By Alec Radzikowski, TheSportsHatch.com managing editor
It's becoming quite customary during this time of year, with MLB's winter meetings commencing in a little over a week, that the Boston Red Sox are looking into every possible deal to improve their team. Trade for Roy Halladay. Sign John Lackey. Ditch Mike Lowell, acquire Miguel Cabrera or Adrian Gonzalez and shift Youk to third.
They are supposedly in on a handful of Scott Boras clients including Matt Holliday and Adrian Beltre. And with last week's departure of Alex Gonzalez to the Blue Jays, the Red Sox will try to obtain the best available shortstop (Marco Scutaro) and hope to break Theo Epstein's losing streak at that position. (Hey Theo, if the Scutaro money gets a little crazy, bringing back OCab wouldn't necessarily upset people, ok?)
Boston seems to be focused on numerous acquisitions, but what about retaining a well-above average corner outfielder who hit 36 home runs, drove in 119 RBI and scored 103 runs? What about resigning Jason Bay? The Red Sox offered Bay a 4 year contract for $60 million, which was quickly rejected. Considering J.D. Drew made $14 million in 2009, Bay's agent Joe Urbon probably covered the phone receiver so Theo Epstein didn't hear him laughing.
You can't hurt the Red Sox for trying to get a super discount value deal, but those didn't really pan out this past year. Sometimes you have to spend the money to get the top talent. Urbon said there were a significant number of teams interested in Bay's services and why wouldn't they be? He is a proven talent and type of player love to have in the clubhouse. He never rocks the boat. Definitely not the type of guy that would slap a teammate or not hustle. Despite all but disappearing last July, Bay carried Boston at the beginning of the season and got back on track at the end. The Red Sox can examine everything that fell short in 2009, but Bay certainly wasn't one of them.
Now the team is letting one of their best players hit the open market, probably unpreventable, but what a undewhelming offer to kick things off. Just $1 more a year than Drew is currently making? Does anyone think a team that desperately needs a power hitter won't give Bay $20 million a season for 4-5 years?
If I'm the Red Sox, I'm pretty apprehensive that the New York Yankees could use a guy like Jason Bay. They've got money coming off the books and last year's left fielder Johnny Damon is free to go. Plus the fact that they could stick it to their rivals by snagging a player they coveted two years in a row. The Steinbrenner boys seem more like checkers players, but last season they did their best Bobby Fischer impression. You wanted (and as it turns out, needed) Mark Teixeira? He's one of our pieces now. In 2006, the Yankees had a spot for Johnny Damon and took him away. The Red Sox countered with Coco Crisp.
You get the feeling that Theo and Co. are betting that Bay enjoys it here, they can match most offers, and if Bay's not playing on the East Coast, he's going to the Seattle Mariners, where he lives in the off-season. That would be much easier to swallow than seeing him in pinstripes when the Sox visit the Yanks opening day 2010. Boston would be inclined to use their additional money to sign Lackey and get a lower cost, shorter term solution in left field, like a Vlad Guererro or Jermaine Dye. And additional pitcher would allow them to dangle Clay Buchholtz in a trade for another hitter.
The Red Sox are looking to make BIG changes for next year and Epstein's exploring every available option. Jason Varitek is the ba"C"kup. They're doing everything except driving Lowell to the airport to get him out of town. Getting this done would allow them to shift Youkilis to third and acquire a big hitter at first base. They're apparently very serious about Halladay, although Roy seems more interested in the Yankees. The Red Sox absolutely need a shortstop (again). But one thing Theo doesn't want on his plate is finding a suitable replacement for Jason Bay.