Itís mid-December in New England, snow is on the ground and, after a flurry of moves in the week leading up to baseballís Winter Meetings, the hot stove couldnít be cooler.
The Red Sox, at least publicly, believe their heavy lifting is done. Mike Napoli has been inked to a two-year deal, A.J. Pierzynski is the teamís new collision-free option behind the plate, Edward Mujica was brought in to bolster the bullpen and maybe relieve Koji Uehara of extreme usage, and everyone seems to feel pretty good about the youth movement.
So, whatís next? Whatís left?
Without further ado, a Sox-themed holiday wish list Ė you know, just in case they didnít wrap up their shopping with Hanukkah.
- Pick a shortstop, and declare it: Count me among those not interested in a reappearance of Stephen Drew as part of the ĎFenway 9í in 2014, but you knew that already. I didnít want Boston to give him a $14.1 million qualifying offer out of fear heíd accept it, and then I became worried when he rejected it because the team still seemed (seems?) intent on bringing him back on a multi-year deal. Also, I continue to find it hard to believe a team would be willing to expend a draft pick for his services. At this point, I donít care that Drew couldnít hit my weight in the playoffs (.111 with two extra-base hits vs. 253 with 13 homers during the regular season). With help from his defense, the Red Sox won the World Series and thatís all that matters. But, now, itís time to move forward. We know Ė or highly suspect Ė Xander Bogaerts will be a member of the Opening Day roster, and Iím ready for him to be the starting shortstop. He showed flashes of brilliance in limited action last year and it would take Superman time to soar to his ceiling. Once Drew signs elsewhere for the multiple seasons that agent Scott Boras insists heíll receive, we can close that chapter and start anew. However, the club still must add an experienced infielder for the left side, and ideally one who hits lefthanded to balance the lineup and any platoons. I know, I know: Drew! Iím thinking perhaps someone who wonít cost $10 million a year, but is more substantial than, say, Brock Holt.
- Find support for Bradley: Just as the infield needs support in the chance Bogaerts (or Will Middlebrooks) falters, the outfield could use depth. Iím perfectly content with the Sox letting Jacoby Ellsbury walk to the Yankees on what I viewed to be a ridiculous contract, just as Iím interested in seeing how Jackie Bradley Jr. would respond to the everyday job. Heís tremendous defensively Ė perhaps a Gold Glover already Ė but endured massive struggles offensively (.189/.280/.337) in sporadic MLB play as a rookie. He benefited from substantial time in Triple-A Pawtucket (.275/.374/.469), though, and performed better upon his latter tours in Boston. While it would have been nice and intriguing to add Carlos Beltran or Curtis Granderson for the right money, Bradleyís production Ė removing power from the equation Ė may not be worlds off next year for a fraction of the price. He has the potential to be an OPB machine. That isnít to say the Red Sox should suddenly adopt a full-on ďMoneyballĒ approach, but whatís so wrong with giving a promising (and cheap) young talent a shot? Still, in the event it doesnít work, theyíll need a backup plan.
- Make an impact trade: Itís a rarity, but Boston has a surplus of Major League caliber starters. From the six currently in their rotation (Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront, and Ryan Dempster) to the bullpen arms with the ability to start (Brandon Workman and Allen Webster) to the minor leaguers being groomed to start (Rubby De La Rosa, Matt Barnes, and Anthony Ranaudo), the Red Sox are in a great position to make a deal. And, if necessary, a team that prints money is always able to take on a big contract for the right player. Matt Kemp was an interesting option, but the Dodgers have removed the oft-injured All-Star outfielder from the table, according to his agent. Andre Ethier isnít quite the same commodity. But is there a player out there worth adding who might cost a Dempster or Peavy, along with Middlebrooks and a prospect? It would seem so, and it doesnít feel like the Sox are done dealing just yet. As comfortable as I am or the organization says it is with two youngsters in Bogaerts and Bradley playing every day, Iím not sure thatís so genuine inside Ben Cheringtonís office.
- Sign Lester: Itís a curious debate. The Sox have already picked up Lesterís $13 million option for 2014, but what then? At 30 (on Opening Day), a lot of teams would line up to give a proven innings-eater and playoff winner a hefty contract in free agency, and theyíd happily surrender the compensation pick to do so. If youíre John Henry and Co., whatís the number to keep the veteran lefty around where faith in his durability and ace pedigree outweigh the occasional bumps in the road weíve witnessed over the last two-plus seasons? The team wants to extend him and he would make $20 million per year Ė at least Ė on the open market. Itís all Monopoly money these days and thatís not changing. Iíd offer to rip up next seasonís deal and give him four years at $85 million right now. Itís competitive and likely less than heíd receive next December. Plus, it's not my money.
- Determine your leadoff hitter: Obviously, no rush here. This is a March decision, not a December one. But, it must be addressed now if that guy isnít in-house. Itís not Bradley. Heís more likely a No. 9 hitter to start. Is it Shane Victorino? Daniel Nava? Or a mystery acquisition? Replacing Ellsbury isnít an easy task, but itís far more difficult to reproduce his production Ė when healthy Ė in the batting order.
- Keep a big smile on Big Papi: A report surfaced several weeks ago that Edgar Martinez Award winner (for DH of the Year) David Ortiz Ė with one year left on his contract Ė wants an extension. Fortunately, to this point, thatís the last weíve heard about it. The Red Sox must keep this guy happy and away from moaning to the media, but find a way to do it without re-upping him again. As a personality and a dominant figure in the city and to the fan base, he should be given a lifetime contract. Honestly, heís one of those guys you can envision living a portion of the year in Boston even after his playing days. But, hold him to his word. Ortiz said when he signed his two-year extension prior to last season that he wouldnít bring his contract up again until the existing deal was on the verge of running out. Letís make sure, yet again, that his last efforts weren't a fluke Ė and that Father Time isnít Papiís daddy.
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About this blog
Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.
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