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January 18, 2013

Rumor Roundup

Friday, January 18

by Daniel Rathman

Mike Napoli and the Red Sox finally squared things away on Thursday, when the former Ranger agreed to cut what once was a three-year, $39 million contract down to a heavily incentivized one-year pact. General manager Ben Cherington is not done revamping his roster just yet, though, so today’s Roundup begins with a look at what’s still cooking on Yawkey Way.

Red Sox hope to add a left-handed bench bat
Boston Globe beat writer Nick Cafardo tweeted on Wednesday that Cherington is “exploring trades” that could bring in a corner-position reserve to spell Napoli at first base and fellow off-season addition Jonny Gomes in left field. Cafardo’s colleague, Peter Abraham, then speculated that Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik might soon receive a call from his Boston-based counterpart. 

Seeing a trade match between the Mariners and Red Sox requires only a simple game of connect the dots. Earlier this week, Zduriencik acquired Michael Morse from the Nationals, supplementing his already extensive collection of first basemen and/or corner outfielders, many of which can barely handle either position. Three of Zduriencik’s other off-season pickups—Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, and Kendrys Morales—also fit that description, and so do three incumbents: Carp, Jesus Montero, and Justin Smoak. The logjam would be alleviated somewhat if Montero can serve as Seattle’s primary catcher, but even then, squeezing six all-stick players into a 25-man roster would be a formidable challenge. Something’s got to give, and the Red Sox might happily take one of those spare parts off the Mariners’ hands.

Unfortunately, Carp—who once projected as an above-average first baseman, but has since morphed into a Quadruple-A type—does not really match Boston’s job description. The 26-year-old is a passable defender at first, whose deficient range in left would be masked by the Green Monster, but envisioning him as a useful platoon option requires a leap of faith. In 173 career major-league games, Carp has actually logged a reverse split, which can most likely be attributed to a small sample size against left-handed pitchers. Regardless, his .254 lifetime TAv versus righties simply won’t suffice for the Red Sox, and his .180/.303/.328 triple-slash line against them in 2012 does little to inspire optimism going forward.

With that in mind, Cherington is likely to pass over Carp and consider other trade options, with several free agents potentially serving as fallbacks. As Abraham mentioned in the afore-linked blog post, the Red Sox have two potential part-time outfielders already on their roster in Daniel Nava—a switch-hitter who owns a .286 career TAv versus southpaws and fared surprisingly well when pressed into regular duty last year—and Ryan Kalish, a promising, left-handed 24-year-old whose path to the majors has been derailed by a spate of serious shoulder injuries. If either of them makes the roster, then Cherington could focus his search solely on first basemen.

And that’s where a few free-agent possibilities come in. Abraham name-dropped Casey Kotchman, who played in 39 games for Boston in 2009, but the 29-year-old is a glove-first reserve whose .254 career TAv against right-handers makes him a wash with Carp at the plate. Lyle Overbay could be a superior option to Kotchman offensively, but he turns 36 in 10 days and has seen his once-excellent defense erode over the past few years. Finally, Luke Scott offers a bat-first résumé, with a .293 aggregate TAv versus northpaws, but he has made fewer than 50 major-league appearances at first base.

Back on the trade side, if the Red Sox go the two-player route but choose to stash Kalish and Nava at Triple-A Pawtucket, then (speculatively) a call to Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers about Jason Kubel could be in order. The 30-year-old has never played first base, but his most lumbering outfield play would be well hidden at Fenway Park, and he does offer a .295 career TAv versus right-handed pitching. Of course, Kubel would also probably be the most expensive choice of the bunch, as he’s due $7.5 million in 2013 and has a $1 million buyout on a 2014 option worth the same amount.

Orioles still looking for a “veteran starter”
Meanwhile, the Orioles are also searching for the finishing touch to their 2013 roster, and in their case, the addition is expected to be an experienced starting pitcher. MASN beat writer Roch Kubatko heard directly from Dan Duquette that a “veteran starter” is at the top of his wish list, because he believes that depth is especially important heading into spring training.

Despite some concerns about regression in the wake of a breakout season, the Orioles haven’t done much this winter, instead choosing to put their faith in players coming back from injuries, such as left fielder Nolan Reimold. That should give Duquette plenty of resources from which to bid for one of the lingering starters, who would slide into a rotation that currently includes Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman, and Miguel Gonzalez. The fifth spot is up for grabs between Brian Matusz, Steve Johnson, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Britton, but while manager Buck Showalter seemingly has abundant in-house options, each carries significant question marks. Duquette mentioned that he hopes that top pitching prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman might figure into the equation this year, though it’s unclear if either will be given a chance to crack the starting five on Opening Day.

One way to stabilize the end of the rotation would be to bring back Joe Saunders, who proved reliable enough after coming over from the Diamondbacks in late August to draw interest from four teams. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi wondered earlier this week if the Orioles could explore a swap with the Tigers for Rick Porcello. In either case, Duquette also hinted that he continues to scour the trade block for a power hitter, and if he can find a reliable veteran to round out the rotation, then perhaps one of the aforementioned young arms could be used to help bolster the lineup.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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