The holiday season is upon us, and the Red Sox have some work to do this winter. Let's take a look at several areas that they need to address.
-Another starting pitcher
John Lackey will miss the entire 2012 season, Daisuke Matsuzaka (entering his walk year) hasn't been healthy since the tail end of the George W. Bush era, Clay Buchholz missed half of 2011 and Josh Beckett has been up and down during his six seasons. Staff ace Jon Lester is the only risk-free starting pitcher, if there is such a thing, and as we saw down the stretch Boston's rotation lacked depth. I could see them making a push for C.J. Wilson, but he'll demand a hefty price tag and the front office might be wary after making costly mistakes with Carl Crawford and Lackey during the last two offseasons. Mark Buehrle, another southpaw who's made a living pitching in a hitter's haven at Comiskey Park, returned to form in 2011 and would be a nice middle of the rotation starter without breaking the bank. He's also a lock for 200 innings (eleven straight seasons now) the way Ichiro Suzuki was once a lock for 200 hits.
-More middle relievers
Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks went bust last year, while Matt Albers and Bard faded fast down the stretch. Alfredo Aceves was a nice surprise out of the bullpen, but this team desperately needs to patch up its 'pen. If Tim Wakefield returns, it should be as a full time reliever who can make the occassional spot start in a pinch, because he just hasn't been effective the last two seasons (82 ERA+) and the Sox can't afford to give him 150 innings or so.
Intimidating fireman Jonathan Papelbon has taken his talents to the City of Brotherly Love, and Joe Nathan (Rangers, who are converting Neftali Feliz to a starter) and Heath Bell (the newly minted Miami Marlins) are off the market. Boston is fortunate in that it has a suitable replacement, Papelbon's former setup man Daniel Bard, waiting in the wings, but if they're looking to pay for an experienced closer there are still plenty of free agent options available such as Francisco Rodriguez, Francisco Cordero, Frank Francisco (yeah, it's a common name in this winter's free agent pool) and others. They should just save the money and promote Bard, though.
-A new manager
Bobby Valentine. Check.
J.D. Drew is a free agent, and he has about the same chance of coming back as Nomar Garciaparra does coming out of retirement to play shortstop (and the scary part is that a washed up Nomah would probably be a better alternative to an aging Marco Scutaro and a brittle Jed Lowrie at this point). Is soon to be 25 year-old Josh Reddick capable of playing every day, or should the Sox get a Michael Cuddyer type to plug this hole? While Reddick is solid, he's very streaky and has terrible plate discipline (50 strikeouts against 19 walks last season). Cuddyer is 33, but the righty has respectable power figures and his 20 home run pop in Target Field could get a healthy boost in Fenway. The front office probably wants to give Reddick a shot before calling in reinforcements, and their lineup is so stacked that they can put up with his slumps and just wait until the trade deadline if he turns out to be more useless than Mike Cameron.
-A new GM
Ben Charrington. Check
Bring him back! Enjoyed his best triple slash stats since 2007 and proved he can still mash. He just turned 36 and is reportedly seeking a three year deal, but he's done so much for this city that he deserves something similar to the Derek Jeter treatment (in other words, overpay him for the twilight of his career). Besides, in case you haven't noticed, there's a real paucity of productive full-time DH's in the American League, and even if he regresses to his 2008/2009 level that's still better than what most teams are getting from the position (see Vladimir Guerrero, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Travis Hafner, Adam Dunn , Jorge Posada, et. al). If they choose to let Papi go, a short term deal for sluggers Carlos Pena or Josh Willingham, even an Andruw Jones would do the trick.