Your weekly baseball reading, as we await news on Panda, Lester and more heat from the Hot Stove …

Nice coup for the Portland Sea Dogs, signing up Johnny Damon for their 2015 Hot Stove Dinner and Silent Auction on Jan. 16 (5:30 p.m. at the Sable Oaks Marriott in South Portland). It looks like it will be another sellout. Tickets are $50, with proceeds benefiting the Maine Children’s Cancer Program.

The general managers’ meeting last week did not produce much news for the Red Sox, but that has to change by the annual winter meetings Dec. 7-11 in San Diego, right?

Pablo Sandoval (aka Kung Fu Panda) remains one of the biggest names on Boston’s radar. He seemed a hot property after being a World Series standout, but like any other product that remains on the market, people begin to focus on the flaws. He is listed at 5-foot-11, 245 pounds, but that appears to be from a preseason weigh-in after he lost up to 30 pounds. Reports are that he has gained it all back.

Want more reasons to be skeptical about Sandoval? While critics point to his declining numbers overall (career-worst .739 OPS in 2014), the switch-hitter struggled against left-handed pitching (.199 average last year, with a .563 OPS).

But he sure performs in the clutch.

Jon Lester’s next destination remains a favorite subject for speculation. Return to Boston? Reunion with Theo Epstein (and the Cubs)? Or a surprise team, like Kansas City?

Figure Lester to sign before the other big free-agent pitcher, Max Scherzer, whose agent is Scott Boras. Remember that Scherzer turned down six years and $144 million from the Tigers.

How important is starting pitching versus relievers? Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci produced this statistic: The combined record of starters for World Series teams San Francisco and Kansas City was 126-123, postseason included. The teams’ combined record by its relievers: 74-33.

Among the moves expected before the winter meetings is the annual promotion of Rule 5 draft-eligible players to the 40-man rosters. Eligible players left off the 40-man roster can be taken by other teams in the Rule 5 draft, which is held during the winter meetings.

The Red Sox will add catcher Blake Swihart to the 40-man roster, but who else? Portland relievers Robby Scott (1.98 ERA) and Noe Ramirez (2.14 ERA) are possibilities. Other eligible players include pitcher Luis Diaz, infielder Sean Coyle and outfielder Henry Ramos.

Scott shined in the Arizona Fall League (1.38 ERA in 10 appearances). Coyle did not do as well in 19 games: .209 average and .646 OPS. Shortstop Deven Marrero played well during his 19 games: .328 average and .857 OPS.

If the Red Sox are sold on Xander Bogaerts being their shortstop, when will be the right time to trade Marrero?

Carson Blair was considered a fringe catching prospect for the Boston Red Sox. Drafted in the 35th round in 2008 out of Liberty Christian High School in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, he was given a $200,000 signing bonus. Blair was an infielder in high school, but the Red Sox saw catcher potential. He never really blossomed, although his 2014 season was his best – including a .288 average and .920 OPS in 17 games with Portland. A minor league free agent, Blair signed with Oakland last week.

The Red Sox did sign three of their minor league free agents – pitchers Miguel Celestino, Dayan Diaz and Nate Reed. Celestino and Reed began last year in Portland. Celestino moved to Triple-A and Reed was sent to Class A Salem. Diaz was promoted to the Sea Dogs, where he had a 2.76 ERA in 161/3 innings.