After all of the rumors surrounding Allen Craig, what do you think his role with the Red Sox is, if any? I think he is in for a bounceback season and can take over first base if Mike Napoli departs in free agency after the season.
-- Drew H., Derby, Conn.
It's hard to see where Craig fits at this point and time. The Red Sox have Napoli at first and an overcrowded outfield even without Craig. For depth at first and the outfield, they have Daniel Nava and Brock Holt. I think that there could be some trade interest in Craig, but teams would like to monitor him in Spring Training to see if he's swinging the bat better and moving better than he was last year. You do make a good point about Craig being a better fit for Boston in 2016 than '15, since both Napoli and Shane Victorino could become free agents after this season.
What would be the current trade value for Victorino?
-- Joe B., East Patchogue, N.Y.
I put Victorino in the same category as Craig. I think his value will go up once teams see that he's healthy. To trade Victorino, the Red Sox would probably have to absorb at least some of his $13 million salary. I'm not so sure Boston is itching to get rid of Victorino. He has just one year left on his contract, and he still has a lot of attributes that can help a winning team. Manager John Farrell will just have to figure out how Victorino fits best amid a group that will also include Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo.
Should we expect a bounceback year from the Sox? How should we expect them to stack up in the American League East?
-- Bryan S., Middle Island, N.Y.
The one bright spot from such a disappointing season in 2014 is that bouncing back is about the only thing the Red Sox can do this year. They've made some clear upgrades to the offense, adding Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. And the starting rotation definitely has some good depth, with Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley joining Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly. The division looks more wide open then I can ever remember, so I'd be surprised if Boston isn't in the thick of the race.
If the Red Sox were to trade for Cole Hamels, who would be on the move?
-- Matt H., Rochester, N.Y.
To get a pitcher of Hamels' caliber, I'm guessing the Red Sox would have to give up at least one of their premier young players. If I'm the Phillies, I don't make that deal without getting Betts or Blake Swihart. Judging by the fact that the Phillies still haven't dealt Hamels, I'm guessing the package is going to have to be pretty substantial. Maybe the Phils will wait until James Shields signs, knowing that they then become the one place to turn for an ace.
If the price for Shields drops, will the Red Sox make a push for him? Or are they happy with the five-man rotation they have?
-- Sam S., Lubbock, Texas
Judging by the contracts Jon Lester and Max Scherzer signed this winter, I don't see the price of Shields dropping. I think general manager Ben Cherington is pretty comfortable with the five-man rotation he has at the moment, and will likely go to camp with what he has, unless he finds a trade he likes for Hamels or someone of that caliber.
With so many pitching prospects in the system, do you expect a short leash next season among the bigger question marks in the rotation? If Anthony Ranaudo or Henry Owens look strong, could a guy like Buchholz or Masterson suddenly come down with "arm fatigue"?
-- Kevin C., Nashua, N.H.
Look, the Red Sox would love a situation in which they have an overflow of quality pitchers. If one of the young guns takes a big leap forward and is ready to pitch better than one of the more established guys in the rotation, I'm sure the move will be made. But as we found out late last season with the young pitchers who were going out there every fifth day, you don't always know when they will be ready to contribute consistently at the Major League level.
Xander Bogaerts put together a strong final month to the 2014 season. Judging from that, I feel like he is due for a breakout sophomore year. Any news on how he has looked this winter?
-- Steve J., Ridgewood, N.J.
Bogaerts spent a good part of his winter working out at the Athletes' Performance Institute in Arizona, and he definitely prioritized his conditioning heading into 2015. This can only be a positive. Bogaerts was starting to look better at the plate late last season. His success offensively and defensively could have a big impact on how far Boston can go this year. I, too, have a feeling he is going to have a strong season.
What's the status of Buchholz's rehab? Is he expected to be ready to open Spring Training?
-- Steve J., Ridgewood, N.J.
The good news is that there was no rehab for Buchholz this winter. He was completely healthy at the end of 2014, and his best seasons have typically come after productive offseasons. If Buchholz can pitch the way he did early in 2013, the Red Sox suddenly become a much stronger team.
The Sox don't have team captains often, but do you see any player being named captain in the near future? I'm thinking maybe David Ortiz or Dustin Pedroia. What are your thoughts on the value of a team captain?
-- Rich P., Wallingford, Conn.
In some cases, the idea of a team captain makes a lot of sense. Jason Varitek, to me, was the epitome of a team captain, and that "C" on his jersey looked very appropriate. If Ortiz was going to be a captain, I think he would have been one by now. His career is basically on a year-to-year basis from here on out, so I think it's highly unlikely he'll ever be the captain of the Red Sox. Perhaps once Ortiz retires, Pedroia will become a captain. He certainly sets the tone for the organization in terms of intensity, work habits and leadership.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.