Ah, the offseason. A time for all 30 teams (or at least 26-or-so teams) to regain optimism. A time for rumors, whispers and arguments galore. A time for rampant #rosturbation, for MLB Trade Rumors, for @BadMLB and for Nick Cafardo’s trade ideas.

We don’t all admit this, but for some of us, the offseason is just as fun as is the time between Spring Training and the World Series. That’s doubly true when you’re pulling for a team like the Red Sox, whose financial situation, strong farm system and MLB talent combine to make them one of the most exciting and flexible teams in the game right now.

With that in mind, here’s a quick guide to the 10 rumors or storylines you’re going to see repeated most often over the next several weeks. Rumors appear in the inverse order of the frequency with which you’ll see them while on The Internets.

10. The Red Sox will trade for Carlos Gonzalez

This one hasn’t picked up a ton of steam yet, but as the offseason progresses and the elite free agents start flying off the board, I expect it to be talked about more often. Many think the Rockies are likely to trade Troy Tulowitzki this offseason – possibly to the Cardinals, who would be a natural fit – but they could instead move Gonzalez, who might be a more attractive piece to many teams.

Gonzalez is under control until 2017 at a very reasonable price, so it would take a hefty package to land him. Still, Colorado is starved for pitching and Boston could dangle, say, Henry Owens, Felix Doubront, Jackie Bradley Jr. and another prospect or two in an attempt to place CarGo in the outfield.

It’s unlikely to happen, of course, but the Red Sox are going to be linked to just about every major trade candidate this offseason thanks to their minor league depth. Speaking of which …

9. The Red Sox will trade for David Price/Max Scherzer

Provided they do something to mitigate the losses of Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli, the Red Sox are going to be in good shape offensively next year. Yet while their pitching staff is deep, it lacks elite upside, with apologies to the hot streaks of Jon Lester and Clay Buccholz.

Two of the best pitchers in baseball are potentially on the block this offseason in Price and Scherzer. The Rays are unlikely to want to deal Price to a division rival, and the Tigers may not want to deal Scherzer to one of the few teams poised to challenge them in 2014. That being said, as mentioned above, the Red Sox are one of the few
organizations with the ability to pull these moves off. Short of Xander Bogaerts, they can trade everything.

8. The Red Sox will keep/trade Will Middlebrooks

Is there anyone on the Red Sox roster whose future with the team seems to be more in doubt than Middlebrooks? One year after being the lone bright spot on an abysmal team, we’ve seen WMB become almost an afterthought in the team’s long-term plans thanks to a mixture of injury and ineffectiveness. People who say he has character issues are off base, but the strikeout rate and inability to make adjustments are worrisome, as was his defensive play down the stretch.

The Sox are in an odd place with Middlebrooks right now, as some teams are likely to value him as a cost-controlled every day starter while others will see him as an up-and-down guy with power. I think and hope he’ll get one more shot to hold down the third base job for Boston, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him moved as part of a bigger deal this offseason.

7. The Red Sox will sign Carlos Beltran

Conventional wisdom, as we’ll discuss later in this piece, has the Red Sox losing Jacoby Ellsbury to another team this season, with Jackie Bradley Jr. taking over for him in center field. Yet if the Sox lose both Ellsbury and Mike Napoli, they’ll be pressed to replace some of that offense through a significant signing or a trade. In such a scenario, the perennially great Beltran makes a ton of sense.

Beltran’s best defensive days are behind him, but he could certainly man left field with Bradley in center and Victorino in right against righties, and could play right field with Victorino in center and Gomes in left against lefties. Nava could then play first base with the occasional Mike Carp cameo as well.

It’s just one scenario in which Boston pursuing Beltran makes sense. Get ready to hear his name a lot this offseason.

6. The Red Sox will sign Tim Hudson

If you asked me which player the Sox would be linked to most often in the early days of free agency, I wouldn’t have gone with Hudson. Yet here we are, with a team with six viable starting candidates apparently hot for a 38-year-old starter coming off of a significant injury.

That’s painting Hudson in the worst light possible, of course, Despite his age, Hudson has been worth at least two wins every season in which he’s stayed healthy wince 2005, and has retained his ability to generate ground balls at a high rate even late into his career. He’d be a solid fit as the No. 4 starter on the 2014 Red Sox, and there’s some noise that he wants to go to a competitive team in an attempt to win his first ring.

What a Hudson signing would really do, though, is give Boston the flexibility to be major players in the trade market for starting pitching. More on that in a moment …

5. The Red Sox will trade for Giancarlo Stanton

This will be one of the most fun rumors to follow this offseason, however unlikely it is to come to fruiting. For the uninitiated, Stanton is one of the better young players in the game and perhaps the game’s most powerful hitter. He plays for baseball’s most forlorn organization, the Marlins. The package needed to reel in Stanton would be enormous, but a financially sound team like the Red Sox could lock him up forever and assure themselves of owning a premier source of power for a long, long time.

Let’s get one thing straight: the Red Sox are not trading Xander Bogaerts for anyone not named Mike Trout. Refusing to include him very well could kill any deal for Stanton, and if that’s the case, so be it.

But regardless of what they say now, Miami might look good and hard at an offer of, say, Owens, Bradley and Cecchini and Middlebrooks for Stanton. Some Red Sox fans would be loathe to give up that much talent, and there are good arguments to be made against doing so, but Stanton is special.

The odds of this happening are slim. But along with the Rangers, Cardinals and maybe the Pirates, the Red Sox are on of the few teams who could realistically pull off a trade for Stanton.

I will remember you. Will you remember me? Photo by Kelly O'Connor, sittingstill.net.

I will remember you. Will you remember me? Photo by Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.net.

4. The Red Sox won’t resign Jacoby Ellsbury

This seems like a forgone conclusion to many, and the odds of Ellsbury returning to Boston are indeed poor. Someone – most likely Seattle – is going to pay Ellsbury superstar money, and there’s considerable evidence that while Ellsbury is very good, he’s not a superstar.

Ellsbury is represented by Scott Boras, and resigning him would seem to conflict with Ben Cherington’s philosophy of avoiding the types of major deals that got the Red Sox in trouble in 2011 and 2012. Boston also has a suitable replacement in Jackie Bradley Jr.,
who can probably provide 60-70% of Ellsbury’s value at a 5% of the cost. If the market for Ellsbury fails to materialize, expect Boston to jump back into the fray, but that’s unlikely.

You will be reminded that Ellsbury will be departing at least once a day until he ultimately signs elsewhere, so prepare yourself accordingly.

3. The Red Sox will trade a starter

This speaks to Rumor No. 6 on the list and Hudson, and it makes some sense. We’re
looking at a market right now in which Ricky Nolasco is asking for $80 million and Ervin Santana asking for $100 million. While those players are unlikely to reach such lofty totals, they’ll probably be paid more than we think they should be paid. That’s in part due
to salary inflation we can expect from the new TV deal revenues, and partially because teams are locking up good players before they get to free agency like never before.

Consider, too, that players like Price and Scherzer, who we covered above, are going to require huge returns to acquire. Trading for starting pitching isn’t always much cheaper than signing starting pitching, especially when players are only under contract for one more year, a la Scherzer.

This puts the Red Sox in a remarkably good position this offseason. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz aren’t going anywhere, but John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster can probably all be had for the right price. While trading Dempster would do the least damage to the 2014 team, it would also bring the least return. But trading a young, cost-controlled started like Doubront could potentially bring a significant piece
back Boston’s way, and the Red Sox are well equipped to replace Doubront with or without the likes of Hudson or another free agent starter.

Boston has Brandon Workman and Allen Webster likely ready to step into an MLB rotation at the start of 2014, and has Anthony Ranaudo and potentially Matt Barnes and Henry Ownes not terribly far behind. At some point, the Red Sox will need to act on all that
pitching depth, and this offseason could be the perfect time.

2. The Red Sox will resign Mike Napoli

A few weeks ago, it appeared as though this was the most likely reunion to occur between Boston and its four major free agents. Napoli had a very solid year in Boston, provides rare right-handed pop and became a huge fan favorite, with his massive power, shirtless escapades and clubhouse celebrations. He’s a better defensive first baseman than anyone thought, and he’s going to land a multiyear deal somewhere.

The Red Sox made him such an offer, but widespread reports have Napoli deciding to check out the free agent market first, rather than simply re-upping with the Red Sox. Is this just a negotiating ploy to get Boston to cough up more years or money? Perhaps: Napoli has previously expressed a desire to remain with the Red Sox.

But despite his popularity, Napoli isn’t a player the Red Sox should be signing for more than three years. If someone really fell in love with him this postseason and wants to make him a cornerstone of their franchise, expect Boston to rightfully move on to Plan B.

That being said, I still expect Napoli to be our starting first baseman next April.

1. The Red Sox will sign Brian McCann

Want to start a fight with fellow Red Sox fans this offseason? Bring up McCann. If you like him, you seem to think he’s the second coming of Carlton Fisk. If you don’t like him, you seem to think that preferring him to Jarrod Saltalamacchia is THE WORST IDEA EVAR.

That he’s become such a divisive player among Red Sox fans is somewhat odd. McCann is one of the best backstops in baseball. He produced 2.7 fWAR in only 402 PA in 2013, hitting .256/.336/.461 and playing above average defense. He’ll be 30 when next season begins, and is probably going to command a four- or five-year deal, with a six-year deal not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Saltalamacchia produced 3.6 fWAR last season and would undoubtedly be cheaper than McCann, both in term s of years and AAV. That’s the basic argument for keeping Salty, which of course entirely ignores the fact that 2013 was far and away the best year of Salty’s career and is probably a fluke (.372 BABIP).

If you want to argue that Salty is a wiser investment than McCann because he’ll cost less, fine. If you want to argue that Salty “isn’t that much worse” than McCann, I think you’re silly. I also don’t understand the argument that McCann will suddenly lose the ability to catch in three years, but I digress …

The Red Sox have been linked to McCann pretty heavily so far this offseason, and some have suggested that Boston didn’t offer Salty a QO because it’s McCann they are truly after. I think it’s a bit early to make that leap, but Boston is probably one of the four or five most likely landing spots for McCann, and it’s not unreasonable to think they’re more likely to walk away with him this winter than they are with Ellsbury.

Either way, until the Red Sox resign Salty, sign an A.J. Pierzynski or Carlos Ruiz type or until McCann signs elsewhere, expect this rumor to persist.

If nothing else, it will make for great debate.

Categories: 2013 Boston Red Sox Anthony Ranaudo Boston Red Sox Brandon Workman Brian McCann Carlos Beltran Christian Vazquez Clay Buchholz Daniel Nava David Price Felix Doubront Garin Cecchini Giancarlo Stanton Henry Owens Jackie Bradley Jacoby Ellsbury Jarrod Saltalamacchia John Lackey Jon Lester Matt Barnes Max Scherzer Ryan Lavarnway Tim Hudson Will Middlebrooks Xander Bogaerts

Ben is a graduate of Boston University with a degree in journalism and a love of all things Red Sox and minor league baseball. He has experience writing for Baseball Prospectus, NESN, RotoExperts, BU Today and other sites, and typically serves as an in-house MiLB writer. An editor for a business website by day, Ben likes to grill, sample IPAs and re-read Faulkner novels by night. He is an unabashed J.D. Drew apologist with a deep-seated fear of middle relievers. Follow Ben on Twitter here.

15 Responses to “Top 10 Red Sox Offseason Rumors” Subscribe

  1. jsc1973 November 11, 2013 at 12:38 PM #

    The argument that McCann will lose the ability to catch in the near future is based on the fact that he has already caught 1,046 games in the major leagues, and catchers often start to lose effectiveness at some point between 1,100 and 1,300 games behind the plate. For just one of many examples, Jason Varitek was at 1,130 at the end of his last good season. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, but McCann is already starting to have injury problems, and was ineffective as a hitter in 2012 and only played 102 games in ’13.
    The argument is raised that he can always be moved to a different position, but the problem with that is while he’s a good hitter for a catcher, he would be a below-average hitter for a first baseman or DH, and that’s assuming he continues to hit at the same level as he gets older. He has no value to a contending team unless he can catch, and I don’t want the Red Sox to be the team that gambles that a 30-year-old high-mileage catcher who’s been getting hurt will be able to stay healthy and maintain his value over a four- or five-year contract for a ton of money.
    I wouldn’t pay Salty $14.1 million for a year either, and he will never make that much in a season. But Salty hits near the league average even in a typical season, and he’s only got 515 games at catcher on his legs. I would not be shocked in the least if he out-performed McCann over the next five years.

  2. BenCarsley22 November 11, 2013 at 4:03 PM #

    jsc1973 The average first baseman this year hit .254/.332/.430, for DH it was .255/.338/.427. 
    McCann hit .256/.336/.461. He’s an elite backstop, but that shows that he’d be an average first baseman or DH, and if that’s what we have to deal with (which I’m not conceding) after another 3-4 years of that line from behind the plate, that’s something I can live with. 
    I can understand not wanting to commit to five-plus years for McCann, I truly can. But I strongly disagree with the assertion that Salty will outproduce McCann over the next five years, and I don’t see much evidence to the contrary other than .372 OBP that bolstered his entire stat line this season. And this doesn’t even begin to account for defense: even if you give Salty credit for improving defensively, you really can’t argue that he’s close to as good behind the plate as McCann.

  3. jsc1973 November 11, 2013 at 4:36 PM #

    BenCarsley22 jsc1973 Even if he’d be an average hitter at another position, which he might be now (although he wouldn’t have been in 2012, and isn’t likely to be at age 32 or 33), you don’t win the AL East with an average first baseman or DH. We have to set our standards a little bit higher than some team trying to win another division. It always takes 96-104 wins to win the East, and when you have a “league average” guy at one spot, then you need a superstar somewhere else to make up for it. You have to win a lot of games, and there’s no Minnesota Twins or Houston Astros in the East to fatten up on.
    If he can’t catch, he has no value to a contending team in a division as strong as Boston’s. And there’s a very strong possibility he won’t be able to, or at least his team won’t want him to, long before his next contract runs out. 
    If they could get him on a four-year deal, then Blake Swihart will be ready by then and the sunk costs aren’t that bad. You can justify that on the grounds that McCann increases your chances of winning in 2014 and possibly in 2015. But McCann on a five-year deal is sucker bait, and someone is going to bite. It shouldn’t be Ben Cherington.

  4. Season Ticket holder November 12, 2013 at 7:37 AM #

    Sign Carlos Beltran for LF (2 yr deal)
    Sign Eric O’Flaherty lefty RP (1-2 yrs)
    Sign Napoli 1B (If not, Nava at 1B)

    Sign AJ to split with Ross versus righties

    Trade for Tulo (anyone but Xander)

  5. Season Ticket holder November 12, 2013 at 8:00 AM #

    McCann will command a HUGE contract. And yes, he could DH once Ortiz is gone, but signing a catcher “not” named Buster or Yadier for that much $$ and years doesn’t fit the new Red Sox new business model.
    Lackey likely would get a nice return, due to his last year minimum contract option (b/c of his Tommy John), and the asking for D. Price/Sherzer will be astronomical in players and contract to re-sign. 
    Take a run at the Dodgers (3-team if needed) with their too many OF’s situation, and start by offering Bradley Jr, Lackey, Middlebrooks, et al for Matt Kemp.

  6. bbarkwill November 12, 2013 at 10:06 AM #

    jsc1973 BenCarsley22 First things first, Salty was better but still not great. He was bolstered by a very high BABIP, and his defense while better nearly cost us 2 games in the world series. he is a servicable catcher, but not someone i have alot of faith in. The red sox HAVE to kick the tires on a guy like McCann because this is there window to be a great team for a while. I understand the playing cautious side of not signing him to a long term deal, but signing McCann makes up for a lot of what we’ll lose with nap( hope not) and ellsbury. Do you give up a draft pick…. yes but that essentially the negated by losing drew. This is a special player that represents a significant upgrade both offensively and defensively and can help us stay on top. If you sign him for a 5 year deal and for 3 years he is a great catcher, and the last 2 just an average 1B/DH thats ok. This is our window to compete. And we are the red sox, we can always eat some of the salary and trade him.

  7. jsc1973 November 12, 2013 at 11:39 AM #

    bbarkwill jsc1973 BenCarsley22 McCann doesn’t in any way make up for what the Red Sox would lose in Napoli and Ellsbury. He would legitimately replace Salty’s fluke offensive production from 2013 and improve the team defensively–in the short term. But that’s all. If the Red Sox lose Napoli, they have to replace him with a comparable bat. They could move Nava and Gomes there and add an outfielder, or they can sign Kendrys Morales, a comparable player to Napoli, or they can make a trade, which I wouldn’t even speculate on.
    The more important point is that I honestly think the team’s “window to compete” could last a very long time if the Red Sox do things wisely, and don’t fall into the trap of making poor free-agent signings that wreck the team’s flexibility going forward. There’s a ton of money coming off the books after the 2014 and 2015 seasons. There’s also what might be the best farm system in baseball. In three years, Blake Swihart might be worth two 33-year-old Brian McCann’s. And if you’re not flushing money down the commode on a 33-year-old McCann, you can pay it to someone else (like perhaps a 27-year-old free agent named Giancarlo Stanton). To me, what happened in 2013 was an unexpected gift; everything falling into place. A bunch of past-30 veterans having good-to-great years all at once, which is not sustainable. In no way do I think the Red Sox should double down on their 2013 success–which is what signing McCann signifies–at the expense of much more sustainable success in 2015 and later.

  8. bbarkwill November 12, 2013 at 12:40 PM #

    jsc1973 bbarkwill BenCarsley22 I disagree with you that its the same offensive production mostly because Salty strikes out too much and McCann would have the short left field to play with. But the bigger point is, the window to win a few world series. This is a team that has alot of veteran leadership. All of our pitchers are over 30 except felix D, workman and the minors. Our roster is filled with guys hitting 30 or over it. David Ortiz and Koji were arguably our 2 best players all year and both are over 37. I agree with you that we can’t mortgage the future but we also can’t let this team fizzle away because we are afraid of signing someone to more than 3 years. There are holes on this team if Nap, Ellsbury, Drew and Salty leave. Im not saying it has to be McCann but you have the luxary of knowing your going to get 2 comp 1st rounders if drew and ellsbury leave, 3 if nap leaves too. We can sign a bat at the cost of a pick, and not mortgage anything. We also have the financial flexibility to eat some of the contract if performance dips.

  9. jsc1973 November 12, 2013 at 4:02 PM #

    bbarkwill  BenCarsley22 They have a window to win the World Series for the next seven to 10 years, provided they don’t screw it up by making dumb long-term FA signings in a likely unsuccessful effort to try to win another one in 2014 or 2015. The very fact that so many key players on the team are so old is a reason to be cautious, not aggressive. If you haul in more old players to try to squeeze another pennant out of an old team, more than likely you end up like the Yankees or Phillies.
    Yes, there are holes on the team if they all leave. Put Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley into the lineup, and then follow the formula that got you the 2013 title to fill the other two holes. And if everything goes well and you’re contending in July, you’ve got money and a ridiculous number of prospects to trade for/rent anything missing. Either way, Peavy, Ortiz, Dempster, Lester, Gomes, Uehara and Ross all have contracts that expire after 2014, and then Lackey, Victorino, and Breslow run out after 2015. The Red Sox can do anything they want on the market in winters of 2014-15–provided they don’t screw up and flush money down the toilet on overpriced free agents in the meantime. There’s your real window of opportunity, not the off chance on getting lucky two years in a row with a bunch of over-30 veterans.

  10. DezoPenguin November 14, 2013 at 1:09 PM #

    Thinking outside the box, how about calling up Houston and kicking the tires on Jason Castro? They might not be inclined to trade their only good player, but

  11. DezoPenguin November 14, 2013 at 1:10 PM #

    Damn post button.  To finish, but the Sox have the minor league depth to potentially wow them with an offer, and Castro was, what, the fourth-best catcher in the bigs by WAR last year?

  12. DaveP1960 November 15, 2013 at 11:12 PM #

    Why the talk about trading Lackey?  Yes, he obviously had a tough start in Boston.  But, in 2010 he did eat up 215 innings (4.40 ERA) with an arm that was probably starting to tear…and in 2011 it became useless.  Injuries are part of the game…especially pitchers…so can you really put all the blame on him?  If Nolasco and Santana are asking stupid money…WHY WOULD YOU TRADE a pitcher who is now healthy and who will give you 200 innings and a 3.52 ERA for the next two years??…AT 8 MILLION PER YEAR!!!!!  Did you see him pitch in the post season?…4 starts…26 innings…and a 2.77 ERA!!!  Keep the big guy!!

  13. robertan November 21, 2013 at 3:31 PM #

    It’s “deep-seated”. I share your fear!


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