It was quiet week in Red Sox rumor land this week, as the front office, it’s fans and those of us with enough time on our hands to write about them fell in and out of Turkey coma. However with the mass slaughter of birds over and cream puffs consumed, it’s time to get back to the business of talking about things that probably won’t happen.
Enjoy your week-before-the-Winter-Meetings edition or Red Sox Hot Stove Round Up. To the Third power. And cubed.
Hiroki Kuroda signed with the Yankees earlier this week but not before getting a lot of offers from other teams, including the Red Sox. The Red Sox reportedly made a significant push for Kuroda, who opted to take a less money to stay in New York. Kuroda is old, but there’s nothing about his performance that would suggest he’s due for a drop off. On a one-year deal, he’s a total no-brainer.
The pitching front on the whole was pretty quiet this week, with the only news cracking last Tuesday that the Red Sox had had conversations with Kyle Lohse. It’s unclear whether the interest is substantial or merely due diligence, but it’s not the first name Lohse’s name has come up. I’m not particularly keen on Lohse myself – as his peripherals give more than enough reason for pause. I’m also not thrilled with the idea of giving significant money to a pitcher in his mid 30’s. Still, he’s the first player whose name has come up more than once. Take that for what it is.
Ben Cherington took a pretty hard line stance on his catching situation last week, saying he’s not looking to trade any of them. The plan – from his perspective – was to start the season with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross. That presumably puts Ryan Lavarnway in the minors, at least for the start of the season. Considering his poor performance since being called up last year, it’s probably the right call. There’s also the possibility of using him as trade bait. As it stands, the Red Sox lack trade chips. Lavarnway has garnered interest before, so who’s to say he couldn’t be a nice complimentary piece in the right deal? Either way – Lavarnway starting in AAA is fine and should they decide to call him up, they could still deal Salty. While making a trade is certainly on the table, there’s no rush to get a deal done. In fact, letting things take their natural course might be the best option.
The big news over the weekend was that Mike Napoli was in town meeting with John Henry, John Farrell and Ben Cherington. Napoli was very much the hot topic this past week and with his market more refined, it seems like he’s a safe bet to sign right before the Winter Meetings.
The other two teams in the bidding are the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners, both of which offer interesting scenarios for him. However, I’d suspect the Red Sox and Mariners are probably the front-runners for his services. The Red Sox obviously have a need but certainly aren’t desperate. There are other options they can both afford and pursue. That isn’t the case for the Mariners. Without any real help on the way from their farm system and a market that may find itself outpacing Seattle’s willingness to drop big dollars, I’d peg them as the more needy team. Reports are that Napoli cares less about dollars and more about years. I’d say if that’s the case, then expect Seattle to likely blink and offer him the fourth year.
Much has been made over whether or not Safeco is a better fit for Napoli than Fenway, but even a casual glance at a HR tracker and his BIP chart show that he’s a good fit for both parks. With the Seattle fences moving in even further, he’ll likely do far better than expected there. Personally, I think Seattle has the edge in negotiations. I just see them being more willing to go the extra mile. But then again, I’m not Napoli and he may think he’s got a better shot at winning here. However based on what I’ve read, it seems like Seattle might be the better fit.
Lance Berkman’s name created a few waves around the Boston area this past week, with news that the Red Sox were among a few teams in ‘tire kicking mode’ with him. While he proved to be one of the true bargains of 2011, Berkman’s coming off a pretty serious knee injury and isn’t any younger. His defensive skills have eroded quickly as well – leading to many pontificating over whether it’s smarter to move him to a full-time DH role. That’s all, of course, contingent on whether or not he feels like he wants to come back, which is a gigantic question mark.
On the ‘break in case of emergency’ front, Carlos Pena might be willing to play as a platoon player for Red Sox. They also haven’t completely closed the door on bringing back James Loney, which is just… awful news. Pena I think I could stomach as there’s SOME pop there and Fenway might do him a few favors, but overall, I don’t see him as much more than what he is now. Loney on the other hand is barely a reserve.
Stephen Drew is beginning to develop a little bit of a market- although potential plans for him seem to be all over the place. Suitors like the New York Yankees view him as a quasi-super sub. Others like the Tigers see him as a replacement for their own incumbent – Johnny Peralta. Teams like the Red Sox seem to have fewer hoops to jump though, but may not be willing to offer multiple years. Either way, he’s becoming one of the more interesting free agents to watch.
Word amongst MLB GM’s this past week is that the price to acquire any of the Indians’ major trade pieces – most notably Asdrubal Cabrera – would be front-line starting pitching. If that IS the price for Cabrera, then it’s a total pass methinks. An all hit, no glove SS really isn’t worth anywhere close to that. A B & C prospect or a B prospect packaged with a reliever is probably a fair price – but no way the Red Sox give up any of their young pitching prospects.
The signing of Jonny Gomes would likely mean that Cody Ross’ time in Boston is up. While there is a slight possibility that the Red Sox could have both, it’s still pretty unlikely. Gomes and Ross profile as very similar players looking for very different deals. Considering Gomes’ pull power tendencies, the Red Sox likely saw him as a more cost-effective alternative to Ross who is looking for in upwards of $25 million.
While the pot might not be scalding, it’d be kind of difficult to say the Red Sox aren’t actively interested in Josh Hamilton. In fact, GM Ben Cherington was singing his praises this past week on the radio, calling him a ‘terrific talent.’ With the Orioles all but dropping out of the bidding process, most Major League executives see the Red Sox, Mariners and Brewers as the leading suitors for Hamilton. While the Red Sox would certainly have a cash advantage over the competition, it’s hard to envision them giving up more than four years to complete a deal. Compare that to what an extremely desperate Seattle organization might be willing to do, landing him could be complicated. It could get even more interesting if his price doesn’t move off of 3 years, as there appears to be a substantial sideline market where anyone could jump in at anytime.
The Red Sox are also said to be pursuing free agent outfielder Nick Swisher. While he’s likely to come with a decent price tag, he certainly fits the bill of the kind of player the Red Sox would be looking for. Like Napoli, Swisher would offer a comfortable degree of roster flexibility in addition to adding a well above average bat to the fold. However, it won’t be easy to grab him. As of this morning, seven teams are involved in the bidding for his services. His market could get molten hot very soon. I expect him to slap a ‘sold’ sign on his face come the end of the Winter Meetings.
For those of you who are curious, yes the Red Sox DID check in with the Marlins on Giancarlo Stanton. Just try to not get your hopes up. While there’s little doubt that Stanton would profile brilliantly in Fenway Park, acquiring him could prove to be quite difficult. It’s unlikely the Red Sox would be able to provide the quality or quantity of mostly good prospects it would take to land him. Stanton’s a great player for sure, but it’s going to be difficult to grab him considering where the rest of the market is. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers – both of whom are contenders with deep farm systems – attempt to take a run at him before the Red Sox do.
Oh and Will Myers. I’ll leave that for my piece on Wednesday.
That’s all for now! Be sure to check back next week for all the latest Red Sox hot stove related rumblings!