Making it apparent that they are not shedding salary this offseason after picking up the $18 million due to Mike Lowell in the Josh Beckett deal, the Red Sox contingent of general manager wannabees heads off to Dallas for this week's winter meetings with a plate half-full of possibilities.
On the docket: Johnny Damon, a first baseman, and a second baseman. Maybe Manny Ramirez if anyone wows them, but you get a stronger sense all the time that they're not going to do anything with him. The return just isn't there, and if it is, teams aren't willing to give it up.
That being said, Ramirez's name will come up plenty in Dallas this week. But let's be clear, the Red Sox aren't there with the intent to trade Ramirez. If a satisfactory deal comes up, they'll do it, but Damon, first, second, and bullpen remain their main priorities.
Let's take a peek at some of the names we're sure to hear this week, and the chances they could be members of the Red Sox come Friday:
Manny Ramirez: Of course. While the Keep Manny and Trade Manny movements press on with their respective agendas, the Red Sox will openly listen to offers for the slugger this week, and they may be speaking with more than just a drooling Omar Minaya.
Given the stiff arm by Paul Konerko in their quest to land the Chicago first baseman, the Angels may seriously get into the mix now, although the LA Times reports that it's not likely they would sacrifice both pitcher Ervin Santana and minor league slugger Brandon Wood, who hit 43 homers last season. The paper also reports that "any deal with the Angels would require the Red Sox to assume salary in the form of first baseman Darin Erstad ($8.5 million), center fielder Steve Finley ($7 million) and perhaps second baseman Adam Kennedy ($3.35 million)."
Yes, that's an "and." Not an "or."
That's a lot of dead weight for Ramirez, not at all the kind of package for which the Red Sox would be willing to give up their best hitter. Still, the possibility of landing a young arm like Santana should keep talks moving along. The Rangers have also been rumored to want Ramirez, dangling second baseman Alfonso Soriano, who could be shifted to Manny's old spot in left. Not happening. While Soriano doesn't exactly make Mark Bellhorn look like Wade Boggs, he does strike out an average of 137 times a season. In 2005, Soriano was plain awful away from Texas, where he hit just .224 for the season, slugging .375. At Ameriquest, he hit .315, and slugged .656. That is one alarming split. Unless the Sox can cheat the Rangers out of Michael Young or Mark Teixeira, nothing is likely to happen.
It would however finally complete the Manny for A-Rod for Soriano for Manny triangle we started way back when Ramirez was originally headed to Texas for Alex Rodriguez straight up.
Odds Ramirez is with the Sox at the end of the week: 90 percent. Spring training: 75 percent.
Johnny Damon: Despite erroneous reports that Scott Boras and Damon met with Red Sox brass over the weekend, Boston considers Damon its top objective this week. With good reason. Boras is apparently still delusionally hanging on to his seven-year demand, which is sure to give some teams a seven-year itchy trigger finger in pulling a different deal in lieu of Damon. If Damon does indeed jump ship to the Cubs or Yankees, the Sox could go after Torii Hunter, but it might cost a lot more than the Sox are willing to give the Twins.
Why is Damon the Sox' top priority at these meetings? Because the free agent choices for Option B include names like Richard Hidalgo, Bobby Higginson, Matt Lawton, and Jacque Jones. And with no long-term solution in the farm system with which to replace Damon, the center fielder's value is increasingly obvious. Boras will drag this thing out as much as he can though, and the Sox have to hope nobody gets desperate and breaks the bank. Don't expect things to get done this week unless that happens, a la Tom Hicks and A-Rod in 2000.
Odds Damon will sign with Sox by the end of the week: 20 percent. Spring training: 88 percent.
Rick White: The former Pittsburgh reliever tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he'll sign with either the Yankees or Red Sox this week. White had a very good season in 2005, posting a 3.72 ERA in 71 games and made just $475,000. The journeyman has pitched with Tampa, New York Mets, White Sox, Cardinals, and Astros.
Odds White is with the Red Sox at the end of the week: 50 percent.
Lyle Overbay: The Matt Clement-for-Lyle Overbay rumors continue to swirl, despite the fact that such a deal makes zero sense for the Brewers. Overbay may indeed be dealt this week, to make room for Prince Fielder at first base, but Clement would represent a $9 million increase over Overbay's $446,000 salary. That's not going to happen. End of story. Now Bronson Arroyo, on the other hand, would only be a $1.25 million increase, a certainly more manageable level for a team in need of starting pitching.
Odds Overbay is with the Sox at the end of the week: 47 percent.
David Wells: If the deal is David Wells and Doug Mirabelli to the Padres for Mark Loretta, then why exactly isn't it done by now?
Odds Wells is with the Sox at the end of the week: 7 percent.
Mike Myers: The lefty specialist could end up breaking the bank this offseason, when bullpen help is commanding a king's ransom. The Yankees (reportedly $50 million-$85 million in the red last season) are in play, of course, and it should be expected to see a number of others jump in this week. In the end, the Sox might be priced out.
Odds Myers is with the Sox at the end of the week: 36 percent.
Sean Casey: Ramirez for Adam Dunn isn't going to happen, but a package including Arroyo and Kevin Youkilis could yield Casey, who hit .312 last year and has a career on-base percentage of .371. A perennial .300 hitter, Casey is the prototype for the left-handed first baseman the Red Sox are looking for.
Odds Casey is with the Sox at the end of the week: 62 percent.
Trevor Hoffman: Ken Rosenthal reports that after inking pitcher Paul Byrd to a two-year $14.25 million deal, the Indians are now making a push for closer Hoffman, and that the Red Sox have also jumped into the game late. At 38, Hoffman is one of the best closers in the game, but will likely demand close to the outrageous packages B.J. Ryan and Billy Wagner received last week. Guillermo Mota looks like more and more of a steal as the days pass.
Odds Hoffman is with the Sox at the end of the week: 4 percent.
Nomar Garciaparra: Was it really just two years ago that Garciaparra could have made $60 million? With only the likes of Arizona, Pittsburgh, and San Diego calling, you knew the outside chance of Boston was going to come up sooner or later. The New York Daily News raises the remote possibility of Nomar playing third ... or left field for the Red Sox. Left. The Washington Post reports the Orioles may give Garciaparra a call to play first base. The Devil Rays may call to see if he'd be willing to come out of the pen once a week. Yes, it is winter meetings week officially now.
Odds Garciaparra is with the Sox at the end of the week: 1 percent.