With the opening of the Winter Meetings, the Red Sox top priorities are to re-sign Johnny Damon and listen to all offers for the disgruntled Manny Ramirez. The Sox also have slots to fill at first and second base.
Allegedly, the Sox were contacted by the Rangers about a trade for Ramirez that would include second baseman Alfonso Soriano. But the Sox might move Soriano to left to replace Ramirez should that deal pan out. That would still leave second base in play since some in the organization doubt Dustin Pedroia's readiness to start regularly. With that in mind, the Sox have spoken to the representatives of free agent Tony Graffanino about returning to the club in 2006. However, Graffanino is said to be looking for a three year deal.
If the those conversations don't pan out, the Sox are also said to be interested in free agent second baseman, Mark Grudzielanek, who played for the Cardinals last year. Nomar Garciaparra could also be an inexpensive option. That would a strange turnabout since Nomar rejected a four-year $60 million dollar offer from the Sox just two years ago.
Another rumor has the Padres offering second baseman Mark Loretta to the Sox for David Wells and Doug Mirabelli, who could become the Padres everyday catcher. The 34-year-old Loretta had a career year in 2004, batting .335 with 16 home runs and 76 RBIs, all personal bests. Previously, the Padres have offered a variety of players, including pitcher Woody Williams, outfielder Dave Roberts, and reliever Akinori Otsuka, in return for Wells.
Loretta underwent surgery last season to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb. Appearing in just 105 games, he batted .280 with three home runs and 38 RBIs. Loretta is said to be expendable because the Padres have an interest in signing Garciaparra to play second. Loretta is in the last year of his Padres deal and is due just $3 million in 2006. If Mirabelli is to be included in the deal, the Sox are expected to ask for another player, possibly Otsuka.
The Sox are also said to have an interest in several left-handed hitting first baseman, such as Milwaukee’s Lyle Overbay, Cincinnati’s Sean Casey, and the Ranger's Adrian Gonzalez. The club is also considering making an offer to free agent John Olerud. Olerud would be an inexpensive option and would likely accept a one-year offer. Arizona's Troy Glaus would be another intriguing, though quite expensive, possibility at first. Glaus is owed $33 million over the next three years, but his big bat could still arrive in Boston if Manny is dealt.
The Sox may use any combination of Manny Ramirez, David Wells, Matt Clement, Bronson Arryo, Kevin Youkilis, and Kelly Shoppach as bargaining chips. Don't be surprised if any of them are gone before the season starts.
This should be an interesting week, as a lot could happen. Stay tuned.