PITCHING SHOULD TOP THE LIST
The Red Sox already have signaled they are not likely to get into the high end of the free-agent market for starting pitching, which means they are unlikely to engage in the bidding for Zack Greinke, the No. 1 option available, or Anibal Sanchez, a former Red Sox prospect who probably will command a lucrative multiyear deal despite his history of shoulder trouble.
Nevertheless, the Red Sox need to prioritize adding an arm to the starting staff.
With new manager John Farrell insisting the team already has the makings of a strong rotation with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront, plus John Lackey returning from a year's absence, the Red Sox's approach more likely will center on a veteran pitcher with a good track record who can be had for short years, either because of age or health concerns.
The team already had expressed an interest in Dan Haren, engaging the Angels in trade talks last week before L.A. decided not to exercise his contract option, making him a free agent. Haren's back problems are a red flag, his stuff is probably a tick less than it was in his prime, and he may have a preference to stay on the West Coast (San Diego?).
But he's just 32, finished last season on the upswing (3.31 ERA in six September starts, .697 opponents' OPS, 31 strikeouts and five walks in just 35 1/3 innings), and when he's healthy, still has the stuff to be a dominant pitcher. If Haren can be had for a year or two, he'd be a great investment.
Alternative? Hiroki Kuroda is 38, but he performed at a high level last season for the Yankees, who are expected to retain his services. Still, the Red Sox could make their own rotation better while weakening their chief rivals' by signing Kuroda.
HUNTER MAKES THE MOST SENSE
Filling the corner outfield positions should be the top priority of Red Sox GM Ben Cherington.
He will be focusing on both the trade and free-agent markets to upgrade left field and right field, and Cherington should start by signing veteran outfielder Torii Hunter to a short-term deal that will work for both sides.
There are a few reasons why Hunter would be a perfect fit in Boston. Sure, he's 37 years old, but the eight-time Gold Glove winner has shown no signs of slowing down. In fact, he posted a career-high .313 average with 16 homers and 92 RBIs in 140 games this season with the Angels.
If Cherington believes the future of the outfield in Boston will be occupied with homegrown talent such as Ryan Kalish, along with prospects Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bryce Brentz, now would be the time to bring in a veteran presence such as Hunter to do the job until those younger players are ready.
Hunter is known for his leadership, and his presence in the clubhouse would be a bonus. Plus, he's Will Middlebrooks' workout partner and a close friend of David Ortiz. The veteran DH has made it no secret he would like to play with Hunter again (the two were teammates in Minnesota).
Defensively, Hunter has spent the majority of his 16-year career in center field, but he's also played right and definitely could get the job done in Fenway's tough right field. The Red Sox attempted a similar veteran signing in 2010 with Mike Cameron, but he was hampered by injuries and was ineffective.
Hunter, however, is healthy and would be a reliable acquisition for the Red Sox moving forward, especially if the club does not re-sign outfielder Cody Ross, who is looking for a three-year contract.