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Make no mistake, the Sox would be better off with Teixeira. But in a depressed market, their strategy of gambling on talented if physically questionable veterans could prove a master stroke.

The Sox signed each of their free agents for only one year, retaining financial flexibility at a time when rival clubs might dump contracts at mid-season if the economy does not improve.

The Giants, Angels and Brewers are among the other teams intent on staying flexible. One argument against the Giants signing free-agent outfielder Manny Ramirez is that it might inhibit them from making other moves later.

Of course, the Sox might not need much help at the deadline if one or more of their gambles proves worthwhile. The core of the team that reached the American League Championship Series last season will return largely intact. Catcher is the only position in flux.

Smoltz and Penny each can earn $10 million or more if they reach all of their incentives. Baldelli can earn $7.5 million, Saito more than $7 million. The Sox will gladly pay those sums if the players are healthy enough to earn them.

The potential for increased depth also could expand the Sox's trade options. If Penny returns to form, the Sox could flip him in July, assuming right-hander Clay Buchholz or another young pitcher is ready to join the rotation. If Saito is healthy, the Sox could build a surplus of relievers, creating other possibilities.

No question, the Sox's medical staff will be busy, and the additions of so many injury risks is a stunning show of faith by general manager Theo Epstein in the team's trainers and doctors. But Smoltz or Penny alone could prove worth $14 million, or close to it. And the Red Sox still are in position to do more.

The Reds: Going Gonzo?

The Reds, thwarted in their attempts to land a right-handed hitting outfielder, could pursue free-agent outfielder Luis Gonzalez as a less expensive left-handed hitting option.

Gonzalez, 41, spoke for 15 minutes on Saturday with Reds manager Dusty Baker, though both sides acknowledge that Gonzalez's agents are pushing harder than the Reds for a deal.

The Reds' outfield currently consists of Jay Bruce in right, Willy Taveras in center and a possible platoon of Chris Dickerson and Norris Hopper in left.

The signing of Gonzalez would jeopardize the playing time of Dickerson, who made his debut last season at 26 and had a batting average/on-base/slugging line of .304-.413-.608 in 122 plate appearances.

The Reds, however, will lose veteran presence with their trade of Ken Griffey Jr. and the departure of free agent Adam Dunn. Gonzalez, who is six doubles short of 600, batted .261-.336-.413 last season with the Marlins.

"We've had several inquiries," said Gregg Clifton, one of Gonzalez's agents. "Teams are very interested in him.

Baltimore Orioles News

News » Red Sox retain financial flexibility

Red Sox retain financial flexibility

Red Sox retain financial flexibility
Mark Teixeira cost the Yankees $180 million.

The Red Sox's five free-agent additions — pitchers John Smoltz, Brad Penny and Takashi Saito, plus outfielder Rocco Baldelli and infielder/outfielder Mark Kotsay — signed for a combined guarantee of $14 million.

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