The Boston Red Sox have a few glaring holes to fill this offseason, and they have yet to really dive into the free-agent market.
Boston has made two complementary signings thus far—David Ross and Jonny Gomes—who will each play key roles in the coming season.
But offensively, the Red Sox are still very much without a right fielder and a first baseman. Boston dealt their franchise first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez, to the Los Angeles Dodgers late last year and Cody Ross, who regularly roamed right field in 2012, is a free agent.
The Red Sox have harped on making smart moves and fiscal discipline that will benefit the franchise going forward.
“I think the key is we are absolutely committed to building the best team we can in 2013 and beyond, and we’re going to do that in the most disciplined way possible. When we’ve been at our best, we’ve made good decisions, disciplined decisions,” said Boston general manager Ben Cherington via the Boston Herald.
Even though Boston would be spending a considerable amount of money on moderately long deals, it's in the team's best interest to sign both Mike Napoli and Nick Swisher to fill the remaining gaps in the lineup.
According to a person with knowledge of the situation the Red Sox have an interest in the switch-hitting right fielder who can also handle first base. “He’s on their radar,” the person said.
Swisher was Boston’s worst enemy last season, hitting .459/.558/.836 with five home runs and 15 RBI against them in 17 games. The Red Sox barely have any money put toward 2013—only around $68 million, according to Cot’s Contracts—and it would be wise to ensure that he won’t play against them at all in the near future.
Is signing Swisher to a four-year, $60 million deal a disciplined move, though? Yes, because he’s versatile offensively and defensively. Paying around $15 million per season for a player who can hit well from both sides of the plate and play multiple positions is a bargain in this era.
The Red Sox need him to play right field on a daily basis and also be able to fill in should the first baseman need a day off.
Boston could also decide to make Swisher its everyday first baseman as well, but Mike Napoli is much more suited for that role.
Napoli played 28 games at first base for the Texas Rangers last season and has played 133 over the course of his career. Signing Napoli, however, would also be a healthy task since he’s reportedly asking for a fourth year, according to ESPN’s Jim Bowden.
Mike Napoli holding out for 4th year from Red Sox...meeting with Mariners who might be willing to give the extra year according to sources— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) November 22, 2012
Napoli is another Red Sox killer who can play first base easily and also catch, which has been his primary position in his career. In just three games at Fenway Park last season, Napoli collected six hits in 13 at-bats, three of those hits going over the fence for home runs. He drove in eight runs and scored four times in those three games.
The Red Sox already have three catchers on their roster so signing Napoli would either suggest that Boston would trade either Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway, or use Napoli habitually at first. Either way, he would provide another huge boost to Boston’s lineup, which could look like this should the Red Sox sign both Napoli and Swisher:
Jacoby Ellsbury CF, Dustin Pedroia 2B, David Ortiz DH, Mike Napoli 1B, Nick Swisher RF, Will Middlebrooks 3B, Jonny Gomes LF, Jarrod Saltalamacchia C, Jose Iglesias SS
Boston may still have holes with its pitching staff, but that looks like the lineup of a contending baseball team, if you ask me.
The big question will be whether Cherington and the Red Sox decide to spend the money in order to compete as early as next season.
“I know that we’ll have a very strong payroll, a large payroll,” said Cherington on WEEI via The Boston Globe. “I know that we’re going to add to it this winter. I’m confident in saying that we’ll be amongst the larger payrolls in the game. We just have to look at each opportunity as it comes and figure out whether it’s the right thing for the Red Sox.”
Adding Napoli and Swisher to Boston’s payroll would easily make it one of the highest in the game, but is it the right thing for the Red Sox?
By signing the duo, the Red Sox would be bolstering their lineup, filling gaps they currently have to fill and making themselves contenders once again. If that’s not the right thing, then I don’t know what is.