The Boston Red Sox nearly have their 25-man roster finalized after the additions of catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli, outfielder Shane Victorino, outfielder Jonny Gomes, catcher David Ross and reliever Koji Uehara. What Boston still lacks, however, is starting pitching and a complementary player or two.
Boston’s starting rotation through the conclusion of the winter meetings projects to be Jon Lester at the top, Clay Buchholz as the No. 2, Felix Doubront as the middleman and John Lackey as the No. 4. It’s still undetermined as to who will fit in the No. 5 spot. The Red Sox could bring up a starter from the minor leagues or flirt with Franklin Morales in the rotation again.
The Red Sox could also use a veteran infielder who could potentially start at shortstop if Jose Iglesias gets off to a slow start. Iglesias hit .118/.200/.191 in 25 games with Boston in 2012, and even though the Red Sox still have Pedro Ciriaco on their roster, they could seek other options.
Boston general manager Ben Cherington still has a few more moves to make before the start of spring training, and here’s a look at five of them.
Adding Kyle Lohse to the top of Boston’s starting rotation between Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz would be a move that would get the Red Sox on the right track.
Lohse had a brilliant 2012 campaign with the St. Louis Cardinals, finishing the year with a 16-3 record, a 2.86 ERA in 211 innings and 143 strikeouts. He went 14-8 in 30 starts the previous season, also with St. Louis.
The Red Sox already have interest in the free-agent right-hander, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
“The Angels and Red Sox have emerged as two of the suitors for star free-agent pitcher Kyle Lohse.”
ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes reports that if Boston is going to sign Lohse, it would likely have to be to a three-year contract.
“Another top free agent, Kyle Lohse, is represented by Scott Boras and is expected to be seeking more than three years, through if a three-year deal is sufficient to get him signed, the Red Sox would be expected to jump in.”
One factor that could prevent the Red Sox from further pursuing Lohse is that if they sign him, it would cost them a draft pick since he turned down a qualifying offer from the Cardinals after the season ended. Boston’s general manager Ben Cherington discussed losing a draft pick when speaking of pursuing Nick Swisher, according to Comcast SportsNet New England’s Sean McAdam.
“It’s a factor (in deciding whether or not to pursue Swisher). But it’s not the only factor. For the right guy, whether it’s this offseason or another offseason…You factor that in, but it’s not a roadblock.”
For now, Lohse is still one of Boston's remaining options.
As mentioned in the introduction, Jose Iglesias is not an offensive superstar. He is a defensive mastermind, but is not even close to being average at the plate. For that reason alone, the Red Sox could look for a backup plan in case Iglesias starts the season cold.
As ESPN’s Jim Bowden reports, the Red Sox aren’t sold on Iglesias but still have some time before arguably the top prospect in the organization, Xander Bogaerts, is ready for the major leagues.
Red Sox not sure Iglesias bat is ready and Bogarts at least a year away..#Drew
— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) December 2, 2012
Notice that Bowden mentions Drew at the end of his tweet, referring to free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, who closed out 2012 with the American League West Champion Oakland Athletics. WEEI’s Alex Speier confirms that Boston does have interest in Drew.
“According to an industry source, the Red Sox continue to be one of a group of teams interested in shortstop Stephen Drew.”
It would make sense that if the Red Sox were to sign Drew, they’d have Iglesias start the season in the minor leagues to continue his offensive development. Drew has been a starting shortstop for his entire career, and at 29 years old, it would be weird if he signed to be a backup.
Signing Drew to a one- or two-year deal would likely end Iglesias’ run in Boston and perfectly bridge the gap until Bogaerts is ready to make his debut in late 2013 or sometime in 2014.
There’s no logical reason for the Red Sox to keep four catchers on the 25-man roster. Boston currently has two holdovers from last season—Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway—as well as two recent acquisitions—David Ross and Mike Napoli.
Now, Napoli was signed as a free agent to play first base regularly, but that’s beside the point. He is still more than capable of going behind the plate whenever manager John Farrell tells him to. With the other three catchers playing for two spots—a starter and a primary backup—it seems that either Saltalamacchia or Lavarnway would be the odd man out.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Saltalamacchia could be the one on his way out.
With lavarnway, ross and napoli to catch, red sox will take offers on salty— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 3, 2012
“The Red Sox have four major league-caliber catchers and need another starting pitcher. The Chicago White Sox have a surplus of pitching and are unlikely to re-sign free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski, major league source confirmed here today. Let’s make a deal, right?”
A player that Lauber throws into the conversation is Gavin Floyd, who he writes has been shopped frequently by the White Sox. Floyd went 12-11 with a 4.29 ERA with Chicago in 2012 and would fit nicely in the No. 3 spot of Boston’s rotation in front of Felix Doubront.
The Red Sox made an attempt to sign free-agent right-hander Ryan Dempster but came up unsuccessful.
Red Sox offered pitcher Ryan Dempster a two-year, $25 million deal and were turned down, according to source. Story posting soon.— Gordon Edes (@GordonEdes) December 8, 2012
Dempster would be another middle-of-the-rotation starter that could become the No. 2 or No. 3 depending on how manager John Farrell wants to schedule his pitchers.
It’s unclear as to whether Dempster was or wasn’t pleased with the $12.5 million average annual value that Boston offered him, but it is clear that he was looking for a third year, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
A three-year deal may be a little much for a 35-year-old veteran, but the Red Sox desperately need someone who could make an impact in their rotation. Dempster could end up being that impact arm Boston seeks, but it doesn’t seem like they’ll be able to lock him up for two years.
The Red Sox may be willing to do whatever it takes to acquire a frontline starter, even if it means trading away a key piece of their current roster: center fielder and leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury is entering the final year of his contract with Boston, and there’s no guarantee that the team will be able to sign him to a new deal.
“According to multiple sources, the Red Sox approached the Phillies about a Jacoby Ellsbury for Cliff Lee deal and were told that Lee was not available. The Phils won’t break up their Lee-Cole Hamels-Roy Halladay trio. (Check back in July if the team is not in contention.)”
Although the Red Sox weren’t successful in the approached deal, it is worth mentioning that they tried. The Red Sox are searching for an ace-caliber starting pitcher to pitch ahead of Jon Lester. Lester has never really been deemed an ace but has just been the guy atop a mediocre rotation. That would’ve all changed if Boston had acquired Lee, thus making Lester No. 2 in line behind the former Cy Young Award winner.
There was speculation that Boston would trade Ellsbury since Shane Victorino could play center field, and then the club could go out and sign another free-agent outfielder while also acquiring a top starter. General manager Ben Cherington pretty much shot down that speculation, according to Tim Britton of The Providence Journal.
Ben: trading Ellsbury "not our intent. We're expecting him to have a good year in 2013 and be a big part of what we're doing."
— Tim Britton (@TBritton_Projo) December 5, 2012
The Red Sox didn’t deal Ellsbury for Lee, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t continue to pursue other ace-like pitchers who would bolster their rotation.