Ortiz is one of only a few Red Sox who have a job waiting for them next year. Image: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

As Hot Stove Season Looms, Boston Will Flex Their Muscle Again

If you’re one of those people that gets tired of every single free agent being linked to the big market clubs during the off-season, well, you’re in for a long Winter.

If there was only one thing the mega-trade between the Red Sox and Dodgers this past August did, it was clear payroll space for a club in Boston that routinely spends more money than anyone except the Yankees. Now, with millions and millions of available funds, there will be no one who is beyond the reach of the Red Sox.

Boston is working toward a deal with DH David Ortiz that will keep him at Fenway Park for the next couple of years. Free agents  Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke will be the most sought-after hitter and pitcher on the market, respectively, and Boston has enough money to sign them both without batting an eye. If they decide to go the trade route, the Red Sox have enough minor league talent to add a critical piece or two, especially if they can absorb some salary in lieu of dealing away a boatload of prospects.

Almost no available player will be off limits, at least in terms of a possible fit in Boston. The Red Sox lost 93 games in 2012 and enter the post-season with very few established starters in their lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury figures to start in center or left, Ortiz will DH, Will Middlebrooks will be back at third, and Dustin Pedroia will play second base. Beyond that, New manager John Farrell won’t be married to anyone on his roster maintaining a job. Outfielder Cody Ross was a real bright spot for Boston during a bad year, but will Ben Cherington shy away from dealing for Justin Upton because they could re-sign Ross? I doubt it.

Nick Cafado wrote that the Mets might consider trading first baseman Ike Davis and that, if they did, Boston could be a fit. Want a power-hitting left fielder? Alfonso Soriano can be had for a song and Boston can even afford to take on the salary, too. If the Red Sox are willing to take on some money, they could add right hander Matt Garza in the same deal and get a discount on both, at least in terms of prospects going the other way.

Looking to add a two-time Cy Young winner? Farrell might think he can fix the mechanical flaw San Francisco says has been the culprit in Tim Lincecum‘s loss of velocity. The Freak is owed $22 million for next year, and that number would rule out almost every team in baseball, but not the Red Sox. Starters Anibal Sanchez and Jake Peavy figure to be on the market, Dan Haren probably as well. Boston has enough to sign a couple of them, if they so choose.

Last Winter was the first for Cherington at the helm of the Boston franchise and even then, he didn’t get final say in the hiring of his manager. With things going so terribly wrong in 2012, this off-season becomes a make-or-break year for Cherington. The Red Sox have long been a team that could out-spend their mistakes and stay in contention every single year. Now they even more margin for financial error.

It will be a busy Winter for Cherington, Farrell, and the Red Sox, but if they so choose, they can assemble enough talent to put their club right back into the playoff mix in 2013.

Tags: Ben Cherington Boston Red Sox John Farrell

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