One would be the re-signing of Stephen Drew, which would create new situations, including a logjam at third base where Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts would then be possibly competing for one spot.
Drew and the Red Sox have mutual interest in getting together again, but Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, still sees a multi-year contract opportunity for Drew and not necessarily with Boston.
The other scenario is the Red Sox dealing a veteran starting pitcher to fill another need, to simply to add to their prospect list, and/or to experience some salary relief. The Red Sox would prefer to deal Jake Peavy or Ryan Dempster, who will earn $14.5 and $13.25 million respectively in 2014, the final years of their contracts. But they are perfectly willing to enter spring training with both pitchers if they can’t get their price.
The feeling with Dempster, 36, is if he does return, he would be well-rested since he threw only 19 2/3 innings in the final month of the season. Peavy, 32, who won 12 games and pitched 144 2/3 innings total between the White Sox and Red Sox, would also come back fresh and strong.
About a half-dozen teams have made inquiries on Sox pitchers, including the more preferable John Lackey and lefty Felix Doubront. Jon Lester has also been in demand, and teams have also inquired about Clay Buchholz’ availability.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has acknowledged interest in his pitchers as well, but has been consistent in commenting that he doesn’t have to deal anyone.
Cherington is often reminded of the team's flawed discussion surrounding the dealing of Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena. The Red Sox were looking for a power source at the time and Pena, who still makes his living hitting in Japan, was intriguing at the time. Then-Reds GM Wayne Krivsky was happy to hand him to the Red Sox for Arroyo, who wound up being a perennial 200-inning, 30-plus start performer.
The Red Sox seem to be more equipped to handle that now. They have Brandon Workman, Henry Owens, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and possibly Drake Britton knocking on the door and waiting for a spot in the rotation.
Cherington has not added depth from the outside because he believes he has good depth on the inside.
The starting pitcher market is beginning to weed out a bit.
Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, and Arroyo remain the top free agents still out there. Tampa Bay’s David Price and Chicago Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija remain top younger veterans their respective teams won’t be able to sign long-term.
But even if all of those pitchers are signed and/or traded, there will still be demand for Boston’s veteran pitching as teams try to fill out rotations.
Based on Lackey’s performance last season, a year after Tommy John surgery, and the odd structure of his contract (he will earn $15.25 million in 2014, then $500,000 on a team option in 2015) makes him an attractive alternative. Lackey, by the way, also receives a $500,000 relocation bonus if he’s traded, so his total compensation would be $1 million in 2015 if he were traded.
The Red Sox don’t want to give up on Doubront. They hope they can get him to the next level of off-season conditioning so he can become the 200-inning performer they feel he could be.