Sanchez is high on the wish list of a few clubs. Image: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Red Sox Rumors: Mike Napoli, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Masterson, others

The Boston Red Sox entered the off-season with more holes than mot clubs and significantly more money available to fill them. While they haven’t made major waves thus far, apart from re-upping with DH David Ortiz, Boston is lurking in pursuit of several of the market’s bigger names.

According to the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman, GM Ben Cherington is interested in signing free agent right hander Anibal Sanchez, most recently of the Tigers.

Cherington was overseeing international scouting for the Red Sox in 2001 when the club signed Sanchez as an international free agent from Venezuela. And seven years ago, Cherington was co-GM at the GM meetings at this same locale when the Red Sox set in motion a trade that sent the then-minor-league Sanchez, along with shortstop Hanley Ramirez, to the Marlins for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell.

Of course, Boston is not the only club in pursuit of Sanchez, whom Silverman calls the “consensus” second-best starter on the market. Detroit has made re-signing Sanchez a priority this off-season and any other club with any kind of financial resources would surely be in the mix as well.

Boston’s need at in the rotation won’t be met by signing one pitcher, no matter what his name. In addition, Cherington is said to be exploring the trade market, most notably with an eye on the Cleveland Indians, where GM Chris Antonetti is said to be fielding calls on several of his club’s top players.

The Red Sox have interest in outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and righty Justin Masterson, a former Red Sox reliever, now starter in Cleveland. Masterson was a part of the package sent to the Indians in the Victor Martinez deal.

It’s not clear how advanced the talks are, but the fit is obvious: The Red Sox have the ability to take on payroll after unloading roughly $250 million in contracts three months ago, and the Indians are willing to listen to offers for virtually every player on their roster.

Boston’s farm system has strengthened over the past 12 months, partially because of prospects obtained from the Dodgers in the August blockbuster. Thus, the Red Sox can afford to move the necessary minor leaguers to bring back Masterson, Choo, or both.

Look, if a starting pitcher is mildly effective and breathing he’s probably an upgrade over what Boston got from their starters a year ago and both Masterson and Sanchez should be more than mildly effective going forward. The more intriguing piece to me in Choo, who is one of the more underrated players in baseball. As Morosi notes, however, Choo is a Scott Boras client and will not be looking to sign an extension prior to hitting the open market after the 2013 season. If not for his agent, he’s a guy that I’m sure Cleveland would prefer to keep around.

Adding Choo would be boon to the offense, but right field isn’t the only opening. Boston is also shopping for a new first baseman and free agent Mike Napoli is on their radar to go along with Adam LaRoche. Napoli has primarily been a catcher in his career, but has seen a decent amount of time at first base and very few clubs are viewing him as a catcher this Winter.

Bolstering the case for Napoli is that the Rangers did not extend a qualifying offer to the slugger and therefore he won’t require draft pick compensation, unlike LaRoche, who was offered by the Nationals.

UPDATE: In addition to the right handers listed above, Jon Morosi tweets that Boston has reached out to Hiroki Kuroda as well. Kuroda is open to a one-year deal, but has previously told friends he would either remain with the Yankees or return to Japan. Of course, he had said the same thing last off-season about re-signing with the Dodgers and eventually agreed to play in New York. Given his history, you can’t blame the Red Sox for checking in.

Tags: Anibal Sanchez Boston Red Sox Hiroki Kuroda Justin Masterson Mike Napoli MLB Rumors Red Sox Rumors Shin-Soo Choo

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