As the offseason winds down and the final roster (mostly) has already taken shape, the rumor mill surrounding the Boston Red Sox has slowed down dramatically. The biggest question, obviously, surrounds exactly who will be manning first base.
Will it be Mike Napoli? A different free agent? Someone acquired via trade?
The answers will have to come soon, as pitchers and catchers report for spring training on February 10, a mere 25 days from now.
Let’s take a look at Napoli and all the other rumors and questions currently swirling around the Sox.
Rumor: The Mike Napoli contract is in jeopardy
As ESPN’s Jim Bowden tweeted last week, it appears the Sox are trying to negotiate Mike Napoli’s three-year, $39 million deal down to a one-year pact. The concerns over his hip are obviously real if the team thinks he is worth no more than short-term money.
For a team with no prospects at first base, the fact Boston won’t commit to a legitimate power bat like Napoli indicates that the team does not see him as a viable long-term solution. At 31 years old, he’s certainly not getting any younger, and Sox fans need to look no further than Yankees star Alex Rodriguez to see the potential negative effects a hip injury can have.
While this situation remains fluid, it will be interesting to see if the Sox explore other options.
Rumor: Michael Morse is a legitimate alternative at first for the Sox
Now that Adam LaRoche is back with the Nationals and Napoli’s hip has held up his deal in Boston, many think that the Nationals’ Morse is a perfect fit for the Sox right now.
According to mlbtraderumors.com, Boston has, at the very least, kicked the tires on Morse, so he is clearly on the team’s radar as well.
Morse would be a good acquisition for the Sox, as he is both productive (.839 career OPS) and affordable ($6.75 million salary in 2013). The big issue is his health; he played in just 102 games last season and 98 in 2010.
If he can be had for the right price, though, Morse would be a great fit for the Sox.
Rumor: Terry Francona’s tell-all book about his days as Red Sox manager will do irreparable damage to the franchise
While some of the quotes from Francona’s book provided by the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham are both humorous (Dustin Pedroia as a “sex symbol?”) and troubling (the owners treat the team as “more of a toy or hobby”), ultimately their impact is going to be nil.
Francona is an icon here, and the “he-said-she-said” nature of his book is surely going to move a lot of product. However, the day-to-day operations of the team ultimately do not rest on the opinions and experiences of former employees.
The owners will still own the team, and both Francona and former GM Theo Epstein are long gone. Whether its true or not, the regime change in the front office has given off the appearance of improving all facets of the team’s operations.
There’s no reason to think the past manager’s negative experience will change that.
Rumor: The Red Sox will go to an arbitration hearing with at least one of their players
It was always a point of pride during Theo Epstein’s tenure as GM that the team never went to arbitration with their players. Ben Cherington carried on that tradition last year, with even David Ortiz resolving his acrimonious contract dispute before a judge had to settle it.
This year, however, things are going to be different.
With nine players filing for arbitration on Tuesday, the team will likely be way apart on figures with a couple of their players. The toughest deal to make will be with Jacoby Ellsbury, who will likely seek a hefty raise despite only playing in 74 games last season.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Andrew Bailey and Alfredo Aceves may also be far apart from the team in their value assessments, and while most players are likely to settle, this will finally be the year that one of them does not.