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Thursday, December 12, 2013
Sox quiet at meetings, but not done yet

By Gordon Edes

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The winter meetings are over. We return you to your regularly scheduled programming, the Red Sox having done nothing here to warrant your attention for four days.

Ben Cherington
With the Red Sox quiet, Ben Cherington didn't have much to say at the winter meetings.
But just because Sox general manager Ben Cherington did not make an appearance in the hotel ballroom where trades and signings were announced this week does not mean he has checked off all the items on his to-do list. There is unfinished business that he will address in the 58 days until the equipment truck departs Yawkey Way for spring training on Feb. 8, with pitchers and catchers due to report a week later.

There are two items that lead his agenda:

The Sox could still patch and fill with another outfielder, preferably one who could play center, but unless they choose to revisit the Matt Kemp scenario in the spring after the Dodgers outfielder proves he is healthy, Cherington might be content to add big-league depth on the Triple-A level. Daniel Nava proved that he could handle right field when Shane Victorino was unavailable, so that makes it easier to stand pat in the outfield, with Mike Carp also in line to get more playing time after proving to be a valuable bench piece.

The Sox are expected to make the Mike Napoli signing official, perhaps as soon as Thursday night, and soon Cherington and his staff will be turning their attention to signing their arbitration-eligible players. The Sox have five such players, and according to projections made by the reliable Matt Swartz of MLBTradeRumors.com, they can expect to pay around $8.3 million to sign newcomer Burke Badenhop ($2.1 million), Andrew Miller ($1.9 million), Franklin Morales ($1.8 million), Carp ($1.3 million), and Junichi Tazawa ($1.1 million).

Counting Napoli ($16 million in 2014), the Sox have committed to around $151 million in guaranteed salaries to 15 players. Factor in the arb-eligible players, the payroll is around $160 million. Add another $4 to $5 million to sign the rest of the players on the 40-man roster, the $3.9 million the Sox are paying the Dodgers as part of the 2012 megatrade, and the nearly $11 million in medical benefits that are calculated for luxury tax purposes, and the Sox are approaching $180 million.

That’s still under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, but if the Sox intend to add Drew and stay under the threshold, moving one of their eight-figure starters becomes more pressing.