Red Sox meet with Hamilton, plan to keep Ellsbury

Red Sox meet with Hamilton, plan to keep Ellsbury

Red Sox meet with Hamilton, plan to keep Ellsbury
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Red Sox didn't have an encore move for the Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino signings on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings, but they continue to exhaust all avenues in search of upgrades.

While Boston is in no way viewed as a front-runner to land Josh Hamilton, who is seeking a long-term deal, a source has told MLB.com that general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell did meet with the star outfielder in person at some point during the Meetings.

Hamilton was in Nashville for a couple of days before departing on Tuesday evening. While Hamilton is easily the best position player on the market, the Red Sox are trying to avoid lengthy financial commitments this winter.

When the Sox agreed to terms with Victorino on a three-year, $39 million contract on Tuesday, speculation followed immediately that it could lay the groundwork for the trade of center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who is a free agent following the 2013 season.

However, Cherington disputed the notion that he's motivated to trade Ellsbury.

"No, that's not our intent," Cherington said. "We're expecting Jacoby to have a really good year in 2013 and be a huge part of what we're doing."

Cherington wouldn't say how many teams had inquired about Ellsbury, but he knows there is nothing to be lost by listening.

"You answer the phone and take the calls and listen to ideas," Cherington said. "Our expectation is Jacoby will be here and be our center fielder."

Would Ellsbury consider signing an extension with the Red Sox? There's at least a perception that agent Scott Boras is hesitant to have his clients sign extensions before they reach free agency.

Ellsbury is again eligible for arbitration.

"I do what Jacoby Ellsbury tells me to do," said Boras. "And I think Jacoby is at this point focused on playing in Boston and seeing where things go after this year. I'm sure Ben and I will be talking about his contract here in January, and until we're told otherwise, that's the focus of it."

"We've done plenty of deals with [Boras] before, free-agent deals, guys that are here," Cherington said. "I think it's more specific to the player and the situation that he's in, and does that player fit the long term plan and what alternatives do we have? Same things that you'd look at with a player that was represented by anybody else."

If the Red Sox did pull off the upset and sign Hamilton, they would then seemingly have to trade Ellsbury.

Aside from solidifying the outfield, Cherington's main focus at the moment is finding another starting pitcher.

The Red Sox don't appear to be in on Zack Greinke. However, second-tier pitchers like Ryan Dempster, Brandon McCarthy and Anibal Sanchez could be realistic targets.

"We'd like to add to the rotation," said Cherington. "We'd like to still add another piece or two to the position player mix. I don't know what the timing of that will be. We're leaving [Thursday], so I'm not sure more gets done while we're here but we're working on a number of things and we'll keep working when we get back to Boston."

Would a starting pitcher be more attainable in a trade?

"We're not close enough to anything to handicap it," Cherington said. "We're definitely talking about both options."

Three years ago, the Sox signed John Lackey to a five-year deal. It's unlikely they would go beyond three years for a starting pitcher this winter.

"[Shorter-term deals] would be preferred," Cherington said. "Again, there's always room for an exception, but generally speaking, yeah, we'd prefer to keep shorter deals."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.