Do you think Jackie Bradley Jr. is ready to take over center field? And what do you think about a trade for Brett Gardner?
-- Jerino H., Aruba
Ready or not, we are likely to find out if Bradley can handle it. Unless they are posturing, the Red Sox seem pretty set on going with Bradley as their center fielder for next season. This much is clear: he is ready defensively. In fact, Bradley might already be better than Jacoby Ellsbury as a center fielder. The hope for Boston is that Bradley can do a serviceable job as a No. 9 hitter, and continue to get better offensively each month as he learns the league. Or maybe Bradley will come out of the gate with good results offensively.
As for a trade for Gardner, don't hold your breath. The Red Sox and Yankees rarely make trades. I believe the last time they made one was in 1997 with Mike Stanley, and Boston wasn't in the pennant race that year.
I understand why the Sox wouldn't match the Yankees' offer to Ellsbury. But how will the Sox's offense compensate in terms of stolen bases, or will the offense have to change?
-- John G., Alexandria, Va.
I think you hit the nail on the head. The offense will have to change a little. The Sox aren't going to replace Ellsbury's stolen-base capability. The big key is to find a leadoff hitter who can consistently get on base. Perhaps they will go with Daniel Nava against righties and Shane Victorino against left-handers. That could be a real good combination.
Why did Stephen Drew reject his qualifying offer? And is his greatest value to Red Sox right now the Draft pick attached to his signing with another team?
-- Seth H., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Drew rejected his qualifying offer because he and agent Scott Boras thought he could get a multiyear deal. There wasn't a single player who accepted the qualifying offer, so that wasn't necessarily a big surprise. The Draft pick is interesting, because now it becomes kind of a cat-and-mouse game. Sure, the Sox would like the picks. But the drawback of having to give up Draft compensation might prevent someone else from aggressively pursuing Drew. I still think that Drew will wind up back with the Red Sox.
What are the chances that the Red Sox bring up either Henry Owens or Anthony Ranaudo this year? I know they don't like to rush prospects and they have a lot of rotation depth, but they lack a true ace. Despite Jon Lester's pitching in the playoffs, his 3.75 ERA last year doesn't qualify for ace status anymore.
-- Dan O., Simsbury, Conn.
First of all, if the Red Sox bring up Owens or Ranaudo this season, they won't be looking for either of those pitchers to be an ace right when they are called up. Second of all, if your premise is true, didn't Boston just prove that you don't need an "ace" to win a World Series? A much better formula is to have a rotation full of solid, dependable starters and a lights-out bullpen. Whether Owens and Ranaudo get promoted in 2014 depend greatly only the health and performance of the veteran-laden rotation. In past years, the Red Sox have had a pretty good feel for when to call up top prospects.
Last year at the Trade Deadline, there was a lot of talk about bringing Michael Young in to play third base. If the Sox are unable to re-sign Drew, would Young be a possibility? Wouldn't he provide a mid-level bat that would improve consistency at the plate and would be able to play first for Mike Napoli when he needs a day off?
-- Jake C., Sheridan, Wyo.
I suppose it's possible. The Red Sox, like every team, have a lot of respect for Young. However, they'd prefer a left-handed bat on the left side of the infield to complement right-handed hitters Xander Bogaerts and Drew. Also, they don't really need Young to sub for Napoli, because Nava and Mike Carp of fully capable of doing that.
Will the Sox keep Koji Uehara as the closer? I certainly hope so.
-- Gladi H., Eliot, Maine
Considering that Uehara is coming off one of the best seasons for a closer in team history, he will of course be entrusted with pitching the ninth inning again in 2014. However, given the fact that the righty turns 39 in April, it will be worth keeping a close eye on him to see if last season's increased load has any ill effects. This is one of the big reasons the Red Sox signed Edward Mujica. He is a nice insurance policy if Uehara has problems with either his performance or staying healthy.
Your thoughts on a Will Middlebrooks for Giancarlo Stanton trade? Miami needs a third baseman.
-- Bill C., Honolulu
My thought is that Middlebrooks wouldn't be nearly enough to pry Stanton from Miami. Stanton could well wind up being a franchise player, and if the Marlins do end up trading him, I'm quite sure they'll get a huge haul in return. The Red Sox aren't champing at the bit to trade Middlebrooks. He had a bad year in 2013, but he wouldn't be the first person in history to bounce back. There is still a lot of talent there, and Middlebrooks is still very affordable.
It's rare that a player is so universally respected and recognized as the leader of his team. That being said, do you think the Sox will be putting that "C" on Dustin Pedroia's chest anytime soon?
-- Todd L., New Orleans, La.
I don't think you can make Pedroia the captain when David Ortiz is still on the team. Ortiz made his leadership clear several times in 2013. Pedroia is a lead-by-example type, so I'm not even sure how much interest he would have in being captain. Keep in mind that most teams don't have a captain. The Red Sox didn't have one between 1990-2004.
Do you think the Red Sox might bring back Ryan Kalish? I think he is a good center fielder.
-- Gerald C., Tiverton, R.I.
Kalish was non-tendered by the Red Sox and recently signed a Minor League deal with the Cubs. Hopefully he can get healthy and start to show why he was once such a highly regarded prospect. It's not surprising Kalish wound up with the Cubs, given that he was drafted by Theo Epstein and Jason McLeod when they were with Boston.
What is Daniel Bard's status?
-- Elmer B., St. Johnsbury, Vt.
Sadly, the control issues that Bard suffered late in his tenure with the Red Sox didn't go away when the Cubs took a chance with him. Though Bard never pitched after signing with Chicago in September, he had zero command during an abbreviated stint in winter ball. The Cubs, unsurprisingly, non-tendered Bard, which means he's free to sign with any team. Perhaps Bard will regain his groove and land with another team. But his slump has been a long one, dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season.