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Will the Red Sox re-sign Mike Napolito fill the hole at first base
and in the middle of the order?
Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

The Hot Stove is warming up and free agents are beginning to make their moves. With that said, here is a look at the three holes in the Red Sox lineup that need to be filled this offseason:

1) Leadoff (Jacoby Ellsbury’s spot) – Assuming the Sox are out on Ellsbury, someone will have to slide into the leadoff spot, namely Shane Victorino, OR the Sox will need to replace him with a free agent signing/up-and-coming prospect. That could mean Jackie Bradley Jr. or Xander Bogaerts, which neither are likely, or acquiring a veteran outfielder to replace Ellsbury and be a stopgap until JBJ is fully ready. There are multiple ways the Sox could order their outfield, so adding a center fielder to the mix may mean adding a leadoff bat.

2) First Base/Five-Hole (Mike Napoli’s spot) – This very well could be filled by Napoli once again, and that would be ideal in most people’s minds. Napoli is a right-handed bat to follow the lefty David Ortiz and provide protection and power in the middle of the order. But let’s say Napoli signs elsewhere, who would the Sox get for this spot? Boston has the in-house option of sliding Will Middlebrooks to first (assuming Bogaerts remains at third for the immediate future) or they can promote Travis Shaw, who had a huge Fall League campaign in Arizona. He’s still developing and hasn’t spent time above Double-A yet. And Shaw is another lefty bat, so there’s that, but don’t read too much into the righty-lefty combo. That situation is ideal for managers, but often times it is not the set standard. The Sox could also bring in an outsider, but their focus right now is on re-signing Napoli.

3) Catcher/Mid-low order (Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s spot) – We all know what Salty brought to the table and as a switch-hitting catcher, you couldn’t ask for much more. Yes, he disappeared in the postseason and lost his spot to David Ross, but his consistency throughout the year (.273 AVG, 14 HR, 65 RBI) will be missed if he doesn’t return. Obviously the Sox are looking at Brian McCann and AJ Pierzynski, and both fit the same mold of being a sixth or seventh hitter in this lineup. It won’t be this season, but Boston has very good catching prospects moving up the ladder, with Blake Swihart in High-A Salem and Christian Vazquez in Pawtucket and on the 40-man roster. The Sox love Vazquez’s defensive abilities and his arm is one of the best young arms around. But offensively he’s still maturing and is only listed at 5-foot-9, meaning he won’t develop into a power hitter (12 HR last two MiLB seasons). Swihart has more of a “catcher’s frame” at 6-foot-1, 175 lbs., but the youngster won’t likely make it to the big leagues for at least another two years.

Of course, there is always Ryan Lavarnway for the catcher's role, but the Sox have made it apparent that they don't feel comfortable with him. That's why they've hit the free agent market hard looking for a backstop.

Where are the biggest gaps in the Sox 2014 lineup as it stands now? Tell us your thoughts by commenting below!

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Ben Whitehead 11/19/2013 02:00:00 PM Edit
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