I read that the Red Sox have some inside influence with former Dodgers righty Zack Greinke, with director of pitching analysis and development Brian Bannister and senior vice president, player personnel Allard Baird, who know Greinke from the trio's days with the Royals. What are the chances the Red Sox can sign him?
It's hard to quantify chances or percentages. Free agency has barely started, and Greinke is the top pitcher on the market, in my opinion. There will be a host of big-market teams who pursue him. But the fact that Bannister and Baird both have good relationships with the ace righty can only help. Greinke strikes me as the type of guy who places personal comfort and being surrounded by people he trusts as important factors.
What are the chances the Red Sox can get former Nationals righty Jordan Zimmermann?
I think the Red Sox are setting their sights on the very biggest prizes out there -- Greinke, former Blue Jays lefty David Price and former Royals righty Johnny Cueto in free agency, and perhaps A's righty Sonny Gray as a trade target. But if they are unsuccessful, Zimmermann becomes a pretty nice option. The righty's numbers in 2015 (13-10, 3.66 ERA) weren't quite as impressive as the few years before that, but he's 29 years old, and should still have a lot of good pitching left in him. The drawback with Zimmermann -- compared to Price and Cueto -- is you'd have to give up the 12th pick in the Draft as compensation. Price and Cueto were each traded during the season, so neither was eligible to receive a qualifying offer from their club.
What are the real chances of the Sox wanting Cueto? I would stay far away. He was terrible in his American League stint.
The one positive is that Cueto's tough stint with the Royals could bring his price tag down a little. Cueto did pitch better in his last four regular-season starts. He struggled to be consistent in the postseason, but the righty did turn in two really strong outings. Sometimes it takes a pitcher some time to get used to life in the AL. I don't think the sample size was long enough to make the conclusion Cueto can't pitch in the AL. I think Cueto will be a target for Boston.
How good of trade bait do you think Blake Swihart or Henry Owens could be for an ace-type of starter?
Swihart is enough of a highly-touted player to be the centerpiece of a deal for a big-time pitcher. Catchers who can hit like Swihart are increasingly hard to find. I think Owens would be more of a chip in a deal than the main piece.
Any scenario where you see the Red Sox signing former Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward?
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski stated recently that the club would likely go into the season with a starting outfield of Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley Jr. Looking at Heyward's offense in recent years, I'm not sure he's going to be worth the price he'll get on the free-agent market. Heyward is a plus defender, but the Sox already have solid defensive options in the outfield. For that reason, I think it's unlikely you'll see Heyward in a Boston uniform.
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.