The Winter Meetings are an exciting time for baseball. There is something in the air over Dallas, though it's as likely to be particulates and carbon monoxide as hope or change. This is Texas after all, and much like Texas, the Winter Meetings has become too big for its britches. As such, I'm not gong to pretend to preview the entirety of the Winter Meetings here. There's just too much going on for that. I'm not Ken Rosenthal only because I look crappy in bow ties. Plus, this being a Red Sox blog and all, I'll leave the previewing to those of us with larger purviews.
Focusing on the Red Sox, new GM Ben Cherington's first Winter Meetings is as likely as not to be uneventful. Like your room mate who moved out in the middle of the night leaving two lice-infested plaid sofas behind, former GM Theo Epstein's parting gifts to the Red Sox are both stinking and sucking up (payroll) space. Therefore this off season is being sold as a time of if not austerity then at least sensible and rational spending. Translated into English: there isn't much room for big ticket additions.
But even without the last few year's worth of spending on the books the Red Sox might not be in the market for much anyway. This year's crop of free agents is both uninspiring outside of two or three big names, and doesn't fit the Red Sox few needs very well. A right handed right fielder is more the Red Sox speed and lucky for them there are some available. But the fit isn't perfect as Carlos Beltran and Michael Cuddyer figure to cost a pretty penny and sever dirty ones too. Of the two, Beltran makes the most sense, but adding his contract would likely force the Red Sox away from resigning David Ortiz. Also his age and injury history might be enough to make the shell-shocked Red Sox steer clear.
As for Ortiz, Big Papi's agent has made some noise about a three year deal, but it's hard to see who offers that third season. The entire National League is automatically out of the running, and many AL teams either already have the DH position filled or aren't positioned properly within the success cycle. The Blue Jays and Orioles are the most commonly cited destinations, but it's hard to see Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, a super genius as you'll recall, offering a 36 year old DH a three year contract when his team isn't ready to compete yet. The Orioles on the other hand are free of super geniuses and winning. They very well might offer a three year deal, but I can think of no good reason why Ortiz would accept it.
On last week's OTM Podcast, Marc and I speculated with Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal that there might be a spot for Ortiz with the Yankees. On cue, both former Yankee Johnny Damon and current one Robinson Cano both piped in saying they think Ortiz should join the Yankees. That could happen, though it presents real flexibility issues for the Yankees old lineup. One (read: me) would hope the Red Sox wouldn't let that happen. One would further hope Ortiz has a better sense of his place in the history of the Red Sox organization than Damon did of his. Sure, an extra year would be nice, but putting on a Yankees uniform would kill all the things Ortiz could do in Boston post-career. /soapbox
I'm a billion words into this and haven't yet mentioned pitching. Oops. With Lackey and Matsuzaka both out with Tommy John surgery and there being very little in the minor league system ready to step in and help the starting rotation next season, finding some starters has become imperative. The Red Sox have been linked to just about everyone from C.J. WIlson to Mark Buehrle to Hiroki Kuroda. If you want to look hard enough you can probably find something linking them to Edwin Jackson. Or Michael Jackson. Vicente Padilla is available. So is Jaime Moyer. Bartolo Colon just ate an entire doughnut factory so he hasn't signed anything yet either. As a great American once said, "Can't talk. Eating."
Cherington's success at these meetings and indeed the off season as a whole will, baring some crazy move that none of us sees coming, be defined by how successfully he fixes the starting pitching staff. As we all discussed in our Armchair GM pieces a couple weeks back, there are a million different ways to go. It will be interesting to sit back and see which ways our rookie GM goes.