The other big position of concern this offseason is third base, where Adrian Beltre is going to free agency after a tremendous season. There’s no chance that he won’t go there; his agent is Scott Boras. Beltre, who will be 32 next season, will likely command at least 3 years and $12-13M per year. He is also a Type A free agent and would cost a draft pick to any other team that signs him.
The in-house options at third are limited, leaving us with little leverage in negotiations; Jed Lowrie might make a respectable third baseman if he can stay healthy, but his bat plays much better as a middle infielder. With no other Major League-ready prospects, the Sox may be forced to look at a trade if Beltre leaves.
Yes, we have Kevin Youkilis, who can play a reasonable third base and is willing to do whatever the team needs, but moving our Gold Glove first baseman back across the diamond should not be option number one. This only makes sense if we acquire a big bat who can only play first base. I think this option only occurs if we can’t re-sign Victor Martinez at catcher.
There are not a lot of top third base options available this offseason; Beltre is head and shoulders above the rest of his free agent class, and Boras will leverage that into a lucrative three- or four-year deal. The only option to keep him at the top of his value is to overpay, which the Sox are reluctant to do. The other name you would know is the soon-to-be 33-year old Aramis Ramirez, who is coming off of a .241/.294/.452 debacle of a season (a classic buy low scenario, which Theo Epstein likes, but could seriously backfire).
There are some rumblings that the teams who want Beltre the most might not be desirable destinations for him, but there are a lot of teams (like the Angels, Tigers and Rangers) who are in position to spend big, and the bidding could get fierce. Either the Sox pony up to keep Beltre, or they go with a stopgap veteran for a year or two. Those available names include Ramirez, Ty Wigginton and Jhonny Peralta. If you go this route, you would need to add some big-time offense elsewhere, such as Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth in left field.