A few things to look for
So how hot will this off-season's Hot Stove be?
Right now, it's hard to tell. With Alex Rodriguez quickly off the market, crawling back to New York for less than he would've gotten had he dealt with the Yankees weeks ago, there hasn't been much of a free-agent flurry since the final pieces of confetti fell to the ground in the Rocky Mountains three weeks ago.
All eyes are on Mike Lowell, who spent some MVP time with his family at Disney World yesterday.
While Sox fans wait to see if the third baseman returns to Boston, here are a few things we're keeping an eye on as we stoke up the stove (shameless plug: NESN's Red Sox Hot Stove debuts this Monday at 5:30 pm. For the second straight year we'll be doing the show every Monday and doing it live during the week of the Winter Meetings in Nashville):
--Johan Santana. With one year left on his deal, it's hard to imagine the Twins won't move him for a package of prospects. Could the Red Sox land this phenomenal lefty? They could, but it will cost plenty (you can start with Jon Lester, Clay Buccholz, and Coco Crisp.)
--The Mitchell Report. With George Mitchell reportedly asking 11 free agents to speak to the commission, it's easy to understand why teams are treading lightly in signing available players. A team dedicating significant money to a free agent who gets suspended could set itself back for the better part of a whole season.
--Miguel Cabrera. Could the Marlins actually trade a man who hit .320 this season -- his lowest batting average in three years? For the right young players, absolutely. As usual, the Sox and Yankees will be in any conversations concerning this player.
--Coco Crisp. If the Jacoby Ellsbury era is to begin next spring, Crisp has more value to the Sox in trade than in a Red Sox uniform. He's still young, is a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder, and is locked up for a reasonable contract. Unless he's part of a megadeal (see Santana and Cabrera above) Crisp could really help the Sox retool their middle relief for 2008.
--Hank Steinbrenner. He's being quoted on everything from Alex Rodriguez to Global Warming. Suddenly, there is bluster in the Yankees front office again -- Hank seems determined to make up for his father's silence over the past three years. Steinbrenner's most recent quotes were about Mariano Rivera's wishes for a four-year contract. "If I didn't want him, we wouldn't have made that offer," said Steinbrenner.
So much for Brian Cashman running New York's baseball operations.
Just a few things to ponder when you're not wondering if the Patriots and Celtics can go a combined 98-0 this season. We'll be back next week with our first official Hot Stove mailbag.