So what’s next for the Red Sox?
Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 13 and there’s still some business for Theo Epstein to conduct. Let’s break it down:
Sign ’em up: The Red Sox offered arbitration to Jonathan Papelbon and Jacoby Ellsbury and want to sign them before going through a hearing. The filing process starts on Jan. 5 with the figures exchanged on Jan. 18.
Lefthanded relief: Do the Red Sox really trust Felix Doubront, Rich Hill and/or Andrew Miller as their lefty relief options? They might. But Brian Fuentes is still out there. Jon Heyman of SI.com reports the Red Sox still have interest.
Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks, and Fuentes would be a very impressive bullpen.
Bench: The Red Sox have Jason Varitek, Jed Lowrie, Mike Cameron, and Darnell McDonald on their bench right now with Yamaico Navarro, Daniel Nava, and Josh Reddick looking for spots. There could be an upgrade available but that doesn’t seem to be a priority.
Cameron, a righthanded hitter, could prove immensely valuable in 2011. He will get at-bats in all three outfield spots and DH. Cameron is expensive ($7.25 million), but could be a critical player given all the good lefties in the American League.
(UPDATE, 3:04 p.m.: Because some readers asked, I’m not including Ryan Kalish on the bench. The Sox have said they would rather he play every day in Triple A and finish off the developmental process than be an extra outfielder in the majors.)
Starter depth: The Red Sox have Brandon Duckworth signed up for Pawtucket. They could use another arm or two for the inevitable needs that arise during the season. Any pitcher who is any good won’t be interested in the Sox because they have a full rotation in the majors. This is one of those times when all rocks get turned over.
Make a trade: Lars Anderson is on the 40-man roster and has no future in the organization. The same could be said for Reddick. They also have a bunch of semi-respectable catching prospects in the minors. These chips could bring back something more valuable.
Something unexpected: It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the Red Sox trade Papelbon, Ellsbury, Daisuke Matsuzaka, or Marco Scutaro to try and trim their expanding payroll.
There are contractual and monetary circumstances that would make Matsuzaka and Papelbon hard to deal. Epstein has shown little interest in trading Ellsbury. If healthy, he remains capable of blossoming into a star. Scutaro was much better in 2010 than many people gave him credit for and Lowrie has never played a full season in the majors.
Bottom line: The team is assembled and it looks capable of winning 95-100 games. Beyond a few tweaks, there’s not much work to be done. But sometimes those little things prove important.
Headed out of town for a few days then tailgating in the snow at the Patriots game on Sunday. Stay safe over New Year’s, gang.