FanPost

Red Sox offseason outlook: My plan for how they should pursue it with their new found financial flexibility

The Red Sox pulled off a blockbuster with the Dodgers over the weekend that greatly altered the look of the roster for 2013 and beyond. By dumping Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and the $60 million or so that they were collectively owed, the Sox have several openings in their starting lineup next year and plenty of money to spend. Unfortunately with a weak free agent market headed by stars such as Josh Hamilton, a massive injury risk who is not worth the risk of the contract he will likely demand, and Zack Greinke, a personality who would likely be harmed by the environment in Boston, the money would be hard to reinvest in putting a quality product on the field this offseason. Changes in the CBA restricting draft spending and spending on international prospects also restrict the benefits the Sox can reap from their newfound budgetary relief.

The Sox currently have $45.6 million in guaranteed contracts for next year plus an estimated $50 million or so tied up in arbitration eligible and renewable contracts for players they will likely retain. With the Luxury Tax holding at $178 million for the 2013 season and acting as an unofficial cap of where the Sox will stretch their player budget this gives the team about $80 million to play with as they look to rebuild their team to put a competitive product on the field next year.

Looking at their contracts for next year this is the team the Red Sox will be entering the 2013 offseason with:

(This has more than 25 roster spots as some of these players will be bounced between the majors and minors)

C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

1B:

2B: Dustin Pedroia

SS: Mike Aviles

3B: Will Middlebrooks

LF:

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury

RF:

DH:

Bench: Ryan Lavarnway

Bench: Ryan Kalish

Bench: Daniel Nava

Bench: Pedro Ciriaco

Bench: Mauro Gomez

SP: Jon Lester

SP: Clay Bucholz

SP: Felix Dubront

SP: John Lackey

SP:

SP/RP: Franklin Morales

RP: Mark Melancon

RP: Alfredo Aceves

RP: Andrew Miller

RP: Craig Breslow

RP: Rich Hill

RP: Daniel Bard

CP: Andrew Bailey

With four open spots in their current lineup and a potential spot in their rotation (if Franklin Morales succeeds in his audition for the rotation this year the Red Sox might not need to do more than look for rotation depth) the Red Sox have several needs that could get expensive fast depending on how they choose to fill them.

The trade with the Dodgers deepened the Red Sox’ farm system and have them several players who can contribute in the majors next year including Jerry Sands and Rubby de la Rosa would could be ready to contribute from opening day. Jerry Sands is able to fill either one of the corner outfield spots (although with below average defense) or first base on the cheap.

The Red Sox have an interest in bringing back both Ortiz and Ross according to several reports. Ortiz is said to be looking for a multi-year deal, but the Red Sox can severely restrict his market by making him a qualifying offer of I believe $13.55 million. By doing this they should be able to bring him back on an extension of about $25 million over 2 years.

Cody Ross will be looking at a significant raise after this season, but has an interest in staying with the Red Sox as he seems to realize the benefit he gets from playing in Fenway Park (308/364/616 home 233/305/393 away). Based off last offseason a contract comparable to Josh Willingham (3 years $21 million) should be attainable for Ross, but if the reports of him being willing to accept a discount to stay in Boston are true they may be lucky enough to be able to get him on a contract for about 3 years $18 million or 2 years $14 million with either a mutual option or vesting option for a third year. The Red Sox will look to avoid any long term contracts this offseason with several top prospects coming up in their system who should be ready by 2014-2015 in Xander Bogarts and Jackie Bradley. The Red Sox will also want to leave themselves financial flexibility to extend Jacoby Ellsbury, as I don’t believe an extension will be possible this offseason as Ells is represted by Scott Boras who will surely try to get an extension based off of Ells’ breakout 30/30 season.

With the emergence of Ryan Lavarnway the Red Sox will likely look to part with Salty this offseason, likely in exchange to a player who can help them fill one of their needs or prospects to continue restocking the system. The Red Sox should also look for a shortstop who pushed Mike Aviles to a Utility role as a sub 300 OBP should not be acceptable from a starter with a poor defensive pedigree on this team. The only potential free agent who offers the upside to do this with Aviles is Stephen Drew if his contract is declined by the A’s. If the Red Sox can manage to get Drew on one of Boras’ make good contracts in an attempt to rebuild his value pursuing the SS could be a worthwhile risk for them. Worst case scenario Drew gets injured again and we have Aviles to step back into the position. A 1 year contract of between $5-8 million with incentives could be a fair risk to take.

The top outfield free agents include Josh Hamilton who the Red Sox shouldn’t approach with a ten foot pole, and top of the order type hitters Michael Bourn and Shane Victorino. After the issues with Carl Crawford I expect the team to stay away from similar hitters this offseason, especially since it doesn’t fill a need for them. Strong defensive players such as Torii Hunter and BJ Upton will also be available, but some team will likely be willing to overpay for Upton given the promise he still offers and the hope that a change of scenery can unlock what many believe he is capable of.

Unless James Loney morphs into a completely different hitter in his month and a bit in Boston the Red Sox will potentially be on the prowl for a new starting first baseman. Top potential free agents at the position are Carlos Lee and Kevin Youkilis who will only be an option for the Red Sox if the team fires Bobby V and he doesn’t hold any personal grudges against the team beyond their manager.

The Red Sox have several options for what they can do in LF and at 1B if they bring back both Ortiz and Ross. They could gamble on players they already have in house such as Kalish and Sands, or they can pursue free agents at one or both the positions. If they pursue options at either position in free agency it will hopefully be on a player on either a one or two year deal. I believe they should only pursue one LF/1B so that Kalish or Sands have a chance to fill the other position, with a vet brought into Spring Training to push the youngsters. Torii Hunter or Kevin Youkilis might both be available on a 1 or 2 year deal which I would be the best way to pursue filling one of those vanacies for the team. Carlos Lee who should be available for a one year deal at first base has lost enough power that signing him for his floor isn’t worth blocking the upside of another player.

The Red Sox biggest problem this year has been with their pitching staff, as the offense has managed to be among the top scorers in the league despite their injuries and underperformances this year. The bullpen has held together very well, and will have the majority of it returning for next year and doesn’t need much work. The team will likely keep running John Lackey out there for a better part of the season as they attempt to salvage some value out of the contract, although there is a chance they may look to cut their losses by swapping him for another bad contract. There are several free agent pitchers the Red Sox could look to pursue this offseason on the cheap such as pitchers returning from injuries Scott Baker, Shaun Marcum, or Colby Lewis, or a bottom of the rotation innings eater like Jeremy Guthrie or Joe Saunders. Looking to buy low on Shaun Marcum who has succeeded previously in the AL East could be a good target for the Sox, but if he pitches well over the next month of the season after returning from his injury he could end up pricing himself out of what the Red Sox should be looking to spend. Colby Lewis, who has managed to succeed in Texas would also be a good risk to take to bounce back from his injury but I believe he will likely remain in Texas on that kind of deal. The team could also have interest in a player such as Brandon McCarthy, but with his injury history and his DL trips the last two seasons he isn’t worth giving a multi-year deal too which some team will probably be brave enough to offer. The only reliever worth considering on a multi-year contract is Mike Adams, but once his price passes 2 years $10 million is it more than a reliever is worth, and the team should look at low risk signings/minor league deals that the Rays have been so successful with in the last few years.

With many of the best free agent options coming with too many questions and the Red Sox history in free agency being very hit or miss with way more misses then hits I believe that the team really needs to look at sticking with low risk short term deals this offseason for role players, players looking to rebound from poor performance or injury, or older players declining in value who had be had for cheap, short contracts. If I was running the team this is what I would target for the team this offseason (with the most I would be willing to pay in those situations):

C: Ryan Lavarnway (subtract $4m for trading Salty’s contract)

1B: Kevin Youkilis (1 yr $10m) (if Bobby V is fired, otherwise Jerry Sands fills this spot)

2B: Dustin Pedroia

SS: Stephen Drew (1 yr $8m)

3B: Will Middlebrooks

LF: Jerry Sands/Ryan Kalish (if Bobby V is kept and Sands fill 1B then Torii Hunter (2 yr $12m))

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury

RF: Cody Ross (3 yr $21m)

DH: David Ortiz (2 yr $25m)

Bench: Mike Aviles

Bench: Ryan Kalish

Bench: Daniel Nava

Bench: Pedro Ciriaco

Bench: Mauro Gomez

SP: Jon Lester

SP: Clay Bucholz

SP: Felix Dubront

SP: John Lackey

SP: Shaun Marcum (if attainable for 2 yr $20m or less, otherwise a cheap one year incentive based contract for one of Baker, Guthrie, or Saunders with Rubby ready to take over sometime during the season)

SP/RP: Franklin Morales

RP: Mark Melancon

RP: Alfredo Aceves

RP: Andrew Miller

RP: Craig Breslow

RP: Rich Hill

RP: Daniel Bard

CP: Andrew Bailey

These various scenarios would have the team adding between $30-45 million in the offseason to their payroll for the next season, but this would be in exclusively short term deals that can be hard to achieve in the open market. With the team having over $70 million to spend to avoid the luxury tax they should be looking to overpay for short term deals to keep their long term flexibility open and not get tied down by more bad contracts 2-4 years from now.


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