After pulling off the biggest blockbuster trade of the off-season so far, the Boston Red Sox remain in the market for even more additions to the roster, and the rumor mill is spinning faster than ever as Major League Baseball opens its annual winter meetings.
Over the weekend, the Red Sox pulled off the long-rumored trade that brought All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to Boston from the San Diego Padres. At nearly the same time, one of the team’s top free-agent targets, outfielder Jayson Werth, signed a massive seven-year contract with the Washington Nationals.
Most observers feel that the Red Sox will continue to look for outfield help, especially a player with power. The right-handed hitting Werth would have been Boston’s first choice. But now, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein will have to look elsewhere.
Among the outfielders that are most often being mentioned in Red Sox trade rumors:
Justin Upton – OF
At age 23, Upton already has shown his almost limitless ability. He’s one of the top two-way players in the National League. There were rampant rumors earlier in the off-season that the Red Sox were close to acquiring him. While Boston gave up some of its top prospects in the Gonzalez deal, the needs of the Arizona Diamondbacks are somewhat different. They reportedly are looking for major league-ready players rather than prospects, and the Red Sox have some available. Among the names mentioned in the first set of trade rumors involving the Red Sox and Arizona were outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, reliever Daniel Bard, starter Felix Doubront, outfielder Ryan Kalish and first baseman Lars Anderson. Ellsbury and Bard are projected to be major pieces of the Red Sox 2011 roster, while the others saw significant playing time last year. Any combination of these players would be a steep price to pay. But Upton has a chance to be a generational talent that could anchor the Red Sox line-up for years to come, and is signed to a very affordable contract for the next five years.
Carl Crawford – OF
He’s the most attractive free agent position player left on the market, and the Red Sox have already met with him to discuss contract terms. In all likelihood, whatever price they discussed went up dramatically with Werth’s unexpectedly rich payday. Crawford is younger, and a better all-around player. The upside for Boston is that they wouldn’t have to trade players to get him. The downside is that he will almost surely demand a contract of eight years or more at significantly higher than the $18 million per year that Werth received.
Josh Willingham – OF
The Werth signing may benefit the Red Sox in some way, however, as his signing likely means that the Nationals will part ways with Willingham. There have been plenty of trade rumors involving Willingham and the Red Sox in the past, and Boston reportedly sees him as a perfect fit as a fourth outfielder. He has the kind of on-base skills the team values. He hits left-handers better than righties, making him a good platoon partner for David Ortiz at designated hitter or J.D. Drew in right field. Willingham can play both corner outfield spots, and has been working out this winter at first base.