The Red Sox were trying to negotiate a deal for free agent veteran righthander Ryan Dempster Wednesday while still trying to resolve contract language issues with free agent catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli.
The Red Sox gained a roster spot Wednesday when they lost reliever Sandy Rosario on waivers to the Cubs, which gave rise to the thought that perhaps they were ready to add Napoli and/or Shane Victorino, who had his physical Wednesday and whose signing is scheduled to be announced at a news conference Thursday.
Various media reports said the Red Sox are trying to protect themselves with medical language in case some of Napoli’s injury history catches up to him. He’s missed time with quad, ankle, and shoulder issues in the past.
According to a major league source, a hip issue seems to be what they’re most concerned about.
The Red Sox have inserted medical clauses in contracts in the past (John Lackey, J.D. Drew), particularly when Dr. Thomas Gill served as the team’s medical director.
The Red Sox had agreed to terms with both Napoli, who will play primarily at first base, and Victorino, who will play primarily in right field, on three-year, $39 million deals.
Despite some angst over whether the snag would affect the Napoli deal, it would be difficult for Napoli to walk away from such a contract, even with added language, because no other team was willing to pay him as much as Boston.
Dempster, 35, who has pitched for the Marlins, Reds, Cubs, and Rangers, had a rough go of it in Texas last season after he was traded by the Cubs.
The Red Sox need a starting pitcher, though, so they have targeted Dempster as the best fit and most affordable. They also are exploring Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez, Shaun Marcum, and others.
Dempster pitched two splendid games against the Red Sox last season — one for the Cubs and one for the Rangers — allowing no earned runs over 13⅔ innings.
Dempster turned down a two-year, $25 million deal from the Red Sox last week with Milwaukee and Kansas City also in pursuit, but the Red Sox revisited the talks and upped the ante to the Canadian-born righthander.
Two general managers believe the Red Sox may have a good shot at landing him. As one said, “They’re overpaying for shorter term. The team that gives him three years at market or close to market will get him, but the Red Sox may hike up the average annual value on two years and get it done that way.”
There were two Dempsters last season. The National League version went 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA in 16 starts and the American League version went 7-3 with a 5.09 ERA in 12 starts.
He had trouble against good AL lineups. The Angels in particular ate him up: He allowed nine hits and eight runs in 4⅔ innings in one start; six hits and five runs over 3⅓ innings in another; and seven hits and four runs in 5⅔ innings in a third.
In addition, the Yankees beat him up for eight runs and nine hits over six innings and the A’s got him for five runs and six hits over three innings. The Rangers have not made a big effort to re-sign him.
Other than the stint with Texas, he has spent his entire career in the NL, and his interleague record isn’t stellar: 11-15 with a 4.63 ERA and a 1.465 WHIP.
Yet he’s a workhorse, who from 2008-2011 pitched 200 or more innings annually for the Cubs. He’ll be 36 May 3.
According to major league sources, the Red Sox are not pursuing Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey or Dodgers lefthander Chris Capuano yet, probably wanting to see how the Dempster situation plays out.
For Rosario, 27, it’s been a whirlwind since the season ended.
The Red Sox claimed him off waivers from the Marlins Oct. 17, then designated him for assignment. He was traded to the A’s Nov. 28 for righthander Graham Godfrey but was designated for assignment two days later. The Red Sox claimed him off waivers again Dec. 10.
But Rosario may have found a permanent home in Chicago since the Cubs can afford to carry him on their 40-man roster.