The talk of Boston's 2013 World Series championship has begun to wind down, and the focus has now shifted towards the Red Sox's offseason approach before 2014.
For Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, this offseason will be an active one, to put things lightly. Boston is looking at the very real possibility of losing nearly half of its starting lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew are all free agents.
Ben Cherington Shows Interest in Re-Signing Red Sox’ Four Big Free Agents, But Thinks It’s ‘Unlikely’ All Will... http://t.co/C1Guithw0j— Red Sox Fans (@RedSoxFanClub) November 4, 2013
Boston has already been involved in numerous rumors that suggest they will make a big splash or two this offseason.
Sports News Red Sox run rampant in early rumors http://t.co/kTejFy0Ps3— Betting War (@bettingwar) November 9, 2013
With Major League Baseball's general manager meetings beginning November 11 and the winter meetings looming next month, it is possible—even necessary—that Cherington will do some tinkering for the reigning champions.
Let us take a look at some potential moves the Red Sox could pull off this offseason.
During this evaluation, we must keep in mind Boston's financial situation. According to Alex Speier of WEEI.com, the Red Sox will have enough money to make two significant acquisitions, barring a trade that clears some payroll.
Some may be done via a trade and others through the free-agent market. In either case, Cherington has his work cut out for him if Boston wants to return to the same form that earned them the crown in 2013.
Outfielder Carlos Beltran
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that Boston has shown interest in adding right fielder Carlos Beltran to the mix in 2013.
The Red Sox saw plenty of Beltran in the World Series, and the 37-year-old will enter free agency as one of the prime targets on the market.
How feasible is it for Boston to make a legitimate pursuit of Beltran?
Beltran signing with the Red Sox would mean a couple of things. First, it would have to come as a direct result of Ellsbury departing. Beltran is also no longer suited to play center, which would shift incumbent right fielder Shane Victorino out of his preferred position.
It would also mean that outfield prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. would have to remain on the cusp of breaking into a full-time role for at least another season.
Rosenthal cites John Tomase of The Boston Herald as stating the best scenario would be if Boston loses first baseman Mike Napoli via free agency. Then, Daniel Nava could be switched to first base, leaving the door open for Beltran to take over in left.
Beltran can still produce and would be a dangerous addition to Boston's lineup.
The only question involves the type of offer the Red Sox would be willing to give him. According to a report from Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, Beltran is seeking a deal over three or four years.
Boston will probably not be interested in that long of an investment. Sure, they could make it work, but the question is whether or not they would want to.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz
Landing former Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz would not be as splashy as a potential deal for Beltran, but it would make much more sense for a number of reasons.
It is easy to assume that Boston could be looking elsewhere to replace the services given by Saltalamacchia. Ruiz could be a nice holdover option until minor league prospects like Blake Swihart and Christian Vasquez are ready to go, per Ben Shapiro of Masslive.com.
Boston Red Sox 2013: 5 free agents who the Red Sox could pursue http://t.co/VU484E9f8q— Red Sox Monster (@redsoxmonster) November 7, 2013
Ruiz is 34 years old and has done a solid job of getting on base during his eight-year career in Philadelphia.
During that span, Ruiz owned an on-base percentage of .358 and an OPS of .770.
He also made $5 million last year, so he would be a relatively affordable option considering he was only $500,000 more expensive than Saltalamacchia in 2013.
Shapiro also notes that Philadelphia not giving Ruiz a qualifying offer is a good indication that Boston will aggressively pursue him.
Rosenthal describes this possibility by saying:
Keep your eye on this one. The Sox are one of the teams reportedly interested in Brian McCann but already are wary about the dollars and length of contract he is likely to command, sources say. Ruiz, who will play next season at 35, would fit the mold of the free agents the Sox signed last offseason, taking a short, high-dollar deal. He excels at game-calling and reading hitters, is well-liked by teammates and had a .741 OPS after the All-Star break.
As such, do not be surprised if Ruiz finds his way to Fenway Park in 2014. He is a good all-around hitter and handles a pitching staff as well as anyone else.
It may not be the biggest offseason signing, but it would be the right one.
First Baseman Mark Trumbo
It may be hard to fathom, but Napoli might have seen his final days in a Red Sox uniform.
According to Andrew Martin of Yahoo! Sports, Napoli may very well have priced himself out of a future contract in Boston. Napoli initially signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Red Sox, but a degenerative hip condition whittled the deal down to a one-year, $5 million price tag.
Napoli unquestionably wants to cash in on his 2013 success, but do the Red Sox want to pay the tag?
Assuming Napoli signs elsewhere, expect Boston to vigorously pursue a replacement.
Perhaps Mark Trumbo—formerly of the Anaheim Angels—would be the perfect replacement.
According to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, Trumbo would be on the team's radar if Napoli walks.
Cafardo notes that Trumbo, who would come at half Napoli’s price, cannot become a free agent until after the 2017 season, which would give plenty of incentive for Boston to execute a trade.
Trumbo has tremendous right-handed pop—34 homers, 100 RBIs in 2013—and is considered an above-average first baseman.
What makes a deal even more enticing is the fact that Anaheim could use a third baseman. Perhaps a deal in exchange for Will Middlebrooks and one of Boston's excess starters could make this work.
While it may be tough for Boston fans to see Napoli depart, it is hard to argue that watching Trumbo—one of the more prolific young hitters in the game—don a Red Sox uniform in 2014 would make up for it.
Keep an eye on what happens with Napoli. If he does leave via free agency, Trumbo may be the next member of the Red Sox to hold down first base for years to come.
Starting Pitcher Tim Hudson
Signing former Atlanta Braves starter Tim Hudson would be in direct relation to the aforementioned deal for Mark Trumbo.
Why does this make sense?
It is actually pretty simple. Boston could afford to move one of three starters on the roster. Either Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy or Ryan Dempster could be the final piece that makes a Trumbo deal happen. Peavy and Dempster are entering the final years of their respective contracts, and Boston already has an excess of starters.
Adding another starter to the mix is never a bad thing—pitching wins championships, after all. This is where signing Hudson makes some sense.
According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, bringing Hudson to Boston is a deal that not only makes sense, but also is mutual between both the Red Sox and Hudson himself.
Not only does Boston want Tim Hudson, as @JonHeymanCBS said, sources say it's mutual. Tight with David Ross, other Sox. Hudson wants a ring.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 8, 2013
Hudson earned $9 million last season and started only 21 games due to a broken ankle sustained late in the season.
Atlanta would probably want to keep their hands on the 38-year-old veteran, and there are other teams interested.
But Boston could be a nice landing spot for Hudson, especially considering what Passan states about Hudson wanting a ring.
Hudson joining the Red Sox would be a nice step toward Boston repeating and keeping their rotation at the top of the American League.
Which deal are the Red Sox most likely to execute?
As with any rumors taking place during the offseason, we can only speculate on what may happen and how likely any deals are.
Yet the Red Sox are in an excellent position to make a number of deals happen. Players love coming to a championship team. Boston also has the finances and means to make a few transactions.
It will be up to Cherington and the Red Sox front office to execute some of these deals. While putting the pieces in place to repeat as World Series champions is a difficult process, Boston is in excellent shape to see it through.
All we have to do in the meantime is wait and see what takes place.