Red Sox assistant GM Brian O'Halloran, in an interview on Thursday night's Red Sox Hot Stove show, said that while he would not comment directly on free agents including first baseman Adam LaRoche, the club continues to talk with free agents with first base representing an "area of focus" at a time when there is still no official deal in place with Mike Napoli.
While Napoli agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal in December to be the Sox' primary first baseman, that agreement hasn't been finalized in the aftermath of his physical. Meanwhile, reports have surfaced that the Sox have been in touch with LaRoche -- the top free agent alternative at first base, albeit one who would cost the Sox not just the years and dollars it would take to sign him but also a draft pick -- though it remains unclear if those conversations have been anything beyond preliminary at this stage.
"I’m not going to be able to address any specific free agents. I will say that Ben has been in touch with a number of free agents," O'Halloran said. "First base … is an area of focus. Not the only area of focus -- we’re looking to strengthen our club any way we can. That process never ends. But Ben has certainly been in touch with a number of free agents, ongoing conversations, over the last few weeks."
Asked if he would be surprised if other teams were checking in on Napoli's status (something that WEEI.com's Rob Bradford reported has happened), O'Halloran said he would not.
"That wouldn’t surprise me at all," said the assistant GM. "Mike Napoli’s a really good player, so no, that wouldn’t surprise me at all."
O'Halloran also discussed the Sox' decision to trade for Joel Hanrahan, a closer who will be a free agent next year, while sending another pitcher who, before his struggles in 2012, enjoyed considerable success in the NL Central (Mark Melancon) and won't be eligible for free agency for four years, to Pittsburgh.
"I think the main thing it sort of boils down to is our belief in Joel Hanrahan. That’s not to take anything away from the guys we sent over there. You’ve got to give something up to get something," said O'Halloran. "You referenced Melancon, and obviously his season, especially early on, didn’t go quite as he expected or we expected, but he’s a good pitcher and we strongly believe that Mark is going to have success with Pittsburgh. He worked his tail off after that blip early on and went down to the minors and pitched his tail off, did a really good job, came back up, helped us, pitched better. So we know we’re giving something up in Mark and certainly the other guys who went over to Pittsburgh in that trade. But it boils down to, we saw an opportunity to acquire what we believe is one of the top closers in the game in Joel Hanrahan, a guy with the kind of stuff we believe can play in the American League East and really anywhere. We thought that would be something that would make sense for our club, give ourselves a chance to improve for 2013, and we believe we can compete for a division title in 2013. We think Hanrahan will be a big help in doing so."
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