Wednesday, November 14, 2012 Updated: November 15, 9:17 AM ET
Be patient, Red Sox fans
By Joe McDonald ESPNBoston.com
BOSTON -- When teams make trades or sign free agents this early in the offseason, it's understandable why fans become anxious when their particular club seems to be on the outside looking in.
There's no reason for Boston Red Sox fans to feel that way.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has a calculated mindset when making decisions, especially since it has been his job for the past year to fix the many problems in Boston. Yes, other teams such as the Toronto Blue Jays and Detroit Tigers have improved their rosters in the past two days, but it doesn't mean the Red Sox are being idle in their offseason approach.
With Torii Hunter heading to Detroit, the free-agent dominoes are starting to fall.
Cherington is continually working the phones with other GMs and agents and has done his due diligence on every possible scenario that could improve the Red Sox.
"Boston is working around the clock and they'll turn over every rock that they can to improve that ballclub, there's no doubt about that," said an American League executive. "They're taking a very disciplined approach."
Cherington is looking for two outfielders this offseason, either through free agency or the trade market. The Red Sox lost out on outfielder Torii Hunter, who agreed Wednesday on a two-year deal with the American League champion Tigers. Cherington had preliminary talks with Hunter and his agent, but the Red Sox never made an offer.
Hunter is the type of player who would fit in well on any club. He would have been perfect in Boston for his leadership skills both on and off the field. Plus, he's close friends with Red Sox DH David Ortiz, who tried to recruit Hunter to Boston.
Hunter, a 16-year veteran, has never won a World Series title and he wanted to sign with a team that he believes has a chance to do that. Even though Detroit was on the receiving end of a four-game sweep by the San Francisco Giants for the World Series in 2012, the Tigers are built as perennial winners and Hunter realizes that.
He joins an already potent lineup that includes AL Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. The Tigers will also get Victor Martinez back in 2013 after he missed the entire 2012 season after he tore the ACL in his left knee last winter.
"That's a very good acquisition for the Tigers," an industry source said of Hunter. "They've got two premium players now in him and Victor Martinez. They're adding two of the best people possible that you would want on your team to go along with a tremendous baseball culture there. That's a great signing for them."
Hunter's $26 million deal bodes well for not only himself and the Tigers, but it will certainly help the likes of other free-agent outfielders this offseason, including Cody Ross. Whereas Hunter is 37, Ross is only 31 and he's seeking a three-year deal.
The veteran outfielder signed with Boston as a free agent prior to the 2012 season for one year worth $3 million and said he would like to remain with the Red Sox. However, if the Red Sox hadn't been so patient with Ross and had offered him a two-year extension worth upward of $15 million toward the end of the 2012 season, he probably would have accepted it, said a Red Sox team source.
Now, given what Hunter signed for, Ross will be looking for something similar. Hunter produced in a big way in 2012, posting a .313 average with 16 homers and 92 RBIs in 140 games for the Angels. Ross hit .267 with 22 homers and 81 RBIs in 130 games for the Red Sox.
With Hunter off the table, and the uncertainty of re-signing Ross, Cherington has already begun kicking the tires on other free-agent outfielders, including Nick Swisher, Jason Bay and Shane Victorino.
Plenty of attractive options remain this early in free agency, including OF Shane Victorino.
Swisher, 31, has spent the past four seasons with the Yankees. He hit .272 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs in 2012 and he's a huge fan favorite in New York. Victorino, 31, could also be a good fit in Boston. He combined for a .255 average with 11 homers and 55 RBIs between the Phillies and Dodgers in 2012.
Bay's situation is completely different. The New York Mets recently granted the 34-year-old outfielder his unconditional release. Bay is reportedly looking to play somewhere he's familiar with, and Boston could be that place. However, due to Bay's injuries, including a concussion, it's unlikely the Red Sox would take a chance on him.
If the Red Sox decide to focus from within, then Ryan Kalish, if healthy and productive, could provide exactly what Boston needs. He has dealt with shoulder and neck issues the past two seasons, but he's healthy and will remain in Boston during the offseason to make sure he's 100 percent prepared for 2013.
"You want to see a guy like that get a full opportunity. You don't want to block a guy like that," an industry source said.
With the blockbuster trade between the Marlins and the Blue Jays, Toronto suddenly is in the competitive mix. Presently, at least on paper, the Red Sox are the bottom team in the division, but Cherington's patience will pay off and no doubt Boston will be competitive in 2013.
"It's going to be a very competitive division," said an AL executive. "That division is going to be really interesting because you've got now five clubs and they're all going to be in it. That trade does not make Toronto the favorite, you have to wait and see what else gets done by everybody until February and March to see who going into the season will be the strongest. There won't be a lot separating any of those clubs. It's going to make for exciting baseball."
It's too early to tell, and there's a long way to go this offseason before the Red Sox are comfortable with their roster for 2013.