© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

12/10/09 3:29 PM EST

Meetings help lay Sox's groundwork

Epstein still pursuing moves, with Bay a major priority

INDIANAPOLIS -- There were no podium pronouncements of a blockbuster deal by the Red Sox, but general manager Theo Epstein feels that the Winter Meetings were productive.

For Epstein, the four days in Indy were a fact-gathering mission, one in which he became aware of the marketplace for players available in trades and free agency.

And there is also a deal the Red Sox are contemplating with the Rangers, one that would send third baseman Mike Lowell and cash (perhaps as much as $9 million) to Texas for Minor League catcher Max Ramirez.

But the winter is still very much evolving for the Red Sox. One big question remains: Will Jason Bay be back in left field?

The Red Sox have kept in contact with Joe Urbon, Bay's lead representative, but no deal has been reached. It appears that Bay is still sizing up the market outside of Boston.

"Timing is important for any club, for any agent," Epstein said earlier this week. "That's part of the strategy. The longer you wait on anyone -- I'm not talking specifically about Bay -- but the longer you wait on any one thing, the more other opportunities go by the board. Sometimes you can wait too long, sometimes you can act too quickly. You have to balance all those interests. But it's not a particularly acute issue yet with respect to our left-field situation -- the timing, that is."

If the Red Sox can't find a way to retain Bay, they are expected to make a more aggressive push for Matt Holliday, the other star slugger on the market.

And there is still the possibility Boston could get creative and find a right-handed bat to platoon with Jeremy Hermida in left field.

As for third base, should Lowell be moved to Texas, Adrian Beltre is probably the top player the Red Sox will target as a replacement. But that is another area where Epstein has flexibility.

"Sometimes you can wait too long, sometimes you can act too quickly. You have to balance all those interests."
-- Red Sox GM Theo Esptein

Thanks to the versatility of Kevin Youkilis to play either corner spot, the Red Sox could also sign a first baseman or give the job to Casey Kotchman, a left-handed bat and slick fielder who is a candidate to be non-tendered by Boston. Other free-agent first basemen who could interest the Red Sox: Nick Johnson, Adam LaRoche and Mark DeRosa.

Once left field and the corner infield is situated, the Red Sox will have their starting nine in place for 2010.

The rotation is strong with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield. But that doesn't mean Epstein won't continue to look for ways to deepen it. To that end, Boston acquired Boof Bonser from the Twins on Thursday.

Talk has quieted that the Red Sox will make a blockbuster deal for Roy Halladay, but Epstein will continue to monitor Toronto's asking price.

Deals done: Signed RHP Scott Atchison; Claimed RHP Ramon Ramirez off waivers from Tampa Bay Rays; Acquired RHP Bonser from Twins for a player to be named.

Rule 5 Draft activity: The Red Sox didn't select anyone. They did lose third baseman Jorge Jimenez to the Astros and left-hander Armando Zerpa to the Rays.

Goal accomplished: Boston acquired some depth for the lower portion of its pitching staff in addition to getting a better read on the market.

Unfinished business: The Red Sox would like to get their left-field situation cleared up so they know how much money they have to allocate to other areas of the club. The Lowell deal is still being contemplated by both sides, but could happen at any time. If that's the case, the Sox will ratchet up their pursuit of a new corner infielder.

GM's bottom line: "Some free-agent price tags are well beyond our evaluation of a player. So we've eliminated that possibility for now. Some trade talks, some players are not available or they're looking for players that we don't match up with. We've been able to narrow our focus a little bit. Instead of contemplating the whole universe of possibilities, now we're down to some things that clearly are realistic." -- Epstein

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.