The most interesting position this offseason will clearly be 1B.
Of the 4 departures, the most likely scenario will involve 2 internal solutions (with, at worst, short term stopgaps) and catcher is likely to have nothing more than a short term stopgap as well. The goal is to either use the prospects now, or very soon with CF, SS and C.
But 1B, we have no such prospects. All speculation the team could move Middlebrooks to 1B is just that, speculation. First of all, he does not exactly have a stranglehold on 3B just yet. And he really has not shown himself to be a player you have to re-arrange the lineup to accommodate. I think the feeling for him is, let him show himself to be a Major Leaguer before the Sox start bouncing him anywhere around the infield. Not to mention, it opens a hole at 3B. While a prospect for that position does exist, it is unlikely the Sox use 3 or 4 rookies in the lineup as they attempt to defend a title. That’s Marlins’ baseball.
So we have no internal solution internally, and the free agent market offers very little. Beyond the incumbent Mike Napoli, all the other options are very likely to be overpriced or underperformers or both.
This leaves the trade market. So far, the only name floated around are Billy Butler and Mark Trumbo. With Butler, there is no real indication the Sox are interested, and no indication to date what it would take to pry Butler out of KC. As for Trumbo, the price tag is a little more known (young, controllable SP), but Trumbo, to be blunt, isn’t that good. And certainly not good enough to move consider dealing a young, controllable SP for.
The Sox do have a SP surplus (despite that fact that there is no such thing as a SP surplus). With 6 starters vying for 5 rotation spots, they could conceivably deal one for a 1B. The most likely candidates are Dempster and Peavy, but I imagine Lackey is not off limits, either. Lackey’s season and contract do make for an attractive trade piece. But moving Lacking leaves the Sox with 3 pitchers entering 2014 in the final year of their deal, which is not necessarily a good thing going forward, either. Moving Dempster or Peavy at least only leaves them with 2, the remaining pitcher and Lester.
I am not sure what type of 1B can be had for Peavy or Dempster. For a team to be interested, they must feel think they are a contender or 1 SP away from contention in 2014, and have a movable 1B, or be interested in acquiring a pitcher they hope to be able to trade in July for prospects. The latter requirement is pretty subjective and opens up a lot more options, but presumably any team in that position could just as easily hope to deal their 1B rather than gamble that Peavy / Dempster can net a worthwhile return (though both have in recent years). And the trouble with the first et of requirements is that most teams in contention do count on a certain amount of production from 1B, so any 1B who really meets the Sox needs is probably not so readily available.
This leaves the final possibility of roundabout imaginative ways. Could the Sox get an available infielder, like Dan Uggla, and move him to 1B? (They could, but they probably won’t.) Do they get a SS and re-arrange the infield (Bogaerts to 3B, Middlebrooks to 1B) for a season? One possibility is the incredibly overrated Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera is coming off an abysmal season at the plate, is an up-and-down fielder whose range really fits better at 2B or 3B instead of SS, and is due to make $10mill in 2014, which he is unlikely to earn. He is also in the last year of his deal, and the Indians top prospect is their shortstop of the future, Franciso Lindor. There are really only 3 issues with Cabrera. 1) He is an average defensive player at best. 2) He is not much of a hitter, though he is probably capable of more than 2013 and 3) despite all this, all the rumors surrounding this guy for the past year or two seem to be centered on him actually being good. And of course, what happens in 2015, when Cabrera leaves? Middlebrooks back to 3B and Bogaerts back to SS?
Or they could see what could be had for 2 years of a very reasonably priced Lackey. Obviously, it will be better, but I think I prefer moving one of Peavy or Dempster…