation back in 2005. One team performs a coup by signing one of their bitter rival's top character guys because he no longer felt wanted. Sound familiar?
Alright, so there are a few distinctions. One being that, and I don't think I'm alone in this thought, Johnny Damon was a much better player. The other being that, Swisher has never said he feels unwanted. Maybe by the fans, but not the Yankees as an organization.
Still, it's an interesting thought and the situation does provide some parallels. Either way, Swisher would be a good fit for the Red Sox.
Ryan Ludwick may not be the prettiest name on this list, but he has proved, especially after this season, that he is worthy of inclusion.
Ludwick was one of the players I was hoping the Red Sox would sign to fill the outfield vacancy they had last offseason. That spot eventually went to Cody Ross, who was also on my short list, and Ludwick signed on with the Cincinnati Reds.
Much like Ross, Ludwick surprised everyone by turning out to be a bargain signing. His performance, specifically his hitting, was a key fixture on a strong Cincinnati team.
Unfortunately for the Reds, his strong performance means he will probably turn down his option in hopes of cashing in on the free agent market.
Ludwick probably wouldn't be able to equal Ortiz's offense, but he'll come at a cheaper rate. It's hard to imagine he'd be the only signing anyway.
At an appropriate price, he'd be a great piece to add to this lineup for next season.
Adam Dunn could be the Theo-like move everyone has been hoping Cherington has in him. Something that defines his term as general manager.
Not that Dunn is the first choice for a "career-defining" type of deal, but Theo was not afraid to go against the grain and make a deal that no one thought would work out (I'm still not over him trading Nomar, but that's another article).
A trade for Adam Dunn could be bad. It could also be really good.
Dunn bounced back last season and gave Chicago a season they hoped they would be getting when they signed him — chock full of strikeouts, walks and home runs. His power numbers would have easily been at the top amongst others in the Red Sox lineup.
Sure, he is overpaid, and the Sox have committed to not making the same payroll mistakes they have in the past, but Dunn is a low-risk move.
Crazy to call a $30 million dollar move "low-risk", but it is. His contract might be able to wiggle the asking price down to salary relief and a middle prospect.
The White Sox may not even want to trade him. As it stands now, they've given no indication they want to move Dunn.
If the Red Sox come calling, though, I doubt they'd hang up the phone. He'd definitely prove suitable replacement for Ortiz in the lineup. And then some.