After a successful 2013 season, capped off by winning the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals in six games, the Boston Red Sox already are stoking the hot-stove fires. Players such as Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann would fill a need, and Tim Hudson would be a great veteran presence who wants to win now. But there are other free agents in the mix who the Red Sox should make a push for:
1. Shin-Soo Choo, outfielder. The 31-year-old almost missed some time to serve in the military in South Korea, but was able to get a leave of absence thanks to South Korea’s win in the World Baseball Classic. He hit 21 home runs and compiled a 4.2 WAR through 154 games played. Choo played in center, though he has mainly played right for the majority of his career. He made a great adjustment and was one of the best leadoff hitters in 2013. He batted .285 with 20 stolen bases and had an OBP of .423. If the Red Sox can not ink a deal with Jacoby Ellsbury, Choo is the next best thing. It may cost over $10 million per season and a draft pick, but he is worth every penny.
2. Mike Napoli, first baseman. Napoli showcased the beard look for the Red Sox all season long and earned $8 million worth of incentives to finish his stay in Boston. Now, he wants to test the free agency market, and that could mean trouble for the Red Sox in re-signing him. With his 23 homers and 92 RBI, which were second on the team, the 32-year-old provides great power and protection for David Ortiz, especially since Napoli is right-handed. The Red Sox offer should be two or three years with an average of $14-15 million per season in order to get Napoli back. The Red Sox need Napoli’s run production and to protect Ortiz from being pitched around.
3. Scott Kazmir, starting pitcher. If the Tim Hudson approach does not work, the Red Sox could sign Kazmir to a minor-league deal since he was not extremely effective with the Cleveland Indians in 2013. The 29-year-old lefty will be 30 before spring training, and he finished with an 8-7 record and a 4.04 ERA, which is respectable in the AL, but not good enough for a long-term deal with a contender. Maybe a few months down in Pawtucket will help Kazmir return to his ace status he had with the Tampa Bay Rays several seasons ago. If that happens, the Red Sox will have another pitcher to work with in case of injuries.
4. Juan Uribe, infielder. The Boston Red Sox need someone who can play multiple infield positions, and Uribe is a veteran guy who would want to try and win now. With 12 home runs and 50 RBI through 132 games played, Uribe played a majority of his games at third. However, the 34-year-old will likely not get paid as a starter with his advancing age, and his strikeout and walk numbers declining over recent seasons. If the Red Sox do go this route, then it would be a two-year deal worth about $4 million per season.
5. Grant Balfour, relief pitcher. With a 2.59 ERA and 38 saves in 62.2 innings of work, Balfour would be a welcome addition to the Boston Red Sox bullpen in 2014 and beyond. It might cost some money to sign him, but $8 million each season would be quality value for his services on a three-year contract. The 35-year-old may have walked 27 batters and lost three games, but this nine-year veteran is a gamer and would bolster the right-handed side of the bullpen for years to come.