Yesterday, Alex Gonzalez helped start the process.
The Red Sox shortstop made it clear what it will take to get him back in Boston next season. And, according to Gonzalez, that doesn't include the kind of one-year deal he played under this year.
"Three years," said the impending free agent when asked what he will be looking for in the open market. "I'm tired of going year to year. I have to take care of my family, too. It's not so much for me, but for my family. I have two kids, so I'm looking for three or four years.
"It's really hard to play year by year. You have to think about it a lot. But maybe if you sign three or four years, you will play better."
The number of years might appear to be a bit high for Boston's taste, given that the Red Sox, 5-1 winners last night over visiting Tampa Bay, signed Gonzalez to a one-year, $3 million deal last offseason after watching the shortstop play winter ball in Venezuela. They were convinced that his injured elbow was not a factor.
It wasn't an ideal scenario for the 29-year-old, who also received one-year offers from Toronto and Arizona. That has changed after Gonzalez's performance this season, in which he is hitting nine points above his career average while maintaining a .985 fielding percentage (7 errors in 475 chances).
Another plus Gonzalez has going for him is the dearth of shortstops he will be competing with for the free-agent bucks. Some of the viable shortstops available this winter include Craig Counsell (whom the Red Sox showed mild interest in before inking Edgar Renteria), current Boston utilityman Alex Cora and the prize of the open market, Julio Lugo.
By most accounts, it's Lugo who will have the biggest say in what transpires to both of Boston's middle infield positions. The Red Sox have already made three runs at the 30-year-old - the last two non-waiver trade deadlines as well as last December - and figure to do so again with the club's need for more offense.
"Defensively, compared to what I heard the previous year, I thought he played much better this year. He made less mistakes," said Lugo's former manager, Tampa Bay skipper Joe Maddon. "As a teammate, he's unbelievable. He has energy every night. He's one of those guys who loves to play.