Ask Nick: More answers on the Red Sox’ rebuilding plans

While we haven’t heard much on the Red Sox front since they engaged in trade talks with Miami for Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson, other GMs inform me the Red Sox have been very active in trying to make something happen.

The Sox are trying to make a trade that would land them either a starting pitcher/shortstop/outfielder and are trying to sign a first baseman/ starting pitcher. Names? There aren’t many guys they haven’t engaged in some level of talks with.

The latest is Lance Berkman. Berkman is a good name for a couple of reasons – he can still hit and he’s that clubhouse presence I’ve often talked about in recent columns that’s so important to this Red Sox team going forward. Berkman didn’t perform well in New York when he was there, but has been his old self in St. Louis, which has decided it can’t afford him.

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Berkman could return to Houston to be their DH, but right now he’s contemplating whether he wants to play at all. He would be a good stopgap type guy and really add some personality.

The Sox are also trying to finalize their hitting coach search. One name that has been intriguing is Greg Colbrunn, the firmer major league first baseman who is a hitting coach at Single-A Charlestown, SC, for the Yankees. Yankees GM Brian Cashman told me that Colbrunn is superb and had received many inquiries from teams asking permission to speak to him. He’s interviewed with the Red Sox, but to this point has resisted temptations to leave Charleston, where he lives with his young family, to make the major league commitment. Cashman is selfishly hoping he stays with the Yankees, but acknowledges he would be terrific.

Here’s the mailbag:

The Red Sox obviously need a deeper and stronger rotation. In my opinion, Kyle Lohse is the best starter on the free agent market. Do you think the Red Sox will try to sign him?
Matt, Brookline, Mass.
Lohse had a great year and yes, the Red Sox have called about him. At 34, he may be a bit out of their age range. He’s probably looking for at least three years and that may be risky.

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I know Will Middlebrooks is still getting his feet wet in the majors. What are the chances he could see some work at first base to help keep him healthy and to get someone like SS Xander Bogaerts to the majors earlier?
Dan, Warwick, RI
This isn’t far-fetched. The Red Sox have to decide what Boegarts is – a SS or 3B. They don’t have to make that decision right now so I doubt they will. It’s also tough to come up with third basemen so Middlebrooks is extremely valuable. You could see some temporary types at first whether it be Mike Napoli, Adam laRoche or Lance Berkman, just to keep that possibility alive.

Are the Sox shying away from going after, say, Adam LaRoche or Nick Swisher because it would cost them a draft pick? Would giving up either Jackie Bradley or Matt Barnes (37 and 39 on one top 100 list) be worth either one of those two, in your opinion?
Pete, Apison, Tenn.
I think that’s the dilemma. Under the new rules where you have a cap on draft pick spending, draft picks are more valuable than ever. Sure, if you give one up, it had better be for a long-term, impact piece to your team. Are LaRoche and Swisher worth that? In my opinion no.

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What do you think is the biggest splash the Sox will make in the free agent market? In the trade market?
Ethan, Somerville, Mass.
No crystal ball here. The Red Sox must know what they want to do, but probably don’t know what they’re trying to do. It was telling to me they went after Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes in a deal. So they’re obviously thinking about upgrades at those two positions. They seem to be positioning Jarrod Saltalamacchia as one of their trade chips. He might land them someone like Gavin Floyd, a middle- to end-of-rotation starter. They want two outfielders and would like one of them to be Cody Ross. Beyond that, they’re looking all over the map. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are in play with the Twins. I think Michael Cuddyer is in play in Colorado. The real gem for me would be Troy Tulowitzki. I think Josh Hamilton is still in play. I think they’re thinking very big and thinking very in-between. They say they won’t be tempted to stray off course by reacting to the Blue Jays deal, but I think that course is all over the map right now.
What are the chances of seeing Josh Hamilton, Jason Bay, and Mike Napoli in a Red Sox uniform in 2013?
Joel, Newark NJ
I’d give serious consideration to all of them. Hamilton is a tremendous player, baggage and all. Don’t think the baggage has affected the final numbers year after year. What would be concerning is his age and the number of years you’d have to commit. Napoli fits with his swing and his ability to catch and play first. You’d be giving up some first base defense. Bay is intriguing to me. He has to come in under a minor league deal, but if he’s over his post-concussion issues and the comfort of Fenway gets his juices flowing again, why not give it a shot, as long as you have another outfielder ready to step and it seems you do in Ryan Kalish.
What would you consider a fair trade package for Alex Gordon?
John, Omaha, Neb.
They want a starting pitcher. You’d have to give them Felix Doubront.
Justin Upton … what is all the fuss? Would you rather welcome Cody Ross back for half the price?
David, Ellington, Conn.
Little slow this morning, but it sounds like you’re not a big Justin Upton fan? The Uptons have had the benefit of coming up to the big leagues sooner than most players. So as they enter their prime years, you assume they’ll get better and their great natural talent comes out. That’s the chance you take. I think that unknown is the reason Kevin Towers is willing to deal him.
Why don’t we hear more about the Red Sox really pursuing the Indians in a Cabrera/Masterson trade?
Josh, Brooklyn NY
I agree. I think there’s a deal there for sure and the two teams have exchanged conversations on that idea, I’m told.
With the great purge over the summer, could the Sox be looking to establish a specific philosophy, Moneyball-like, if you will, focusing on players with specific attributes, rather than stars?
Larry, Homosassa, Fla
I think that’s a great concept that all teams would love to adopt. It seems anything goes in Oakland. You can experiment with all sorts of things. Billy Beane essentially traded his All-Star players last winter for youngsters and got to the playoffs. If it didn’t work, there wouldn’t have been a lot of repercussions. You do that in Boston and it doesn’t work, it’s a major disaster. Not sure those young pitchers would have flourished in this environment. Guess what I’m trying to say is your philosophy has to fit your environment. Ben Cherington is well aware of that. Sometimes having a lot of money is a curse. But this team is expected to spend it and become contenders again.
What do you think of the Sox going after the Marlins’ Logan Morrison? He was to be their first baseman until Sanchez had the big season and then Morrison converted to OF to accommodate the team. What about Giancarlo Stanton?
Wes, Plantation Fla.
The Red Sox have had a lot of discussions with Miami already. He’s a cheap player, so can’t see why Miami would deal him. But I have no idea what Miami’s thinking is on a lot of things. As for Stanton, I don’t see that either. They need a player or two that attracts the fans to that ballpark.
Do see Alfredo Aceves not on the 2013 team and do see Dice K gone also?
Forest, Manchester, NH
The Sox will keep Aceves if they can’t get something significant for him. He’s a handful to manage; a lot of issues so I’m sure they’re debating this internally. He’s a very emotional guy and so there’s a fine line between that emotion being good emotion and bad emotion. A lot of bad emotion last year. But he has great stuff so there would be a market for him. I think Cherington could make a big deal, but I think it would have to involve Salty and one of their starting pitchers (Doubront and Buchholz would be in demand). You’d have to know you can sign two starting pitchers if you did that.
Should the Red Sox bring up Xander Bogaerts and play him at starting shortstop ahead of Jose Iglesias?
Ronald, Keene, NH
I would say not. Bogaerts is very young and needs to develop a little bit more. Unless you trade for or sign a veteran shortstop, Iglesias should get the shot. You paid him a lot of money and his time has come to show whether he can be good enough offensively to keep the job.
Are the Sox going to make any moves this off season? Seems every other team has a vision for the future but the Sox. What is the plan?
Jim, Randolph, Mass.
These are legitimate issues, but I think the fact they were trying to obtain Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes is an indication they were willing to spend money.
What’s the situation with Ryan Kalish? How much of a chance will the Red Sox give him? Do they still have confidence in him or have they basically given up that he can be a starting outfielder?
Alan, Richmond, Va.
No they haven’t given up on him. He’ll likely be their fourth OF or even start if they fail to come up with two more OFs. They’ve been waiting for him to get healthy and the shoulder injury he had takes a full year to heal. They still have confidence he can be a very good player.