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Outfield, first base, rotation on Sox's Winter list

BOSTON -- The needs are clear as Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington gets ready for the Winter Meetings, which open next Monday in Nashville.

"Outfield, first base and rotation," Cherington said recently. "I don't know that I can put them in order, we just want to improve those areas."

With all 30 teams under one roof -- albeit an enormous one at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel -- Cherington hopes to make some headway on those needs.

Thus far, the biggest moves of Boston's winter have been the hiring of John Farrell as manager and the re-signing of star slugger David Ortiz.

There have also been some subtle transactions. David Ross will be the team's part-time or backup catcher. Jonny Gomes will soon sign a two-year, $10 million contract to become part of the solution in left field.

It is no secret that the Red Sox have a lot of interest in Mike Napoli, the power-hitter they met with face-to-face this past weekend. Napoli is a right-handed pull hitter who could definitely use Fenway Park to his advantage. He also has positional flexibility, and it appears Boston prefers him at first base instead of catcher.

So they will stay heavily involved in talks with Napoli in the coming days.

But there is a lot more to do.

Unlike two winters ago, when the Red Sox swooped in and acquired Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford in a 72-hour span, don't expect this to be a Hot Stove of banner headlines in Boston.

After three straight seasons of being idle through the month of October, the Red Sox are determined to build a postseason-caliber team for 2013 and beyond.

"I think how I feel is that fans in Boston are sort of tired of hearing how good we are in the winter," said Cherington. "We just have got to be good, build a team that wins and does the right things and a lot of that is the players on the roster.

"We'll do the best we can to build a team this winter and when we get to Spring Training, it will shift towards our players are here and how do we put them in the best position to win. Enough's happened, I think people are tired of hearing how good we may or may not be. We've just got to get to work and build the thing up."

In other words, the Red Sox are in the process of making fundamental changes in the organization that will ramp them back up to perennial contender status.

It is a process that doesn't happen overnight. So despite the increased financial flexibility the Red Sox have after the trade that sent Gonzalez, Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers back in August, the Red Sox have vowed to be disciplined with their money and not try to spend it all at once.

Gomes is a nice start to the outfield puzzle, but there's still more to do. Cody Ross, who was a solid fit for the Red Sox last season, remains on the free-agent market. Boston would like to bring him back.

"I would say if there's an area of the free-agent class that's a little bit deeper, it's probably in the outfield," Cherington said. "We've talked to a lot of those guys, or at least the agents of a lot of those guys. We've been in contact about a number of outfielders."

With top prospects like Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. hopefully positioning themselves to be key components by 2014 or '15, Cherington will try to strike deals with free agents that won't entail long-term obligations.

"You would rather keep the term shorter," Cherington said. "As a team, that's always your preference. The players are always looking for more length, most of the time. I think that's always a little bit of a tug of war in any free-agent conversation.

"This year in particular, I don't think you can put any particular situation or player into one bucket. There are all different scenarios. There may be shorter-term deals you pursue. But you can't rule out a longer-term deal for the right guy. But we would always like to have less years of commitment than more if we can swing it."

While the Red Sox were certainly decimated by injuries in 2012, Cherington knows he can't pinpoint that in the team's 69-win finish.

"It's more than health," Cherington said. "We've got to add talent. Players wins games more than anything else. We need more talent on the roster. Certainly there are other things we can do better or get better breaks on, such as health and things like that. Those things matter and those things will help. We've just got to build a better team and that's the bottom line."

Cherington and the Red Sox will try to get a lot of that building done in Nashville.

Boston Red Sox