By Ryan Hannable
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — For fans expecting a major trade or another significant signing during this weeks Winter Meetings, don’t hold your breath as the Red Sox seem just fine with where they are at after signing A.J. Pierzynski, Edward Mujica and re-signing Mike Napoli last week.
The Red Sox roster is pretty much filled out. They have six starting pitchers, a loaded bullpen, a full complement of outfielders and an infield which would be just fine taking the field on opening day. The only additions which are likely even being considered are adding a veteran, right-handed hitting center fielder as an insurance policy for Jackie Bradley and then a utility infielder who can play on the left side.
The latter, a utility infielder, is something the organization has admitted they will add, but with them already spending $29 million of their roughly $32 million in average annual value (AAV), the likelihood of them adding a player other than that remains very slim, without making a trade of course. That player could also come from within, something general manager Ben Cherington touched on Monday.
“We need two guys on the team that can play short no matter what the names are,” Cherington said. “The roster needs two guys that can play short. So obviously, [Xander] Bogaerts has a chance to be a part of the team and he can play short. One way or another we have to add to that. Brock Holt is a candidate for that and he’s done a good job for us. Obviously someone we still think highly of. But we may look to add somebody on that side of the field and more than likely that someone would have the ability to play short, at least in some role.”
Holt, acquired from the Pirates last year in the Joel Hanrahan trade, played in 26 games with Boston last year hitting .203, but hit .258/.327/.309 in 83 games with Pawtucket. Another possibility is John McDonald, a 39-year-old veteran, who was brought on in September and stuck around during the playoffs working with the young infielders before games and is also very close with the Red Sox coaching staff, including manager John Farrell.
Many have speculated the team could be after a center fielder, but when speaking to the media Monday, Farrell seemed comfortable with having just Bradley in center field. If need be, the Red Sox could always move right fielder Shane Victorino to center for a few games as they could then shift Daniel Nava to right field and still have Jonny Gomes or Mike Carp to play left.
“Defensively, no question,” Farrell said of being comfortable with Bradley in center. “He showed us that each time he was on the field. And I think through this past year and the transition he went through and the challenges he faced and the way he faced Major League pitching, swung the bat, I think, with a little more productivity late in the season in September. And if that’s the way we go, you know, we’re more than willing to have him in center field. He’s a good player.”
There is still an outside chance the Red Sox being Stephen Drew back to play shortstop as WEEI reported Monday the Red Sox are willing to wait out the market on Drew to see what develops and then based off that possibility bring him back for a second season in Boston. Doing that though will require some money finagling with them close to their maximum AAV for the season.
There’s been plenty of speculation other teams have been interested in the Red Sox surplus of starting pitching, but Cherington seems quite content with going into spring training with all six on their roster.
“We’re very comfortable not doing anything,” said Cherington. “We’re very comfortable just holding everyone. We all know that starting pitching, a supposed surplus has a way of working itself out usually. We’re very comfortable not doing anything. If the movement with free agents or trades or whatever creates motivation on some teams’ part, or when that leads to something that makes sense for us, then we’ll certainly listen and consider it.”
In staying put with where they are at now, the team would have a starting lineup with Bradley in center field, Bogaerts at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third base. Despite just four years of total major league experience between the three of them, Cherington and Farrell don’t have any issue with this taking place.
“Playing at their capabilities, yes,” Farrell said of being comfortable with having a starting lineup with all three of them in it.
Cherington echoed his managers comments and went into more detail when appearing on WEEI’s Mut & Merloni show Tuesday morning.
“We wouldn’t consider committing to a young player unless we believed in that young player and we think we have some guys who are worth believing in, they aren’t just any young players,” he said. “They are different guys. If you look at Middlebrooks, obviously an up and down year, but if you look at roughly 600 at-bats in the big leagues, but with 30 home runs he’s produced. The at-bats certainly towards the end of the year after he came back from Pawtucket were much better and more reflective of what we think he is.
“Bogaerts was certainly comfortable on the stage in the postseason and we know Jackie [Bradley] has been a performer and a winner with every team he’s ever been on. So there’s actually quite a bit of value for us in finding spots to commit to young players because at some point you have to. If you never do then you never have a good young player on your team. In order to have that you have to commit to a guy somewhere. We’re not at Opening Day, we’re not at spring training so we don’t have to write the lineup out right now, so we don’t have to make final decisions. We’re going to keep our eyes open and minds open about whats available, but we think those three guys (Middlebrooks, Bradley and Bogaerts) put us in a position of strength and give us a chance to be picky about how we go about the rest of the offseason and yeah, we’d be very comfortable and feel good if those guys were playing prominent roles.”
Going by the general manager and manager’s comments, all of the Red Sox’ prominent offseason moves may have happened in a week-long span the week after Thanksgiving and the next real exciting Red Sox event might be in two months when Spring Training opens.
Are you comfortable with the Red Sox lineup as it stands now? Would you make any additions? Leave your thoughts in the comment section or on Twitter @Hannable84.