As Spring Training draws closer, the Red Sox are beginning to assemble a clearer picture of what the 2015 Opening Day roster will look like. And while the rest of us deal with the continued onslaught of snow, the Red Sox will soon escape to sunnier weather in Fort Myers, FL.
But, despite the bulk of the off-season excitement having come and gone, the Red Sox remain in a position to unveil a few more surprises before the season starts. After adding Wade Miley, Justin Masterson, and Rick Porcello at the Winter Meetings to complement their offensive spending spree on Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, the Red Sox have slowed down their flurry of activity and focused on smaller moves.
The Red Sox finally moved on from Will Middlebrooks, turning him into an unspectacular but valuable return in defensive minded backup catcher Ryan Hanigan, who can spell Christian Vasquez. The team made several low risk-high reward moves in adding right-handed relievers Anthony Varvaro, and perhaps more intriguingly, Alexi Ogando. The team also turned another surplus piece, Anthony Ranaudo, into Texas southpaw Robbie Ross Jr. They also brought back Craig Breslow, who has become a favorite of fans and coaches for his philanthropic efforts, and baseball IQ.
But during this time, many fans were waiting for one more big splash. Once dreams of a Jon Lester reunion vanished, fans and pundits alike turned their attention to Phillies ace Cole Hamels. But a reportedly exorbitant asking price courtesy of Ruben Amaro Jr. has all but quashed those hopes. There was a brief period where the attention was turned to Jordan Zimmermann, or even Stephen Strasburg, after the Nationals added Max Scherzer and seemingly created a surplus of stud pitching. There has been little substance to these rumors so far, and it has begun looking like another long shot as of now.
There remains one big fish available in James Shields, and one whose price seems to be rapidly decreasing. But the Red Sox are likely at the luxury tax threshold right now and unless they truly plan to blow past that line, it seems more conceivable that they would continue to working the trade market and focusing on risk-reward signings especially with the news that Shields may prefer the West Coast. These players likely won’t be turned into Cole Hamels or Jordan Zimmermann, but their future with the Red Sox is cloudy and they could bring back very valuable smaller pieces. Or perhaps their salary being cleared off the budget will make it more likely the team can take a look at another big fish in Yoan Moncada.