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Depth Is Off Season Priority

If no one ever got hurt, I'd actually be pretty fine with the Sox starting the season without signing or trading for anyone (with one exception to be explained a bit later).

Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebooks at short and third is pretty darn good.  Bogaerts might have his rookie ups and downs, but he's clearly going to be very good - not sure about the glove though.  Middlebrooks can hit 20 homers in his sleep and play decent defense, which isn't too bad.  He hit 17 homers in only 94 major league games this year and everyone can agree he was about as bad as he could be.

At first, I actually think Mike Carp is a better hitter than Mike Napoli, but a worse fielder.  Carp starting would mean another middle of the order lefty alongside Papi.  But with Bogaerts replacing Drew, that should offset that issue.  Carp is 27 years old to Napoli's 32 (and what's that in catcher years?).  He showed off power and a high on base percentage.  And that is not out of character from his other MLB chances.  Don't get me wrong, Napoli for another few years would be great, but Carp is a reasonable alternative, especially if Middlebrooks or Nava spells him against the toughest lefties.

In the outfield, Bradley is simply not the offensive player Ellsbury was and probably he never will be.  With that, and with Victorino likely to take at least a little step backwards, the outfield production will drop.

This is why I may stand alone in saying, as I have for a while, that resigning Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the most important resigning effort for the Red Sox.  I want to think that the reason why he is the one Sox free agent not to get a qualifying offer is not because is the least important person to sign, but because his market value is lower than the qualifying offer level ($14.1 million).  As Cherrington has said, he makes those offers if he wants the person to sign those offers (i.e. is that player likely to be a deal at $14.1m per year?).  Drew, Ellsbury, and Napoli would all be deals that that price.  Salty, probably not.  That said, the drop off is very steep behind Salty and the free agent market is very weak (McCann is not worth that kind of money!).  Salty needs to be resigned or the Sox need to make a major trade.  I prefer the resigning for 2 years.  He's entering his prime and he really can hit.  And how often were Sox games decided by Salty not throwing out a runner?

But, back to my premise, the fact is that players will get hurt and the Sox need high-quality depth.  That served them very well this year both when players went down, but mostly to supplement the starters.  So, regardless of what I said, the Sox need starter-quality players (maybe "2nd division" starter-quality) at shortstop, first and center.  This will allow for them to compensate if one of those players falters or falls.  And they need to resign Salty. 

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