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Red Sox switch focus to right field, starting pitching

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With right-handed slugger Mike Napoli a completed physical away from being able to call Fenway Park his new home hitting address, the Red Sox can start focusing on their other needs.

Napoli provides them with a middle-of-the-order hitter who can perhaps hit behind David Ortiz, and give the Sox some of the pop they lost when Adrian Gonzalez was dealt to the Dodgers in August.

Jonny Gomes, signed a few days ago, also fills some of that production.

But Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington isn't stopping there. At the moment, the team's most obvious hole is in right field.

What kind of profile are the Red Sox looking for to fill that key spot?

"Dwight Evans. I'd take him," quipped Cherington.

Right field is the toughest outfield position at Fenway Park.

"The ability to cover the ground out there is pretty important. We're looking for a solution there," Cherington said. "It might be one guy; it might be a combination of guys. We'll see."

One free agent who would seem to be a strong fit is Shane Victorino. Not only is Victorino a switch-hitter, but he's also a three-time Gold Glove winner in center, which would make him equipped to navigate Fenway's right field.

Victorino split last season between the Dodgers and Phillies, hitting .255 with 11 homers and 55 RBIs.

The safest option would be re-signing Cody Ross, who was a good fit in both the clubhouse and the field for the Sox in 2012. The Red Sox have kept in frequent contact with Ross, but don't appear to be close on a deal.

A player with a similar profile as Ross, but more defensive versatility, is also there for the taking in Nick Swisher. A member of the Yankees the last four seasons, Swisher is a switch-hitter who can play the outfield and first base.

If the Red Sox wanted to make the biggest splash of the Hot Stove season, they could always sign Josh Hamilton. But Boston is probably only a realistic option if Hamilton doesn't get the long-term deal he is seeking.

"We're working on it," Cherington said. "I'm not sure I can classify the progress but we're working on it. We're working on free-agent alternatives, trade alternatives -- different flavors of ice cream. We'd like to add in that area, no doubt."

Then there is starting pitching. The market has a couple of big names, including free agent Zack Greinke and National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey. reported that the Red Sox and Mets actually had discussions about Dickey on Monday, adding that New York was interested in two of Boston's top prospects -- shortstop Xander Bogaerts and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.

The cost for premium starting pitching, as usual, is high.

"I think it's always steep for the better guys, for the valuable commodities," Cherington said. "If a team is going to move someone, especially if there's any length of control, they're asking for a lot, as we would if we were talking about someone. It's steep and I think teams -- and I put us in this category -- are trying to balance that vs. the free agent options. The free agent options, some of them might cost a little more money but require less talent, so we're just trying to balance those options, and weigh those options."

Shortstop is an area the Red Sox could be looking for depth, but they are keeping their options open. Jose Iglesias is an elite defender already, but Boston would have to have enough offense throughout the rest of the lineup to cover for him.

"I think that one's an area probably where we need to look at, to some degree, what the rest of the team looks like," Cherington said. "Jose is at a point we think where he can help a Major League team because the defense has a chance to be good enough if the rest of the lineup is strong enough. If he's given that opportunity, he's going to have to earn it in Spring Training. We'll see. If there's a clear way to get better at that position and help our team overall this offseason, we'll pursue that. I don't think we're wed to one particular direction or the other."

Boston Red Sox