Has there been any talk of locking up Jon Lester? I'd hate to see him leave. He's our "ace" on a team that doesn't need an ace, but he's the leader of our rotation. Any news?
-- Tyler J., Sparta, Mo.
General manager Ben Cherington did say earlier this winter that there would probably be discussions with Lester and his representatives at the appropriate time about an extension. I haven't heard anything yet, but they aren't necessarily going to advertise the fact they are talking when it does happen. I will say this -- Spring Training and the early part of the regular season is a time when discussions like this typically take place. This is an important issue, for sure. It would be comforting for a lot of Red Sox fans to see Lester signed for the long haul.
Who will fill the leadoff spot?
-- Ryan H., Portland, Maine
The way the roster is constructed right now, Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava are the two most likely candidates. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they go with a leadoff platoon -- Victorino at leadoff against lefties and Nava at the top against righties.
Depth is a great thing to have so I don't think the Red Sox really feel antsy to trade what might feel like an excess of starting or relief pitching. But if they can fill another need and relieve some salary that might help them re-sign Stephen Drew, I could see a starting pitcher getting traded.
If the Sox re-sign Drew, could they reduce Xander Bogaerts' service time by having him start the season in Triple-A?
-- Rick C., Pomfret, Conn.
That's a long shot. Bogaerts left no question that he is ready to play in the Major Leagues by his performance back in October. Unless he shows major regression in Spring Training, he will be on the Opening Day roster. I'll be shocked if he ever spends time in the Minor Leagues again.
When do you think Matt Barnes will make his first Major League appearance?
-- Nick S., Pittsfield, Mass.
If Barnes takes the necessary steps left in his development, he could debut at Fenway at some point in 2014. He is on a short list of young pitchers the Red Sox are eager to get a look at. Some of it will depend on what need arises at the Major League level. Like any young pitcher, the key for Barnes will be to gain more consistent command.
Does Yaz still work for the Red Sox? What is his role?
-- Steve L., Madison, Wis.
Carl Yastrzemski still works for the Red Sox, mainly in Spring Training, where he spends a couple of weeks working with Minor League hitters. Yaz would certainly be welcome to work with the Major Leaguers if he wanted, but his passion has always been to work behind the scenes in the cages with the young guys.
Could Kevin Youkilis ever come back to the Sox? It seems like he would be more at home in Boston and may see a resurgence in his career and passion for the game.
-- Mike C., Anchorage, Alaska.
Judging by the fact Youkilis is going to Japan, it sure seems to me that he is intent on looking forward and not backward. It sounds like he only has another year or two left, and I'm guessing a return to Boston is not in the cards. He has settled in California with his family, and sounds like he will be staying out that way. His family is accompanying him for the unique opportunity to go to Japan, otherwise he wouldn't be going.
With all the excitement there was when the Red Sox initially acquired Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan, what is their status now? How will the Red Sox proceed with them after Koji's past success as the closer?
-- Andrew H., Fayetteville, Ark.
Bailey and Hanrahan are both free agents, free to sign with all 30 Major League clubs. I think they will both sign later on in the winter or even into the spring, once they are able to audition for teams by throwing off a mound. The Red Sox will keep tabs on both righties, but right now their bullpen looks pretty solid.
I believe the Red Sox had only two consistent playmakers last year -- David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury. Ortiz was power and clutch. Ells was the fuel which sparked the engine. How will the team make up for the loss of speed in the outfield and on the bases this year without him?
-- Paul W., Easthampton, Mass.
I think you are understating the rest of the offense from last season. Dustin Pedroia had an All-Star season. Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli both carried the team at different times. The goal for the Red Sox will be to replace Ellsbury's production collectively. It's probably not going to come all from one player. As for the speed on the bases, the Sox probably aren't going to be able to replace that. There are only a handful of players in baseball who run like Ellsbury.