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Sox still working on their pitch selection

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / November 19, 2010

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ORLANDO, Fla. — The general managers meetings produced a Dan Uggla trade to Atlanta and a three-year deal for free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit from Detroit, but for the most part, these gatherings aren’t about completing things, they’re more about building for major moves later in the offseason.

When Boston’s Theo Epstein left here yesterday, there was still a mountain of uncertainty on what could happen for the Red Sox. Chairman Tom Werner said in a recent radio interview that he expected the Sox to sign a major free agent, so it will be interesting to see in the days or weeks to come who that will be.

Epstein said yesterday that nothing was imminent.

“I had a couple of conversations with two teams last night, but it seems that those teams are more in the mode of taking the information gathered here and going back home with the information and sorting through it,’’ Epstein said. “Most of it was following up on ideas that we had.’’

Asked whether things could get done before the winter meetings, which are less than three weeks away, he said, “Maybe.’’

So after three days of back-and-forth, here are some of the things we’re left with:

1. The Sox’ own free agents (i.e. Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre): What we don’t know is whether the Sox have expanded their offer to Martinez from the original two years and $21 million, and whether they’ve submitted a proposal to Scott Boras on Beltre, who has reportedly received a five-year, $64 million offer from Oakland.

Beltre has not said a lot of warm and fuzzy things about returning to Boston, and there has been much written about his desire to play on the West Coast. If that’s true, Oakland could indeed be his destination.

Beltre had a great year in all phases, but there’s doubt about whether he can perform at that level for the duration of a four- or five-year deal. If Oakland has offered a fifth year, that may be an area in which the Sox don’t want to tread. They never wanted to go more than four years with Jason Bay, and didn’t.

As for Martinez, he too has drawn a lot of interest. The Tigers and Rangers have been the most interested, but it’s conceivable that Seattle and Baltimore are also in the running.

Unlike Beltre, Martinez has been a very consistent player and is a switch-hitter. He also can be moved to DH or first base when his catching days are over.

Epstein has indicated that Beltre and Martinez are his preferences at third base and catcher. But, alas, if Beltre is the answer at third, that means the Sox would be out of the hunt for Adrian Gonzalez.

2. Carl Crawford — If you could pick a major free agent whose name was mentioned the least at these meetings, it would be Crawford, who stands to earn the highest salary among positional players. Crawford seems to be high on the Sox’ list, but both the team and the agent have done a good job of keeping talks out of the media. The Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Rangers, Orioles, and Nationals are still the most likely teams to take a shot.

3. Jayson Werth — Because he is a Boras client, the process will likely be long. Even with Boras in attendance for part of the meetings, Werth’s name didn’t surface very often in the hotel lobbies. Boras never addressed the media during his brief stay, likely waiting for the winter meetings. While the Sox appear interested, they’re probably inclined to offer Werth closer to Bay money than Matt Holliday money. Werth hit only .186 with runners in scoring position and .139 with two outs and runners in scoring position.

4. Justin Upton — It’s always a huge story when a young (23) yet veteran multitalented player becomes available. So the interest in Upton is understandably high, despite the fact he had a down season. Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers is in a neat position; he can put Upton’s name out there and watch a dozen teams fall over themselves trying to obtain him. Towers can either select the best package to improve his team in two or three areas, or keep the player and build around him. Nice position to be in.

This is not unlike the trade deadline scenario two years ago, when the Sox and others put together huge offers to Seattle for Felix Hernandez, who won the AL Cy Young Award yesterday.

Towers, who is known as one of the best bullpen builders in baseball, loves Daniel Bard and would have to get him in an Upton deal. Jacoby Ellsbury, whose name was brought up by a lot of teams at the meetings, would also have to be a part of the deal. Steep price? Of course it is now. Let’s see what it is when all the bids are in.

5. Adrian Gonzalez — You have only so many chips, so if you’re the Sox, you have to decide at some point whether to use them for Gonzalez or Upton or someone else. The only deterrent to a Gonzalez deal now is the shoulder surgery he had, which will limit him through most of spring training.

By now, Epstein and San Diego GM Jed Hoyer have probably discussed Gonzalez ad nauseam and have a realistic idea of whether this could happen or whether it’s pie in the sky.

Gonzalez, 28, is built for Fenway Park, with a lefthanded swing that produces fly balls to left field. In 95 at-bats in which he hit the ball to the opposite field, Gonzalez batted .516 with 10 homers and 24 RBIs. Ellsbury seemed a possibility to be a part of this deal, but the Padres recently acquired Cameron Maybin from the Marlins.

6. Relievers — A half-dozen or so relievers are on the Sox’ wish list: Scott Downs, Brian Fuentes, Jason Frasor, Kerry Wood, Jesse Crain, Grant Balfour, and perhaps Matt Guerrier and J.J. Putz. The Sox would love to pick off two of them.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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