The Red Sox have been one of the busiest teams of the offseason, and at this point things certainly seem to be coming together. By-and-large we know the shape of the team, even if we can't draw up a certain 25-man roster. Still, there are two months to go before spring training, and still some questions that are left to be answered, as several sagas continue to stretch out .
Let's go down the list as we head into 2013.
1) Does Mike Napoli sign?
What seemed like the first major lock of the offseason has now become the move most in question. While everything seemed fine when Napoli signed on for 3/$39 so long ago, it's clear now that the deal is not quite done. There's questions about the first baseman/catcher's hip--questions significant enough that the Sox are trying to bring the deal down to two years, or at least restructure it to give them insurance against a related injury.
A lot of the strategy going forward could depend on that hip, and whether or not Napoli comes aboard. Are the Sox looking to move Salty and give Napoli time behind the plate, or do they not think he'll be able to take the wear? Do they need a starting first baseman, or a left-handed backup? Are they up against the salary cap, or do they have an extra $13 million sitting around?
2) Who's coming with Joel Hanrahan?
The Joel Hanrahan deal seems close enough that we can count on the Pittsburgh closer coming into Boston. That's not really all that important, though, frankly, since with or without him Boston's bullpen isn't likely to undergo any more major changes. The question is, though, what is the Joel Hanrahan deal? At the moment, it's Melancon, Sands, and Pimentel for Hanrahan, but everyone seems to agree that each side will be including one other player.
Does that mean that the Sox have their first base question--be it the starter or the platoon help--in Garrett Jones? Does it mean they're doing something more ambitious and interesting? This, with Napoli, are the two big questions that we can do nothing but wait on and see.
3) Is Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the block?
Here we can start to take some real guesses. In this case, the answer seems to have been that he was--word is that Cherington was trying to deal him before the season even ended. And, if that's the case, chances are he still is. After all, mixed in with all the discussion of the Sox signing David Ross and Mike Napoli was the suggestion that the Sox were almost trying to build a market for Salty by depriving the league of other options, much in the same way that the Indians tried to outbid the Red Sox for Victorino to force them into the Shin-Soo Choo market.
While we haven't heard much about Salty in the first couple months of the offseason, now would be the time for all that work to come to fruition. The league's supply of catchers has been more-or-less distributed, and now the Sox are in a position of strength. Of course, that's assuming they're still feeling comfortable enough with their situation to let him go.
4) Is Jacoby Ellsbury staying in Boston?
While it seems clear that Cherington was trying to deal Boston's dynamic center fielder before he enters free agency, it seems just as clear that the market simply hasn't been there. We've seen plenty of reports that the Sox are looking to deal him, and not a single sinificant rumor that anyone has responded seriously.
While it's true that potential trade partners get more desperate as time goes on, it's also true that the Sox seem to have run out of real replacement options. Cody Ross got tired of waiting and signed in Arizona, Josh Hamilton got his massive contract from Los Angeles, and Nick Swisher settled for less than he might have hoped for in Cleveland. That leaves Boston without much in the way of viable options should they decide to send Ellsbury elsewhere, and since the team has already invested so much in putting forth a decent roster for 2013, it's hard to imagine they'll just punt the position now, even if they find someone willing to make a decent offer.
5) Is the rotation finished?
Sadly, the answer is probably yes here. While many of us were hoping that the Sox would try to strengthen more than just one spot in their rotation, there's little indication that any further changes are in the offing for the Sox. They're not going to cut Lackey, seem willing to take their chances on a hopefully-improved Felix Doubront, and otherwise have the spots filled.
There may be some moves left in them to fill out depth like they did with Aaron Cook last year, but even there there's less need for it in 2013. Between Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Chris Hernandez, and even Steven Wright the Sox have plenty of guys who are worth a look at the major league level in case of injury or disaster, even if some of them are maybe not as ready as we'd like for them to be.
6) Is a Nava - Gomes platoon the plan in left field?
Probably, yes. If Garrett Jones ends up coming over from Pittsburgh there might be some question depending on if the team finishes its business with Napoli and plan to use him in some sort of a catcher - first base hybrid role. Still, it's a platoon which works reasonably well on paper, and given that all the rumors involving Swisher and Hamilton involved moving Ellsbury as well, it seems like it's a situation the Red Sox are perfectly happy to enter the season with.