Updated: Where would the Red Sox go minus Gonzalez, Crawford, Beckett?

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The deal isn’t yet official, but it looks like Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto are all Los Angeles bound in exchange for four minimum-salaried players and  free-agent-to-be James Loney. That would cut $58.25 million in 2013 salaries from Boston’s payroll and leave the Red Sox committed to only four players for next season:

John Lackey: $15.25 million
Dustin Pedroia: $10 million
Jon Lester: $11.625 million
Clay Buchholz: $5.5 million

That’s just $42.375 million in commitments. Here are my guesses for what the arbitration-eligible players would make, with Ryan Sweeney getting non-tendered:

Jacoby Ellsbury: $10 million
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: $5 million
Andrew Bailey: $4.5 million
Alfredo Aceves: $2.4 million
Mike Aviles: $2.2 million
Craig Breslow: $2.2 million
Daniel Bard: $1.8 million
Franklin Morales: $1.8 million
Andrew Miller: $1.6 million
Rich Hill: $1 million

That’s another $32.5 million. Throw in the minimum salaries of the new acquisitions and guys like Will Middlebrooks, Felix Doubront and Mark Melancon and the Red Sox are essentially at $80 million with big question marks at first base, left field, right field and DH.

Theoretically, the Red Sox would already have five starters in Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Doubront and Morales. Rubby De La Rosa should be in the picture as well. However, in reality, they’d surely want a veteran to plug in at the top there. The bullpen should is pretty well stocked, though, with Bailey, Aceves, Bard, Melancon, Breslow, Morales, Junichi Tazawa, Clayton Mortensen, Pedro Beato and Hill all in the mix.

I doubt the Red Sox would want to tear things down any further this winter. They could make a strong effort to bring back David Ortiz to DH. First base would be a problem; aside from Nick Swisher, who will also be looked at as an outfielder, there won’t be much available in free agency. Ironically, the best option would be Kevin Youkilis. The Red Sox would probably have to go the trade route there.

With so much financial flexibility, the Red Sox would have to be viewed as big players for all of the top free agents this winter. It’s a weak crop, but names like Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke, B.J. Upton, Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew are available. They can offer Ellsbury a Crawford-like deal to prevent him from becoming a free agency after 2013.

Even if the Red Sox do land a Hamilton or Greinke, they’ll enter a season as underdogs for the first time in a long time. But that might not be such a bad thing. There’s still going to be plenty of talent around and money available for bold moves.

Sign-stealing penalties could be ‘unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history’

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Early this morning we learned that Major League Baseball was planning to talk to former Astros Carlos Beltrán and Alex Cora as part of the sign-stealing investigation. Late this morning Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the investigation is, actually, going to go much wider than that.

Passan reports that Major League Baseball will not limit its focus to the 2017 Astros, who were the subject of the report in The Athletic on Tuesday. Rather, it will also include members of the 2019 Astros and will extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentions the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Oh, it also includes recently-fired Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, who the league plans to interview but who, Passan says, has hired a lawyer. Which is sort of interesting in its own right, but let’s stay on topic.

Passan:

The league is attempting to cull tangible evidence from the widespread paranoia of front offices and teams around the game about others cheating and has indicated it will consider levying long suspensions against interviewees who are found to have lied, sources said . . . The penalties for illegal activity are determined by commissioner Rob Manfred, though if the league can prove wrongdoing, the severity could be unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history, sources said.

The Cardinals were fined $2 million when an employee, Chris Correa, hacked the Astros computer system. Correa, of course, was permanently banned from baseball and served prison time. Former Braves GM John Coppolella was likewise given a permanent ban for lying about the team’s circumvention of international signing rules. If Passan’s source is right and the league is going to level heavy penalties here, that’s where you have to start, I imagine.

To me, the stuff about Coppolella’s lying and the bit about interviewees lying mentioned in the block quote is key.

Will anyone have the hammer brought down upon them for being responsible for stealing signs? Hard to say. But they likely will if they are not forthcoming with league investigators. Which is actually a pretty decent way to handle things when one is conducting an internal investigation. Maybe you don’t give amnesty to wrongdoers in the name of information-gathering, but you do signal to them that cooperation is incentivized and lack of cooperation will be punished.

It’s an approach, by the way, that Major League Baseball notably did not take in the course of its PED investigations a decade ago. That led to a final report that had massive gaps in information and caused the league to focus on and publicize only the lowest-hanging fruit. As I argued at the time, if information-gathering, as opposed to P.R. considerations was its true aim, MLB would’ve handled it differently.

In the early stages here, in contrast, it does sound like baseball is taking this seriously. That’s a good thing.