Contrary to some wishes, the Red Sox plan to field a team in 2013. At the very least, it will not look anything like the one currently playing out the string in New York.
Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Will Middlebrooks, Felix Doubront and Andrew Bailey are among those guaranteed to return, barring a wacky trade. Jacoby Ellsbury could be moved, but his trade value has plummeted. John Lackey will be in the rotation. David Ortiz will probably re-sign.
That leaves a large collection of question marks. Here are a few:
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A good, not great player with a great, not good, clubhouse presence, Ross provides some pop and plenty of stability, of which the club has lacked. It makes sense to open up the wallet a bit and reward him for thriving in horrendous circumstances this year.
Odds of return: 80 percent
The pool of available first baseman on the market is slim, but the Sox can do better. Loney’s numbers have been in decline and he’s bottomed out during this “audition” with Boston.
Odds of return: 10 percent
Not a bad fourth outfielder for cheap money, Nava has established a pattern of great play upon being called up and lackluster play thereafter. Still, he displayed a solid left field this season and may be the best option to open 2013 at the position.
Odds of return: 60 percent
The team MVP (Most Volatile Player) in 2012 pitched down the stretch like he just didn’t give a darn. Might be time to cut loose the 31-year-old and let someone else play the Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde game with Aceves.
Odds of return: 20 percent
A solid clubhouse presence who is durable and somewhat productive, Aviles might finish in the top three on the Sox in hits, RBIs and steals. However, the Jose Iglesias factor means that Aviles is expendable, perhaps as trade bait.
Odds of return: 30 percent
One of the team’s best players down the stretch (that’s like choosing a favorite zit, isn’t it?), Ciriaco may not be everyday material. However, he could prove valuable in the role that Nick Punto held so gloriously for a few months.
Odds of return: 50 percent
Others fringe players likely to return: Rich Hill, Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales, Chris Carpenter, Clayton Mortensen, Junichi Tazawa.
Others likely gone: Ryan Sweeney, Scott Podsednik, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Aaron Cook, Mark Melancon.