Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein expressed disappointment when the 2010 non-waiver trade deadline came and went with very little movement, at least in Boston. The club’s desperate need for bullpen help went unfulfilled, as did a desire for another bat in the outfield.
It’s impossible to know if such an acquisition would’ve made much of a difference. Remember, the team at that present time still had designs on a stretch run with Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury. Of course, that never materialized.
Just as impossible to predict is what the team’s needs will be four months into the 2011 season, especially when the offseason wheeling and dealing has just begun. But it is never too early to speculate on some names that might become available next July.
For those who like to look long-term, here are five names for you.
1. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
OK, you knew we had to start here. It’s become fashionable to link the Red Sox with Gonzalez in almost any take on the team’s current state. The marriage makes perfect sense. Boston has the flexibility to open up first base, the money to offer Gonzalez a Mark Teixeira-like contract after the 2011 season and could use left-handed power down the road — David Ortiz and J.D. Drew are both free agents after the season and switch-hitter Victor Martinez may not even enter 2011 with the club.
Many assumed the Sox would be all over Gonzalez if and when the San Diego Padres stumbled this past year. That never happened and the Padres were in contention for a playoff spot until the final day of the season. But now Gonzalez is officially in the final year of his contract and general manager Jed Hoyer, once an assistant to Epstein and familiar with what the Red Sox have to offer, has already indicated he is ready to talk trade.
Wait for a San Diego losing streak in June, a Boston slump soon thereafter and then the bidding war for Gonzalez between the Sox and Chicago Cubs to dominate the trade talk.
2. Jose Lopez, 3B
There is precedent in Boston for bringing in underperforming Seattle Mariners third basemen with power and having it work out well. If Adrian Beltre moves on and the Red Sox struggle to find a worthy replacement either in-house or out, Lopez is an intriguing player whose status is currently in limbo.
The 27-year-old’s option was recently declined by Seattle. He is eligible for arbitration and could either go that route or be tendered a deal before becoming a free agent in 2012. If he stays with the M’s next year and they continue to stink, a swap for a Boston prospect could be in the cards.
Lopez may not look like much after posting a .239/.270/.339 line in 2010 but he proved to be a very good defensive third baseman and has shown promise at the plate in the past (25 homers and 96 RBIs in 2009, a .296 average in 2008). Beltre’s numbers while playing third in Seattle were rather pedestrian before he blew up in Boston — something to think about if the hot corner becomes a problem.
3. Jose Reyes, SS
Another Jose coming off a slightly down year and playing a position with a degree of uncertainty for the Red Sox, Reyes is in the final year of a five-year contract with the New York Mets. If Boston doesn’t get enough out of the Jed Lowrie-Marco Scutaro combination at shortstop and has a sudden need for production at the position, Reyes could be a dynamic addition.
This wouldn’t necessarily represent a roadblock for shortstop-in-waiting Jose Iglesias. If Reyes moves on after a half-season in Boston, so be it. That’s just another draft pick in Epstein’s pocket.
4. Jose Bautista, RF
We promise this isn’t a story about players named Jose. And we promise we don’t necessarily see this one coming to Boston, but it’s fun to imagine, especially with the way the 2010 home run king has toyed with Fenway Park (eight home runs in 19 career games, four in nine games in 2010).
A move such as this is entirely contingent on the Red Sox failing to land Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth. Take them out of the formula for now and all that stands between Boston and a desire for a strong-armed, power-hitting right fielder is J.D. Drew, who is entering the final year of his contract and will be gone after 2011.
Bautista recently told reporters he has had no talks of a long-term deal with Toronto.
5. Bronson Arroyo, SP
The need for bullpen help will probably be there but those situations are so fluid it’s impossible to predict right now. And there are dozens of starting pitchers who might become available in eight months or so, so we’re really just having fun here. However, Arroyo is in the final year of a three-year deal with Cincinnati. Since leaving Boston, albeit in the National League, he has won at least 14 games four times and is coming off his finest season as a pro (17-10, 3.88 ERA).
More importantly, Arroyo, 33, has made at least 33 starts in each of his five years with the Reds. If the Sox are ever looking for starting pitching help at the trade deadline it’s a pretty safe bet they are already dealing with injuries to others. That’s not a concern with Arroyo. Be prepared to welcome back Bronson and his ability to eat innings, stay healthy and play guitar.
Each day of November, we will explore a different issue facing the Red Sox this offseason.
Nov. 9: Which relievers, aside from Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, will get big outs in 2010?
Nov. 11: Nov. 11: How will the shakeup on the coaching staff affect manager Terry Francona?