As the year that saw the Boston Red Sox win their third World Series Championship in 10 years winds to a close, fans and analysts are wondering what the franchise will do to back up their crown in 2014.
Boston has been relatively quiet this offseason, as shown by the team's transactions provided by CBS Sports.
The heart of Red Sox Nation primarily has focused on the departures of a number of key figures from the 2013 championship team—most notably Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Still, the Red Sox's relative silence thus far into the offseason does not mean the team will remain inactive until Opening Day next year. There is still plenty of time for general manager Ben Cherington to make some moves.
Let us take a look at some of the recent rumors surrounding the Red Sox and cash in on whether they are fact or fiction.
Trading for Outfielder Matt Kemp
Perhaps it is time to put these rumors to bed once and for all.
While it would have been nice for Boston to add a vaunted offensive presence to their lineup—as well as a two-time Gold Glove recipient—a deal for Kemp is virtually out of the question at this point.
For starters, Kemp's injury concerns have hampered any serious discussions with a number of teams that have reportedly been interested.
Red Sox are reportedly concerned about medicals, Mariners are 50-50 about Kemp and Cruz & Tigers are new to list. http://t.co/9yM4Qfc7In— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) December 11, 2013
This aspect is elaborated upon by Ricky Doyle of NESN who states:
The 29-year-old has missed time in each of the last two seasons with a shoulder problem and an ankle issue, so there’s obviously going to be some concern about his health status for whichever teams consider making a deal.
That alone is reason enough to thwart any potential deal.
In addition, Kemp's agent Dave Stewart stated that Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti informed him that the team has no intentions of trading Kemp this offseason per Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.
If you were hoping to see Kemp in a Red Sox uniform in 2014, you may want to back away from those prospects. It is not going to happen.
Re-signing Shortstop Stephen Drew
Unlike the aforementioned deal for Kemp, the retaining of shortstop Stephen Drew is a little tougher to disseminate.
The situation is relatively simple—if Drew signs elsewhere, Boston will roll with the upcoming Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and two-year veteran Will Middlebrooks at third. The Red Sox will also receive a compensatory first-round draft pick if Drew signs with another team.
If Drew re-signs with Boston, there will be a slight logjam on the left side of the infield with Bogaerts and Middlebrooks competing for time at third.
Fortunately enough, the Red Sox are in a position to be patient. Drew's market has not been that hot as of late, and he remains a free agent.
If the Red Sox elect to go with the former option, they will be relying on a very young core of players, especially on the left side of the infield. This facet is further described by Alex Speier of WEEI.com.
Should Cherington re-sign Drew?
Red Sox SBN: Will Middlebrooks v. Stephen Drew should be obvious for Red Sox http://t.co/oS4GW4rCBo— FLGM6 (@FLGM6) December 30, 2013
Marc Normandin of SB Nation does not think so.
Middlebrooks is likely the player who would suffer the most from Drew's potential signing. Normandin argues that Middlebrooks, at 25 years old, should receive at least a full year of everyday playing time. This will at least give him the chance to showcase his potential.
If Middlebrooks flourishes, that puts Boston in a good position. If not, the Red Sox could look towards having prospect Garin Cecchini eventually taking over at third.
This is true whether the Red Sox envision [Middlebrooks] as their third baseman of the future or not. Giving him a full season in 2014 to show off what he can do—something he hasn't had the chance to yet—could raise his stock enough that Boston could benefit from a huge trade in which they sell off his pop to the highest bidder, making room for Cecchini at third in 2015. Having this option is something they can only do if Middlebrooks plays for the Sox in 2014, while Drew plays for someone else.
That is an interesting perspective to say the least.
In conclusion, the Red Sox appear to be in a much better position by letting Drew go than they would be if they re-signed him. The fact that no deal has been made by this point suggests that Cherington is considering options outside of Drew's services.
Red Sox Interested in Left-Handed Pitcher Mark Mulder
According to a report from Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, veteran lefty Mark Mulder has drawn interest from the Red Sox, as he attempts to make a comeback in the majors.
Mulder has not pitched since 2008 after a shoulder injury ended his major league tenure.
The report, which was also listed by Al Melchior of CBS Sports, suggests that Boston might be interested in Mulder's services to some regard.
Yet, the Red Sox already have a plethora of starting pitching, as well as young prospects in the folds, so signing Mulder makes little sense.
Cafardo also suggest that Boston will not likely make a deal.
Boston Signing Japanese Right-Handed Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka
Let the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes begin.
Yet Cafardo also makes the claim that Boston should get in on the bidding. He writes:
The 25-year-old Rakuten Golden Eagles right-hander, who was 24-0 in the regular season in 2013, was posted and teams have begun to bid the new maximum $20 million fee. The Red Sox are the least mentioned big-market team, but don’t be surprised if they quietly slip into this. One American League scout suggested it’s the perfect time for the Red Sox to strike.
Red Sox might "quietly slip into" the bidding for Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka http://t.co/0OGXm3RcuS— HardballTalk (@HardballTalk) December 29, 2013
This is backed up by the fact that Boston has a number of pitchers with either one- or two-year deals left on their respective contracts—Jake Peavy, Ryan Dempster and Jon Lester most notably.
Tanaka could easily slide in as a solid No. 2 or No. 3 starter for a Red Sox rotation that could see some significant changes in the next couple of years.
Yet, there are plenty of problems with this potential deal.
First, would Cherington be weary of an expensive deal that could thwart Boston's future much like the deal the team struck with Daisuke Matsuzaka some years ago?
That is a legitimate possibility.
In addition, there is an argument that the Red Sox's priority should be upon signing Lester to a contract extension after his current contract expires at the end of 2014.
Jon Lester Contract Extension Should Be Bigger Priority for Red Sox Than Potential Pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka http://t.co/5Mw3PyFL3I— NESN (@NESN) December 27, 2013
Doyle backs up this claim and also states that the Red Sox, who currently have a surplus of starting pitching, don’t need to make a sizable financial commitment to an unknown commodity.
This is true in a number of ways. There is a surplus of starters already. In addition, Boston has some talented prospects waiting to make debuts.
From that vantage point, signing Tanaka makes little sense.
Which latest Red Sox rumor is the most likely to come true?
The Red Sox look poised to enter the 2014 season with the team they currently have on paper.
While there may be continued rumors and stories that surround Boston in future weeks and months, all signs point to Cherington and the Red Sox front office being content with what they have moving forward.
As indicated, the aforementioned rumors have been classified as "sellers" and should not be given much credence regarding whether or not a deal will take place.
This author could be wrong of course, but that has yet to be determined.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the Boston Red Sox. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.