Boston Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury

Will Sox come bearing gifts for Ellsbury?

April, 10, 2014
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NEW YORK -- When the Red Sox visited Los Angeles last summer to play the Dodgers, all the principals in 2012’s big trade -- Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett -- took a pass on speaking with the Boston media. (The ever-accommodating Nick Punto was the lone exception).

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Should the Red Sox present Jacoby Ellsbury his World Series ring this weekend at Yankee Stadium?

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When the Sox open a four-game series Thursday night in the Bronx against the Yankees, the first order of business will be a pregame news conference scheduled by the Bombers with Jacoby Ellsbury, the former Red Sox center fielder and leadoff man who played an integral role in two World Series titles in his seven seasons with the Sox.

Ellsbury is off to a hot start with the Yankees, posting a .364/.417/.455/.871 slash line with a league-leading four stolen bases in five attempts. But what may come as the biggest surprise to Sox fans is the way he is being used by New York manager Joe Girardi. For the past five games, Ellsbury has occupied the No. 3 hole in the Yankees' order, with Brett Gardner batting leadoff.

The move was triggered by the right hamstring strain that put Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira on the disabled list. Ellsbury had six hits in his first 13 at-bats in the 3-hole before going hitless in four trips in the Yankees’ 5-4 loss to the Orioles on Wednesday.

"We liked what we saw," Girardi told reporters earlier this week. "We like Gardy at the top of the order, as well. It just gives us some options, and without Tex in the lineup, we have to change a little bit."

The Sox saw Ellsbury in spring training in Tampa, but they may come bearing gifts this weekend. He wasn’t present, of course, when the Sox received their World Series rings last week at Fenway Park; it would be appropriate if they gave it to him here this weekend. Ellsbury told New York reporters he’d heard a rumor to that effect.

[+] EnlargeJacoby Ellsbury
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesThe banged-up Yankees have Jacoby Ellsbury hitting third instead of leading off.
Sox manager John Farrell has experimented with three different leadoff men so far this season, with little success in the early going. Sox leadoff men have posted a .176/.333/.206/.539 slash line so far this season; the .539 OPS ranks 28th in baseball. They’ve combined to go 6-for-34 with a double and five walks; one of those hits was a pinch single by A.J. Pierzynski.

Daniel Nava has made five starts in the leadoff spot and is 3-for-20 (.150). He has drawn a walk and been hit by a pitch twice. Jonny Gomes is 2-for-9 (.222) with three walks in his three starts leading off, while Grady Sizemore was hitless in four trips with a walk in his one start. Nava has not gotten on track anywhere he has hit in the lineup, going 4-for-32 (.125) with a walk and seven strikeouts.

In Wednesday’s 4-2 win over Texas, Nava struck out in all three of his plate appearances while batting in the sixth spot in the order. Last season, Nava hit safely in 13 of the team’s first 15 games, and his batting average never dropped lower than .282 in a season in which he posted a slash line of .303/.385/.445/.831. His high on-base average, Farrell said, made him a logical candidate to lead off.

Sizemore or Bradley? Ells won't go there

March, 18, 2014
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Given the chance to anoint his successor as Red Sox center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury split his ballot right down the middle. Grady Sizemore or Jackie Bradley Jr.? The Sox are on their own.

[+] EnlargeJacoby Ellsbury
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsJacoby Ellsbury says his transition from the Red Sox to the Yankees has been "very easy."
“I think they're both going to do well,’’ Ellsbury said Tuesday morning to a media cluster inflated by an influx of Boston reporters. “I think they're both going to do great. I trained with Grady this last offseason, so I know Grady a little bit. Obviously, I know Jackie pretty well and he has a bright future. I wish them the best.’’

While Bradley played center and batted leadoff Tuesday for the Sox, the roles occupied by Ellsbury for most of the last six seasons in Boston, Ellsbury did not make an appearance in his new incarnation as a Yankee. He sat out the game with a sore right calf muscle, and is not expected to make the trip to Fort Myers Thursday night for a return engagement between the Sox and Yankees.

So, barring anything untoward happening to him in the next 3½ weeks, Ellsbury will make his first appearance in pinstripes against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium on April 10, when the Sox are scheduled to open a four-game set against the Bombers.

When someone joked that Ellsbury was deliberately avoiding his old team Tuesday, he said: “Well, we’ll see how many made the trip. But yeah, I still talk to those guys; [I’ll] see who made the trip and probably say hello to them. But I have a feeling there’s not going to be too many of them, though.’’

Ellsbury was correct in that assumption. The only players who traveled here and were present for more than the last year of Ellsbury’s time in Boston were starting pitcher Felix Doubront and first baseman Ryan Lavarnway.

The Yankees struck quickly with Ellsbury, signing him to a seven-year, $153 million deal five weeks after Ellsbury became a free agent following Boston's World Series championship. Sox manager John Farrell said he was not surprised that Ellsbury became a Yankee, but was surprised the center fielder signed so quickly, not typically the modus operandi of agent Scott Boras.

“It happened pretty quick,’’ Ellsbury said. “We played deep into the winter, played an extra month, and then free agency hits. You start talking to teams, and I was excited when they [the Yankees] made the offer. I saw what they were doing, their history, and it was a chance to win right away and a chance to win a championship.’’

What the Yankees did, of course, was spend nearly $500 million in free agency, signing catcher Brian McCann, Ellsbury and pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to long-term deals.

Ellsbury has had a quiet spring to date. He’s batting .174 (4-for-23) with a couple of doubles and a home run, and has not stolen a base, which was typical of his approach last spring, which he followed by stealing 52 bases in 56 attempts, the third time he led the American League in stolen bases.

“I think it was a very easy transition,’’ said Ellsbury, who joins Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and Johnny Damon among recent high-profile Sox players to become Yankees. “Right when I signed, a few of the [Yankees] called me to congratulate me and let me know I was welcome here.

“The guys have been great, welcomed me with open arms. The coaches have been great. The main thing is just getting familiar with all the coaches, all those little things, players, all those names. The first spring training things.’’

As for leaving the Sox? That doesn’t sound like it was terribly difficult, either.

“I've always said, I enjoyed playing there,’’ said Ellsbury, who was selected by the Sox in the first round of the 2005 draft (23rd overall), then burst onto the big league scene at the end of the 2007 season, playing a starring role in the ’07 postseason.

“I have a lot of memories; I spent nine years in the organization. That's roughly a third of my life with one team. Definitely a lot of great memories, a lot of friends over there, and I'll still continue to have those relationships with guys down the road.’’

Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com contributed to this report.

Quick hits: Ellsbury said thanks

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A few quick hits from John Farrell’s media session Friday morning:

* Yes, he has spoken with Jacoby Ellsbury since the former Sox center fielder signed his seven-year, $153 million deal with the Yankees.

“He called after the deal was agreed upon," Farrell said. “To his credit, he called to say thanks. I got the sense he was a little surprised it happened so fast, and the magnitude [of the deal]. I wished him well. We’ll certainly miss him, but now he’s on the other side.

“He handled it with a lot of class. He was grateful for his time here and gave thanks to the way things unfolded last year."

* Grady Sizemore came out of his spring debut fine and is scheduled to start in center field Saturday against the Twins.

“He feels great," Farrell said. “I’m sure he was eager to get going."

* Daniel Nava (pinched nerve in neck) is expected to start Saturday in left field.

* Left-hander Craig Breslow is on his own throwing program. He’s out to 90 feet in long toss and is ahead of the program he was on last season, when he opened the season on the DL with tendinitis in his left shoulder. Breslow returned to make 61 appearances and posted a career-best 1.81 ERA.

* Jonny Gomes will bat leadoff. Grady Sizemore led off in Thursday’s first game, Brock Holt in the second. With Nava still out and Shane Victorino still some time away from playing in games, you can expect to see a number of hitters in that spot. “Availability has something to do with it," Farrell said of Gomes in the 1-spot. “He puts up quality at-bats whether it’s a lefty or righty, as you saw last year. It’s a look at an alignment you may see later in the year."

* Farrell on the offensive improvement of strong-armed catching prospect Christian Vazquez, who homered against Boston College: “He took a big step forward last year. An improved average, but more than anything when you see the walks and strikeouts even out, that shows increased confidence in the box, to be comfortable or remain calm in two-strike situations. He’s an exciting-looking player who took a solid step forward last year.’’

Vazquez posted a .289/.376/.395/.761 slash line with 47 walks and 44 strikeouts in Double-A Portland, and figures to share time in Pawtucket with some combination of Daniel Butler and Ryan Lavarnway.

The 2014 Baseball Prospectus gave him a rave: “Blake Swihart deservedly gets the attention, but Vazquez has a real chance to be much better as a major-league backstop than as a prospect. Vazquez’s pop times are off-the-charts ridiculous, scouts and his coaches laud him for his precocious handling of the pitching staff, and the Brothers Molina think enough of him to include him in their offseason training in Puerto Rico. While Vazquez could thrive as an all-defense backup, he has real offensive skills."

* Added note: The two players listed as the top two prospects in the game are here. Twins outfielder Byron Buxton is ranked No. 1 by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, with both sites also listing Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts No. 2. Buxton, 20, finished last season at Class A and is at least a year away from the big leagues.

Here's the Prospectus on Buxton: "The premier talent in the minor leagues, Buxton has the type of impact tools to develop into a franchise player at the major league level. With elite speed, well above-average potential with the glove in center, a plus arm, a plus-plus potential hit tool complemented by an advanced approach, and power potential that he only scratching the surface of, Buxton has the highest tool-based ceiling of any player in the minors. If everything comes together, he could change the Twins' fortunes."

Ellsbury: 'Seven great years' in Boston

December, 13, 2013
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NEW YORK -- One day before Jacoby Ellsbury officially donned pinstripes for the first time, he went out for lunch with former Red Sox teammates Dustin Pedroia and Cody Ross.

[+] EnlargeJacoby Ellsbury
AP Photo/John MinchilloJacoby Ellsbury wouldn't get into any details about how hard the Red Sox pursued him this offseason.
While he'll be trying to best Pedroia and the Red Sox this year, Ellsbury doesn’t suddenly feel any hatred for his former team now that he’s switch spots in the rivalry.

"When it comes down to playing, we're all competitive. It will be fun playing against them," Ellsbury said. "They wished me the best. They understood. It was nice to hear that."

Ellsbury had only positive things to say about the Red Sox as he was formally introduced as the newest Yankee at a press conference at Yankee Stadium on Friday morning. Ellsbury signed a seven-year, $153-million deal with the Yankees that could potentially net him $169 million over eight years.

"It was seven great years. The fans treated me great. The guys in the clubhouse, those are relationships I'll have for the rest of my life regardless of what uniform I'm in or they're in," Ellsbury said. "The two world championships. Started my career with a world championship, ended my career with a championship. Unbelievable first part of my career. Definitely excited for the new chapter."

Ellsbury didn't want to get into specifics about Boston's interest in re-signing him, but said the Yankees were aggressive in their pursuit, letting him know early they wanted him in the Bronx. The momentum kept building, and the Yankees ultimately signed Boston's center fielder. Ellsbury said he always liked playing at Yankee Stadium, and likes the team's tradition and commitment to winning.

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When Jacoby Ellsbury comes to Fenway for the first time as a Yankee in April, will you cheer him or boo him?

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During Ellsbury's tenure in Boston, the Red Sox won two titles, including one this past season. Ellsbury hit .297 with 65 homers, 314 RBIs and 242 stolen bases during his tenure, and led the league with 52 stolen bases last season. In the postseason, while playing through a compression fracture in his right foot and an injured left hand, Ellsbury batted .343 and stole six bases as the Red Sox won their eighth title.

"There was a lot -- Boston strong, the bombings, a lot of things went into that season. I know the city, Jonny (Gomes) always said this -- we picked up the city, but I felt like the city helped us as well," Ellsbury said. "The cheering, the support, everything. It was a special season and a season I'll never forget. I'm just happy to be a part of two world championships with the Red Sox."

Ellsbury will make his return to Fenway Park on April 22, although the Yankees and Red Sox will battle for four games at Yankee stadium before then. For as positive as he was about the Red Sox on Friday, he recognizes Boston fans might not look on him so fondly when he wears Yankees colors that day.

Even with two titles, the boo birds are likely going to be out for Ellsbury.

"I guess how I look at it is just the memories I have there. When I was there the fans cheered me, they were great for me, they cheered me on. Fans were great to me. I think of the winning, the world championships. I guess we'll see. Definitely appreciate them," Ellsbury said. "Fans like to boo. It's just kind of fun to boo. It's kind of fun to join in."

Red Sox players who became Yankees

December, 4, 2013
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Jacoby Ellsbury becomes the first major free agent to sign with the Yankees immediately after playing with the Red Sox since Johnny Damon following the 2005 season. Below is a list of notable Red Sox players to become Yankees, either via free agency or trade ... or purchase.

Babe Ruth: Purchased by Yankees from Red Sox (1919)
In December 1919, the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000 after he hit a league-leading 29 homers. Over the next 15 seasons, he hit 659 homers with the Yankees, winning four World Series. The Red Sox would not win another title after the trade until 2004.

Sparky Lyle traded to Yankees (1972)
After five seasons as a reliever in Boston, Lyle was dealt to the Yankees prior to the 1972 season for two players. In seven seasons with the Yankees, he turned into a dominant closer and was the American League MVP in 1977.

Luis Tiant signs with Yankees (1978)
In the offseason following 1978, Tiant signed as a free agent with the Yankees after registering 122 wins and three 20-win seasons with the Red Sox. He pitched just two years with the Yankees, winning 21 games total.

Wade Boggs signs with Yankees (1992)
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Which Red Sox defection to the Yankees hurt the worst?

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After spending his first 11 seasons with the Red Sox, including eight straight in which he was an All-Star, Boggs joined the Yankees after 1992. He spent five seasons with the Bombers, hitting .313 and helping them win the 1996 World Series.

Roger Clemens traded to Yankees (1999)
After 13 years with Boston and two with the Blue Jays, which included back-to-back Cy Young wins, Clemens was traded to the Yankees in a deal for David Wells. Clemens helped New York win the World Series in 1999 and 2000.

Johnny Damon signs with Yankees (2006)
Johnny Damon
William Perlman/USA TODAY SportsThe Red Sox made him an offer, but Johnny Damon signed a more lucrative deal with the Yankees following the 2005 season.
One year after helping the Red Sox “break the curse” in 2004, Damon signed with the Yankees as a free agent for $52 million. Damon hit .285 and helped them win the 2009 World Series.

Kevin Youkilis signs with Yankees (2013)
After breaking into the majors with the Red Sox in 2004 and spending nine seasons with Boston, Youkilis was dealt to the White Sox during the 2012 season. The following winter, he signed a one-year deal with the Yankees. He played a career-low 28 games in 2013, hitting .219.

Damon weighs in on Ellsbury's move

December, 3, 2013
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Appearing on ESPN Radio's "Sedano & Stink" show, Johnny Damon, who preceded Jacoby Ellsbury as a big-name center fielder leaving the Red Sox to sign with the hated Yankees, said he's sure it was a tough move for Ellsbury, but that folks in Boston should be happy with Ellsbury since he helped bring two World Series titles to the city.

Asked about making the move from Boston to New York, Damon said, "When I was a free agent, I did not want to leave Boston, I left my heart and soul on the field, but unfortunately us players aren't the ones making those decisions. The owners are the ones who are paying us. They're running their team and they're running it the way that they want.

"Boston wasn't going to give [Ellsbury] more than four years, maybe. It's just the way they do things now.

"I think Jacoby's going to be great for New York. That porch is going to be very inviting for him."

In comparing playing in the two cities, Damon said, "New York's a little bit easier to play in because there's so much going on. New York always wants to try to get better and now I feel like New York has a chance to win.

"This kind of tells people they're trying to win right now."

Stats to know: Ellsbury to Yankees

December, 3, 2013
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Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY SportsJacoby Ellsbury will be wearing a different jersey the next time he swings a bat in the Bronx.
The New York Yankees would not be left out of a busy Tuesday of baseball transactions.

Media reports have them signing center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million deal.

What Ellsbury brings
Ellsbury’s top attribute is his speed. He’s led the American League in stolen bases three times, including in 2013 when he stole 52 in 56 attempts.

Ellsbury has only hit 10 or more home runs in a season once, but when he did so, he did in a big way, hitting 32 in 2011.

He should find the short porch of Yankee Stadium to be tempting. Of his 53 home runs in the last five seasons, 48 were hit to right or right center.

Ellsbury also rates as a high-caliber defensive player. The Yankees will have to decide between playing him or Brett Gardner in center field.

Last season, the two played almost the same number of innings at the position.

Ellsbury finished with 13 Defensive Runs Saved, sixth-best in the majors and seven more than Gardner.

Gardner has also shown that he can handle left field well. From 2010 to 2012, he led all leftfielders with 50 Defensive Runs Saved.

Yankees needed to bolster their offense
The Yankees posted a .683 OPS as a team in 2013. That ranked fifth-worst in the majors, barely ahead of the cross-town rival Mets (.672).

The Yankees had ranked in the top three in the majors in OPS in every season from 2009 to 2012.

Ellsbury had a .781 OPS in 2013. Fellow free agent signee Brian McCann was slightly better with a .796 OPS.

Primary concern: Injury risk
The key for the Yankees will be in keeping Ellsbury on the field.

Ellsbury finished with 8.1 Wins Above Replacement in 2011 and 5.8 WAR in 2013, but he missed nearly all of 2010 and more than half of 2012 due to injuries.

That’s a lot of money
Ellsbury’s seven-year deal would net him an average of $21.86 million per season. That’s about a million dollars more than he made in total from 2008 to 2013.

He would be the fourth player to sign a free-agent deal with the Yankees that was worth more than $150 million, joining CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.

The only outfielders to get larger contracts than the total value of Ellsbury’s are Manny Ramirez and Matt Kemp, each of whom signed eight-year deals worth $160 million.

Did You Know?
There are nine active players with at least 200 stolen bases and an 80 percent success rate on their steal attempts.

The signing of Ellsbury would give the Yankees, at least for the moment, three of them- Ellsbury, Ichiro Suzuki and Rodriguez. Brett Gardner could join that mix this coming season, as he enters with 161 steals and an 81 percent success rate.

Source: Ellsbury market 'fluid and strong'

December, 3, 2013
12/03/13
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The market for free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is “fluid and strong,” according to one baseball source, reaching levels beyond what the Red Sox are probably willing to do.

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If his price tag is $100M-plus and 6-plus seasons, would you like to see the Red Sox sign Jacoby Ellsbury?

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The Yankees are among the teams that have interest in Ellsbury, the source said, but they are just one of a number of teams in negotiations with agent Scott Boras.

Ellsbury would appear to be a lock to command a salary that will average more than $20 million per year, and it almost certainly will take a minimum of six years to sign him, with a seven- or eight-year deal the more likely range.

“A lot is transpiring with him,’’ the source said.

The Seattle Mariners have been frequently mentioned as a prime contender for Ellsbury’s services, with the Chicago Cubs also rumored as a possible landing spot.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, have remained in contact with shortstop Stephen Drew, who hasn't yet landed the multiyear deal that we reported had taken him out of play for Boston, the source said.

Insider: Will Jacoby Ellsbury stay put?

November, 27, 2013
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Over at ESPN Insider, Jim Bowden looks at this year's free-agent class of outfielders, and notes that the future of each player is dependent on where the others land -- starting with Jacoby Ellsbury.

He also gives his predictions -- based on conversations with executives and agents -- for each free agent, and says that he expects Ellsbury to ultimately stay in Boston.

Here's his reasoning:
Ellsbury’s first choice is to return to the Red Sox and help them defend their World Series title. The Red Sox have also made it known that they’d like him to return, and apparently he’s their No. 1 priority. However, they also don’t appear willing to go to the seven years Boras intimates might take to sign him. Boras has always encouraged his players to take the best offer, but he also works hard to get the team his players want to match that best offer or beat it.

Further, the Red Sox have been burned by long-term deals and have a history of walking away when it escalates beyond a number of years they are comfortable with. But they aren’t afraid to offer higher average annual values to try to persuade the player to sign. If the Rangers, Nationals or Yankees offer seven years, they’ll be able to get Ellsbury. If he does depart, expect the Red Sox to answer by signing Beltran to play a corner and allow rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. to take over in center field. But my instincts say if it’s close, he’ll stay in Boston.


(Read full post Insider)

Meanwhile, David Schoenfield insists that the Chicago Cubs would be the perfect destination for Ellsbury, and gives four strong reasons why.

Here's a snippet:
Ellsbury would give the Cubs exactly what they need -- a table-setter for the top of the lineup and a good defensive outfielder. Baez and Bryant are the best of the talented group of Cubs prospects, but neither is considered a plus defender. If they develop as hoped, they'll anchor the middle of the order along with Rizzo. Amora projects as a high-average, good on-base guy; sounds like a nice No. 2 hitter. That leaves Ellsbury leading off. Ellsbury and Amora, who is considered a plus defender in center, would give the Cubs two good outfielders (and Soler should be solid-average in right field with a strong arm) to help balance out the potential defensive shortcomings of Baez and Bryant.


(Read full post)

Lucchino: Can't fall in love with veterans

November, 25, 2013
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BOSTON -- There will be no Thanksgiving Day surprises for the Red Sox, general manager Ben Cherington said Monday night, which means folks can sit down for dinner without expecting a side serving of Mike Lowell or Josh Beckett or Curt Schilling, as has been the case at previous holiday gatherings distinguished by blockbuster deals.

Cherington said there is nothing brewing at the moment that promises a swift consummation, although the Sox continue to explore their options at catcher (which include Jarrod Saltalamacchia), while also looking to improve the depth on the left side of their infield. They are fielding plenty of inquiries regarding their starting pitching and have kept the channels open with free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and first baseman Mike Napoli.

[+] EnlargeLarry Lucchino
AP Photo/Steven SenneLarry Lucchino, with team COO Sam Kennedy, said the emphasis on short-term contracts that worked so well in 2013 is the Red Sox's "preferred model."
Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, who like Cherington was at the Wang Theatre Monday night for the premiere showing of the World Series DVD (spoiler alert: Red Sox win in six), did make it clear that fans should expect some change in the makeup of the roster that won it all in 2013.

“I learned a long time ago you can’t fall in love with your veterans,’’ Lucchino said. “That’s not the way to run a railroad. We’re not going to be a stand-pat team. That’s not the way we’re going to run the railroad here. I think that’s a losing proposition. Every year [a team] has got to have its own personality. Every year will have a different personality, and by personality, I mean composition, not just personality.’’

Lucchino said the team’s preference is to sustain the model that worked so well last year.

“We still value draft picks enormously,’’ he said, alluding to the constraint placed on signing free agents who come with draft-pick compensation attached. “Our behavior has shown that we prefer shorter to longer-term contracts, and a presumption against really long-term contracts. A lot of things we did last year proved to be successful, at least for the short term, so I think we’re going to behave accordingly going forward.’’

Still, a certain amount of flexibility is required, Lucchino asserted.

“I think it’s our preferred model, but you can never get exactly what you want,’’ he said. “You need to have a diverse portfolio of contracts. Some will be longer than you want; some will be heavy at the front end. You’ve got to mix the structure of all contracts, so you have the diversity you need for long-term stability.’’

A commonly held view is that the Sox would have to abandon last year’s model if they hope to retain Ellsbury, who is expected to seek a contract at least in the range of the seven-year, $142 million deal Carl Crawford signed with Boston after the 2010 season. The Sox have yet to signal a willingness to do so, especially with rookie center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. in the wings.

Lucchino expressed confidence in the readiness of both Bradley and shortstop Xander Bogaerts to be everyday players in 2014, which is why a baseball source ruled out shortstop Stephen Drew returning to the Sox at the GM meetings earlier this month.

“I’m pretty darn confident,’’ Lucchino said, regarding the readiness of Bradley and Bogaerts. “I think Xander still has some refining of his game. He’s 21, just turned 21. Jackie Bradley, I take you back a few months and the reviews of him by experienced baseball people. He’s going to have a long and productive career, so I feel very confident about them, as confident as you can be at that age and stage.’’

[+] EnlargeDavid Ross
AP Photo/Steven SenneDavid Ross tried to sell Brian McCann on the Sox, but the free agent signed with the Yankees.
Cherington acknowledged that the Sox had taken a run at free agent catcher Brian McCann before he came to terms on a five-year, $85 million deal with the Yankees.

“I’d rather not say exactly how far we got [with McCann], but it didn’t surprise me where it ended up,’’ Cherington said. “It seemed pretty clear early on what direction it might go.’’

David Ross, who is returning to the Sox for a second year as the team’s second catcher, played with McCann in Atlanta and is a close friend. He said he lobbied McCann to come to Boston but in the end, McCann had to do what was best for him and his family. Ross said he believes the Yankees clinched the deal by offering more years, and because McCann was excited by how favorably Yankee Stadium is contoured for left-handed home run hitters.

There has been early movement in the catching market, with Carlos Ruiz choosing to remain with the Phillies after being wooed by the Sox, Geovanny Soto re-signing with the Rangers and Jose Molina reportedly deciding to stay with the Rays.

“We kind of thought that might be a position that moved quicker,’’ Cherington said. “There seemed to be a set of teams and a somewhat equal set of players, that musical chairs would start. That leaves us still talking and interested in a small handful of free agents. We also talked to a couple of teams about trades.

“We also think we’re in a pretty strong position long term with the catching we have in the organization. We’re in a position to be a little choosy, a little selective. If we can do something there, we’d like to.’’

Cherington said that even though he’s been fielding lots of calls about the Sox’s starters, the club is far from committed to dealing a pitcher.

“We don’t have to be compelled to do anything there,’’ he said. “A supposed surplus can turn into one that is not. We don’t want to do anything just in the name of doing anything.’’

In what could be interpreted as a vote of confidence in third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who struggled in his first full season in the big leagues, Cherington said that the club expects more production from the position even if they don’t make any changes. He reiterated that the club views Bogaerts as a shortstop, especially for the long term, and would like to add another infielder on the left side, either an everyday player or a backup.

Fielder-Kinsler deal could impact Sox

November, 20, 2013
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BOSTON -- Well, now, baseball’s hot stove just blew a gasket, didn’t it?

Wednesday night’s huge (what other word do you use for a transaction involving Prince Fielder?) deal between the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers -- Fielder to Texas, Ian Kinsler to Detroit -- could have a ripple effect on the Red Sox.

For one, it may take the Rangers out of the bidding for free agent first baseman Mike Napoli, although it’s still conceivable that the Rangers view Napoli as an ideal complementary bat to the left-handed hitting Fielder, who could DH while Napoli plays first. The Rangers ranked 14th in the league in OPS at first base (.700) -- only the Yankees were worse -- and they were slightly worse at DH (.698, ninth in the league).

The Rangers also were thought to be on the margins for free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, but taking a contract that pays Fielder $24 million a year through the 2020 season would seemingly be a deterrent to GM Jon Daniels adding another $20-million-plus per year in Ellsbury. The Rangers have two outstanding outfield defenders in Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry, so it would seem they would be better served going after catcher Brian McCann.

Still, as assistant GM Thad Levine noted last week, the Rangers entered the winter with 10 free agents, which leaves them a lot of holes to fill and a good deal of flexibility to fill them. And while Fielder’s contract was a load, Kinsler was paid $13 million last season and was due for an increase to $16 million in 2014.

The Tigers, meanwhile, made it known last week at the GM meetings that contrary to speculation, they are not in the market for Ellsbury. Moving Fielder wouldn’t seem to alter that. The Tigers' priroities remain re-signing pitcher Max Scherzer and extending two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera, whose current deal runs out after the 2015 season.

The Sox played at least a small part in setting the stage for this deal. Fielder was a profound disappointment in the postseason, batting just .182 with only one extra-base hit against the Sox in the ALCS, and failed to drive in a run in his last 18 postseason games for the Tigers, dating to Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS against the Yankees.

Boras: Ellsbury interest higher than normal

November, 13, 2013
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ORLANDO -- Three years ago, when the Red Sox signed outfielder Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million contract, then-manager Terry Francona quickly labeled him a “game-changer,” while rival manager Joe Girardi of the Yankees called him a “difference-maker.”

Interesting, then, to hear agent Scott Boras employ similar language to describe free agent Jacoby Ellsbury Tuesday afternoon, and then quickly dismiss Crawford’s deal as an “old contract” when asked about whether it could serve as a comparative for Ellsbury.

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“For any elite player, the number of premium players at that level who get to free agency now are rare,” Boras said, responding to a question of how much interest there is in Ellsbury. “Teams recognize that. I think they view those players as difference-makers -- and getting players that are top-five offense, top-five defense at their positions, and they’re young, are a real opportunity for a franchise.”

And what makes Crawford’s deal an “old contract,” given that it was signed just three years ago?

“Because the revenues have changed, the markets have changed,” Boras said. “I think if markets had gone down, you’d probably be looking at something different, but the markets go up.

“There’s certainly a base point of what teams do and things you look at. I don’t know of any players in this market that are like him [Crawford], but there are players that are different from him and are of greater value.”

Without filling in the blanks, Boras clearly believes Ellsbury fits in that category and contends there are plenty of teams interested in him.

“It’s far more than normal for elite players these days because just the revenue structure of the game invites a lot more applicants,” Boras said, “and the rareness of the talent and position of players has a lot to do with the volume of interest. I won’t give you specific numbers, but it’s more than normal.”

The Red Sox remain one of those teams -- Boras said he spoke with Red Sox GM Ben Cherington here -- but if Boras is truly intent on landing a bigger deal than Crawford got from Boston in 2010, it’s hard to envision the Sox remaining in the bidding for long.

Boston’s strategy, developed last year, was a willingness to take on a high average annual value in salary in exchange for fewer years. That might not work to keep Ellsbury, even if at this stage his suitors are not immediately apparent, with the usual major-market suspects -- the New York teams, the L.A. teams, Detroit and the Chicago teams -- seemingly not in the mix. The San Francisco Giants also are out.

Boras contends that Ellsbury has greater value than the prototypical speed-defense leadoff-type center fielder because he can slug enough to bat in the No. 3 spot in a batting order. He makes that case even though Ellsbury’s home run production dropped from 32 in 732 plate appearances in 2011 to nine in 636 plate appearances last season. The '11 season is the only time in his career that Ellsbury has reached double figures in home runs.

“I think the fact is Ells conditioned himself and did things to become what he needed to become to help this style of team,” Boras said. “That was stealing bases, being a leadoff hitter and being on base and, frankly, getting to second base as much as possible. That’s what he geared himself to do, and also the fact that he played a good portion of the season with a very, very swollen wrist and hand.’’

It’s not clear how hitting fewer home runs helped the team or made Ellsbury a more effective leadoff man. His doubles also decreased substantially, from 46 in 2011 to 31 in 2013.

“The fact of the matter is, Jacoby Ellsbury’s compensation is going to be based on all five of his tools [and] his slugging overall, not the fact that he hits 15 home runs or 25 home runs,’’ Boras said. “The fact is, in today’s game, having players that are that skilled at that position create value, not just power alone. He hits a ball into the gap, it’s a double, and if he hits the ball out and does it 18 times as opposed to 10 times, I’m not sure it has any difference in his value.’’

What should add value, Boras contended, is this:

“Being a world champion, obviously, not once but twice, says a lot about who you are in a locker room, who you are on a team, your ability to play in a major market,” Boras said. “All those things play into a very different evaluation.”

Hot stove: M's GM weighs in on Ellsbury

November, 13, 2013
11/13/13
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ORLANDO -- Jack Zduriencik is an affable sort in an uncomfortable spot. Zduriencik has been general manager of the Seattle Mariners for the past five seasons, a period in which the Mariners have had just one winning season -- his first. They are on their third manager, Lloyd McClendon, and have finished last in the league in scoring in four of those seasons.

The Mariners' attendance, at 3.2 million 10 years ago, was down to 1.7 million during the 2013 season, even though the team plays in one of the most beautiful parks in baseball, Safeco Field. The Mariners have two of the best pitchers in baseball in Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, and have nothing to show for it.

[+] EnlargeJacoby Ellsbury
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsJacoby Ellsbury is in line for a huge payday, no matter where he ends up landing in free agency.
Zduriencik needs to think big if he wants to make the Mariners relevant again. He admits as much. It is the reason his Mariners are so often mentioned as a potential landing spot for Jacoby Ellsbury, the free-agent outfielder whose roots are in the Pacific Northwest (Madras, Ore.) and who is one of a handful of elite players available on the market this winter.

Two days into their annual meetings, no general manager will openly discuss specific players they are targeting. But Zduriencik was willing to field a few questions about Ellsbury on Tuesday, even as a couple of his peers privately predicted that the Mariners will be a player for the center fielder's services.

So, is Ellsbury on Seattle's radar?

"How we enter this winter, right now we're going to be wide-open to a lot of things," Zduriencik said. "I don't have an answer right now where that's going to take us. There are some attractive guys out there, and we're going to have to dot our i's and cross our t's on several of them."

A fair non-answer. No upside for Zduriencik to tip his hand this early in the process.

But has he gained a sense of what Ellsbury's market is going to be?

[+] EnlargeEllsbury sign
Yoon S. Byun/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesDuring the Red Sox's duck boat parade after their World Series victory, one fan implored Jacoby Ellsbury to remain in Boston.
"On any free agent, it's hard to say," Zduriencik said. "It's just too early to tell until someone starts bidding or you start hearing things. Many times you really don't know. Even if you hear things, you don't know. But yeah, I mean it's too early to dictate that."

Based on recent precedent, it's pretty easy to predict that Ellsbury will approach, or exceed, an average salary of $20 million per year, and it's hard to see him accepting an offer of fewer than six years, which may be conservative. The length of contract may be the component that ultimately takes the Red Sox out of the equation; they went that route with Carl Crawford (7 years, $142 million), although in one sense it's profoundly unfair to compare the two. The Sox already know that Ellsbury can play in Boston.

A final question for Zduriencik on Ellsbury: Did the GM feel that Ellsbury's package of skills would play in his ballpark?

"I think his package of skills plays well in any yard," Zduriencik said. "He's a good player."

At this early stage, it remains difficult to discern potential landing spots for Ellsbury, though baseball sources categorically ruled out two big-market teams that had been floated as possibilities, the Dodgers and Tigers. The Giants just re-signed Hunter Pence to big bucks (five years, $90 million) and San Francisco GM Brian Sabean told reporters Tuesday it was doubtful the team would sign a free agent who would cost the club a top draft pick. The Cubs? Theo Epstein and top operatives Jed Hoyer and Jason MacLeod all have history with Ellsbury, but Chicago remains in rebuilding mode for at least another year or two, and it's hard to see the Cubs parting with the draft picks they hold so dear. Mets? By all accounts, they don't have the money.

If we know one thing about Ellsbury's agent, Scott Boras, it's his ability to create a market when none seems to exist, Prince Fielder representing one of Boras' more recent displays of his uncanny ability to reap a big-ticket payoff for one of his clients. The Mariners need more than one player to upgrade their offense, and their need for a right-handed bat is particularly acute, but it's hard to believe they will not take a hard, long look at Ellsbury.

A few other notes from Day 2 of the GM meetings:

• Mixed signals on how much interest the Sox have in free-agent catcher Brian McCann, one GM saying he heard that the Sox are not as interested as advertised. Still, there is an upside to Boston maintaining appearances, if for no other reason than to drive up the price on McCann for the Yankees, who are in the market for a catcher. McCann is the top catcher on the market and is expected to command a five-year deal in the $90-$100 million range.

One major league executive said that the Sox would be mistaken if they believe David Ross could split catching duties evenly in tandem with another catcher. He showed signs of wearing down in his last couple of years in Atlanta, the executive said, and he'll turn 37 next March. He should be considered strictly a backup at this stage.

Neither the Sox nor the player's agent would respond to queries regarding a FoxSports report that Boston may have made a two-year, $20 million offer to Carlos Ruiz, the free agent most recently with the Phillies. Sox GM Ben Cherington said that he didn't expect anything to get done this week, so it would seem the report is premature.

• Cherington said the club will be in the market for relief depth, specifically another arm capable of handling high-leverage situations. He said he expects most of the team's young arms -- Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Drake Britton et al -- to come to camp as starters in the early going, though some in that group could wind up competing for a relief role.

Ellsbury's role in Pedroia's thumb decision

November, 7, 2013
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We learned a few this today in Jackie MacMullan’s feature on Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who spoke with the columnist a few days after his team won the World Series. He talked about his thumb injury, what set this team apart from others and more.

Among our biggest takeaways was Jacoby Ellsbury’s role in convincing Pedroia to play through his thumb injury rather than have surgery:

Pedroia sustained his injury on Opening Day in Yankee Stadium sliding headfirst into first base. He felt a searing pain in his thumb but stayed in the game, batted 2-for-6 with an RBI, then checked in with the medical staff following the game. A subsequent MRI revealed the ligament tear, and the course of recommended treatment was surgery.

"We had a day off and I got checked out and then I got this news," Pedroia said. "I'm driving home and I'm just sick about it. Then I get this text from Jacoby [Ellsbury]. He says, 'Are you OK?'

"I tell him, 'I've torn the ligaments in my thumb. I might need surgery,'" Pedroia recalled. "He comes back with, 'Is there any way you can play through it? We need you.'"

Until that moment, Pedroia admitted, he was mentally preparing to undergo the operation, be fitted for a cast and be sidelined for weeks.

"Jacoby hasn't said something like that to me in seven years we've been together," Pedroia said. "I looked at [my wife] Kelli, and I told her about Jacoby's text. Then I said, 'I gotta play with this. He would do it for me. All the guys would. I have to do it for them.'"


Pedroia went on to say he was planning on hunting down the free-agent Ellsbury to convince him to return to the Red Sox.

"He's probably at a restaurant somewhere, because all he does is eat," Pedroia said. "I might try to talk with him a little bit.

"Jacoby loves playing in Boston. There's this misconception out there that all he wanted to do this year was maximize his value so he could go somewhere else. That's not fair. He's been a great teammate, a huge part of our team. I'll be really happy if I show up to spring training and see him there."

Ten pressing questions for Red Sox

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
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Jacoby EllsburyRick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsIt's hard to envision the Red Sox ponying up the kind of deal Jacoby Ellsbury is seeking.
BOSTON -- In the wake of their third World Series triumph in 10 years, Red Sox players have expressed deep admiration for one another. As much as any team in recent memory, this was a united crew. To a man, they would love to keep it together.

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Yet to a man, they understand that business often comes first, and Boston will have a different look when it reconvenes in Fort Myers to begin the process of defending its crown. Red Sox president Larry Lucchino admitted as much Friday morning.

“I can’t give you a precise answer as to how many players will come and how many will go,” Lucchino said in an interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI. “We love the core of this team. We know the core of this team will be here and be with us. We know we have some new players who were signed for a couple of years, like Jonny Gomes and David Ross. So we do know that the core of this team will remain. But there’s absolutely no chance that the 25 guys who finished in the World Series will be the same 25 guys who will start Opening Day next year.”

With that in mind, here are 10 pressing questions for the world champs as the offseason begins:

1. What do you do with the left side of the infield?


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Shortstop Stephen Drew is a free agent and will be coveted in a market that features very little at the position. Because of that fact, he may be inclined to turn down any qualifying offer (one year, $14.1 million) the Red Sox give him and seek a long-term deal elsewhere. If that’s the case, Xander Bogaerts slides right on in, likely leaving Will Middlebrooks to man third base.

But is that ideal for the Sox?

Middlebrooks’ up-and-down (but mostly down) 2013 campaign, coupled with a lackluster October, casts some doubt as to whether he is ready to be an everyday player in the majors. Meanwhile, Bogaerts looked like a 10-year veteran as the club’s third baseman in the World Series. Both he and the organization have said Bogaerts is a shortstop, but another year (at age 21) at the hot corner would not hinder his future at another position.

At the same age, Cal Ripken Jr. played the first half of his first full season at third base. Perhaps if the team finds a way to keep Drew, who doesn’t turn 31 until March, Bogaerts could do the same and Middlebrooks could be dealt or moved across the diamond to first base, if Mike Napoli moves on (more on that in a bit).

2. Will Jarrod Saltalamacchia return?


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Another free agent, Saltalamacchia told ESPN prior to Game 6 that he had already wondered if he was spending his final few days as a Red Sox. David Ross, who is signed for next year, was John Farrell’s choice in the final three games of the World Series.

It seems as if we have been hearing his name forever, but Saltalamacchia is still just 28 and is coming off his best all-around offensive season (.273 average, 14 homers, .804 OPS). He fits in the clubhouse and with the pitching staff, and if the Sox see him continuing to improve defensively, a qualifying offer could be in the cards.

That could change if the organization feels that Ryan Lavarnway is ready enough to split time with Ross, or if it makes a push for someone like free agent Brian McCann. Prospect Blake Swihart could be knocking on the door in another year or so, and Christian Vazquez had a solid season at the plate and behind it at Double-A Portland, so more help is on the horizon.


3. What’s the long-term future of Jon Lester?


Boston will exercise its option for Lester for next year, which carries with it a $13 million price tag. His value is at an all-time high after a brilliant October (4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in five starts), and discussions of a long-term deal may be forthcoming.

The Sox gave Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz lengthy, pricy extensions in recent years. They also gave John Lackey a five-year, $82.5 million deal and Ryan Dempster a two-year, $26.5 million contract, then took on Jake Peavy’s $14.5 million salary for 2014. If there’s anything left over, locking up a durable, homegrown ace who is not yet 30 seems like a no-brainer.

4. What about David Ortiz?


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While similar to Lester in some ways, the Ortiz situation is a little murkier. Many observers felt as if the organization had lost its mind when it gave the slugger, at the time 36 and rehabbing from an Achilles injury, a two-year deal that will now total $30 million due to an achieved incentive this year. When that contract expires after the 2014 season, would Ortiz -- who would then be approaching 39 -- seek one more multiyear deal elsewhere? And do the Sox want to prevent one of the cornerstones of their franchise from leaving?

As crazy as it seemed to lock him up last offseason, it would be awkward to let the World Series MVP go too far into the final year of his deal with an uncertain future. An extension beyond 2014 could be in his future.

5. Bid adieu to Jacoby Ellsbury?


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There have been whispers for months that the two sides are far apart in negotiations. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported this week that a $30 million gap existed after Ellsbury’s phenomenal 2011 season and that the sides could not get together again after his down 2012. With Ellsbury a Scott Boras guy, the long-held assumption has been that the center fielder has been waiting to test the free-agent waters. Coming off a much better 2013 (.298 average, 52 steals) seems like a great time to do so.

Boston’s aggressiveness in this matter rests largely in its opinion of Jackie Bradley Jr. The youngster had a rough time in his first stint in the big leagues in April but looked a bit more comfortable in his Red Sox skin once he was called up again in September, even getting support from some to be included on the postseason roster.

Bradley will not disappoint in the field; he has range and a great arm. Enduring some growing pains at the plate would hurt much less than paying Ellsbury upward of $18 million when he is 36 and beginning to break down. Not saying that would necessarily happen, but it’s the risk you run with big-money long-term deals, and Bradley will come at a pittance as he approaches his prime.

6. Lester-Buchholz-Lackey-Peavy-?


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Who should be Boston's fifth starter?

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Pencil in Lester, Buchholz, Lackey and Peavy as the top four starters. Who gets the No. 5 spot? Felix Doubront made strides in 2013 and figures to have earned it, but Dempster is on the books for $13.25 million. Also, waiting in the wings are a few young, intriguing arms who could make a push, including Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo.

Chances are Doubront gets a spot, Dempster serves as an expensive long man/spot starter, a la Tim Wakefield late in his career, or gets traded, and the youngsters are given more time to prepare for when somebody goes down.

And somebody will go down.

The Sox were actually quite fortunate to suffer only one long-term injury among starters, that being Buchholz’s three-month absence. There will be injuries, and having the depth to atone for them is as important as anything through the course of a long season.

7. Will the coaching staff remain intact?


Those who toiled under Farrell received loads of credit this year, particularly Juan Nieves for his work in turning around the pitching staff, Brian Butterfield for his defensive genius and Torey Lovullo for his overall work in helping to create the most complete team in all of baseball.

Lovullo is being linked to the Chicago Cubs' managerial vacancy. Cubs president Theo Epstein is obviously familiar with Lovullo, who has interviewed for jobs in the past. Farrell said earlier in the World Series that he expects Lovullo, and others, to get their shots.

Farrell and Butterfield worked together in Toronto, and Butterfield was brought over after Farrell got the managerial job in Boston. He has also interviewed for vacancies, but perhaps these two will establish something like the Terry Francona-Brad Mills partnership that survived many years in Boston and was rekindled this season in Cleveland.

8. Who’s on the bench?


The 2013 Red Sox did not have many holes. However, there were times when it felt as if they needed one more utility guy in the infield. Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder did not impress in their brief stints, and once Jose Iglesias left, there was a relative lack of options some nights if one of the starters went down.

To illustrate the conundrum, Middlebrooks stood as Dustin Pedroia’s backup for a handful of games. Veteran John McDonald was brought in late to add an extra hand, and Bogaerts' call-up gave the club another option, but the organization would do well to bring in an Alex Cora-type who can ably back up multiple spots. Someone with speed who can play center would help even more if Ellsbury leaves and Bradley needs a backup.

9. Bring back Nap?


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“I want to be here. I love this place.”

That was Mike Napoli after the World Series triumph. Lines like that one are thrown around like empty beer cans during such celebrations, but it is clear that Napoli has been a nice fit in Boston.

Napoli’s agent told the Boston Globe that his client would not accept another one-year deal, and that the club would analyze the condition of Napoli’s hips to see if there has been any significant wear and tear since the last checkup. With a clean bill of health, perhaps something like the three-year, $39-million deal that the two sides reportedly agreed on last offseason -- before the discovery of the hip condition altered things -- could become a reality. Napoli agreed to a $5 million base salary for 2013 but earned the full $13 million with incentives.

The Sox will likely make a qualifying offer to Napoli and receive a draft pick if he elects to move on, but expect the man who ranked second on the team in home runs (23) and RBIs (92), and who surprised some with a quality showing at first base, to return.

10. Do they make a splash?


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The organization has made a conscious shift from going all-in on splashy big names, the way it did in 2011, choosing established gamers for a lesser price. Obviously it paid dividends, and an organizational mindset committed to homegrown talent and scouting will remain in place.

That said, the Sox dropped their payroll from 2012 to 2013 and could have well over $30 million more freed up if a majority of the free agents walk. The market is slim on position players and Boston has enough starting pitching right now. Among the top players on the market (at least those who were not with the Sox in 2013) who play potential positions of need are Brian McCann, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran and Kendrys Morales. None screams for a big offer given Boston’s other, safer options.

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