Spring training starts in about two months. But the Red Sox may already be done assembling the team that will defend their World Series championship.
In a span of four days, the Red Sox signed three free agents: catcher A.J. Pierzynski, righthanded reliever Edward Mujica, and first baseman Mike Napoli. That filled the biggest gaps on the roster.
“The way team stacks up right now, we’ve gotten some stuff done, and we think that if Opening Day was tomorrow we’d be in pretty good shape,” general manager Ben Cherington said on Saturday. “It’s not, so we’ll keep working.
“There are things that we could do. There are some things we’d like to do, to pursue. There’s still the flexibility and means to do that.”
The Red Sox seem comfortable with the idea of using Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field.
Cherington said the Sox could afford to be “opportunistic” with their moves now. That could mean trading from their surplus of starting pitchers or a deep pool of prospects. But the idea of signing a high-profile free agent such as outfielder Shin-Soo Choo seems unlikely.
The return of Napoli on a two-year, $32 million deal on Friday brought the Sox close to the $189 million payroll line that would trigger baseball’s competitive balance tax. Cherington would prefer the Red Sox enter the season with the financial flexibility to make trades when needs arise.
Cherington said the Sox would like to add an infielder “of some kind” who could play on the left side of the diamond.
“Whether it would be a more prominent player or more of a complementary player, I‘m not sure on that yet. We’ll see what happens,” he said. “That’s probably something we’d be looking for.”
The Red Sox remain open to the idea of bringing back shortstop Stephen Drew. But that would probably hinge on Drew not being able to find a long-term deal elsewhere.
One area of the team that seems clearly settled is the bullpen. The trade for righthander Burke Badenhop and the signing of Mujica gave the Red Sox ample depth.
Mujica agreed to a two-year, $9.5 million deal on Thursday that includes the potential for up to $1 million in incentives each season based on how many games he finishes.
Mujica, 29, saved 37 games for the Cardinals last season before a groin strain and a neck injury led to a late-season demotion and only two appearances in the postseason.
“I had some injuries in the beginning of September with my groin. I was trying to get it done and get it ready,” Mujica said during a conference call.
The Red Sox see Mujica as being a viable late-inning option who could fill-in as closer if Koji Uehara needs a break. When Cherington called, Mujica was open to the idea.
“He told me, ‘We got Koji, we got [Junichi] Tazawa and a couple of more guys. But you did a pretty good during the season and we need a guy like you to back them up,’ ” Mujica said. “I’m so happy to do that job.”