The following is not a prescription. It's a scenario, where the objective is to maximize the Sox's 2014 compensatory draft picks. To do that, you have to have players depart the Sox in 2013 via free agency. You must offer those players a minimum qualifying offer (MQO). The player must then reject the MQO and sign with another team. Then you're done. Collect your draft pick.
Our goal in this post is to make this happen as many times as possible.
According to ESPN's Buster Olney, qualifying offers are in the $13.3-$13.4MM range. So you want players who are (1) good enough that they a stand a chance of deserving this much in a MQO, (2) have contracts that expire at the end of 2013. Let's get started!
First, these pages are useful:
The list of 2013 free agents matters because those are the guys we can potentially sign to 1 year deals. The 2014 free agents matter because they are potential trade targets. Below are my ideas. I've deliberately left some details out (who would we trade for Morneau?) for space constraints, to be resolved in the comments.
#1. Sign Mike Napoli. Napoli is having a dreadful 2012 campaign with a .223/.343/.429 slash line. However Red Sox fans recognize Napoli's potential to put up numbers in Fenway, perhaps more than anyone. With the Braves almost certain to pick up Brian McCann's 2013 option, Napoli is without peer in the free agent market, with Russell Martin and A.J. Pierzynski as runners up. The trade market is similarly thin. I'd venture that of all the catchers whose contracts end after 2013, our own Jarrod Saltalamacchia is superior to any we could trade for. Unfortunately, I doubt Salty will be worth a comp pick.
Napoli may never recapture his 2011 dominance, but he has a better chance at landing a comp pick than any alternative. And his lackluster 2012 makes a one year landing in Boston at least a possibility.
#2. Trade for Justin Morneau. I'm stealing this suggestion from wolf9309. Over his last two months, Morneau has hit .316/.360/.503, with 7 HRs and 12 doubles over 187 at-bats. Clearing Morneau would open up a spot for Joe Mauer as Mauer settles into something of a Victor Martinez role for the Twins at C/1B/DH. It would also clear his $20MM salary, owed through 2013. Tim Brown of Yahoo reported that the Twins are "listening" on Morneau, asking for a "big league player in return."
#3. Sign Stephen Drew. As with Napoli, this is a case of one player outclassing all other free agent and trade options. The next best free agent might be Jhonny Peralta. The best trade options are worse than what we have in Aviles and Iglesias. The risk is obvious: Drew is a huge injury risk (I'm sure you've never heard that phrase before), and is batting just .196/.304/.304 on the season. However, this is also a guy who put up .278/.352/.458 in 2010, outpacing all shortstops but Troy Tulowitzki in WAR. If he can do that again, given the scarcity of his position, we'd be collecting compensation pick #3.
#4. Sign Shane Victorino, put him in LF. Josh Hamilton is not happening, especially on a one year deal. The only other LF we could sign on a one year contract with any potential might be Delmon Young. But he suffers from an ailment known as "the fact that he's Delmon Young." If you have the 2014 free agents page open, you'll see that trade options include Jason Bay (nope), Jason Kubel (probably not good enough for a MQO), Mike Morse (probably not getting traded), and Martin Prado (same). Victorino, who is just .258/.320/.391 might be gettable on a one-year deal, and he's just one season removed from an All Star, MVP vote-garnering campaign.
#5. Sign Melky Cabrera, slot into RF. This is probably where the goal of max draft picks diverges from reality. In reality, the Sox have Cody Ross who is, refreshingly, a free agent that fits with Boston perfectly. Reality also involves Ryan Kalish, another option to take RF full time. Plus there's a still-existent Ryan Sweeney. But none of the above lead to draft selections. If we keep Kalish in reserve, sign Sweeney as a 4th OF, and let Ross go, we are freed to pursue a player worth a compensation pick.
Pages and pages can be written about Melky's suspension, and already have. What I'll say is limited space is this. It is critical to look beyond the news cycle with these things. We are all better than the worst thing we do. Melky was beloved by the fans and nothing suggests he is less than a decent friend or a father. His relationship with his mother is heart warming to read about. The circumstances surrounding Melky were unfortunate, but they seem to have been a lapse in judgment of a good person. At the same time, the circumstances create a baseball opportunity that some team will undoubtedly advantage of. A one year commitment is not too much for a player with 200 hit, 5 WAR potential, who is perhaps the most surefire shot at a compensation pick of any free agent we could sign.
#6. Sign Shaun Marcum. As much as I love Dan Haren and Jake Peavy, I think they will find multiyear offers somewhere. Marcum, who missed two months with elbow tightness, is the kind of damaged goods scenario that could result in a one year deal. In all likelihood, he will be worth 2-3 WAR, less than is necessary for a MQO. But if he's good enough to reproduce the 3.6 WAR he posted in the AL East back in 2010, he should be good enough to reject a MQO in search of a multiyear deal.