Baseball's winter meetings are going to kick off next week, meaning that the Red Sox are likely to start getting busy. The manager search and poor end to the season have made many fans antsy, but typically, Boston gets moving on their transactions after arbitration and during the meetings, since they know who will cost them draft picks, and what direction the market is heading in. This year is no different, as the Sox have yet to do anything besides let Jonathan Papelbon cash really big checks in Philadelphia.
Ben Cherington admittedly likes to work slow, but it's in order to be thorough, so we shouldn't be surprised that the Red Sox are once again taking it easy until the real off-season gets going in the meetings in Dallas. Boston has plenty to do there, but don't expect any major moves: Cherington continues to repeat that they have a lot of great players already, and need complementary pieces more than a splash.
In no particular order, this is what the Red Sox will likely focus on during the meetings:
The DH Situation, Or, What About David Ortiz: Ortiz is seeking a three-year contract, but that is likely just a ploy by his agent to make sure the slugger gets two years rather than one. No one else out there has as obvious a need for Ortiz as Boston, and out of those who do have the need, they don't necessarily have the space or the money to pull him from the city he made his name in.
There is also no major rush, as the Red Sox have supposedly made an offer (or at least let Ortiz know what they are thinking), and Ortiz has expressed his interest in allowing Boston to match any other offers he might receive. Ortiz is the key to the off-season in a way, though, as signing him means they can move on to their other areas of need. Ortiz means no Carlos Beltran, for instance, and means that acquiring an expensive pitcher via trade might be tough to do. If Ortiz does walk -- it's unexpected, but it could happen -- then all of a sudden there is more room for a right field upgrade, or maybe financial room for a starter from a team looking to get out from under a contract.
The Rotation, And The Rotation Again: With both John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox are in need of two starters. Whether those come internally (Alfredo Aceves, Daniel Bard) or externally is not known as of yet, but the chances that both Aceves and Bard move to the rotation after Jonathan Papelbon left it are slim. We'll have more on whether or not Bard can succeed as a starter or not next week, but for now, the focus is on who they can bring in.
C.J. Wilson isn't happening -- nor should it -- and no one knows if Yu Darvish is going to post. Plus, he would qualify as a big signing. Then there is Edwin Jackson, who, by nature of the market being thin, is going to rich more for his timing than his quality. Instead, the focus is going to be on buy-low candidates like Chris Capuano, Paul Maholm, Bartolo Colon, or Erik Bedard. (All four of these pitchers were featured in "Bargain Bin Starting Pitcher Bazaar" at Baseball Nation, penned by someone you've read before.)
The Papelbon-less Bullpen: The Red Sox have a stocked bullpen in terms of personnel, but if Bard goes to the rotation, they will be needing another impact reliever. Even with what they have, the Red Sox might not be comfortable with Matt Albers, Kyle Weiland, and Felix Doubront as important pen pieces, meaning another reliever might be necessary anyway.
Papelbon's production doesn't need to be replicated exactly, but those innings do need to be replaced. In theory, the reliever market was a buyer's one before the Papelbon contract, so the Red Sox should be able to sign a few useful arms without spending huge money on them. It's likely we'll get a sense of just where the reliever market is now that both Papelbon and Heath Bell are off of the board.
Josh Reddick/Ryan Kalish's Co-Star In Right: Regardless of which of these two is the starting right fielder on Opening Day, they are going to be in need of a platoon mate that can hit lefties. This option likely doesn't exist within the organization, and Darnell McDonald doesn't necessarily mash them (or field well enough, or run particularly well). I don't have a vote, but were I able to cast one, it would be for Scott Hairston. Cody Ross is the more popular option, but Hairston will be cheaper, and has an 813 OPS against left-handers in his career, despite spending almost all of it in extreme pitcher-friendly parks. Like Ross, he can play center in a pinch, too, meaning that if Jacoby Ellsbury needs a day off, Hairston can hop in, rather than McDonald. You don't want him in center, but for a day off, he can handle it.