Ben Cherington has a lot to smile about these days.
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has been relieved of his duties. A new manager has been installed, and he appears to be the right guy for the team, even if it did take exchanging the team's starting shortstop to get John Farrell in a Sox uniform. Plus, from an outsider's standpoint, it sure feels that the Red Sox general manager doesn't have the leash attached to his Windsor-knotted-tie at the hands of ownership that he did for the first season after his hire.
Throw in enough spending money to make a huge splash at this year's winter meetings, with less pressure to do so than in year's past, and things are going pretty well for the former protege of Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.
For the first time in years, Boston has a choice to decide which direction it wants to head in; rebooting or rebuilding.
From the things that Cherington has said since the offseason began, sounds as if it'll be a hybrid of the two, so the Red Sox wish list includes some players that will help win now and some that are investments for the future and beyond.
The Red Sox need starting pitching and at least one starting outfielder.
It's a match made in heaven.
Morrison, 25, is just a year removed from a season with 23 home runs and 72 RBI. Nolasco, 29, has finished with double-digit wins in six of his seven seasons and could be a legitimate fourth or fifth starter. Assuming Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz return to their All-Star-potential forms, a rotation that includes Nolasco is solid.
Mauro Gomez is currently listed atop the Red Sox depth chart at first base. This needs to change.
A 31-year-old Mike Napoli with 539 career games behind the plate might not be the permanent answer, but some sort of platoon among he, Ryan Lavarnway and newly signed David Ross at the catcher and first base position would be interesting. It would help the two veterans extend their careers productively while bringing along Lavarnway as he gets up to speed at the major league level.
It'll be tough to sell this strategy on Napoli, who has options to be an everyday starter, but he did struggle at times this season, and the days of 30 home runs and a .320 batting average might be behind him. He's better than the .227 he hit this season, but expect his output to be around his career average of .259.
Sanchez, Boston's former farmhand, has won double-digit games in just two of his seven seasons, but most of those Marlins teams were pretty terrible. After all, he does have a respectable career ERA of 3.75.
Sanchez isn't a stud on the mound, but much like Nolasco, adding the righty to the mix of the rotation would shore up the back end. Boston probably still wants to add a viable second or third starter, but Sanchez would be a good, affordable starting place.
Two guys coming off very similar seasons, Ross (22/81/.267) and Swisher (24/93/.272) won't be the difference between a pretender and a contender, but these guys are instrumental to a ball club.
They keep the chemistry going, they offer better-than-average production, and they don't make any crucial mistakes. Both of them will end up on teams that will be in the hunt, but one of them is likely to end up with the Red Sox.
This is a good thing.
Haren is the potential second or third starter in the rotation that Boston could bank on for 15 wins and a sub-3.50 ERA.
The right-hander is coming off a down year, but Haren is as consistent a starting pitcher as they come—something Boston needs more than almost anything right now.
He's just one season removed from a 16-10 season with a 3.17 ERA and could easily return to that version of himself with an off-season of productive rehab on his back.
Boston needs a shortstop.
While his defensive skills are major league ready, it isn't looking like Jose Iglesias will ever translate his potential into being an all-around player. Cabrera is the right choice moving forward.
The Red Sox and Indians have been talking, so chances are optimistic that at least some sort of move between the two clubs could happen. Hopefully they involve the 27-year-old All-Star who has proven that he can be slick with the glove, but also delivers at the plate.
One would think that if Youkilis had a strong desire to be back in Boston, the Red Sox would be the most likely fit for the 33-year-old. Basically the only reason he was metaphorically run out of town in the first place was because of Bobby Valentine's disdain for the player, so now that Valentine has moved on it seems logical to think Youkilis could be back.
It seems unreasonable that if Terry Francona were manager during Youkilis' struggles last season, he'd have ever been traded in the first place.
Boston could use his leadership and corner presence for the next few years to bridge the gap, even if it's in a reduced role.
And here's the tricked-out XBOX 360 atop the Red Sox wish list.
Justin Upton, by all intents and purposes, will be moved this offseason. Boston is in the hunt for the prized outfielder and could certainly be the team to land him, at a heavy cost.
With the addition of Upton, an outfield that includes Jacoby Ellsbury and either Cody Ross or Nick Swisher, as previously mentioned, is a great starting point.
There are few players in the league who exhibit the level of talent that Upton does.
Boston needs to get this done.