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Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Your turn: What's next for the Red Sox?

By ESPNBoston.com

Assuming the Mike Napoli situation ends with him in a Red Sox uniform, the team will have added eight free agents this offseason, which -- as Gordon Edes noted yesterday -- is as many as they’ve acquired in the John Henry era (they also added eight after the 2004 season).

The Sox could still have a few moves up their sleeves, but if this roster ends up being your 2013 Boston Red Sox, would you be satisfied?

Dan Szymborski of the Baseball Think Factory penned an in-depth projection of the AL East for 2013 (Insider piece Insider). In it, he forecasts the transformed Blue Jays to take the division with 93 wins, the Rays to finish second with 88 wins, the Yankees third at 87, the Red Sox fourth with 85 and the Orioles a surprising last with 77 wins.

Last month, a similar projection by the Think Factory had the Red Sox at 76 wins. Their eight additions lifted that prognostication by nine wins ... yet it still has them in fourth place.

We ran a poll on ESPNBoston.com on Tuesday and two-thirds of nearly 4,000 responders think the Sox still have some work to do to build a winner in 2013. With that in mind, here are a few ideas:

* Sign Nick Swisher: If the Red Sox are serious about realizing Larry Lucchino’s “deep depth,” Swisher makes some sense even if it doesn’t look like there’s an everyday spot for him, just because of his flexibility. He’s a switch hitter and can play first base and both corner outfield positions. Bringing in Swisher would give the Red Sox four proven major league outfielders -- Swisher, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes -- and leaves room for Ryan Kalish as well as a platoon option. It also protects them against the inevitable injuries that have plagued the Red Sox over the last couple of years. If the Sox lost a catcher, Napoli could move behind the plate and Swisher could take over at first base. Similarly, the Sox would be protected if Napoli went down. Swisher recently visited with the Indians and does not appear to be a priority for the Red Sox at this time. The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that the Sox currently don’t plan on hosting Swisher on a free-agent visit.

* Walk away from Napoli and sign Adam LaRoche: Speaking of Napoli, if the team can’t get past the red flag that apparently was raised during Napoli’s physical, there is an obvious Plan B: Adam LaRoche. The 33-year-old free-agent first baseman hit 33 homers and drove in 100 runs with the Nationals last season. LaRoche is thought to be seeking a three-year deal and Washington is still considered the favorite to sign him. A complicating factor here (as is with Swisher) is the fact that the Nats made LaRoche a qualifying offer, which means a team signing him would need to give up a draft pick. Of the eight players the Sox added this offseason, they haven’t had to surrender a pick for a single one of them and may be hesitant to do so for LaRoche.

* Bring back Cody Ross: Things have been quiet on the Ross front, which probably means he hasn’t gotten the three-year offer he has been seeking. He’s proven he can play in Boston and he’s clearly a fit for Fenway (he had a .903 OPS there last season). This would be another addition to give the Sox their sought-after “deep depth,” or it could free the team up to trade Ellsbury for a front-line starter (Victorino could move to center, with Ross in right).

* Make a big trade: Adding either Swisher or Ross would give the Red Sox trade flexibility, the kind they gained when they agreed with shortstop Stephen Drew. With Drew on board and prospect Xander Bogaerts on the horizon, the Sox could shop Jose Iglesias this offseason. They could also try to deal Ellsbury (Victorino, again, would fill the void in center field) or one of their four catchers (Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Napoli, Ryan Lavarnway or David Ross). They could deal these players either individually or as part of a package for a young star that could be under the team’s control at a reasonable price for a number of years.

* Sign another starting pitcher: This is probably less likely at this point, but there are still a few interesting options on the starting pitchers’ market. Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson are the best available, but both are reportedly seeking long-term deals. The Sox could also roll the dice on a short-term contract with someone risky like lefthander Francisco Liriano.

* Stand pat: If the Red Sox sit tight with this roster, it would give them almost unprecedented flexibility at the July trade deadline. If, for example, this current Red Sox team is competitive in April, May and June and looks like it’s one or two pieces away from being a contender, they’d be able to take on a big contract in a major trade deadline deal. If it turns out 2013 is truly a “bridge” year and the Sox are less than competitive, they could deal Ellsbury to a contender for top-tier prospects (assuming Ellsbury is healthy and productive) and give fans an early look to the future and promote guys like Jackie Bradley, Bogaerts, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster or Jerry Sands.

* Your turn: If you were GM Ben Cherington, what would your next move be? Share your thoughts by voting in the poll above, ranking the priorities in our ranker tool or sounding off in the comments section.