All the talk about not wanting to go after someone like Edwin Encarnacion -- I just don't know why they wouldn't try to add that bat to the lineup.
-- Rick N., South Bend, Ind.
In a vacuum, the Red Sox would love to have a hitter like Encarnacion in their lineup. But I don't believe they are interested in making a four- or five-year investment at this point in a player approaching his mid-30s. Reports have also circulated that the Red Sox would also like to avoid going over the luxury tax if possible. And Encarnacion is a right-handed hitter, and the Sox are more interested in getting a lefty bat (or switch-hitter) at this point.
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Do you think the Red Sox would go after Rich Hill?
-- Mark H., Summerfield, Mass.
I know it would be a good feel-good story to see the Milton, Mass., native return to the Red Sox, but I don't see it happening. The Red Sox could have bought low on Hill last offseason and chose not to. This year, they would have to buy high. I'm guessing that Hill enjoyed pitching in the National League, and would not be surprised at all if he stays there.
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I'm wondering about the possibility of going after Brad Ziegler given his proven dominance.
-- Sam D., Roslindale, Mass.
Ziegler sure was a good fit after coming over in a trade with the D-backs last July, but I sense the Red Sox are looking for more of a strikeout pitcher to be their primary setup guy. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is usually pretty transparent when he discusses issues, and he didn't sound very hopeful about re-signing Ziegler or Koji Uehara.
What is Chris Young's projected role next year and contract status? Will he platoon with Andrew Benintendi? I feel the Sox benefit the more at-bats he gets. Could he help at designated hitter in place of David Ortiz?
-- Rich O., Falls Church, Va.
Young is under contract for one more year, and he'll make $6.5 million. Look for him to start against every left-hander the Red Sox face in 2017, while also being mixed in against some righties. He once again mashed southpaws last season, slashing .329/.410/.589. He also held his own against righties, posting a .766 OPS and smashing six homers in 144 plate appearances. You could see Young at DH at times, and also in left and right. Look for him to get 300-350 at-bats. He fell well short of that number last year (203 at-bats) due to a prolonged right hamstring injury.
Could we see Michael Kopech, ranked No. 5 by MLBPipeline.com, moving up to the Major Leagues this year?
-- Eric O., Fresno, Calif.
Kopech is definitely the best righty pitching prospect in the system, but I think it's a bit soon to be talking about him pitching in Boston. The righty has just 135 innings under his belt in the Minors. I'd expect this to be another full year of development, and 2018 might be a more realistic goal for him to come up to the Major Leagues.
Do you see Ortiz becoming a manager, or hitting coach with the Red Sox in the next couple of years? His presence would be huge with all the young players in the clubhouse.
-- Kieran H.
At some point in the not-too-distant future, I'm sure Ortiz will return to the Red Sox in some capacity. But I don't think he will be a full-time Major League staffer. Ortiz has a lot of other interests, including pursuing something in the media, and he also has some business ventures. Once he wants to put the uniform back on, I'd expect Ortiz will be a Spring Training instructor, a la Jim Rice, Luis Tiant and Pedro Martinez. It's up to him how much he will want to expand that role. For example, Jason Varitek keeps very busy in his role for the Sox on a year-round basis.
It seemed last year that every team wanted Blake Swihart as part of any trade. Does he still carry the same value to teams this year?
-- Tim V., Lewis Run, Pa.
Coming off a significant injury, Swihart's value is not what it was this time a year ago, and that's why I doubt the Red Sox would consider trading him at this point. Also, Swihart could still emerge as the starting catcher. The jury is still out on whether Sandy Leon can maintain his level of play from last season.
What happened to Steven Wright? After he tried to come back from the shoulder issue, we did not hear much about him.
-- Peter K., Standish, Mass.
Wright basically ran out of time last season in his attempted comeback from bursitis in his right shoulder. The only way he could have pitched is if the Red Sox had made the World Series. I don't see any reason why he won't be fully healthy for Spring Training.
Is Dustin Pedroia now the leading contender for the leadoff spot with Mookie Betts solidifying himself in the middle of the order?
-- Jack M., South Burlington, Mass.
Considering the way Pedroia hit as the leadoff hitter down the stretch in 2016, I'm guessing he will at least start next season at that spot. Don't be surprised if Benintendi emerges into a leadoff hitter, which would allow Pedroia to go back to the No. 2 spot, where he has spent most of his career.
What are Boston's plans with Rusney Castillo?
-- Erasmo Alberto C., Panama
Castillo is no longer on the 40-man roster, but it wouldn't be surprising if he gets an invite to Major League Spring Training just so the Red Sox can continue to gauge whether he's taken any strides. The Sox still owe $46 million over the next four years, so it would be in everyone's best interest if he could find a way to become a successful Major League player.
Can you tell me whose idea it was to put seats on top of the Green Monster?
-- Jasper J., Pine Brook, N.J.
That was Larry Lucchino's idea, and the seats were installed early in the 2003 season. From what I've seen over the years, those seats have been a big hit, particularly on a nice summer night.