Assuming the Red Sox ultimately reach agreement with Mike Napoli and Ryan Dempster and Stephen Drew pass their physicals, GM Ben Cherington already has signed as many free agents to major-league contracts as in any offseason since John W. Henry became principal owner of the club.
Cherington already has struck deals with eight free agents, a number reached only once since Henry became owner in 2002. That was after the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and signed eight free agents, including the re-signing of catcher Jason Varitek.
Six of those free agents in the 2004 offseason were pitchers -- Matt Mantei, David Wells, John Halama, Lenny DiNardo, Matt Clement and Wade Miller. Besides Varitek, the other position player was shortstop Edgar Renteria.
So far this offseason, Cherington has made deals with six free-agent position players -- catcher David Ross, outfielder Jonny Gomes, first baseman-catcher Napoli, outfielder Shane Victorino, DH David Ortiz (re-signed), and shortstop Stephen Drew. He also has signed pitchers Koji Uehara and Dempster.
And remember, it’s only mid-December. The Red Sox might not be done yet.
Previously, the most position players signed as free agents were four. In 2011, the Sox signed catcher Kelly Shoppach, infielder Nick Punto, outfielder Cody Ross and re-signed Ortiz. In 2008, they signed catcher Josh Bard and outfielder Rocco Baldelli, and re-signed outfielder Mark Kotsay and catcher Varitek.
The Sox project to have three new free agents in their everyday lineup in 2013, in addition to the re-signed Ortiz: Napoli, Victorino and Drew. Gomes is expected to see plenty of time as a platoon player in left field, while Ross figures to catch between 40 and 50 games.
The only other year the Sox added as many as three everyday position players in free agency was in the off-season of 2009, when they signed shortstop Marco Scutaro, outfielder Mike Cameron and third baseman Adrian Beltre.