With the World Series potentially just two games away from being over, there's no better time to take a look at players that could be potential targets for the Boston Red Sox via free agency this offseason.
After posting the worst single-season record since 1965 and trading away significant talent (and payroll) midseason in the form of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford, the Red Sox are desperate to right the ship with their offseason plans. Free-agent signings are one part of that equation and an important one, given the failures of the team over the past few years on that front.
The hiring of John Farrell earlier this week set the stage for an offseason that's sure to be a big one for the Red Sox, and while they may elect to allocate their resources in a way we haven't seen in the past, I suspect they'll make a splash or two in the free-agent pool when things are all said and done.
Just in case you were wondering, I have deliberately excluded the Red Sox's own free agents, such as David Ortiz and Cody Ross, from this list, as I'm only interested in looking at players that will be on the open market at this point.
My selections here are pure speculation on my part, and it's possible that the Red Sox will choose to go in a different direction entirely, but I have done my best to outline my reasoning behind each potential signing. I think that each player has something that Boston could use in the 2013 campaign.
Soon to be 32 years old, Nick Swisher is likely looking at his last opportunity to secure a solid contract this offseason, and all indications seem to point toward such a deal coming from someone other than the Yankees, as they're expected to go in a different direction once the free-agent signing period commences.
The Red Sox are one of several teams that could show interest in Swisher, given the power he's displayed in recent years and his ability to play both the outfield and first base. Being a switch-hitter doesn't hurt his cause either, and while it may be hard to imagine Swisher in a Red Sox uniform after spending the last four seasons in New York, his easy-going personality would fit well in Boston.
If the Red Sox are able to snag Swisher with a free-agent deal, he'll likely spend most of the time in right field and platoon some at first base, with Cody Ross sliding over to left field, provided Boston re-signs him as well.
It's doubtful the Red Sox will give Swisher a long-term deal, but if he's amenable to signing a two- or three-year contract for a reasonable salary, an agreement between the two could definitely come to fruition.
Torii Hunter: He wouldn't be able to help as much as Swisher, but his defense is much better in the outfield, and his offensive production isn't bad either.
Mike Napoli is a player that can help this Red Sox club in a variety of ways, with his ability to hit for power and play multiple positions when called upon.
He doesn't hit all that well for average, (.227 last season), but he does get on base at a nice clip (career .356) and should be a welcome addition after absolutely crushing Red Sox pitching in recent years.
Put together with a signing of Swisher, the addition of Napoli would give the Red Sox two solid options at first base without having to commit to a hefty free-agent contract. Neither player would be able to take on the position fully for an entire season, but combined, they should be able to handle it effectively until a better option comes forward for a long-term solution.
Napoli could also help out behind the plate, especially if the projected tandem of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway are unable to produce offensively.
Signing Napoli shouldn't be too difficult and won't break the bank. And after watching him destroy the Red Sox more often than not, it will be nice to see him rake for the good guys in Fenway for a change.
Carlos Pena: Hometown player that still has the ability to smack more than a few home runs. Strikeouts are a major concern, though.
Although the Red Sox benefited significantly from the trade that sent Anibal Sanchez south to Florida with Hanley Ramirez prior to the 2006 campaign, there's always been some discussion as to what he would have been able to achieve had he stayed within the organization.
Sanchez will almost certainly draw interest from the Red Sox this offseason, especially in light of his performance thus far in the postseason with the American League champion Detroit Tigers. An addition of Sanchez to the Red Sox would give the club as solid of a rotation as they've had in recent years, with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, John Lackey and/or Franklin Morales rounding it out.
While his career numbers aren't overwhelming, Sanchez would still be a major upgrade and would seemingly fit right into the rotation, as he would be an excellent third starter behind Lester and Buchholz.
Given the injury issues that have come up over the past two seasons, the Red Sox know all too well the price that must be paid for not having enough quality arms to use as starters through an entire season. That said, Sanchez may have pushed his stock high enough to make his cost a bit prohibitive, but not signing him and rolling the dice with another option is something the Red Sox can ill-afford to do in my opinion.
The contract won't come cheap, but with his best years almost certainly still ahead of him, this is a move the Red Sox need to make.
Dan Haren: If the Angels elect to not exercise their option, this could be a nice move for the Sox, especially if Sanchez decides to sign elsewhere.
The Red Sox bullpen was a wild roller-coaster ride last season, with extreme highs and lows at different points of the campaign. Improving it to eliminate the low spots is a must this offseason.
Enter Mike Adams, who is almost certainly going to get a nice payday on the open market, thanks in large part to his performance out of the Rangers bullpen in the second half of the 2011 season and this past year as well. Adams, 34, would be a nice get for the Red Sox and would definitely help to stabilize the bullpen and provide a smooth transition to whomever ends up winning the closer's spot in spring training.
His age will certainly be a factor with regard to the overall length of the deal, but if the Red Sox are wise, they'll elect to offer Adams a significant contract that is high on salary but low on years, hedging their bet just in case he fails to produce when called upon or gets injured at some point in the season.
Adding quality arms to their bullpen has to be a major priority for the Red Sox, and there isn't much more to be had on the market than what Adams brings to the table.
Ryan Madson: Coming off Tommy John surgery to his right elbow, Madson will not be highly sought after and the Red Sox could sign him on the cheap in hopes of him having a rebound season. Having another option at closer definitely won't hurt either.
Signing Keppinger won't pump up Red Sox Nation the way a blockbuster trade or a huge free-agent acquisition would, but it's the kind of move Boston needs to get back to making to rebuild the team and play well in the process.
Keppinger would provide a quality option across the infield defensively, with the ability to play all four spots effectively and should give the Red Sox a nice bat in the lower part of their lineup. The trade of Mike Aviles to Toronto for manager John Farrell last week left a hole in Boston for a utility player to step into, and Keppinger is exactly that.
Playing for the Rays last season, Keppinger batted .325 in 418 plate appearances, hitting nine home runs and driving in 40 runs. Seeing as the Red Sox may choose to sacrifice offensive production in favor of defensive prowess and go young at shortstop with Jose Iglesias coming out of spring training, the addition of Keppinger would give them a nice option to use when offense is needed and not have their defense lag as a result.
Keppinger shouldn't be overly expensive, but other teams will almost certainly have an interest in signing him, so moving with some haste is advised.
Marco Scutaro: Trading him away last year was an ill-advised move for the Red Sox and while he's not getting any younger, Scutaro would be a nice fit to help mentor Iglesias next season.