With the departure of Jacoby Ellsbury to the New York Yankees, a number of Red Sox players started to ask manager John Farrell if there are plans to retain any of the team's free agents. According to Farrell, who made an appearance on WEEI Wednesday, the Red Sox will do "anything" they can to "bring both guys back", where "both guys" are first baseman Mike Napoli and shortstop Stephen Drew.
Now, this doesn't mean they will do anything: they'll do anything within the limits they've imposed on themselves. If a market where Napoli gets three years or more never materializes, the Red Sox could likely entice him with a two-year offer that meets or exceeds what he would have received anyway, back when the two sides were talking three years, $39 million a year ago. As for Drew, Boston's interest in him likely has a lot to do with how much the rest of the league wants the shortstop. The Cardinals were considered a strong suitor, but they signed Jhonny Peralta to a four-year deal instead -- saving their first-round draft pick in the process -- and the Mets don't seem keen on spending heavily this winter, and have spent their off-season to this point wooing Curtis Granderson, who will cost them their second-round pick should he sign. That loss of a draft pick is a serious consideration for anyone with Drew, as the Red Sox submitted the qualifying offer to him, guaranteeing themselves a pick should he depart, while costing whomever else ends up with him their own.
Just because things are quiet for both at the moment doesn't mean they will stay that way, of course: we haven't even hit the Winter Meetings period of the off-season yet. If opportunities are there for the Red Sox to bring one or both back on deals of reasonable length, much like the ones they shelled out to free agents last winter, then they will seize them. If Drew is looking for four years still, or Napoli requires a commitment of three years with a heavy average annual value, then they are probably both goners.
That's been the plan for a while now, as evidenced by Boston's slow movement on them: they're letting the market set itself, and not diving in too soon, so they can see what kind of deals are out there. What Drew and Napoli want might never materialize -- in part because of the draft pick compensation attached to them -- and they'll have to come back to the Red Sox to work something out, much like Adam LaRoche did with the Nationals last off-season when no one else would take that final push. It's best not to count out the rest of the league, however: all it takes is one general manager or owner to write a very big check to leave the Sox looking elsewhere.
If both Napoli and Drew sign elsewhere, it won't leave Boston entirely in the lurch, however. For one, they'll have two more first-round picks in the 2014 draft, giving them four as well as a massive draft budget to work with. Second, top prospect Xander Bogaerts is already around to play shortstop so long as it's open, and the Red Sox can always give Will Middlebrooks another go at third base in the hopes he can have a full and productive campaign in the majors. That doesn't solve the first base issue, but between the outfielders available on free agency, Daniel Nava, the existence of free agent Corey Hart, and any number of trades the Sox could make, losing Napoli is no death knell, either.