Torii Hunter, Jose Reyes Just the First of Big-Name Players the Red Sox Don’t Have to Regret Not Getting

The offseason baseball wheels are turning, and so far, the Red Sox have been quiet.

They picked up David Ross, but that was more notable for how it gave Boston three catchers and possibly two guys named Ross, not what it meant competitively.

Red Sox fans aren’t interested in tinkering. They want news on Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, Jason Bay and the many other names that could immediately add sizzle to a floppy rotation and an outfield full of holes.

But on Tuesday morning, as the Marlins pulled off a salary dump to the Blue Jays that rivals Boston’s August escapades and the Tigers won the Torii Hunter sweepstakes, silence continued for the Red Sox. You can’t blame fans for getting edgy — they were promised big moves this offseason, after all — but there’s plenty of time and big names for the Red Sox to still make moves.

Seeing Hunter disappear from the outfield pool and Reyes and company land in Toronto shouldn’t be a concern for Red Sox rooters. Instead, Boston fans should be glad that the Sox aren’t greedily snapping up overpriced stars or older players. If anything, the Red Sox’ reticence so far is a good sign that the team knows not to take a plunge on players that aren’t worth it.

Hunter is an excellent outfielder, a quality guy and a good addition to any team, but he would have been a stopgap option at best for a Red Sox team that is looking to contend now while building for the future. Signing a 37-year-old would be fine if the club wanted a backup guy or a platoon option, but the Sox can do better than that as a starting choice, especially if they’re trying to groom someone for the future.

The same thinking applies to the stash of players that have flown north for more than the winter. Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle are all talented, but they’re also high-priced. Yes, the Blue Jays made a big move by adding them to their roster, but they also did exactly what the Red Sox undid in August with their own big unloading to the Dodgers — they’ve locked themselves up financially with players who haven’t been brilliant and who will be owed plenty of money nonetheless. They’ve also lost key pieces for their future.

The Red Sox’ shrewd thinking in getting a return for their money this offseason extends to a few names that the Boston base keeps chirping to have back at Fenway Park. Kevin Youkilis and Bay have both been cut free by their respective clubs and, considering their success with the Red Sox before, seem like great options to come in for a year or two. But they’re available for a reason (injuries, pay concerns, age), and the only time their names should be coming up is in a tip of the hat to the Red Sox for cutting them loose. The front office saw ahead of time that those players’ values would decline, and a good choice was made in letting them go. Even if Boston could bring back those types of players on low-cost deals, it wouldn’t solve what the team really needs, and the Red Sox are smart not to mess with sentiment and wishful thinking.

The Red Sox will have to spend for someone — there are just not that many free agents or trade options out there. Hamilton and the other big-name free agents are getting so much attention because they are the few players with real talent who are available on the market, without teams having to give up players of their own or solid prospects. But the Red Sox have shown that they want value, no matter what the cupboard offers, and they’re willing to wait. Rather than springing for someone like Hamilton now and then paying with regret for years, this team is going to be safe and wait for the real winners.

Hunter would have been a nice extra option. Reyes, Johnson and Buehrle are quite the trio of personalities and production, if another team’s paying them. Youkilis and Bay are fun to think about. Hamilton, in a fantasy sports world, would be a great fit.

But the Red Sox are rebuilding a team, and they need pieces that fit what they do, and pieces that can carry them into the future. They may be slow in this offseason, but as 2012 showed rather well, better safe than sorry.

Yardbarker

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