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Thursday, November 29, 2012
Options abound as winter meetings near

By Gordon Edes

BOSTON -- Three days before major league general managers and their aides convene in Nashville for baseball's winter meetings, the only thing clear regarding Red Sox plans is the wide range of options GM Ben Cherington has kept alive to address the team's primary needs.

First baseman/catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Cody Ross remain primary targets, but any number of permutations could come into play. The Sox already have reached agreement with right-handed hitting outfielder Johnny Gomes, who figures to be part of a platoon, and have made contact with a number of other outfielders on the free-agent market, including Shane Victorino, Nick Swisher (who probably will prove too expensive), Ryan Ludwick and Nate McLouth. Josh Hamilton can't be entirely ruled out, depending on where his market goes. There are other outfielders potentially available in a trade, including Dexter Fowler of the Rockies, Shin-Soo Choo of the Indians and Mike Morse of the Nationals. A first baseman like Kendrys Morales of the Angels could surface as a potential trade target.

Thursday, the Nationals acquired outfielder Denard Span from the Twins, which leaves the Nats the option of moving Morse to first base and not re-signing incumbent Adam LaRoche. Or they could re-sign LaRoche and trade Morse. Either way, it could impact the Sox, who might find common ground with LaRoche ... if they don't sign Napoli.

On the pitching front, the Sox are more likely to explore potential trades than engage in high-end bidding for the likes of Zack Greinke, Kyle Lohse and Anibal Sanchez. Possible trade targets could include the Marlins' Ricky Nolasco and the Indians' Justin Masterson.

The only things that can be said with any degree of certainty regarding Boston's intentions is that they are determined, per Larry Lucchino again Thursday on WEEI, to avoid commitments of seven or more years to a player, and, per Cherington, not to trade their best prospects, which would include Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Matt Barnes.

And given the great financial flexibility the Sox retain after last August's megatrade with the Dodgers, it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility the Sox could make an unexpected play for a big name, whether it is bidding on Hamilton with huge dollars for short years, or making an intense push for a player believed to be unavailable, like a Twins' Joe Mauer. For all the anticipation that accompanies next week's meetings, much of the real action is likely to come afterward, as teams have shown a greater tendency to transact business into January if necessary.

Your turn: With so many potential options, what should be first on Ben Cherington's to do list at next week's winter meetings? Vote in the poll above and sound off in the comments.