Red Sox manager Terry Francona will be answering questions on NESN.com this offseason. Send questions to his mailbag.
Here?s his third installment.
1. Ever since Nomar left, the Red Sox have seemingly been on a quest for the Holy Grail of middle infielders. Alex Gonzalez is on his second stint with the Red Sox, but still it seems he isn't good enough to be considered a permanent fixture despite what he did for the team in key moments. You won't find perfection. Even Derek Jeter is statistically average defensively. So what exactly are you guys looking for in a shortstop that hasn't been found?
–Matthew, Portland, Ore.
We certainly have had our share of turnover at the shortstop position. I think what we have been looking for out of our shortstop position has changed at times through the years. The one constant Alex Gonzalez brings is strong and consistent defense. We try to blend the importance of defense with strong offensive potential and find the player that fits our situation the best. It hasn?t always been a seamless transition. Alex?s option wasn?t picked up, but that doesn?t mean he won?t be back. Theo and his guys will mull over a lot of interesting possibilities, and I am confident when we leave for Ft. Myers, we will be happy with who is playing shortstop for us.
2. How important is Jason Bay to the organization? If he were to leave, would you look internally or the free-agent/trade market for his replacement?
–Bryan Shropshire, Duxbury, Mass.
Jason Bay came into a potentially very difficult situation two years ago. He became a fixture in left field and a team leader right away. He has earned the right to be a free agent, so this next couple of months will be very interesting, to say the least. If Jason were to leave, there would be big shoes to fill, so I would not be surprised if we looked on the free-agent market. Asking a young player to pick up that kind of production would be a little unfair.
3. What role do you envision David Ortiz having in 2010?
–Dave, Holden, Mass.
I envision David having a huge bounce-back year in 2010. I think being healthy from the beginning will be helpful also. As difficult as 2009 was for David at times, he was one RBI away from the magical 100 plateau. The first two months of '09 were miserable for David. I think the memory of that will motivate him to be the best DH in the game in 2010.
4. Do you think the Red Sox have any chance of signing Aroldis Chapman?
—Kelly Thomas, Dallas, Texas
Aroldis Chapman is an interesting young man with a tremendous left arm. Because of his unique talents, he will be pursued by many teams. Where he is in his development will be greatly debated by many major league executives and scouts. He has a great build for a pitcher (approximately 6-foot-4) with a wide wing span and huge hands. I have heard all the stories about him hitting 100 mph on the radar gun. It should be interesting to see where he ends up. He would look good in a Red Sox uniform.
5. Would you like to see the team play more small ball to manufacture runs when the offense isn't clicking?
–Bart, Old Orchard, Maine
Giving up outs is something we are never in a rush to do. I do believe that there is a time and place for bunting. A lot of consideration is taken not only as to who is hitting but who is on base, their speed and who is on deck. We like to get men on base and then let our good hitters hit. We try to play to our team?s strengths ? hopefully, that is hitting a lot of three-run homers.