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NASHVILLE — If the criterion for “winning” the Winter Meetings is being active and aggressive, the Red Sox can make a case for victory. Some of their competitors, however, thought they overpaid and threw the market off to get deals done for Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino.
When leaving the Opryland Hotel at the conclusion of the meetings Thursday, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington had a trail of Japanese reporters following him as news broke that he had reached a one-year, $4.25 million agreement with reliever Koji Uehara.
The 37-year-old righthander had a 1.75 ERA and a 0.639 WHIP in 37 games for Texas last season. He struck out 43 and walked three. Uehara, whom the Red Sox have coveted for years, projects as a late-inning option and a mentor for Junichi Tazawa.
Uehara missed about two months of the season with a strained right lat muscle. The Rangers thought about re-signing him as a setup man but opted for former Kansas City closer Joakim Soria.
The Uehara signing (pending a physical) ended a productive few days for the Sox, who acquired Victorino and Napoli the week after signing catcher David Ross and left fielder Jonny Gomes.
Cherington and manager John Farrell also visited with superstar free agent Josh Hamilton in Nashville Monday. But neither Larry Lucchino, John Henry, nor Tom Werner attended, which shows that the meeting was more courtesy and due diligence than genuine interest.
Hamilton seems to be there for the taking, though the Mariners may have the inside position, reportedly offering a three-year deal. Would the Red Sox enter a real competition for his services if they could get him for five years at $25 million per season or less?
While the Red Sox feel good about limiting the length of the contracts they did get signed, other executives were critical of them for overpaying Napoli and Victorino at three years and $39 million. The feeling is that the $13 million average annual value essentially equals the $13.3 million qualifying offer the Rangers (Napoli) and Dodgers (Victorino) declined to make to the players, feeling they weren’t worth that.
One American League GM said Victorino “should have been in the $7 million-$11 million range. What they paid him is ridiculous.”
The Red Sox had a different opinion. The consensus among their scouts is that Napoli will be better than a .227 hitter — somewhat closer to the .320 hitter he was in 2011 — and that the pressure Victorino put on himself in his contract year will lessen, resulting in a better season.
Cherington also said he’d like to add a lefthanded hitter or two who can play first base and the outfield. One name that’s come up is Seattle’s Mike Carp.
“We’ve been trying to add to the team without taking away from the team and keep our core of young talent in place,” said Cherington. “We made some steps toward that but we have more work to do. We have to add more things.
“I guess it was productive. We learned a lot and got some things done.”
The biggest area of need — starting pitching — is still a work in progress.
“We’ve done more work on it, but nothing is close,” said Cherington.
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The Red Sox acquired righthanded pitcher Kyle Kaminska from the Pirates, to complete the Nov. 28 trade of Zach Stewart, and assigned him to Pawtucket. Kaminska, 24, was 9-4 with one save, a 4.19 ERA, 66 strikeouts, and 11 walks in 81⅔ innings over 40 appearances (four starts) in the Pirates and Marlins systems last season.
Thursday’s Rule 5 draft yielded lefthanded-hitting infielder/outfielder Justin Henry. The Sox chose Nationals second baseman Jeff Kobernus in the draft, then traded him to the Tigers for Henry.
The Red Sox also lost a couple of pitchers in the draft: Josh Fields, 27, a hard-throwing righthander, who was taken by the Astros with the first overall pick, and Ryan Pressly, 23, another righthander, who was taken by the Twins.
Fields had an excellent 2012 season between Portland and Pawtucket, with a 2.01 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 58 innings. He did not allow a run in 10 appearances at Pawtucket. Fields was acquired by the Red Sox in 2011 in the Erik Bedard deal.
Pressly had a 2.93 ERA at Portland in 14 appearances, but struggled at Single A Salem (6.28 ERA in 20 appearances).
In the Triple A portion of the draft, the Red Sox selected Boston native Jack McGeary, a 23-year-old lefthander, out of the Nationals organization. McGeary once starred at Roxbury Latin.
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R.A. Dickey, the National League Cy Young Award winner, was announced as winner of the 2012 Tony Conigliaro Award, which is given by the Red Sox to a player who has overcome adversity through spirit, determination, and courage. Dickey, who does not have an ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm, spent parts of 14 seasons in the minors after being drafted by the Rangers in 1996. The Conigliaro Award will be presented at the Boston Baseball Writers’ Association dinner Jan. 24.