Ask Nick: Will Crawford deal affect Red Sox’ ability to sign Ellsbury?

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I’m not looking for the Red Sox to do anything big from here on out, but more pitching depth will be added both in the rotation and the bullpen.

We’ve seen recent signings like Aaron Cook, Carlos Silva, and Justin Germano — veteran guys who can compete in spring training. There may be one or two more of those.

The bullpen could use another lefty, and perhaps another seventh-inning type guy. I’m sure we’ll see an injury rehab guy or two like a Scott Kazmir, Brandon Webb or a Joel Zumaya in the pen. Not saying it will be those names, but similar to them.

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If there’s a low-cost guy who can play right and hits righthanded, he too may be part of the Sox outfield mix.

Here are some answers to a few of your questions in this week’s edition of the mailbag:

How much effect will Carl Crawford’s contract have on signing Jacoby Ellsbury? It makes one think that the asking price will be very high. With that in mind, what about a trade for Ellsbury?
Barry, Saco, Maine
I think it does have an impact. Matt Kemp’s 8-year, $160 million is probably the other comparison. As for trading Ellsbury, I think if the Red Sox don’t want to dish out that kind of money, they will try to move him. Not now, but later. They will have an idea early into this season if Ellsbury will continue to be the player he was last season. If he is, they’ll probably try to sign him. It may also be that Ellsbury wants to test the market and see what his value is and also dictate where he wants to play.

There are a few players on the 40 man roster, like Michael Bowden, Scott Atchison, Darnell McDonald, Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller, without options. What will happen to any of them if they don’t make the team?
Martin, Fort Myers
Well, if you’re out of options and you don’t make it, you’re either traded or you have to be exposed to waivers before you can be outrighted.

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With most of the positions in 2012 locked down, please tell me who the strongest candidates are for right field for the Sox. It seems to me to be the weakest area in the lineup right now.
John, Concord, NC
Looks like Ryan Sweeney, Darnell McDonald, and Mike Aviles for now. Looks as if Ryan Kalish could be in the mix later in the year after the All-Star break. They will likely add a righthanded hitting outfielder to platoon.

Concerning the never-ending story of compensation for Theo, instead of the Cubs sending a player to Boston, why can’t the Sox unload one of their overpaid stiffs to the Cubs? The name Jenks comes to mind. Theo did give him 12 million, after all. How could he cry foul?
Fred, Hope, RI
In a perfect world, the Sox would be able to do that. That’s why we suggested John Lackey at the beginning. I think this is going to be one player — either a prospect or an established player who the Red Sox think could help them. I think Marlon Byrd would be useful.

I really liked the idea of acquiring Paul Maholm, but since he appears destined for the Cubs, wouldn’t Jeff Francis make sense as a low-cost innings eater whom Bob McClure had last year in Kansas City?
Keith, Boxborough, Mass.
Since you asked, Maholm has become a Cub. Francis is not a bad choice, but he seems to want more than one year. When the price comes down to one year, he could be an interesting choice.

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Do you think the Red Sox are holding out for next year’s heavy free-agent class?
James, Keller, Texas
You can see it from their point of view — they invested about
$300 million in Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Where did it get
them? Tampa Bay gets by with a fraction of that. They chose low-cost,
good players as free agents and try to build from within. Both the Red
Sox and Yankees want to do it that way. So I guess they’re trying it. It
really tests their skill as executives and baseball people.

I have really liked what GM Ben Cherington has done with the
team so far this offseason. He has left the lineup, which for the most
part was outstanding and productive last year, intact and focused on
other areas like the bullpen. Yet fans continue to grumble. Have Boston
fans come to expect to see high-priced free agent and are no longer as
educated about other quality, although maybe not as well known, players?

Dan, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Cherington has taken over at an interesting time. The ownership
gave him a budget and he’s doing his best to stay within it. I know
Theo Epstein had it that way at times, but he’d always convince
ownership to stretch a little bit if he knew there was a player out
there who could really help the team. Cherington hasn’t felt compelled
to do that yet. He feels he has the lineup to win, now he just has to
get the right mix in the pitching department and he’s tried to do it
with trades for Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey. It’s not easy to
replace Jonathan Papelbon, but we’re going find out if he has.

I know switching positions isn’t as easy as some fans think,
but since the Sox are looking for a righthanded hitting right fielder
with pop, and they have three youngish (non-Tek) catchers, there seems a
logical convergence here. Why not try Ryan Lavarnway in the outfield
(either right or left and move Crawford to right). Sure, he’s
catcher-slow, but with Ellsbury and Crawford out there, can’t they cheat
a bit to reduce how much he has to patrol? Also doesn’t he have a
decent arm?
Seth, Kensington, Md.
I think it’s his slowness. And I know Barry Bonds played like a
statue in the end in San Francisco and Manny Ramirez played left field
and all that. I think that would be the reason. Right field at Fenway is
too big. I suppose you could hide him in left. I’ve written about
Crawford moving to right, but he may be unwilling to do it. He seems
very set in his ways.

Matt Garza pitching for the Red Sox sounds mighty good to me.
Do you think the Cubs would accept two top prospects and one average
prospect (in consideration of the Cub obligation for Theo)?
Dick, Bonita Springs, Fla.
I would do something like that for Garza, yes. I think Theo
wants three guys from the A list and he’s going to be especially tougher
with the Sox because he knows who those guys are. Would love to see it.
I’d give up any of those prospects you mentioned for Garza.

Do you think the Red Sox could think about re-signing Johnny Damon to platoon in right field?
Sid, Williamstown
It would be awesome to have Johnny Damon on this team.
Precisely the personality they need in the clubhouse to lead as he did
in 2004. But I’m afraid he has no arm and he’s a lefthanded hitter.

Who do you think will be the Red Sox’ ace in the 2012 season?
Gianna, Boston
I’m gonna guess Clay Buchholz. It’s his time.

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