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Red Sox could seek out big-name targets this winter

Aug 25, 2012, 4:22 PM EDT

Josh Hamilton AP

The Red Sox have had an average payroll in excess of $170 million the last three years. With Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett departing and David Ortiz, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Cody Ross all set to become free agents, they’re currently looking at something less than half of that for 2013. It figures to give them more flexibility and financial muscle than any other team in the league this winter.

That said, it’s doubtful the Red Sox will jump right back up to $170 million right away. There simply isn’t the talent available in the free agent pool, and overspending for veterans is what got them into the current mess in the first place. Still, they should have feelers out for all of the big names available this winter, and they’ll probably land one or two.

Here are some possibilities:

OF Josh Hamilton: I think this is a big long shot, but the Red Sox would certainly have the money to make a big run at the 2010 AL MVP. Hamilton has stayed healthy this year and hit .286/.352/.575 with 34 homers and 107 RBI in 117 games for the Rangers. He’s the only available option in free agency that could match Adrian Gonzalez as a middle-of-the-order bat. Hamilton, though, would be a huge risk on a long-term contract, not only because of his past battles with addiction but also because of the likelihood of his body breaking down as the enters his mid-30s. Next year will be his age-32 season.

C-1B Mike Napoli: The Red Sox tried to get Napoli from the Angels a couple of years ago, but came up short. If they target him this time, they’d likely pitch him on starting at first base most of the time and catching a couple of times per week. Napoli’s average has collapsed from .320 to .223 this year, but he’s always been more about the secondary skills anyway. Worthy of note: he’s hit .306/.397/.710 with seven homers in 62 career at-bats at Fenway.

1B-OF Nick Swisher: There’s been talk recently of the 32-year-old Swisher aiming for Jayson Werth money (seven years, $126 million), but that’s not within the realm of possibility. Something like $48 million for four years is more likely. The Yankees want to get under the luxury tax threshold come 2014, so they might be willing to let him depart without a big offer. He’d probably be Boston’s best option for a 2013 first baseman. Still, the team shouldn’t be looking to sign non-superstars to long-term deals right now.

1B Justin Morneau: While they’ve been loathe to admit it, the Twins are going nowhere. Dumping the final year and $14 million on Morneau’s deal would make plenty of sense, and now that he seems to have found his stroke, he’d look pretty good as Boston’s No. 5 hitter.

SS Stephen Drew: J.D.’s young brother has the most upside of the free agent shortstops available this winter, and he’ll probably be undervalued this winter after missing almost a year with a busted ankle before returning last month. Shortstop won’t be the Red Sox’s highest priority, but if they can snag Drew on a modest two-year deal, it’d be a nice gamble.

1B-3B Kevin Youkilis: I’m not sure how far-fetched this is, but the main reason Youkilis is gone from Boston is Bobby Valentine, and it seems doubtful that Valentine will be back with the team in 2013. The Red Sox could certainly do worse at first base than their former MVP candidate. The White Sox hold a $13 million option on Youkilis for 2013, but they’re not expected to exercise it.

OF B.J. Upton: Upton has struggled to put it all together in Tampa Bay, but whereas most players enters free agency with their best seasons behind them, Upton may yet have some additional upside. He’d also likely be an excellent defender in Fenway’s tough right field. With Michael Bourn, Shane Victorino and Angel Pagan also available, center field is the lone crowded position in free agency this winter. Should Upton’s stock slip a bit as a result, the Red Sox could pounce.

OF Shin-Soo Choo: The Indians chose to hold on to Choo at the trade deadline, but they could send him packing this winter as they try to keep their payroll down. Choo figures to make $7 million-$8 million in arbitration next year in his final season before free agency.

SP Zack Greinke: The thinking is that the big-market teams will shy away from Greinke due to concerns about how he’d handle the pressure that comes with such a spotlight. The Red Sox may decide to avoid him for that reason. Still, he pretty easily eclipses guys like Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse as the top free agent starter available.

SP Hiroki Kuroda: A year ago, everyone assumed that Kuroda would stay with the Dodgers or return to Japan. Instead, he signed a one-year deal with the Yankees and is working on a terrific season in the AL East. One imagines he’ll want to stay in the Bronx and sign another one-year deal this winter. The Red Sox should at least try to make things more difficult for the Yankees to keep him, though.

SP Dan Haren: Haren’s back woes and recent struggles could lead the Angels to decline his $15.5 million option for 2013 and buy him out for $3.5 million instead. If so, there’s a good chance the Red Sox would pursue him on a one-year deal. Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd are also possibilities should the White Sox decline their options.

SP Josh Johnson: The Marlins opted to hold on to Johnson at the trade deadline, but if they’re not going to be serious contenders next year, then trading him this winter should be the plan. He’s due $13.75 million next year in his final season before free agency. It’d probably take a couple of very good prospects to pry him away.

  1. uyf1950 - Aug 25, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    Just a guess on my part but 2 comments about Swisher being available this off season. First if the Yankees do not re-sign him they most certainly will make him a qualifying offer so the get the draft pick. But I’m not 100% convinced that they won’t re-sign him. Something inside of me says they re-sign Swisher exercise Granderson 2013 option then let Granderson walk in 2014 after they make in a qualifying offer that off season. Just my opinion and it may go against convention wisdom but it’s a feeling that I have. We’ll see.

    BTW, most of those options listed in the piece for the Red Sox I’m not sure are practical ones.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 25, 2012 at 5:43 PM

      Napoli is worth a shot and Swisher could be a good fit in Boston, but you’re right, I have a feeling Swisher could end up staying in NY.

      It’ll be interesting to see what the market is actually likefor Hamilton. I doubt anybody will be willing to give him big money over many years so the price could be right to give him a chance. 3 or 4 years with an option for one more might be doable.

      • grhopper - Aug 25, 2012 at 10:30 PM

        You’re right…that’s exactly what the Rangers are thinking. And unless somebody else has a better “support system” for Josh than the Rangers, he’s not going anywhere. No chance he’s leaving Texas.

    • hokiegajanisgod - Aug 25, 2012 at 6:25 PM

      Per the new CBA, teams no long receive draft pick compensation for FA’s.

      Swisher? The Yankees can keep that bum.

      • biasedhomer - Aug 25, 2012 at 6:34 PM

        I thought they no longer receive 1st round picks, but they will get sandwich picks.

      • uyf1950 - Aug 25, 2012 at 6:35 PM

        I hate to disagree with you but as long as the Yankees make Swisher a “qualifying” offer estimated to be around $13.3MM for 1 year they will receive a pick. You might want to check your facts again.

      • uyf1950 - Aug 25, 2012 at 6:36 PM

        biasedhomer, you are 100% correct.

      • bigharold - Aug 25, 2012 at 9:11 PM

        “Swisher? The Yankees can keep that bum.” ??

        What a ‘maroon”! The RS wish they had an OFer that has been as productive as Swisher has been for the Yankees.

        Swisher has put up pretty good numbers during his time with the Yankees, .. he plays a decent OF or 1B, .. and gives it all he has when he steps on the field. Aren’t those the reasons why the RS just dumped their problem children on the Dodgers? Producion AND poor attitudes. The RS could do a lot worse than singing Swisher, … they have certainly made worse mistakes recently.

        Besides, .. he’s Swishalious!!

      • joegolfer - Aug 25, 2012 at 9:39 PM

        I don’t see Swisher getting a big contract either, unless it is Yanks for 4 years.
        He seems to need to be in a stacked lineup, so he has protection around him.
        In Oakland, he ran very hot and cold. When he joined White Sox, I thought he was tailor made for that small ballpark, and he really was a huge disappointment.
        Only in NY has he done decently. I think other teams will recognize that.

    • pjmarn6 - Aug 26, 2012 at 6:32 PM

      What ridiculous salaries are being thrown around! The American public is worried about the economy???????? Our economic system is broke big time and just for all you knotheads, just look at professional sports to prove it. A broken down .240 hitter gets $13 million dollars and an excellent high school teacher gets $45,000. If that isn’t insanity and signs of a broken down economic system then you are too unintelligent to understand it.
      A ball player is as good as his last pitch or last swing. A teacher is as good as his/her dedication to education every year. I am willing to bet everything I have that not one of these knotheads has donated a penny to Urban Prep Charter Academy in Illinois that takes failing black boys and sends every graduating senior to an accredited 4 year university. I send them $5,000 a year. How many professional sports people making millions support higher education?

    • source7769 - Aug 26, 2012 at 8:52 PM

      you dont compensatory draft picks for free agents anymore under the new collective bargaining deal

  2. legacybroken - Aug 25, 2012 at 4:46 PM

    Josh Hamilton would be back on the sauce after a week in the cesspool known as Beantown.

    • kickingiant - Aug 25, 2012 at 6:06 PM

      Beantown? His sobriety wouldn’t make it out of the Fenway bullpen.

  3. dondada10 - Aug 25, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    At the end of the year, Craig does a great post where he recaps which posts had the most views, most comments, ect.

    I’m really curious (and not complaining) about how many posts the Red Sox are gonna have between last seasons dysfunction, the Theo-saga, Bobby V, all of the clubhouse stuff that’s gone down, and now this mega trade.

    I’m guessing ~1K

  4. yahmule - Aug 25, 2012 at 4:59 PM

    I think Hamilton, Upton and Grienke would provide the best wrath magnets for that whiney, entitled fan base.

  5. fhuizar - Aug 25, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    Boston only cut part of the cancer

    The queen is still there in Dustin Pedroia

    Who would wanna be in Beantown after whats transpired over the last 2 seasons?

  6. legacybroken - Aug 25, 2012 at 5:17 PM

    Thats what I keep saying Fhuzair. Pedroia and alot of the other posionous personalties are still there and will continue to wreak havoc.

  7. teaspoon1731 - Aug 25, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    Am I the only person in the world that doesn’t see Pedroia as a poisonous cancer?

    I really need someone to explain it to me. Is it just blind Sox hatred that makes people say that? Or is there something else to it?

    • teaspoon1731 - Aug 25, 2012 at 5:31 PM

      For the record, being told he f-ed my mother didn’t clear up this confusion for me.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 25, 2012 at 5:36 PM

      No, you’re not the only one, but we may very well be the only two.

    • theskinsman - Aug 25, 2012 at 6:23 PM

      No,teaspoon, youre far from alone in wondering why the hateathon from yankoff fans toward Pedroia.Maybe because no sane person can accuse a tiny player like him from being a steroid monkey like many of so many yankmes over the years. Either that or Pedroia nailed their wives,and the wives found him better endowed.

      • teaspoon1731 - Aug 26, 2012 at 12:00 AM

        I find it unlikely that people with that much irrational hatred have wives, but their mothers probably find Peddy handsome or something. That would explain the statement about him doing my mother

      • theskinsman - Aug 26, 2012 at 4:32 AM

        You have to consider the low IQ and total lack of social skills that are requirements to become a yankme fan. If you’ve ever made the trip to a game there, one only need to view the area’s humanoids to understand the fan base in it’s own disgusting habitat.

    • drewsylvania - Aug 26, 2012 at 11:11 AM

      No–half the time it’s fans of other teams who want Pedroia.

  8. townballblog - Aug 25, 2012 at 5:49 PM

    Drew wouldn’t work, fans would hate him on the fact that he’s J.D’s brother.

    I like Morneau, I really, really do. I think he would be better than Napoli. Though maybe it would be both of Papi doesn’t come back.

    Love the idea of B.J Upton, I think he would do well in Boston. I also mentioned earlier that the Sox have tried to get Justin Upton before … Can you imagine both Uptons in one team? Lovely, just lovely.

    No SPs, I just don’t trust any of the FA ones.

    I think the Sox will be just fine.

    • biasedhomer - Aug 25, 2012 at 6:35 PM

      I thought they liked JD Drew in Boston.

      • townballblog - Aug 26, 2012 at 1:49 PM

        They did and they didn’t. He was a good, slightly above-average player, but not worth what he got paid. Towards the end of his tenure at Boston fans started to think that he really just didn’t care or that he only played when he felt like it.

        That said, I don’t think that was the case, it’s just that he didn’t damn children to death like Youk did every time he didn’t like a call. While I agree he was a little overpaid, I think he was a solid player and underrated defensively.

  9. stairwayto7 - Aug 25, 2012 at 5:52 PM

    Redsox will get a few big names and their idiot fans will continue to say they have the greatest minor league players who never get called up! Enjoy the basement Boston fans for the next 3 years!

    • teaspoon1731 - Aug 26, 2012 at 12:03 AM

      You know Toronto’s still in the division, right? Cus Boston isnt actually in the basement right now.

  10. townballblog - Aug 25, 2012 at 5:53 PM

    PS: if Bobby V. doesn’t come back next year and they bring back Youkilis, that would be really nicesome (nice + awesome).

    • paperlions - Aug 25, 2012 at 6:56 PM

      I don’t care if Valentine is fired and the RS FO takes out a full page love letter to Youkilis….he’s not going to play for Boston again for a long time….he may do the swan song thing when he’s about to retire, but that is the only way I can see him EVER considering playing for that management again.

      • teaspoon1731 - Aug 26, 2012 at 12:06 AM

        Hey hey, don’t be crushing my dreams with the truth!

      • townballblog - Aug 26, 2012 at 2:01 PM

        Not necessarily, paperlions. If his issue was in fact Bobby V. and Booby V. does not come back next year, I wouldn’t just croos out the possibility. His problem was never the front office, there were never any reports that said he had any issues with them.

      • paperlions - Aug 26, 2012 at 2:10 PM

        Yes, but they were still the ones that chose to give him away for nothing….especially with the current frying of the Red Sox players by the local media, guys that are Youk’s friends….I would be very surprised if he didn’t just look forward. There is just no reason for him to look back.

      • townballblog - Aug 27, 2012 at 12:08 PM

        Is not that they gave him away for nothing… as a matter of fact they gave him exactly what he wanted, an opportunity to play everyday. If Z. Stweart and B. Lillibridge are the best they could get for him…he doesn’t care, he just wants to play everyday.

        Nevertheless, this is a big what-if, let’s have a lovely yes-no debate once we find out if Bobby V. is coming back. :)

  11. crisisjunky - Aug 25, 2012 at 6:15 PM

    Certainly let’s not forgive nor forget Melky.
    Probably will be a fairly cheap sign.

  12. skeleteeth - Aug 25, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    Christ, all of those guys come with baggage except maybe Swisher. Don’t even want to consider any of them.

    • keithbangedyermom - Aug 25, 2012 at 7:19 PM

      No kidding eh? The class of free agents looks awful. Since most teams lock up young stars early, the only players that hit free agency are guys that are old, have baggage or both. Trades are the way to go.

  13. jikkle49 - Aug 25, 2012 at 6:45 PM

    I can’t see Greinke going there as that would be the worst possible place for a baseball player (well any sport) with social anxiety issues to go to. No blending in and going unnoticed there at all.

    If I’m Boston I’m just holding on to my money as none of the options are really worth major investments and it would be foolish to just pour money into more bad contracts after getting a once in a lifetime gift from the Dodgers taking on all those big contracts.

    • jayquintana - Aug 25, 2012 at 9:02 PM

      Me, too. I don’t see Greinke as a good fit for either Boston or NY.

      • bigharold - Aug 25, 2012 at 9:23 PM

        I neither see Greinke as a good fit in NY nor do I think it will happen. But if he could only pick between the Yankees and the RS, .. he’d be a Yankee.

        No friggin way he goes to that provincial fish bowl Boston. With the Yankees there is like more media coverage but at least there are other teams and Yankee players for the for the local media to focus on. In Boston .. if they like you great, .. if the sour on you it’s best you don’t read the papers, watch TV or go out doors. Just pack your bags and wait for that call from your agent.

        Ask; Beckett, .. Lester, .. Lackey, .. Bard, .. Matuzaka, .. Youlikis, .. Elsbury, .. Lugo, .. Rentiria, …..

      • jimeejohnson - Aug 26, 2012 at 10:45 AM

        Fish bowl? Try chowder bowl, ok.

  14. crisisjunky - Aug 25, 2012 at 7:47 PM

    Zach Cozart, Alex Gordon or Lorenzo Cain, Ryan Zimmerman, Elvis…
    all these guys have Incrediboy’s in their rear-views.

  15. cackalackyank - Aug 25, 2012 at 8:41 PM

    Sorry, but when I saw the title of the post my first reaction to it was “Yah Think?”

  16. jayquintana - Aug 25, 2012 at 8:43 PM

    I think it’s worth signing Hamilton to a big 3 year contract and Kuroda to a big 1 year contract. Other than that, though, I’d be very, very cautious.

  17. yourrealitybites - Aug 26, 2012 at 12:04 AM

    Who cares? Worst fans I in professional sports. Bar none. Oh, and Pedroia………….doooooooosh

  18. throughthewickets - Aug 26, 2012 at 12:47 AM

    Go for Josh. I hear that there are hardly any bars in Boston.

  19. crom1016 - Aug 26, 2012 at 7:36 AM

    What big money free agent will want to sign up to work for a dicktator manager that will through him under the bus first chance he gets?

    • crom1016 - Aug 26, 2012 at 7:36 AM

      throw*

  20. bw1980 - Aug 26, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    I, too, have been wondering from where the vitrol directed toward Pedroia is initated. I think it’s no secret that he’s an arrogant little bastard (laser show, anyone?) but I’ve never heard a word about him coming out of the clubhouse–he’s been praised as a leader several times.

    As an annointed leader, there seem to be a lot of questions arising about Pedroia given the state of the clubhouse. However, even the most positive leader, the type who leads by example and words, cannot overcome such a toxic situation. I think of it in terms of a working environment: you might have a long tenured employee who knows what she/he is talking about, bring a lot of skill to the table, does exemplary work and tries to help everyone else do the same. However, if the executives and the direct supervisor are a bunch of assholes then there’s really nothing that a rank-and-file employee can do about it–lead, don’t lead….it doesn’t matter.

    I think Cherrington is thought of as a joke, a figurehead; Lucchino is an asshole without peer and Bobby Valentine is a smug, self-important little asshole who throws players under the bus. These players aren’t a bunch of mindless dopes–Pedroia showing up smiles and sunshine everday doesn’t mean shit when the people calling the shots are despised. That’s just the way it is.

  21. mazblast - Aug 26, 2012 at 6:11 PM

    Good post, bw1980, but don’t forget John Henry, whose every utterance is either a lie, inflammatory, or both (ask Marlins fans).

  22. stlouis1baseball - Aug 27, 2012 at 3:00 PM

    In other news…
    Everyone (Red Sox fans included)…would be absolutely thrilled to NEVER see another Red Sox related post the rest of the damn year (through December).

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