With the Boston Red Sox in the midst of trying to bring home their third World Series crown in the last nine seasons, it is almost too early to speculate about which potential free agents the team is targeting in the offseason.
Make no mistake, Boston's general manager Ben Cherington is already evaluating the Red Sox's situation entering 2014.
There are already a number of high-value targets that Boston could be looking at. Bringing back center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is a big priority. Potentially adding catcher Brian McCann is also a possibility per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
While the upper echelon of targets tend to generate the most amount of buzz, there are plenty of low-profile and under-the-radar signings that could prove to make an even larger impact.
In spite of their championship run in 2013, Boston does have some holes to fill. Just how the team goes about doing this remains to be seen. Yet it is clear that the Red Sox will be proactive in this regard.
Let us take a look at five potential free agents that Boston may target this offseason. These targets may not generate the same amount of buzz, but they are worth noting.
Brian Wilson—Relief Pitcher
2013 Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
2013 ERA: 0.66
Perhaps the personality of Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson makes this possibility above the radar instead of under it.
The former San Francisco Giants closer-turned Dodgers reliever is coming off an impressive return from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for nearly the entire 2012 season and much of 2013.
There was speculation that he would be a good fit in Boston although Wilson never found his way to the Red Sox.
Eventually signed by Los Angeles to a one-year, $1 million contract, Wilson did not disappoint coming down the stretch for the playoff-bound Dodgers.
Wilson is pitching as good as ever and is a lock to be a target this offseason. He also has plenty of postseason experience—something that bodes well if the Red Sox are shooting for another trip to the Fall Classic in 2014.
If there is one element apparent with playoff-caliber teams, it is the fact they do not overlook the necessity of having a dominant bullpen. Boston's bullpen is already formidable although they will possibly lose relievers Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Miller and Andrew Bailey in the offseason.
Those losses would be easily offset by the addition of Wilson.
Wilson is originally from New England which is a bonus. I could mention something about his beard fitting in but that would be redundant.
The one problem with Wilson joining the Red Sox is the fact that he would likely offset Boston's prospectus for the 2014 closing job—currently held by Koji Uehara.
Wherever Wilson winds up, he probably wants a closer's role. He could earn it if the Red Sox signed him, but it is likely he would want that slot guaranteed upon signing what promises to be a nice contract.
This deal probably will not happen. If it did however, Boston's bullpen would be one of the best in the league.
Brian Wilson Should Be Target of Red Sox, As Resurgent Free Agent Reliever Fits Team's Needs, Personality http://t.co/4deUTOdOCU— NESN (@NESN) July 23, 2013
Chad Gaudin—Relief Pitcher
2013 Team: San Francisco Giants
2013 ERA: 3.06
Keeping on track with relief pitching, let us examine the plausibility of Boston adding veteran journeyman Chad Gaudin to the roster.
2013 has already proven the value of pitching and adding Gaudin to the Red Sox makes sense in a number of areas.
He is also versatile—starting 12 games for the San Francisco Giants in 2013 and logging a 5-2 season record.
Those numbers would likely increase in Fenway Park, yet one cannot overlook the versatility and the cost.
Gaudin provides both long relief and starter capability—elements that can provide a tremendous bonus to a team looking for depth both in the rotation and in the bullpen.
He also made only $750,000 in 2013 meaning he is a cheap option for a team looking for a nice addition during the offseason.
We have seen how important it is to have depth in the bullpen. We also know that Boston's relief corps could see some changes in the offseason.
Thus, the team could do much worse than adding Gaudin to the mix.
Kendrys Morales—First Base/Designated Hitter
2013 Team: Seattle Mariners
2013 Batting Average: .277
It is hard to fathom the Red Sox without incumbent first baseman Mike Napoli.
Yet that scenario is exactly what could happen in 2014. Napoli is set to be a free agent following this year and it is plausible that he walks.
Let us assume for a moment that Boston elects not to re-sign Napoli. Who replaces him?
Kendrys Morales of the Seattle Mariners would be a nice option.
Playing in relative obscurity in Seattle, Morales hit a respectable .277 in 2013 while belting 23 home runs and driving in 80 runs. His career OPS is .813 and he has a lifetime .304 batting average at Fenway Park.
Combine all that with his switch-hitting abilities and Morales would be a very nice addition to the Red Sox lineup and perhaps a slight upgrade over Napoli.
At 30 years old, Morales is also two years younger.
Morales earned $5.25 million in 2013 and would expect to receive a slight raise in 2014.
Given his production, it would be a worthy investment. He did not make his way onto the team last offseason, but that could change next year.
Brendan Ryan—Shortstop, Second Base and Third Base
2013 Team: Seattle Mariners & New York Yankees
2013 Batting Average: .197
The Red Sox will likely enter 2014 needing a utility infielder that can provide a backup option.
John McDonald held that role for a portion of the 2013 season. But the 39-year-old is likely wrapping up his long career and probably has little future with Boston moving forward.
With second baseman Dustin Pedroia locked up and budding phenom Xander Boegarts making a name for himself, there is not a lot of room on the infield for an everyday starter. Will Middlebrooks could easily take over full-time duties at third and who knows what Boston will do with current shortstop Stephen Drew.
Regardless, a backup infielder like Brendan Ryan would be a nice addition.
Ryan is not going to give you much by the way of offense. He is a career .237 hitter with very little power.
His value however, is felt by his defensive versatility. Ryan can play second, third and short—primarily seeing time at shortstop.
He also owns a career .978 fielding percentage.
At 31 years old, Ryan has a few years left in him which bodes well if Boston would like a decent defensive-minded utility player on the roster.
This would not be a splashy signing, but it could be one that would provide dividends down the road.
2013 Team: Baltimore Orioles
2013 Batting Average: .258
It is hard to ignore the fact that Boston could possibly enter 2014 without the services of former All-Star Jacoby Ellsbury.
That may happen and the Red Sox need to consider what options they have if Ellsbury winds up signing a lucrative contract elsewhere.
Jackie Bradley is probably the future long-term replacement for Ellsbury, yet after a mediocre and limited 2013 campaign, signs point to Bradley not being ready for the big leagues.
At least not yet.
In the meantime, Boston could turn to veteran outfielder Nate McLouth to cover the void.
Defensively, McLouth can play all three outfield positions. He has a Gold Glove award received back in 2008, so it is clear he can handle the defensive aspects of the game.
True, McLouth is a considerable step down from Ellsbury offensively. While Ellsbury hit .298 with on on-base percentage of .355 in 2013, McLouth only batted .258. His OBP was only .329.
McLouth does offer a nice option on the basepaths however. While it is difficult for anybody to emulate Ellsbury's 52 stolen bases from last year, McLouth held his own in this regard. He swiped 30 total bases while being caught seven times.
Even more enticing is the fact he made $2 million last season so he is affordable.
Until Bradley is ready to go, McClouth could be a nice stop-gap option.
Fans typically want to see the big free agent deals happen. But as anyone can point out, under-the-radar signings can be equally as effective.
They may not be as flashy, yet the right signings can make all the difference.
Who knows which, if any, of these signings actually take place. The Red Sox and their fans are more concerned with what happens in the 2013 World Series. Still, looking forward is never a bad idea and one can guarantee Boston is doing just that.
Didn't see your favorite under-the-radar target on here? Chime in on the comment section and make your opinion heard!
All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist, covering the Boston Red Sox. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.