Cody Ross and David Ortiz are two players who have been at the center of rumors this offseason for the Red Sox.
After finishing 69-93 in 2012, the Boston Red Sox clearly have a lot of needs to fill during this MLB offseason. Rumors about potential signings and trades always follow a team as active as Boston, and that is certainly the case this year, given how much payroll flexibility they now have.
No potential signing or trade is too small to scrutinize. No potential signing or trade is too big or elaborate to conceive and discuss as if it were real. With a team in need of this much work, any move is possible.
The Sox have already made a couple of minor moves this offseason, signing catcher David Ross and outfielder Jonny Gomes. Both players figure to play key roles in 2013, likely as platoon players, and both bring strong veteran leadership to a clubhouse that has sorely lacked that in recent years.
These moves are hardly the end, though.
With many different possibilities being bandied about, let’s sift through the fact and fiction of the latest Red Sox rumors:
Rumor: With Jonny Gomes signed, Cody Ross is a goner.
While the one year Cody Ross experience in Boston was a wild success, the reality is that Ross and the newly signed Gomes are essentially redundant players.
Ross is significantly better defensively and is versatile enough to play all three outfield positions, but that is essentially where the differences end. Both are right-handed bats who mash left-handed pitching, and both are revered for what they bring to the clubhouse.
While the Sox certainly won’t be restricted financially (at $10 million for two years, Gomes hardly puts a dent in the payroll), they will likely stay away from having two players so similar on the roster. It’s far more likely that someone like Ryan Kalish or Daniel Nava will platoon with Gomes.
Rumor: The Red Sox will sign Dustin Pedroia to a long-term contract extension this winter.
Despite Joe McDonald of ESPN Boston’s report that the Sox were beginning discussions to extend Pedroia’s contract, it is highly unlikely that they’ll get a deal done this winter.
There is simply no urgency here; the second baseman’s current deal runs through the 2014 season, with a very palatable $11 million club option for 2015. The Sox have many other needs to address this offseason ahead of Pedroia; they lost 93 games last year, after all.
From Pedroia’s perspective, it also makes sense to wait. Robinson Cano will be a free agent after the 2013 season, and the enormous payday he is likely to receive will set a new standard for highly productive second baseman.
While fans can be assured a deal will get done eventually, don’t expect it to be this winter.
Rumor: The Sox are legitimately interested in Josh Hamilton.
Rumors of interest in high-priced free agents will always follow the Sox, regardless of the team’s actual level of interest. It is perfectly natural that CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman would report that the Sox are looking to enter the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes, as he did last week.
The fact of the matter is that Hamilton makes no sense for the Sox. He is a high-risk, long-term signing; it would make absolutely no sense for a team that just shed $250 million worth of those players to then take on a potentially bigger question mark.
There is no doubt Hamilton is a great player, and if he were only seeking a three-year deal the Sox would be major players for his services. However, unless he suddenly changes his ideal contract, the troubled outfielder will not be playing for the Sox next season.
Rumor: With David Ross now signed, the Sox will look to trade either Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway.
The Sox’s signing of veteran catcher David Ross was certainly curious, given that the team already has two catchers on its roster in Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway. There is a 0% chance the team is planning on carrying three catchers next season, which means that one of the returning backstops is going to be either changing positions or changing uniforms.
Expect the latter.
Both catchers are solid defenders who have spent very little time at another position such as first base, and certainly not enough to have them ready for MLB action in a few short months.
Moreover, with Lavarnway’s upside and Saltalamacchia’s breakout season at the plate, the Sox have two legitimate selling points to use when pitching either player to potential suitors.
Given the team’s many needs, it makes sense to use one of these assets to bring in either a first baseman or pitcher. It hurts to lose a productive player, but it is best for the viability of the team in 2013 and beyond.
Rumor: Lance Berkman could be coming to Boston as a possible platoon player with Mauro Gomez at first base.
While Berkman did tell Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle that he had heard from the Sox in “tire-kicking mode,” don’t expect him to land in Boston.
While he is a decent defensive first baseman, he is also old (36) and has a balky knee. This combination means that whoever signs him is going to need to keep their DH spot available, and with David Ortiz entrenched at that position it simply is not going to work in Boston.
Having a productive veteran like Berkman on a one-year deal would be nice, but given his history and his desire for a two-year commitment, he simply does not make sense for the Sox.
Rumor: Mike Napoli is the favorite to be the first baseman for the Sox next season.
The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo tweeted on Sunday that the Sox brass met with Napoli over the weekend, signifying just how serious they are in getting something done with the free agent.
That talks are this far along should be taken as a sign that Napoli is the most likely of all available free agents to be playing in Fenway next season. The Sox are no doubt intrigued by his 1.107 career OPS at Fenway, as well as his ability to play first base and catcher.
The other important factor is that there are not a lot of other good options here. Other available players are either too expensive (Nick Swisher, Adam LaRoche) or injury-prone (Kevin Youkilis, Lance Berkman) for the drastically less spendthrift Sox.
Rumor: The Sox and Indians have engaged in conversations about trades that could land Boston some combination of Justin Masterson, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo.
As The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported in his mailbag last week, the Sox have at least had conversations with the Indians about deals that would bring some or all of these players to Boston.
Given that the Sox’s biggest needs this offseason are starting pitching, outfield and offensive depth, getting all three of these players would be a huge win. Don’t expect them to come cheaply, though; with likely combined salaries of under $20 million, the Indians’ trio is a relative bargain and thus would cost a fair amount in prospects.
While calling these talks anything but “preliminary” would be a mistake, the fact that the teams are talking at all is a very encouraging sign that bears watching going forward.