BOSTON -- General manager Ben Cherington is not looking at first base as a filled position as he tries to finalize a contract with free agent Mike Napoli.
Cherington said he has had more dialogue with Napoli since last week, but he did not indicate whether those talks were in any way positive. The Red Sox and Napoli were in agreement 16 days ago for a three-year, $39 million deal at the Winter Meetings, but somewhere along the way, at least one snag was hit. The holdup is believed to be related to Napoli's health.
"There's really nothing to comment on," Cherington said Wednesday after introducing another free agent, Ryan Dempster. "As with any free agent or any acquisition, until it's done, it's not done. We continue to work on different ways to improve the team, and I'll certainly comment just as soon as I can, but I can't right now.
"We've had some more dialogue. I wouldn't classify it as one way or another. We'll have to see what happens. It's something that we're still trying to improve the team, and hopefully we can do that."
No hole for the Red Sox was more glaring entering the offseason than first base, a position Adrian Gonzalez was expected to fill for a long time when the Sox traded for him prior to the 2011 season.
"Sure. Got to keep active," Cherington said when asked if he'd look for Plan B for first base. "Until something's done, it's not done, and even then we can't be blind to trying to continue to build depth or improve the team in other ways. We're still working on a number of fronts, so hopefully we can add to the team. ... First base is the area, I suppose as we go back to the beginning of the offseason, that we clearly identified as a need, and we haven't been able to address that yet."
Will Carroll of Sports Illustrated tweeted last week that the Sox have asked Napoli to take a shorter length contract, presumably two years, with the same average annual value. Cherington gave no comment as to the accuracy of the report.
"I haven't seen that," Cherington said. "I'm not going to comment on the discussions we're having, other than to say we're talking."
Napoli and Dempster were teammates for the second half of 2012, and if a deal gets done, Dempster is confident in the player the Sox would add.
"I know Mike's a tremendous teammate," said Dempster. "He comes to the ballpark every day looking to beat the other team. He brings great energy, and that's just inside the clubhouse, aside from what he can do with his bat and behind the plate or at first base. He was one of the best teammates I've had in the two months I had him in Texas, and hopefully I look forward to getting the chance to play with him here. It'd be awesome."
Door not closed on possible return for Ross
BOSTON -- Outfielder Cody Ross and the Red Sox aren't talking on a daily basis about a reprise in 2013.
"We have not closed the door by any means," general manager Ben Cherington said Wednesday. "I have not had a conversation recently with him, but no, we have not closed the door."
Ross, who turns 32 on Sunday, reportedly met with the Rangers on Tuesday. He was a strong fit in Fenway Park, and the Red Sox would seem to have room to add another outfielder, depending on expectations around Jonny Gomes and Ryan Kalish.
Meanwhile, the Sox still expect Jacoby Ellsbury to be their center fielder in 2013 -- despite reports and rumors that, because he is a free agent following next season and is a Scott Boras client, Ellsbury could be shopped.
"Nothing's changed on that," Cherington said.
Drew deal likely means Iglesias headed to Minors
BOSTON -- Stephen Drew's physical with the Red Sox should come "soon," general manager Ben Cherington said on Wednesday without actually naming Drew.
That means an official announcement of the shortstop's one-year, $9.5 million contract should follow soon, too -- although the Mike Napoli negotiations are a lesson that anything's possible.
"We're hopeful we've added some depth [to shortstop]," Cherington said of Wednesday. "Again, [I'm] not ready to announce anything. There are areas of the team at the beginning of the offseason I know I said were clearly holes to fill, and then other things that we were going to try be a little bit more opportunistic on. We've done a little bit of both, I guess, so far."
With the young Jose Iglesias in-house, shortstop wasn't as glaring of a hole for the Sox this winter as first base or the rotation. But Cherington and manager John Farrell both left open the idea that shortstop could be a position of upgrade, and Drew brings a legitimate bat.
The presumption when Drew agreed to terms Monday was that Iglesias, who will be just 23 next season, would still need to play every day because of his age and upside, and Cherington confirmed that Wednesday.
Once Drew is officially in the fold, Iglesias will likely be ticketed for Triple-A.