Jim Bowden has ranked his top 50 free agents over at ESPN.com, and in addition, he's also listed the teams he think these players will end up with. It's not a straight guess, where he assigns a single team to each player, but three or four per player. Sure, it's hedging, but it's more honest than just exclaiming that this is The Team for Player X this off-season, and nothing else is possible.
Of the 50, Bowden links eight as potential future Red Sox. Some of these make sense, but not all of them. We'll go down the line one at a time to see which players fit into which category.
Josh Hamilton, OF: Hamilton ranks first on Bowden's list of free agents, and with good reason. He might have his very obvious risks, and a somewhat unique situation, but if we're just talking about straight-up talent, it's hard to ignore how good he's been, and might be in the future as well. There's been no real evidence that Hamilton is the kind of player Boston will be targeting this off-season, though, especially since he will expect a gargantuan contract, and Boston just did their best to rid themselves of those. Hamilton might not get the seven years and $175 million he's looking for on the market, but even if he falls to something like five and $100 million, I don't expect Boston to be in on him. Bowden has him down for even more than that, so, like I said.
Stephen Drew, SS: He's the lone shortstop that Bowden ranked, so it's no surprise to see him list five teams as potential homes for Drew. Unlike Hamilton, it wouldn't be a shock to see Boston attempt to court Drew. The thing here, though, is that Drew will also receive plenty of attention from others. All it will take is one team willing to pay him as if he didn't have all of the leg injuries or the decline in his game, or the reliance on Arizona's home park for his offense. Failing that, it will be about whoever is willing to give him the most significant Adrian Beltre-esque one-year deal to rebuild his value. Boston can compete in that market, but since they already have a few shortstop options, it would be hard to blame them for focusing their resources elsewhere, should things get a little crazy around a player who might look better due to scarcity than he actually is. Bowden predicts things to get more than a little crazy, at $30 million over three seasons for a guy coming off of a poor campaign and major surgeries.
Mike Napoli, C/1B/DH: Napoli is nifty because he can play at a few different positions, and at Fenway, he could be a total monster with that powerful swing from the right side. That being said, he's going to be expensive because of his prodigious power, his excellent 2011, and the fact he can line up behind the plate as a backstop if necessary. Bowden is right to assume Boston as a destination for him, but I'm surprised that more teams aren't included, especially since Napoli wasn't given a qualifying offer. Bowden doesn't think the market will be too crazy, though, predicting just $9 million per year for three years.
Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B: Bowden doesn't list Boston as a "Best Fit", but he does take the time to mention Youkilis making sense with the Red Sox, given their well-documented needs at first base. Two years at $18 million might be a little steep, though, given the obvious decline in his game.
Shaun Marcum, SP: Marcum is a risk, but it's easy to believe Boston will inquire about him, and the status of his shoulder. The Red Sox do like deals with incentives and options in them, and Marcum is a candidate for those, given that his shoulder could be a bit wonky. He wouldn't be the biggest injury risk they've taken on in the past, and since the cost is going to be far less than what has been given to some others along those lines, it's not a stretch to imagine him with the Red Sox. Bowden predicts two years at $7 million each. That feels pretty close.
Cody Ross, OF: Ross might want three years and $25 million, but Bowden thinks he'll end up landing somewhere for two years at $14 million total, similar to what we expected him to land in Boston for if he does re-sign with the Sox.
Mike Adams, RP: Adams is a little odd here, given that Boston has far too many relievers, and has taken to the scrapheap to find more as of late. But, if the cost is low enough, he has an underrated and dominant arm, and you could certainly picture Boston conversing with him to see what it would take. The bullpen might be full, but Adams is the kind of arm that you make room for if the price is going to benefit the team.
Joakim Soria, RP: Soria is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and given the state of Boston's 40-man, I can't see him landing here. If they make a lot of room on that in the next few weeks, then maybe things will change on that front. But it's hard to see at the moment.
Sean Burnett, RP: Burnett makes sense as a left-handed bullpen option only if Boston decides to clear out some of the lefties they already have around. At present, Craig Breslow, Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales, and Rich Hill are all lefties in the bullpen. Breslow lacks platoon splits, and Morales is backup rotation depth, but the other two would likely need to be moved before Burnett could come in. Like with Soria, it might be easier to picture in a few weeks. As is, it seems like a stretch.
Koji Uehara, RP: Bowden just had to put all of these relievers in a row so I would sound like a broken record by the end of this, didn't he?
Are Bowden's predicted costs right on the money, or is he too optimistic or pessimistic about how the market is going to shape up? Any of these players you're hoping he's correct about, or does the idea of $30 million of guaranteed money for Stephen Drew make you retch a little, too?