Ben Cherington and the Boston Red Sox delegation returned from the GM Meetings this past week with much to consider. The GM meetings are seen by most as a time to begin feeling out other teams, consider trades and engage in discussions with agents. The Red Sox did a little of everything and with the Winter Meetings looming in under a month, the time to make moves is fast approaching.
Here’s a round up of the week’s rumors and a little speculation about what the future might have in store.
The Red Sox have kicked tires on a few pitchers, but Anibal Sanchez and Hiroki Kuroda seem to be the two players they like the most. Both pitchers are in high demand, but present different challenges with regards to signing them.
Sanchez would be an interesting fit here for sure. Ben Cherington was in charge of International Scouting when the Red Sox signed him back in 2001. Price most certainly has to be the sticking point though. Sanchez was reportedly asking for six years and $90 million dollars. That changed on Friday, when he was rumored to be asking teams for as much as 7 years and $100 million. I assumed early offseason projections of his salary around $50 million seemed low. I think given the state of the market, he’ll easily clear $70 when all is done. That might be too high for the Sox.
Kuroda is less expensive, but has a more unique situation. Unlike Sanchez, Kuroda is going to be 38 next year and will be looking at a 1-2 year deal, tops. His success with the Yankees makes him a proven fit in this division although it’s hard to justify giving any pitcher who’s pushing 40 multiple years. Outside of the obvious risk, there are two other challenges that remain with grabbing Kuroda. The first is that the Yankees want him back and badly – so they’ll be the prime competition. The second is that Japan is calling. For a player in the twilight of his career and closer to retirement, going home is appealing. The financial reward won’t be as significant up front, but there are long term, post-career issues for him to consider. He’ll be difficult to sign.
Justin Masterson came up as a potential trade candidate, but seemingly only as an add-in to a prospective Shin Soo Choo deal with the Cleveland Indians. Joe Blanton and Ryan Dempster also received calls from the Red Sox, but I wouldn’t consider either communications as signs of intense interest. Josh Johnson isn’t available and the Red Sox don’t seem to have any interest in Zack Greinke.
There wasn’t too much bubbling over regarding big bullpen names the Red Sox would be considering. The team did have some contact with Joakim Soria, who seems to be emerging as a trendy buy-low candidate. They also seem to like Kyuji Fujikawa who’s made quite the name for himself over in Japan as one of the country’s top closers. He’s 32, so he’s a bit older, but might be worth a flier if the price is right.
LaRoche certainly isn’t a sexy pick, but he might be the most obviously projectable player in the group of available 1B. The Red Sox are a team with nothing but question makes up and down their 25-man roster. Adding a player who’s projectable might be exactly what the team is looking for. LaRoche brings a decent bat and fields the position well. He’s older; so don’t expect his agent to fool anyone into a ridiculous long-term deal. Like I said, he’s not sexy, but he’s productive.
Napoli has a great swing for Fenway and brings some versatility along with him. If the Red Sox have consistently chased anything over the years, it’s been roster flexibility. Having the ability to move Napoli around between 1B, Catcher and DH would certainly allow the team to find new ways to use him in addition to allowing them to pursue more appealing pieces if needed. His price will be interesting to gage though. It’s unlikely he gets the big money he was reportedly looking for not too long ago, but he’ll certainly get paid. The ultimate question is whether the gap between what Napoli is getting and what LaRoche figures to get is worth the difference in skill between the two.
Nick Swisher’s name also came up, but he’s a bit harder to read. The spread on his salary demands has been all over, so I’m sure the Red Sox will keep him on their radar all the while waiting to see how his market builds out before deciding whether to jump into the fray or not.
The Red Sox don’t seem too inclined to dive aggressively into the Shortstop market and it’s hard to blame them. There isn’t much out there for one, and the impact that the market could have on the team would likely be felt more at other positions. I’d expect them to keep guys like Stephen Drew on their radar, but I think nabbing a big bat and a dependable starter will be far bigger priorities.
I’ll try not to write a book, here.
Two things probably won’t happen. Justin Upton is unlikely to be a Red Sox and Jacoby Ellsbury is not a likely trade candidate. Upton’s is being courted aggressively by the Texas Rangers who have great depth and strength at the two positions (3B and SS) that the Diamondbacks are looking for. That largely casts the Red Sox out of the room. Ellsbury is coming off a down year and would likely net a disappointing return. I’d expect the Red Sox to hang on to him and see if he can rebuild some value. Either way, both the Ellsbury and Upton trades are off the table for the time being.
The two hottest names around the Red Sox as a whole this week were Shin Soo Choo and Torii Hunter. Choo’s asking price isn’t as absurd as initially thought thanks largely to having only one year left in team control and Scott Boras as his agent. In fact, he might be most reasonable target available. Hunter’s an incredibly savvy veteran and a fantastic clubhouse presence. His .389 BABIP last year means that a repeat of his season is unlikely, but even if he stays below average for his career – he’s still a really good player.
Grady Sizemore and Jason Bay are the two most interesting options in the scrap heap and some have gone as far to connect both with Boston. Sizemore is playing with rice Krispy treats for knees. Jason Bay can’t hit a beach ball anymore. I doubt either one of them ends up here on a Major League Deal, but they’re worth mentioning.
And yes – we can’t forget Josh Hamilton, who isn’t off the radar quite yet. I think given his talent, teams need to wait it out to see if it’s worth bringing him in. His initial asking price was a total joke, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see that come way down. If he gets low enough, the Red Sox would be silly not to keep their eye on him.
Be sure to check back next week for a wrap-up of the weekly rumors and the latest in Red Sox hot stove news!