Red Sox ready to spend

January, 8, 2009
And you thought Ramon Ramirez was going to be the Red Sox's only significant pickup this winter? Hardly, according to Nick Cafardo:

    According to sources close to the talks, the 27-year-old Baldelli is inching closer to a deal with the Sox. Boston has done extensive background work on Baldelli's health, including a mitochondrial disorder that has been rediagnosed as the less severe channelopathy this winter.

    Sox general manager Theo Epstein declined to comment on Baldelli.

    The Sox also are trying to hash out an agreement with free agent righthander John Smoltz, who is recovering from shoulder surgery. Smoltz, 41, would likely not be able to pitch until late May, but the Sox normally overstaff their starting rotation to account for injuries, as they did with Bartolo Colon last season.


    There's hope Baldelli, through diet and medication, can play more than previously anticipated and not suffer the same muscle fatigue to his legs that nearly ended his career a year ago.

    Since losing Coco Crisp in the Ramon Ramírez deal with the Royals, the Sox have been in need of a fourth outfielder, preferably one who bats righthanded. Baldelli, a Cumberland, R.I., native, also has drawn interest from the Reds and Pirates, but would prefer to remain closer to home.

    The Rays signed former Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell to a two-year, $16 million deal Monday that would seem to end Baldelli's stay with Tampa Bay.

I'm not sure there's a direct connection between Burrell's coming and Rocco Baldelli's going. Burrell slots in as an everyday DH good for 150 games and 25-30 homers, which happened to be exactly what the Rays needed.

Baldelli is a fourth (or fifth) outfielder who hasn't played even 100 games since 2004. With Matt Joyce aboard and Gabe Gross coming back, the Rays could still use a righty-hitting outfielder like Baldelli, but he might be a luxury they just can't afford. Not after signing Burrell. Or Baldelli might just want to play back home in New England.

I don't know if Smoltz or Baldelli will actually help the Red Sox. After all, Smoltz won three games last year and turns 42 in a few months. Baldelli's reputation precedes him. But the Red Sox have had their hand forced this winter. Remember, last year they finished in second place, and this winter the first-place team signed Burrell and the third-place team signed Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia.

The Red Sox have to spend some money this winter … but on what, exactly? If you think Jed Lowrie is good enough to play every day, the Sox entered the offseason set at every position. Sure, they could have wedged Tex in somehow. But they didn't need him. They just needed to spend some money. With Teixeira gone, Theo Epstein was left to spend John Henry's money on something else the Red Sox don't need, and a future Hall of Famer and the next Joe DiMaggio fit the bill nicely.



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