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Boston Red Sox: An Updated Look at the Team Heading into MLB's Winter Meetings

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Boston Red Sox: An Updated Look at the Team Heading into MLB's Winter Meetings
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Red Sox manager John Farrell (left) and general manager Ben Cherington (right) look to improve the team's chances in 2014.

The Christmas shopping list for the Boston Red Sox has changed quite a bit over the past few weeks.

Before MLB's winter meetings—which take place December 9 through 12 in Orlando, Fla.,—the Red Sox were looking at a potential loss of nearly half of their 2013 playoff lineup.

Outfielder and leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury, first baseman Mike Napoli, shortstop Stephen Drew and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia were all pending free agents. 

Boston was also in rumored discussion to add players like Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and even Matt Kemp.  This author broke down some of those rumors in an article that can be found here.

Ellsbury is now gone, having signed a seven-year, $153 million contract with the New York Yankees.  Both Beltran and McCann joined forces with Ellsbury, signing three-year, $45 million and five-year, $85 million contracts, respectively.

Saltalamacchia also has departed the team after inking a three-year, $21 million contract with the Miami Marlins.

A major priority for the Red Sox has been answered, following the team's re-signing of Napoli to a two-year, $32 million deal.

In addition, the Red Sox solved their catching dilemma by adding veteran backstop A.J. Pierzynski.

Drew remains a free agent while rumors continue to circulate that Kemp could find his way to Boston in 2014, per Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com.

More on Kemp and Pierzynski later.

As such, the Red Sox's projected 2014 lineup will look something like this, per Peter Abraham of Boston.com:

Shane Victorino, RF

Daniel Nava / Jonny Gomes, LF

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

David Ortiz, DH

Mike Napoli, 1B

Xander Bogaerts, SS

A.J. Pierzynski / David Ross, C

Will Middlebrooks, 3B

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

As Abraham states, this lineup is not as strong as the one that helped Boston win the 2013 World Series.  For starters, there is no bona fide leadoff hitter.  Unless the young and talented Jackie Bradley Jr. impresses early enough to assume the role, the Red Sox will likely rely upon Shane Victorino to handle the job.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Protecting David Ortiz in the lineup will be a critical element to the Red Sox's 2014 offense.

Fortunately enough, this lineup is still strong enough to produce plenty of offense.  A big focus will be on whether or not David Ortiz—the offensive heart of Boston's lineup—will have sufficient protection surrounding him.

Napoli helps alleviate some of those concerns, although the addition of another big bat would make a significant difference.

This is where the plausible addition of Kemp would be significant.

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has taken a subtle stance on what the team's intentions are regarding a possible deal that would send Kemp to Boston.  He stated via Edes:

I don't rule anything out.  Certainly, we're not close to doing anything like that.  We're certainly exploring things.  We've had—aside from the moves we've actually made and finished—had talks about a lot of other stuff.  I'm sure we'll follow up on some of that when we get to Orlando and meet with teams, so I wouldn't rule it out.  But we're not close to anything.

Cherington's comments sound typical from a general manager not wanting to reveal his cards too early. 

There is no doubting that Kemp would be a tremendous addition to this lineup.  He is a career .293 hitter with 157 home runs and 559 RBI.  Add two Gold Glove awards and two All-Star appearances, and there is no doubting his prowess.

Yet a deal for Kemp does not come without some significant obstacles. 

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Dodgers would probably have to eat a significant portion of Kemp's contract if traded.

First, Kemp is in the middle of an eight-year, $160 million contract and is not set to be a free agent until 2020.  In order for this deal to happen, the Los Angeles Dodgers would have to eat a sizeable portion of that deal.  Fortunately, the Dodgers' pocketbooks are deep enough to allow this to happen if desired.

Another significant factor is that Kemp comes with considerable injury risk.  He has already missed large portions of both 2012 and 2013, and that risk will carry over wherever Kemp plays this upcoming season.

Nonetheless, the Red Sox have a number of chips to make this deal happen.  Perhaps moving one of their starting pitchers in exchange would be the vital element that influences this potential trade.

What about those pitchers?

According to Edes, the Red Sox have a plethora of young and old arms that could fill a starting spot.  Veteran starters like John Lackey, Ryan Dempster and Jake Peavy could be on the table this offseason, which would allow a young starter—like Brandon Workman—to earn a starting spot.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
John Lackey is one starter that Boston may entertain moving.

Edes also writes that Lackey may be the favorite among pitchers that could be moved.  His 2015 salary drops to the league minimum, considering he missed the 2012 season after going through Tommy John surgery.

Expect Boston to deal one of these starters over the course of the offseason.  Whether the potential deal includes Kemp or prospects, the Red Sox should take full advantage of a seller's market.

Via Edes, Cherington summed this up by saying, "I think we go into the winter meetings in a position of strength.  A very strong roster.  We'd feel good about going into the season if not much changes." 

Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski will replace Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate.

Shifting gears a bit, let us examine the deal that brought Pierzynski to Boston.

The 36-year-old veteran is a career .283 hitter with 172 home runs and 800 RBI.  He also comes with some baggage—once receiving allegations of being a "cancer" when he was with the San Francisco Giants in 2004.

The Red Sox are undeniably hoping that reputation does not carry over into Boston's close-knit clubhouse.  At this point, time will be the only judge.

What about Boston's shortstop and center field voids?

Fortunately, those are not really voids at all.

As previously stated, the Red Sox feel comfortable penciling in both Xander Bogaerts and Bradley at shortstop and center field, respectively.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Xander Bogaerts is poised to take over the starting job at shortstop.

"We certainly believe he's a shortstop," Cherington said via Ian Browne of MLB.com. "He could play another position if he had to.  He proved that he was capable of doing that.  We absolutely see him as a shortstop long-term."

It is hard to argue with that.

In any case, Red Sox fans should expect to see some action at baseball's winter meetings this week.  Whether or not these potential deals happen are classified as "blockbuster" remains to be seen. 

Regardless, the team is in good shape heading forward as Cherington suggested.  We will see if that is enough to contend for another championship crown.

 

All records, statistics and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.  Contractual information courtesy of Spotrac.com unless otherwise indicated.

 

Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the Boston Red Sox.  Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.

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