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The 2012 Free Agent Class: A Bridge Year

As of this writing, the Red Sox have two slots open in their five man starting rotation. There are numerous internal options, though nothing particularly appetizing is on the horizon. There are a few big name free agents in C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish, and C.C. Sabathia figures to hit the market as well, but all will probably command far more in money and years than the Red Sox will want to spend.

Expensive or not though, the Red Sox will still need to fill two rotation slots before the start of next season. Pumping quarters into those little machines as you exit the supermarket in the hopes that a league average starter might be in one of those clear plastic eggs probably won't get the job done either.

Of course, the Red Sox aren't just filling their rotation for this upcoming season. Not only are those two rotation slots open in 2012, but at least one of them will be open in 2014 as well assuming John Lackey comes back by then. After that it's a free for all. The Sox aren't just choosing starters for the coming year from this year's free agent class. They're also making choices about players who will likely be available in the future as well. In other words, signing a Wilson likely excludes signing any of these guys, all who are currently unsigned free agents following this season:

Matt Cain, John Danks, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Shaun Marcum, Brandon McCarthy, Jonathan Sanchez, Anibel Sanchez, and Francisco Liriano. It could get better, too, as Dan Haren, Gavin Floyd, James Shields, and Ervin Santana would all join the free agent market if their option years are not activated. That's a potent class, no? 

When the Red Sox signed John Lackey, they did it because they wanted John Lackey (odd as that sounds now), but they also did it because they didn't believe there was anyone comparable available at a similar price anytime soon (again with the odd thing). The scarce resources of the 2012 free agent class, especially in the pitching department, make over paying any one particular player potentially painful in light of the bounty that is the 2013 free agent market.

That isn't to say that Darvish or Wilson or even Sabathia wouldn't be excellent additions to the Red Sox, just that their presence and salary could prevent the Sox from going after a Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke. Maybe that's a good thing or maybe it isn't, but it's definitely something to think about. When looking at the list of available players this off season remember, the list of guys available next year is helping to drive the decision making as well.