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What is next for the Red Sox?

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  December 30, 2009 11:02 AM

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My life is devoid of meaning now that the "Will The Sox sign Bay?" e-mails have vanished. But we must press on.

In the eyes of many fans -- but not necessarily the front office -- the Red Sox could use another bat to bolster their lineup. What could they do?

First, let's look at what they have.

The outfield seems set. J.D. Drew will play right field, Jacoby Ellsbury will play center field (or left field) and Mike Cameron will play left field (or center field). They're also set at shortstop, second base and catcher.

The two spots in flux are first and third, at least in theory,

Kevin Youkilis will certainly play one of those positions. Here are the other candidates:

Adrian Gonzalez: The Padres would like to extend his contract, not trade him. An extension is unlikely, but keep in mind that he is signed through the end of the 2011 season and is the face of that franchise. Jed Hoyer is in no rush to make a deal and if he does, it probably won't be until close to the trade deadline.

Mike Lowell: The feel-good story line is that Lowell gets healthy, comes back strong and reclaims his place at third base and has a good season. The realistic story line is that the Red Sox trade him the first chance they get and chow down on as much money as it takes.

Casey Kotchman: The 87 at-bats he had for Boston were brutal. But Kotchman had a 103 OPS+ for the Braves in 2009 and had 167 total bases in 373 at-bats for the Angels in 2008. Bill James projects him to hit .272 with a .342 OBP next season.

Adrian Beltre: The free agent third baseman made $12 million last season for Seattle and had a .304 OBP with eight home runs. His road splits were a little better, but not to the point where you should be willing to cast away what he did at Safeco Field. He is one of the two or three best defensive third baseman in the game. But Youkilis is no slouch at third and Kotchman could well give you better offensive production.

ESPN reported that the Sox were "quietly" negotiating with Beltre. But unless Beltre and Scott Boras were willing to settle for a short-term deal, those whispers may not amount to much. Oakland is interested and actually has money to spend.

Miguel Tejada: The theory is that he could shift from shortstop to third base. But Tejada has never played a game at third base in his major-league career. If the Sox are as committed to better defense as they say, that seems like a risk.

Assorted other free agents: Take your pick. There are all sorts of characters out there who could be had for short money. In alphabetical order, they include: Hank Blalock, Russell Branyan, Joe Crede, Carlos Delgado, Adam LaRoche, and Melvin Mora.

The guess is that the Sox will find a way to add a player. But it would be a surprise if they handed out another significant contract at this point unless they can otherwise clear out some payroll.

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