6 Free Agents, Trades the Red Sox Should Pursue to Retool with John Farrell

Ian CasselberryMLB Lead WriterOctober 22, 2012

6 Free Agents, Trades the Red Sox Should Pursue to Retool with John Farrell

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    In getting manager John Farrell from the Toronto Blue Jays, the Boston Red Sox have the man they apparently wanted last year after firing Terry Francona. 

    Someone will have to explain to me, however, why the Boston front office thought Francona was the problem with last season's team yet wanted to hire one of his former coaches as his replacement. Perhaps the Red Sox thought Farrell was the missing link on Francona's staff.

    Farrell called the Red Sox his "dream job," according to Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos. He now has the opportunity to manage a team that has traditionally been an AL East powerhouse and perennial playoff contender. 

    But the Red Sox will have to do more than replace Bobby Valentine with Farrell to return to success.

    General manager Ben Cherington got a head start on next season when he traded Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers before the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline. 

    That gave Boston the payroll relief and flexibility to presumably build a more versatile, athletic roster. But Cherington can also add power at a couple of positions that were lacking last season. And of course, a team can never have enough pitching. 

    Here are six trades or free-agent signings the Red Sox should look to make during the offseason. Cherington won't make all of these moves; that would be impossible. But two to three of them could ensure that Farrell's first season in Boston is far more successful than Valentine's.

Sign Free-Agent First Baseman Adam LaRoche

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    I wonder if the Red Sox might prefer a left-handed bat at first base to combine with David Ortiz (presuming he returns) in the middle of their batting order.

    But the best guy on the market is Adam LaRoche, who's coming off a fantastic season in which he slugged a career-high 33 home runs and drove in 100 RBI for the second time as a major leaguer. 

    The Washington Nationals have a tough decision to make with LaRoche and whether or not to pick up his $10 million mutual option for 2013.

    Do the Nats stick with an outfield of Michael Morse, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth? Or do they bring in a center fielder and leadoff hitter? If that's the case, Morse probably moves to first base and the Nationals reluctantly let LaRoche go.

    But D.C.'s loss would be Boston's gain, giving the Red Sox a power-hitting first baseman to replace Adrian Gonzalez and another home-run threat who can park some baseballs into those seats by Pesky's pole. 

    LaRoche had a six-game stint with Boston in 2009 after being acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates. He batted .263 with a home run and three RBI in 19 plate appearances before getting traded to the Atlanta Braves. Presumably, he would stick around longer this time and provide far better run production. 

Get Josh Willingham from the Minnesota Twins

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    As mentioned in the previous slide, the Red Sox could use a right-handed power bat—preferably one that would join Cody Ross, rather than replace him.

    The Minnesota Twins aren't inclined to trade Josh Willingham. Not only is he their best home run threat, but he's signed to a team-friendly contract that will pay him $14 million over the next two seasons. Think about that. Heath Bell will make more through 2014. 

    But the Twins have also finished fifth in the AL Central the past two years and could use an infusion of young talent. The question, of course, is what the Red Sox would have to give up to acquire Willingham. Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan isn't just going to hand his 35-homer left fielder over—nor should he. 

    Red Sox GM Ben Cherington will surely have to give up one of his top outfield prospects, Bryce Brentz or Jackie Bradley. Maybe Ryan would ask for both.

    Would shortstop Jose Iglesias be part of a deal if Boston felt Xander Bogaerts was ready? Ryan would surely ask for pitcher Matt Barnes, whom I presume is untouchable. Perhaps reliever Junichi Tazawa would be included as well. 

    Whatever Cherington gives up in such a deal would hurt, but the pain would be worth it for the Red Sox.

Trade Jacoby Ellsbury to the Atlanta Braves

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    Personally, I don't think the Red Sox should trade Jacoby Ellsbury.

    He's one year removed from an MVP-caliber season in which he hit .321 with a .928 OPS, 32 home runs with 105 RBI. He also plays an excellent defensive center field. Those attributes make him the type of player every team covets. So maybe that's why Boston is thinking about trading him.

    Something else to consider, as pointed out by the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber, is that if the Red Sox don't think they can re-sign Ellsbury because agent Scott Boras will want his client to test the free-agent market, why would another team want him for only one season? 

    Plenty of clubs would surely be interested in adding Ellsbury to their lineup. The Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants are two teams that come to mind. Perhaps the Cincinnati Reds. And how about all five teams in the NL East? 

    But let's focus on the Atlanta Braves here. Acquiring a Boras client seems unlikely, since that's the main reason the team isn't expected to re-sign Michael Bourn. But if the Braves are in go-for-it mode and want to take their chances with Ellsbury for one season, they have the starting pitching prospects to make a deal with the Red Sox.

    Would Braves GM Frank Wren part with Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado in a deal for Ellsbury? What about Tommy Hanson. coming off a bad year? Tyler Pastornicky could fill the utility role of the recently departed Mike Aviles. 

    A deal is there to be made, if the Braves are willing.

Get Elvis Andrus from the Texas Rangers

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    Are the Red Sox really prepared to go into the season with Jose Iglesias as their starting shortstop?

    Bobby Valentine reportedly preferred Iglesias in spring training, but maybe that was an early indicator of how the season would go for Bobby V and the Red Sox.

    The question is whether Iglesias can hit enough to be a major league shortstop. His late-season stint with Boston would seem to demonstrate that he's not. Though 77 plate appearances is a small sample to judge, Iglesias' .118/.200/.191 triple-slash average during that span didn't leave a strong impression. 

    If the Red Sox are looking for an offensive upgrade at shortstop who also fields the position well, Elvis Andrus would be an excellent candidate to pursue.

    The Texas Rangers shortstop is arguably expendable with the emergence of top prospect Jurickson Profar, and he could be used to get a player such as Jacoby Ellsbury, who could then replace Josh Hamilton in center field.

    Texas would surely have to include more than Andrus to get Ellsbury. Perhaps pitcher Derek Holland? But with Ellsbury having only one season before free agency, Rangers GM Jon Daniels might not have to give up as much as the Red Sox would like. 

Sign Free-Agent Pitcher Dan Haren

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    According to MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez, a source told him that the Los Angeles Angels are planning to decline Dan Haren's $15.5 million option for 2013 and opt for a $3.5 million buyout instead.

    That would make Haren a free agent and presumably a popular target on the open market. Haren is coming off a bad season during which he compiled a 12-13 record and 4.33 ERA while battling a back injury. The back problems kept him from throwing 200 innings for the first time in seven seasons. 

    Haren would provide an excellent opportunity for John Farrell to show he can once again work some of the magic he did while he was Boston's pitching coach under Terry Francona.

    Farrell's pitching coach and bullpen coach might end up putting in more work to help revitalize Haren. But this is exactly the sort of project the Red Sox should take on as they shape themselves back into a playoff contender. 

    Haren could fit in nicely as Boston's No. 3 starter after Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Perhaps he could even slot in as the fourth starter, depending on how John Lackey pitches after Tommy John surgery. Suddenly, the Red Sox's rotation looks pretty deep with such an addition. 

Sign Free-Agent Center Fielder Michael Bourn

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    Here's the thing about trading Jacoby Ellsbury: If the Red Sox make that move, they need another center fielder and leadoff hitter.

    Michael Bourn might cost more than Boston would like to spend, especially with Scott Boras doing what he does to drive up the market for his client. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien predicted that Bourn would seek a five- to six-year deal worth $15 million a season. 

    At that price, the Red Sox surely won't be interested. For that matter, very few teams probably will be. A contract worth $10 million to $12 million seems more likely, but Bourn and Boras could very well hold out as long as possible for the best deal available. Hey, it worked last year for Boras and Prince Fielder. 

    But if the market brings down Bourn's contract demands and Boston is willing to meet that price, the Red Sox lineup would benefit greatly from a player who can hit, get on base and provide superior defense in center field. 

    A cheaper alternative might be Shane Victorino. He's not the hitter or defender that Bourn is and he's two years older as well, but that would likely make him less expensive. Victorino would also provide more power and a switch-hitting bat. 

    However, if the Red Sox want a center fielder and leadoff hitter, why not get the best one available? 

     

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