Reporting for duty from winter meetings

NASHVILLE -- This is the only place on the planet this week where you will find, under one roof, thousands of Christmas revelers from all over the South, the Rockettes, Shrek and Scott Boras, along with scores of other baseball executives, scouts and managers.

And we’re here to tell you about it.

This is the scene at the Opryland Hotel, where baseball’s winter meetings officially begin Monday morning but a place that was already reaching critical mass Sunday night, with baseball people lining 10 deep at the registration desk, tourists strolling through an enormous display of Christmas lights (and past Shrek), and the Rockettes getting top billing at the Grand Ole Opry House next door. If that’s not enough for you, there was an R.A. Dickey sighting, and Santa Claus in 3-D.

In the midst of all this chaos are the representatives of the Red Sox, with a shopping list that still features Mike Napoli and Cody Ross but could veer off in a dozen other directions.

Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino did not travel to Nashville, but did make an appearance on Sirius Radio Sunday, in which he reiterated to cohosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette, a couple of ex-GMs, that the Sox won’t be looking to do six-, seven- or eight-year deals.

So that rules out making a play for Josh Hamilton, the center fielder who profiles as just the type of outfielder the Red Sox need, especially with Jacoby Ellsbury a year away from free agency? Not necessarily. What it means is that the Sox are lurking on the periphery of the Hamilton market, prepared to dive in if a combination of big dollars and short years is enough to make a deal.

Hamilton is a long shot, but not out of the question. That may be Boston’s operating principle this week as Ben Cherington and Co. explore other improbabilities, like inquiring about three-time batting champion Joe Mauer. Now Mauer does have one of those long-term deals that Lucchino claims the Red Sox now view as anathema -- six years at $138 million -- but Twins GM Terry Ryan told Minneapolis Star-Tribune reporter Joe Christensen that he has no untouchables. There are always exceptions.

Still an extreme long shot, since hometown star Mauer is beloved in the Twin Cities and has a full no-trade clause. But worth monitoring.

As Cherington reiterated Saturday, the Red Sox also will be looking for pitching help and depth at shortstop. Rumors persist that the Sox could use Jarrod Saltalamacchia as trade bait, but Saltalamacchia, who was in Boston on Saturday, certainly sounded like a man told he’ll be sharing catching duties with new backup David Ross.

For now, we’re going to take a stroll through the cavernous lobbies here, to see what may be percolating. We’ll be the one with the tape recorder behind the potted plant.