What possible chances are there for the Red Sox to trade Jacoby Ellsbury?
-- Chris B., Billerica, Mass.
At this point, I think it is remote. Ellsbury is coming off his second injury-plagued season in three years, so his value is hardly nears its high point. Boston's best strategy with Ellsbury is probably to have him thrive in a contract year. The value of a monster 2013 season by Ellsbury is probably of greater value than trading him for less than he is worth.
What is going on with Cody Ross? Will he be back with the Sox?
-- John L., Wilmington, Mass.
Barring a trade, I don't see Ross returning to the Sox. They now have Jonny Gomes, Ellsbury and Shane Victorino as primary outfielders, and would seemingly fill out the outfield with more complementary pieces. If Boston does trade Ellsbury, then there could be a scenario for Ross to return.
What are the chances that the Red Sox keep Ryan Kalish?
-- Larry A., Peabody, Mass.
I think there's a decent chance Kalish could end up being one of those complementary pieces in the outfield that the Sox need. He's a left-handed hitter, which they also need. He obviously has had a rough time with health the last couple of years, but the team thinks Kalish can be a pretty good player if he can stay on the field. Nobody questions his attitude or work ethic.
Do you think there's any possibility that Ben Cherington would be willing to give Josh Hamilton a four-year offer with a team option for a fifth year?
-- Jaime P., Elizabeth, N.J.
Reading between the lines, it sounds like the Red Sox have made a firm decision to offer Hamilton a maximum of three years. If the market comes down to three years, Boston could be in great position, considering the money that came off the books in the trade with the Dodgers last August. What the club is trying to avoid is the long-term deals it was tied into before that trade with Los Angeles.
Will the Red Sox spend big to sign a starter or make a trade for one, or both?
-- Chris W., Bristol, Tenn.
Cherington is exhausting all avenues in trying to add another piece to the rotation. I don't think the Red Sox were ever in on Zack Greinke, who signed with the Dodgers. They are still in on some second-tier free-agent pitchers like Ryan Dempster and Anibal Sanchez. And yes, if the market doesn't come down a bit, a trade might be a better way of supplementing the rotation. The Dodgers seem to have some pitching to spare after landing Greinke, so perhaps Cherington will talk to them in the near future.
What is the latest on Matt Barnes, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.? When can we expect to see them playing for the Red Sox?
-- Matt S., Tacoma, Wash.
I don't think you can lump all three prospects together in terms of expected arrival, because they will all reach different milestones or points of adversity in their development. But I do think the team doesn't expect big contributions at the Major League level from any of them in 2013. I think the goal would be to round out their development this season so they can be ready either for emergency callups or September callups, and then perhaps be ready to play prominent roles by the 2014 season.
Why do the Red Sox look to split catching time instead of allowing Jarrod Saltalamacchia to take the lead and only have a backup/fill-in in David Ross? Salty put up good power numbers last year with a decent average. It seems he's not being given the opportunity to be the main guy. Any thoughts?
-- Chris B., Fayetteville, N.Y.
If the Sox felt Saltalamacchia was ready to be a 500 at-bat catcher, they would give him that amount of playing time. What Boston has found the last couple of years is that Saltalamacchia is best used almost exclusively against right-handed pitching, because his bat hasn't come around from the right side like the team had hoped. Defensively, he is getting better, but he's also still a work in progress. Saltalamacchia is very valuable to have in a platoon situation. Look no further than the power he hit for last year.
I can't believe I have heard of trade rumors for Jon Lester. Are they crazy? Pitching is one thing we need badly and they would give away one of our few frontline pitchers for an outfield rookie prospect? We've been down this road before with Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena. NOT a good idea!
-- George C., Wareham, Mass.
Obviously that trade isn't going to happen, because the Royals -- the team Boston spoke to at least briefly -- wound up getting James Shields from the Rays. That said, if the Sox had dealt Lester, you can be sure Cherington probably would have lined up a subsequent move to acquire another ace-type pitcher. The Red Sox owe it to themselves to listen to what another team is offering for any player.
How much interaction with the players do you see Jason Varitek having this season?
-- Tim R., Madison, Conn.
Varitek's role is still evolving. I don't think he was hired to be a voice to the players on the 25-man roster. I wouldn't be surprised if he helps out Gary Tuck by working with some of the catchers during Spring Training. I think Varitek's main role at this point is to help the Red Sox make evaluations on players, and perhaps to help out with some of the catchers in the farm system during the course of the season.