Andre Carter, Patriots: Of all the teams in town, no club seems to have more thoroughly and effectively addressed its needs. At the moment, the Patriots have some questions on the left side of the offensive line and could still probably use a true short-yardage running back - is Joseph Addai that guy? - but as long as left guard Logan Mankins comes back healthy, they should be fine.
Why Carter? Until he was injured last season, he was the Patriots' most effective pass rusher, an area of obvious deficiency in recent years. Head coach Bill Belichick drafted Chandler Jones in the first round of a defense-heavy draft, but it still wouldn't hurt to have a veteran presence on the defense with some proven track record of getting to the quarterback. Is Carter essential? Of course not. But bringing him back would add further depth to a New England roster that, already looks to be, in a word, loaded.
John Farrell, Red Sox: Maybe it is a merely a coincidence, maybe not. But since Farrell left the Boston organization, the pitching seems to have completely deteriorated and there seems to have been little or no accountability. Farrell possesses a rare blend of intellect and intensity that allows him to relate to most anyone, from the knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who sometimes occupy a major league clubhouse to the new wave of Ivy league executives who have reinvented the game.
The point? He's tough enough to fight you, smart enough to outwit you.
At the moment, of course, Farrell is under contract with the Toronto Blue Jays through 2013. The Red Sox made an attempt to pry Farrell out of Toronto last offseason and were turned away. But we all know Bobby Valentine is not here for the long haul and the Red Sox still seem to operate without any real leadership, and someone like Farrell would go a long way toward changing a culture at Fenway Park that badly needs changing.
Cole Hamels, Red Sox: Yes, it's probably a pipe dream. But the Red Sox need to upgrade their pitching, and Hamels is the best available pitcher on a list of potential free agents in the fall. So let's start there and see where it gets us. During his career with the Phillies, Hamels has averaged slightly more than 200 innings and 13 victories, all while pitching in a high-intensity market. He is a former most valuable player of the World Series. He is lefthanded and perfectly suited to pitch at Fenway Park - love that changeup - and he will be 29 in December.
We know what you're thinking: the Red Sox already have blown enough money on free-agent pitching. And we agree. Boston's priority at the moment should be in developing its young pitchers and in finding the next true longtime ace of the Boston staff, which is the general point of this exercise. If we thought the Red Sox could pry away someone like Felix Hernandez or Stephen Strasburg from his existing team, we'd have offered that up as a scenario. But once you start doing that, you enter into wildly conceived trade discussions that are almost never based in reality.
The general point here is that the Red Sox need a frontline pitcher. Hamels is the closest thing out there that is known to be both available and proven. Like we said, let's start there and see where it gets us.
Roy Hibbert, Celtics: With regard to the future, the Celtics' assets are obvious. For now, the Celtics have a seemingly dynamic young backcourt in Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, and Paul Pierce is under contract for two more years. With or without Kevin Garnett, the Celtics need a big man to join that front line and provide them an interior presence on both ends of the floor, and Hibbert makes sense for lots of reasons.
Still just 25, Hibbert averaged 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and two blocks during the regular season. He is an absolute moose who alters shots and has a surprisingly soft touch around the basket. He is a restricted free agent on a young Indiana Pacers team that looks to be a huge factor in the Eastern Conference for years to come. If the Celtics want to play hardball with the Pacers, they can at the very least drive up the price for Hibbert - the Pacers have the right to match - and make things interesting.
Admittedly, Hibbert has flaws. He can't run the floor like Garnett - who can? - though the Celtics have (and can find) other players who can do that. The chances here slim, but the Celtics should give this a try.
Zach Parise, Bruins: Based on how the Bruins have operated, this, too, may be nothing more than a fantasy. Parise will be 28 next month and looks like the best free-agent forward on the market this summer. Excluding a 2010-11 season in which he played just 13 games before suffering a knee injury, Parise has scored 31, 32, 45, 38 and 31 goals in his last five full seasons. He plays on the power-play and penalty-killing units. He has high character. Everything about him screams captain, the role he currently he fills for the Devils.
During the first round of the NHL playoffs, we once again learned that the Bruins stand to make the greatest gains at wing. In the last two postseasons, left wing Milan Lucic has scored five goals in 32 games, including zero in this year's seven-game series vs. the Washington Capitals. (He can't keep up.) Lucic is eligible for free agency at the end of next season, anyway, and he doesn't warrant an increase from the $4.25 salary he is already earning.
The Bruins, after all, have plenty of brawn. They need more polish. If they can get Nathan Horton back and upgrade with someone like Parise, the possibilities are again endless.
Tony's Top 5
Best offseason moves in recent Red Sox history