DALLAS — Good evening from Dallas and the sprawling Hilton Anatole Hotel, home of the Winter Meetings.
The Red Sox contingent, led by Ben Cherington, has arrived. Bobby Valentine is scheduled to be here tomorrow.
The Sox were the stars of this event last year, trading for Adrian Gonzalez right before the meetings started then signing Carl Crawford. Do not expect anything close to those fireworks this year.
The Sox do not have the payroll flexibility they had last season, for starters. Plus Cherington has shown himself to be a methodical decision maker. He will be willing to wait for bargains in late December or early January rather than strike now.
Here's a look at the agenda for the Red Sox:
Big Papi: There is a deal to be made here, even if David Ortiz declines arbitration. Ortiz wants three years but that is not happening, not at his age and at the expense of a draft pick. Two years for $20 million makes sense. One year makes more. The Sox should not be be afraid to play some hardball, although John Henry may just order a deal done because of his fondness for Ortiz.
Starting pitching: The Sox have Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz in place. Alfredo Aceves is going to get a chance to start. Beyond that, there are not many in-house options.
John Lackey is out for 2012 after having Tommy John surgery. Daisuke Matsuzaka had the same surgery in June and is not expected back until after the All-Star break. Given his history with injuries, that is probably optimistic. The farm system does not have any MLB-ready starters unless you think Kyle Weiland or Felix Doubront are ready. You probably don't.
That means Cherington needs to add at least two reasonably reliable starters via trade or free agency plus an assortment of Class AAA depth types.
The Red Sox are looking hard at Roy Oswalt and Hiroki Kuroda, two veteran righthanders who could be willing to do one-year deals. Jeff Francis is another name to keep an eye on. They need to cast a wide net.
Right field: The Sox would very well get Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick fight it out in spring training. But they need a righthanded bat and Michael Cuddyer would make a lot of sense. If not Cuddyer, at least some sort of veteran righty bat.
Bullpen: If Daniel Bard stays in the 'pen, there is less need here. But there is still plenty of need. Outside of Franklin Morales (who is pitching extraordinarily well in Venezuela), there is a lot of dreck on the roster. Count on the Sox diving into the relief market and signing a B-level closer type. If they didn't commit to Jonathan Papelbon, it's hard to imagine the would pay big money for Ryan Madson.
Hiring spree: The Sox need to settle on their coaching staff, starting with a pitching coach. They also need a strength and conditioning coach and Cherington wants to add some scouts. There will be plenty of staff additions in the next few weeks.
Nick Cafardo is on hand here, too. Check Extra Bases frequently for updates.