Boston Red Sox GM Ben Cherington has the difficult task of rebuilding a team that went 69-93 in 2012.
GM Ben Cherington has been active in Nashville this week, signing Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino while also holding negotiations with many others. The Sox still have several gaps to fill, so fans can expect this flurry of activity to only intensify as the week goes on.
Pitching has to be the No. 1 concern, but the Sox may not be done shaking up their outfield either. Reports have surfaced from the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham and others that suggest that the team would consider trading Jacoby Ellsbury, a major move that would have several long-term implications for the entire organization.
Without getting too far into the future, though, let’s take a look at some of the positives and negative of the Sox’s top targets this winter:
Pros: Fills a major hole, replaces lost power
Cons: Possible regression, another catcher
The Sox got the man they wanted in Napoli, who earlier this week agreed to a three year, $39 million deal with the team, according to ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes.
Napoli gives the Sox the right-handed power bat that they’ve been looking for, and his 1.107 career OPS at Fenway Park is certainly encouraging. Unfortunately for Napoli, he won’t be hitting against the Sox’s pitching staff anymore, so that figure is likely to go down.
The downside of this deal lies in the fact that Napoli has only played in 115-plus games in one out of the last four seasons, and he strikes out at a pretty prolific rate (once every 2.8 at bats last year). These numbers—along with a .259 career batting average—should at least give fans pause.
Ultimately, though, for the length of the deal and the possible upside, this signing has to be considered a win for the Sox.
Pros: Versatility, speed, defensive prowess
Cons: Age, poor recent performance, money
On Tuesday, the Sox handed the "Flyin’ Hawaiian" the exact same three year, $39 million contract they had just given to Mike Napoli, according to ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes. While they needed a third outfielder with range, the amount of money the Sox spent is certainly a head-scratcher.
It’s true that Victorino’s versatility is going to be a huge asset for the Sox. He can hit anywhere in the lineup, bat from either side of the plate and play any outfield position. This could be of particular importance if ESPN’s Buster Olney’s tweet about the Sox now looking to move Jacoby Ellsbury for pitching comes to fruition.
The problem is that the 32-year-old Victorino just isn’t the same player he once was. During the last three seasons, he has hit a combined .264 with a .766 OPS and just 15 stolen bases. He is a solid complimentary piece, but asking him to do much more than that at this stage of his career is the type of risk the Sox had claimed they’d be avoiding.
Pros: Middle of the order power, fills outfield need
Cons: Personal issues and injury history, length of contract
Are they in or out?
It never seems clear whether the Sox actually have any interest in Hamilton. Obviously, if one looks at just the numbers, pursuing Hamilton is a no-brainer. He is the type of power bat that the Sox need, and his ability to play all outfield positions makes him especially valuable.
One cannot talk about Hamilton, though, without also looking at his personal history. That, coupled with his penchant for getting injured, makes handing him a five-year deal or longer (as he is asking for) a very scary proposition.
If they could get him at a higher average annual value for three or four years, this is a move the Sox should make. However, that is not likely to happen given the number of free-spending teams currently shopping the free agent market.
Pros: Familiarity, ability against lefties
Cons: Redundancy with Gomes, value of contract
The man Larry Lucchino has dubbed “the Cheerful Cody Ross” would appear to be the odd man out after the signings of Victorino and Jonny Gomes, but that may not be the case.
According to a tweet from The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham, the Sox are looking at potentially trading Jacoby Ellsbury for pitching and moving Victorino to center field, which would then open the door for the team to re-sign Ross. Given that Ellsbury is the Sox’s best MLB-ready trade asset and the team’s desperate need for pitching, this is not so far-fetched a possibility.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen, though.
After having such a great season last year, Ross will have his share of suitors. His leadership and ability to rake left-handed pitching are enormous weapons, and the Sox will be competing with many teams to keep him.
Pros: Track record against AL, only free agent “ace”
Cons: Personal history, length of contract
The 2009 AL Cy Young winner escaped the Sox at the deadline last season, and given how the team finished the year, that was probably for the best. Now that he is a free agent, though, the Sox have shown some interest in the right-hander, according to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci.
Greinke’s troubled personal history obviously throws up some red flags, as does the amount of money it would take to bring him to Boston. While the Sox have the luxury of offering more money in the short-term, the length of the deal would also be an obstacle.
Still, he is everything the Sox are looking for—an ace who can stay healthy (200-plus inning average since 2008) and someone who has had consistent success in the American League.
While he likely won’t land in Boston, Greinke would be a good fit given the Sox’s gaping hole at the top of the rotation.
Pros: Reigning NL Cy Young winner, health history
Cons: Age, prospects needed to acquire him
Boston loves its knuckleballers, and Dickey ascended into the pantheon of all-time greats with his Cy Young-winning 2012 season.
With Mets GM Sandy Alderson making him available, The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham reported that the Red Sox met with Alderson on Monday to discuss a possible acquisition of the right-hander.
The problem, as expected, is that the Mets’ asking price is exorbitant. They asked for Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., two of the team’s top three prospects, according to soxprospects.com. There is no way a deal like that gets done.
If the Mets’ price comes down, though, the Sox should be major players. Dickey is scheduled to make just $5 million this season, an incredible bargain, and at 38 years old, an extension would likely be a short-term one, which fits with GM Ben Cherington’s overall plan.
It’s a tantalizing option that bears watching going forward this offseason.
Pros: Stuff, cost compared to other FA pitchers
Cons: Injury history
Prior to a scary injury that ended his 2012 season and required brain surgery, McCarthy was enjoying one of his finest seasons, posting a 3.24 ERA over 18 starts.
Now fully healthy and given the go-ahead to resume his career, McCarthy is a much-sought after commodity on the free agent market for teams looking for a solid middle of the rotation starter. The Sox certainly fit the category, and have made their interest known, according to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser.
McCarthy has spent his entire career in the AL, which is a big plus. He also reportedly would accept a one-year deal, meaning the Sox could use some of their newly freed up money to simply outspend other teams without making a crippling long-term commitment.
While McCarthy’s durability is a huge concern—he’s never made more than 25 starts in a season and has averaged barely over 100 innings since 2007—the upside and short-term commitment should be too great for the Sox to ignore.