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Good morning from the Winter Meetings

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  December 5, 2012 10:17 AM

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. Greetings from the Opryland Hotel, where I've gone about 12 hours without getting lost. It feels like an accomplishment.

It's Day 3 of the Winter Meetings. The Rule 5 draft will be Thursday morning and then everybody will clear out of town. The Red Sox have made a deal each day. Can they make it three in a row?

Their need now is starting pitching. There are two options:

Sign a free agent: The Red Sox, despite signing David Ross, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino, are not remotely close to the luxury tax threshold. Their payroll (for luxury tax purposes) is approximately $138 million. That's well below the $178 million line.

The Sox can use their short-term, high-value model and offer three years and $39 million (or two years and $26 million) to one of the free agents. That won't get Zack Greinke or Anibal Sanchez. But it would get Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse or Brandon McCarthy.

That would be the easiest way to do it.

Make a trade: Think about all the trade chips the Sox have. Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Lavarnway, Alfredo Aceves, Franklin Morales, Andrew Miller and Mark Melancon all could be moved. Plus Alex Wilson, Drake Britton and their other second-tier prospects.

The Sox can figure out of a mix of those players, led by Ellsbury, and get a starter. It's not going to be Felix Hernandez or Cliff Lee. Ellsbury will be a free agent after 2013 and has played in 51 percent of the games over the last three years. He has value but less than you probably think.

But the Sox could get Homer Bailey from the Reds or maybe one of the hot Atlanta prospects. Texas needs a center fielder and maybe Seattle, too. The White Sox need catching, as do plenty of other teams.

The Sox need to figure out whether the most value in Ellsbury is letting him play for them in 2013 or turning him into a starter. Know this: he will enter the free agent market after the season. He didn't hire Scott Boras as his agent to make a deal with the Sox. He hired Boras to find him him the best deal out there. Sure, that deal could be with the Sox. But once a player hits the market, anything can happen.

If the Braves were willing to give up 22-year-old Randall Delgado for Ellsbury, it would be tempting.

The Sox also could turn Salty and assorted parts into a pitcher, too.

Meanwhile the Sox also need a backup first baseman who can hopefully do some other things. And maybe a backup shortstop type.

Stay tuned. We'll have the updates.

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