For 2013, the Sox will need help at the following positions: SP, 1B, LF and SS.
SP (A brief overview of a slew of potential candidates, and reviewing them all would take way too much time. Here are some names chosen through the painstakingly difficult process of being scraped off the top of my head.)
Felix Hernadez (trade). The pros are obvious (flat out awesome). As are the cons (will bankrupt the farm simply to keep Seattle from hanging up).
Zack Greinke (free agent): Former Cy Young winner in AL with overblown anxiety issues. Struggling in AL right now over small sample size. Will be 29 and cost in excess of $100mill.
Brandon McCarthy (free agent): Quietly solid career as a starter. Certainly not a topflight TOR, but a good pitcher representing a modest upgrade. Unlikely to cost excessively, and might not require 4-5 years. Legitimate health concerns,and likely to garner lots of attention from teams with smaller payrolls.
Brett Anderson (trade): Slowly pricing himself out of Oakland. Still only 24 with legitimate TOR potential. Will not come cheaply in a trade, with package probably being better than one required to get former teammate Trevor Cahill but less than the one to acquire former teammate Gio Gonzalez.
Francisco Liriano / Jake Peavy (free agent): Two off/on SPs from the White Sox capable of domination, and equally capable of massive DL stints interspersed with ineffectiveness. Peavy does have a $22mill option, but it is very likely to not get picked up.
James Shields (trade?): In the likely event Tampa exercises the option, trading for Shields might be a tad difficult from Tampa. At least for Boston.
Matt Garza (trade): With one season left and coming off injury, Garza did become easier to acquire. However, his ability going forward is in question.
Jair Jurrjens (free agent or trade,pending arbitration tender): The Sox could move on Jurrjens, but he is extremely likely to be non-tendered. His effectiveness as a pitcher is about as questionable as can be, and any offer might be best served as the minor league variety that limits his potential role so “SP Depth.” Otherwise, he has more potential to be problem instead of solution.
Jason Vargas (trade): Vargas is likely to be available via trade, but isn’t worth as much outside of Seattle, and his acquisition will cost unnecessarily and likely result in a streaky pitcher who is more off than on for Boston.
Cliff Lee (trade): Lee is aging, owed a ton of cash ($87.5mill over 3 years of $102.5mill over 4), and might be costly to acquire as well. There is no actual indication the Phillies are eager to move him just yet, although they really should consider it.
1B (no viable internal options except maybe Sands):
Kevin Youkilis (free agent): Assuming Chicago does not pick up the option and Valentine is gone, Youkilis might be amenable to Boston again. Injuries are a legitimate concern, but defense and OBP remain the backbone of his skillset. He is no longer the hitter he was from 2008 through 2010, and unlikely to ever be again.
Carlos Pena (free agent): Power, BB and defense. Also, lots of strikeouts and really, an overall moderate performer with the bat for his position. But his demands will certainly be reasonable.
Kendrys Morales (tradeor free agent,pending arbitration tender): MLBTR thinks he is a non-tender candidate, which makes him easier to acquire. Realistically, he has yet to rediscover his offense, and his defense is suspect. Also, there is nothing on this planet that cannot hurt him. He can go on a prolonged DL stint after getting soapsuds in his eye. The Angels and their so-so bullpen might have interest in malcontent Aceves and/or question mark Bard, although Alfredos availability and desire to leave might be dependent on Valentines retention.
Ryan Howard (trade): If the Phillies are removing salary, Howard (4 yrs $105mill or 5 yrs $118mill) is another serious candidate for trade, and really a bigger one to move than Lee.
Dan Uggla (trade): An outsdie-the-box candidate owed $29mill over the next 3 years in Atl after posting a .743 OPS for the first two. Patient hitter with Fenway swing and best left away from 2B.
LF (beyond internal options Brentz and Sands)
Justin Upton (trade): Would be awesome in Fenway, but will command a ransom. Most likely he goes to Texas in a trade centered on Elvis Andrus.
Josh Willihgham (trade): Minnesota needs a lots of SP (Doubront?) and a few other things. Willingham is an OBP machine who has played in some of the worst parks for a RHH power hitter. He is cheap contractually, but not in trade value.
Michael Morse (trade): Also could be a 1B candidate. RHH power bat with moderate on-base skills. Washington could make him available for a CF or the pieces to get one, and replace him with super-prospect Anthony Rendon. Morse does have two suspensions for PED in the minor league program.
Josh Hamilton (free agent): Monster hitter with monster problems. A 4 or 5 year deal has serious potential for fun, but would probably not be long enough to interest him. A longer deal is a recipe for disaster.However, the Sox did free up a lot of cash, and unless they spend a lot, perception could be ownership is OK with a struggling team and a low payroll. Spending big alleviates that, and Hamilton is the biggest potential for spending around.
Torii Hunter (free agent): Has indicated he would come to Boston, but hinted that his interest is contingent on David Ortiz being retained (which I think is a likely scenario). At 37, his best days as a player are behind him, although he still might be the most likable person in all of MLB.
Alfonso Soriano / Vernon Wells (trade): Two awful deals that might be avialble for a lesser awful deal, like Lackey. But I hope the Sox realize they need Lackey more than these two, and, thanks to a minimum wage year, might have actual trae appeal to other teams with a reasonble season.
SS (beyond internal options Iglesias,Ciriaco and DeJesus):
Stephen Drew (free agent): Can hit and field when healthy, and should not be avoided solely because his brother was unnecessarily unpopular. Not a huge difference maker, but probably an overall upgrade over Iglesias, assuming he stays healthy.
Yunel Escobar (trade): Good fielder and occasional hitter with alleged attitude issues. Toronto will probably be glad to dump him and move on to Adeiny Hechevarria.
Hiruyoki Nakajima (free agent): Valentine favorite, but that might be irrelevant. Will not require posting. Actual abilities unknown to me.
Jhonny Peralta (trade or free agent,pending option): If, for some reason, Detroit declines his option, he would be a very nice fit for Fenway. However, he is unlikely to be available so easily and trading for him figures to be difficult, especially given the lack of middle infield talent in Detroit.
There are, as always other candidates. This is the preliminary look at external options. I would expct at least one of the 3 non-pitcher position to be filled internally, with shortstop topping the list as the most likely. The Sox also potentially have a need at DH, but as of today, I expect Ortiz to return for at least one, if not two more seasons…