In the 2013/14 off-season, the Red Sox have 5 prominent free agents. They are Joel Hanrahan, Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and of course Jacoby Ellsbury. They also have John Macdonald and Oscar VIllarreal, but at this point those two are pretty insignificant. I would love to re-sign all 5 of those guys, but I find that very unlikely to happen. Right now the Red Sox budget is at $140 million with 7 players making over $10 million. They are currently 5th in the majors in payroll, which is actually lower than usual. So while keeping the budget in mind, who should the Red Sox prioritize signing?
1. Jacoby Ellsbury:
Jacoby is a fan favourite, and is such an exciting player. His defensive play is top-5 in the game with the likes of Mike Trout and our own Shane Victorino. His offensive game hasn't been as good as his near-MVP season in 2011, but it's a cross between his earlier days and the 2011 season. He is a hugely important part of the team as a solid leadoff hitter. No doubt his agent Scott Boras will be asking for the moon this winter, but I hope the Red Sox will be prepared to at least offer a bit more than they would like. Apparently the BJ Upton 5/75 deal is a starting point for Jacoby which seems cheap right now. I wouldn't be surprised to see him get something just over $100 million. Let's say he re-signs with us for an AAV of $17 million, would you take that?
2. Stephen Drew:
He has inexplicably been bashed by Red Sox fans all season long. However, many fans understand his value, and can get past the fact that he is JD's brother. He has slowly increased his offensive value, and is now 5th in the majors in shortstop RBI's with 59. His .770 OPS is also 7th in the majors. It's rare to find a good offensive shortstop, and he has proved his worth this season. He is making $9 million this season, and I would expect him to make around $10 or $11 next season. I would like to negotiate a deal before we have to give him a qualifying offer, but I would be fine giving him $13.3 million or getting a draft pick. Re-signing Drew would be smart, because I wouldn't be 100% comfortable with Bogaerts and Middlebrooks as SS and 3B because there is little depth behind them. Drew is a top-10 shortstop in the game, and re-signing him should be very imperative.
3. Mike Napoli:
He sure has had his peaks and valleys this season, and has really been heating up of late. I seem to be a bit higher on him than others, and I think his presence in the lineup is very important regardless of his high K%. He has 21 HR and 85 RBI with a .260 AVG and .831 OPS. He is great protection for David Ortiz, and can give you that big hit late in the game (game-tying grand slam on Friday...). His previous injuries are a bit of a concern, however he has never been on the DL this season. The one player I can think of as an alternative would be Jose Dariel Abreu who has had a ton of attention as an international free agent. The only thing is, he is still unproven and a risk and Napoli has proven his worth already. On the other hand, we could be getting a Puig/Cespedes on our hands with Abreu...tough decisions at first base. I would try hard to sign Napoli and give him a qualifying offer. I he goes elsewhere, it shouldn't be too big a deal if we turn around and sign Abreu instead.
4. Jarrod Saltalamacchia:
This has been a career year for Salty. His .776 OPS is 10th among catchers, and he has been much more patient of late. The power isn't quite there like last year, but 11 HR and 52 RBI is very good at this point. The $13.3 million qualifying offer might be a bit expensive, but it could be worth it. The only reason I don't have him higher on the list is because a better option might be out there in Brian McCann. Now, I wouldn't not sign Salty because you expect to sign McCann, that would be idiotic. But McCann could be a bit of an upgrade. I would give Jarrod the qualifying offer, because I think they can bite the bullet if he accepts that, and get a draft pick if he doesn't. My only concern if Salty goes, is that after that it's kind of McCann or bust. I'm not confident in a duo of Ross/Lavarnway as Ross is a backup catcher.
5. Joel Hanrahan:
Joel is 5th on this list for a reason. I think the chances of him being re-signed are miniscule. The trade for him was a huge mistake, and maybe Cherington will learn to not trade for closers for a big package. There are other options out there, and even though it was a tiny sample size, Hanrahan did not fit in here. Even though he is on this list, I would advise against the Sox re-signing him. That's before even considering his semi-high price tag.
If the Sox re-signed Ellsbury, Drew, Napoli, and Saltalamacchia, it would cost them maybe around $56.9 million per year (I just assumed Drew, Napoli and Salty would accept the QO). This would increase their payroll by $29.1 million before including some arbitration raises. I think it's plausbile they could re-sign these 4, but it would leave little room for improvement elsewhere. Still, it would be hard to see any of these players (minus Hanrahan) go.
Who do you think they should re-sign?