Without question, 2013 is a bridge year for the Boston Red Sox.
That’s the bad news.
The good news, for Red Sox fans, is that there are still plenty of franchise players and trading chips on the roster. The farm system also seems replenished after management moved pieces like Anthony Rizzo and Casey Kelly to acquire Adrian Gonzalez.
“Bridge year” is a term that gets thrown around a lot in Boston, but in two years time, players like Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Rubby De La Rosa, could be full-time starters with the big club, the Sox just need the pieces to bridge that gap.
Now led by Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester, the Red Sox can still be competitive in 2013. Here are some moves that can help them get there.
Cody Ross was a surprise for the Red Sox in 2012.
Originally signing Ross to a one-year, $3 million contract, Boston management had hoped that he could replicate the production he had with the Giants in 2010.
After posting a .267 average with 22 home runs and 81 RBI, Ross heads to free agency and it will take more than $3 million to get him back.
Reportedly, Ross is looking for three years at $25 million, tweeted ESPN’s Buster Olney.
That price might be a little high for the Sox, having just promised David Ortiz the same money and for a year less.
Nonetheless, Ross has shown he can still play at a consistent level.
More importantly, Ross is a great personality, which is something that has been lacking on this team for some time. Personality is not necessarily quantifiable, but do not underestimate it. Ross can play a vital role in 2013, both on the field and in the locker room.
Having dealt Adrian Gonzalez and signed backup catcher David Ross, there are questions both behind the plate and at first base.
Fortunately for Boston, the multi-talented Mike Napoli is on the market.
Although Napoli would prefer to catch, it is his versatility as both a catcher and first baseman that will prove his value.
Visiting Fenway this season, Napoli batted .462 with three home runs.
He had his best season in 2011 when he hit .320 with 30 home runs and 75 RBI. His numbers were a bit below that in 2012, but it seems that the former is closer to the norm.
Despite his decline this year, Napoli is looking for something between $10 and $12 million per year.
Given the overload at catcher, the Red Sox would likely only need Napoli for a year or two; the challenge will be getting him to agree to a short-term deal.
Another option at first base could be to sign the former Red Sox, Adam LaRoche.
Helping Washington to their first division title, LaRoche had a career year, hitting .271 with 33 home runs and eclipsing 100 RBI.
A solo home run was his only hit when the Nats visited Fenway this past season, but another left-handed hitter in the lineup is something the Sox may be lacking depending on how the remainder of the offseason occurs.
It is hard to tell what the Red Sox will need in terms of pitching next season.
Fans would like to think that they know what to expect from Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz at the top of the rotation.
After that, Felix Doubront had an impressive first half of the season, but whether he has the stamina for an entire season as a starter remains to be seen.
John Lackey, who has struggled during his time in Boston, is coming off of Tommy John surgery, so his ability is unclear as well.
The 32-year-old had an ERA of 4.33 with the Angels in 2012, and was below .500 with a 12-13 record.
His 3.66 career ERA suggests that he would fit well at the back end of a rotation, which is where the Sox have struggled in the past few years.
Pitching is a gap for the Red Sox, but this might not be the season for them to address it. However, if they can get Haren for short money, he could prove to be a surprise in 2013.
Specifically, trade Jacoby Ellsbury to the Rangers for shortstop Elvis Andrus.
Ellsbury is entering a contract year in 2013, but it does not seem smart for the Sox to put money into him for the future. Mainly, it is hard to tell what kind of player Ellsbury is.
He could hit 32 homeruns a season, like he did in 2012, or he could hit eight, like he did in 2009.
He could steal 70 bases, or he could steal 30.
He could be healthy, or he could prove to be injury-prone.
The point is, no one has seen enough of Ellsbury to know and—more than anything—that diminishes his value.
Nonetheless, because he has proven he can have highly productive years, he will be asking for money that is equivalent with that production.
Texas may very likely lose Josh Hamilton this offseason, which means money is more available and there is a need for an outfielder.
With Jackie Bradley Jr. potentially ready to play at the major league level, the Red Sox do not need Ellsbury in centerfield, but they do need a shortstop.
Elvis Andrus’ three home runs and 62 RBI are not overwhelming in the least, but his .286 average makes him a viable trade option.
Both Andrus and Ellsbury have speed at the top of the lineup, so there is no value lost there, but, rather, the Rangers gain a Gold Glove center fielder and the Red Sox get the everyday shortstop they have been missing.
It might not be the most fan-friendly move, but the Red Sox must look to get the most value from Jacoby Ellsbury.