For those of you who spent the weekend wrapping up holiday shopping or sipping egg nog with friends and family, you missed a few interesting developments on the Red Sox front.
The team moved toward acquiring closer Joel Hanrahan in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, while new doubt was cast on the finalization of the Mike Napoli deal, which has been in limbo for 21 days now. If the team doesn’t end up reaching a resolution with the Napoli, one of the potential first-base fallback options was taken off the table Sunday when Nick Swisher signed a four-year, $56 million contract with the Cleveland Indians that also includes a $14 million option for a fifth season.
The waiting game on both Napoli and Hanrahan figures to drag on at least a few more days, a team source telling ESPNBoston.com he didn’t anticipate a trade before Christmas.
ESPN's Jim Bowden tweeted that the Sox would send minor league pitcher Stolmy Pimentel and first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands to Pittsburgh for Hanrahan. Multiple industry sources indicated to ESPNBoston.com that the Sox also could include pitcher Mark Melancon. The deal could be finalized as soon as this week.
The news on the 31-year old Napoli wasn’t as encouraging. While the Red Sox remained mum on why the first baseman/catcher was still unsigned three weeks after news first broke of his three-year, $39 million agreement, multiple sources confirmed that concerns about Napoli's hip is the primary issue holding up the deal.
Napoli has been on the disabled list five times in his career, but never for a hip condition.
Simply adding contract language protecting the Sox in case the condition proves to be debilitating may not be enough to salvage the agreement, the sources said. Such contract language was inserted in prior deals the Sox did with outfielder J.D. Drew and pitcher John Lackey.
"I honestly don't think the outcome has been determined," said one source with direct knowledge of the negotiations when asked by ESPNBoston.com on Saturday whether the deal could fall through.
What will the Red Sox do if the sides can’t come to an agreement? The team doesn’t have any great internal options to play first base and the free-agent field is starting to run dry. With Swisher off the table, the next best option would seem to be 33-year-old Adam LaRoche, although he would cost the Sox a draft pick as compensation.
LaRoche, who declined Washington’s $13.3 million qualifying offer, hit 33 homers and drove in 100 runs in addition to winning the Gold Glove at first base this season for the Nationals. He is reportedly seeking a three-year offer. So far, Washington has only been willing to go to two years, according to reports.
The Red Sox also could wait to see if Washington signs LaRoche, which could make the Nationals amenable to moving outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse in a deal. Morse, who turns 31 in March, hit 31 home runs and batted .303 in 2011, when he last played regularly, then hit 18 home runs in 406 at-bats while batting .291 last season.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox were on the verge of a big addition to the bullpen. Hanrahan saved a total of 76 games over the past two seasons for the Pirates and is a year away from free agency. With incumbent closer Andrew Bailey still a question mark after a season in which he was injured for most of the year, then pitched ineffectively, it makes sense that the Sox would explore bullpen upgrades.
Hanrahan, an All-Star in each of the past two seasons, earned $4.1 million in 2012 and can expect a significant bump in salary arbitration, to close to $7 million. He would join a formidable corps of relievers that could include Bailey, Koji Uehara, Alfredo Aceves, Junichi Tazawa, Franklin Morales, Andrew Miller and perhaps Daniel Bard, if the righthander can regain his old form.
Elsewhere over the weekend, Cody Ross signed a three-year, $26 million deal with the Diamondbacks, officially ending his chances of coming back to Boston. There was mutual interest in a return to Fenway, but the Sox apparently weren’t willing to give him a third year. Arizona not only gave him three years, it also added a club option for a fourth season.
“We just couldn’t agree on terms,” Ross told reporters as to why he didn't re-sign with the the Red Sox. “At some point, just to be completely honest with you guys, they thought I was going to come back no matter what. ... I don’t know why [a return to Boston didn’t work out]. You have to ask [the Red Sox] why.”
The 32-year-old Ross hit .267 with 22 homers and 81 RBIs for the Red Sox in his first year in Boston. At Fenway he was outstanding, hitting .298 with 39 extra base hits and a .921 OPS.
Your turn: The Red Sox seem to be at a crossroads with Napoli and close to dealing for a late-innings pitcher who could very well be their closer for 2013. They also saw a couple of options -- Swisher and Ross -- come off the table. What’s your take on these situations? Vote in the polls above and share your thoughts in the comments section.