Commentary

What we learned at the GM meetings

Sox appear to be thinking big, but don't expect V-Mart and Beltre back

Updated: November 18, 2010, 8:34 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ten things we learned at the general managers' meetings, which ended here at midday Thursday:

1. The Red Sox are prepared to move on without catcher Victor Martinez and third baseman Adrian Beltre. We've known that all along, but the message was underscored here by the ringing endorsement GM Theo Epstein gave catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia as the potential No. 1 catcher and the plausibility of either Kevin Youkilis moving back to third base or giving Jed Lowrie a crack at the position.

2. Would the Red Sox be better next season with Martinez and Beltre back? No doubt. But Boston's position can best be summed up by one simple phrase: money and years. Beltre and Martinez almost certainly will command bigger paydays for a longer period of time than the Sox are willing to grant. Martinez will get the four-year deal he wants, quite likely from Detroit, while Beltre may well land a five-year deal, with Oakland -- a team that aggressively pursued him last winter -- back in the game again this year.

Theo We're mindful of all the things that generate fan excitement, whether it's the television or marketing or the ballpark experience. What's most important is putting together a winning team.

-- Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino

3. The Red Sox continue to aim big. Arizona's willingness to talk to teams, including the Red Sox, about star outfielder Justin Upton injected some unexpected intrigue into the meetings. "That's more of an Arizona story than a Red Sox story,'' one baseball source said. "It's their player. If they want to move him, I'm sure there are 29 teams that would want to talk with them.''

Two factors, however, make it a potential Red Sox story. New Arizona GM Kevin Towers is Epstein's former mentor in San Diego and a frequent trading partner in the past. The Sox are one of a handful of teams that could put together an enticing package of young big leaguers and prized prospects for Upton, who is only 23 and has a long-term contract that would offer the Sox cost certainty through 2015. Naturally, Towers' demands will be excessive in the initial phase of talks, as he plumbs just how much teams might be willing to give up. But if in the course of the back-and-forth, Towers' asking price comes down to a level that Epstein can live with, this could get serious in a hurry.

4. The Upton talks conceivably could have an ancillary effect, too, on Padres GM Jed Hoyer. Hoyer could be spurred into action on slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez if he fears the Red Sox prospects he potentially would get back for Gonzalez might be shipped to Arizona instead. That is purely speculative but has some logic to it.

5. Boston's search for an outfielder, incidentally, did not extend to two Dodgers names that have been floated: Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. The Dodgers and Red Sox did not talk here, according to one baseball source.

6. The Red Sox have practically guaranteed they'll be making a big move. That was accomplished when Sox chairman Tom Werner went on WEEI and said he expects the club to sign a "significant" free agent and probably make a trade, too.

7. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com noted that for the first time in eight years, Red Sox telecasts on NESN did not rank No. 1 among big league local TV markets. Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said Thursday that yes, the Sox are mindful of that as they plot their offseason plans.

"We're mindful of all the things that generate fan excitement, whether it's the television or marketing or the ballpark experience," he said. "What's most important is putting together a winning team."

So are the Sox intending to make a big splash?

"We need to focus on winning more than the size of the splash," Lucchino said.

8. Epstein talked to Greg Genske, the agent for free-agent outfielder Carl Crawford, and Scott Boras, who represents free-agent outfielder Jayson Werth (and Beltre), while he was here, according to a source. The Red Sox never have publicly identified either player as their No. 1 target, but it's clear they're in the running.

9. The price of building a bullpen has gone up. The news that the Detroit Tigers had come to terms on a three-year, $16.5 million deal for setup man Joaquin Benoit was jarring news for many teams, including the Red Sox. In terms of dollars and years, that is definitely territory the Red Sox are reluctant to venture into for a position that has historically been volatile. The Sox probably will watch other names drop off the board before they strike.

10. Don't underestimate the surprise factor. Epstein has cleverly thrown feints in one direction while making a major move in another, as he did last winter with Jason Bay/John Lackey. Baseball returns to Orlando in 2½ weeks for the winter meetings. By then, the ideas hatched here this week will have been either discarded or pursued with a renewed zeal. And as usual, the Sox will be in the middle of the action.

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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