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Red Sox extension candidates for 2015

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Who should the Red Sox look to be locking up before next offseason rolls around?

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

In this era where financial flexibility and efficiency is king, extensions have become more and more valuable for teams. Obviously, not everyone should be extended, but picking your spots correctly more often than not is a huge boost to a team’s long-term success. Any time you can limit how often you need to dip your toes into the premium free agent pool, you’re doing something right. Of course, the obvious connection here is to point to how badly the Jon Lester extension talks went last year. Yes, that was not good. Let’s move on. They still have a few guys who are candidates to be extended at some point during the 2015 season, so let’s look through them one-by-one.

Mike Napoli

Pros:

He doesn’t always get the praise that he deserves, but Napoli has been one of the most consistent offensive producers on the team in his two years in Boston. He’s been a natural fit in both the lineup and the city as a whole, and has a 126 OPS+ over 1,078 plate appearances. His contract ends after the 2015 season, and getting him back for a couple years before having to compete against other teams could be huge. He’s already taken less years to stay in Boston (in the 2013/2014 winter), so why not try that again?

Cons:
Well, although he’s been able to stay relatively healthy in the last two years, we can’t ignore the degenerative hip issue that was such a huge story leading up to his initial signing prior to 2013. It’s something that can always creep back up and has the potential to end his career. He’s also going to be in his age-33 season next year, so any extension would be locking him up in his post-prime years. The Red Sox also have other first base options on the roster, like Allen Craig, Daniel Nava, Garin Cecchini, Travis Shaw and Pablo Sandoval, among others. Perhaps it is better to let him take the money elsewhere and hold onto the players they still have.

My Decision:
Try hard to extend him. It is rare we see someone fit in so well with this city, as well as produce at such a high level. It shouldn’t take any crazy type of money or commitment to get him to stay, and would keep a strong presence in the middle of the lineup rather than hoping for a bounce-back from someone like Allen Craig.

Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Porcello

Pros:

The biggest argument for re-signing Porcello revolves around his age. Typically, when a pitcher is ready to hit free agency, he is at least approaching thirty. In this case, though, Porcello is just about to play in his age-26 season, and even a five-year extension would only carry through his age-31 season. If the Red Sox would ever go long-term for a non-homegrown pitcher, someone this young would be the ideal candidate. There is also the fact that he made real improvements last season, posting just his second sub-4.00 ERA season and his first sub-five percent walk-rate year. Also, he has a house in Vermont!

Cons:

Despite his youth, we have a pretty good read on who Porcello is as a pitcher. And, prior to last year, he was average at best. It’s easy to just point to Detroit’s horrid defense for much of his tenure there and blame it all on that, but that’s taking the easy way out. Sure, it was a contributor, but so weren’t his low K-rates in a strikeout-happy era. He also gives up a few more homers than you’d like from such a groundball-heavy pitcher. On top of that, we don’t know how he’ll handle Boston. As overrated as the concept of "handling Boston" may be, we learned from Carl Crawford that it is indeed a thing. Extending him before he plays one game here would be risky.

My Decision:

I’m not against keeping Porcello for the long-term, but I would prefer not to do it now. If he’s willing to revisit the situation around midseason, go that route, even if it winds up costing you an extra year and a couple million dollars in AAV.

Clay Buchholz

Pros:

If they can get a deal right now that scraps the team options on his current deal and gives him a little extra security in exchange for a discounted price, it could work out for both sides. For as bad as Buchholz was in 2014, he’s shown multiple times that he can be among the elite arms in the league. There is some potential for huge value in a cheap extension when his value is at its lowest.

Cons:

This part is pretty straightforward. For all the talk of Buchholz potentially bouncing back and being awesome again, there is at least as much potential for him to collapse and be one of the worst starting pitchers in the game again. Then, instead of being able to rid yourself of him for $245,000, you’re stuck with giving him a roster spot for a few more years. And that’s when he’s actually healthy and on the field.

My Decision:

Nah. If he pitches well again, they still have team options for 2016 and 2017. No need to guarantee more years right now, no matter how cheap.

Shane Victorino

Pros:

Like Napoli, Victorino has proven to be a very good fit for both this team and this city. When he’s healthy, his defense in right field is amongst the best we’ve seen in recent memory. Offensively, he can be a perfect spark plug that gets the lineup going in the midst of a slump.

Cons:
The whole "when he’s healthy" is kind of a big deal, as he’s showing more and more proneness to injury. He battled back injuries in 2014, and anyone who has dealt with a bad back knows it is something that can and probably will linger for years. On top of that, the outfield is already potentially full with Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, and Hanley Ramirez.

My Decision:

There is a real role he can play in 2015, and I’ll always be grateful for his 2013, but there is no reason to extend Victorino. There isn’t a real place for him to play in the future, and his age and injuries make an extension a risky proposition.

Xander Bogaerts

Pros:

With an extension coming this early in his career, there is the potential for some huge future value here. The go-to example with early extensions like this will always be Evan Longoria in Tampa. Though that was even earlier in his career, it’s a good example for just how much value it can give a franchise if the player lives up to his potential. And despite the struggles he had last year, most are not writing off Bogaerts’ potential just yet. Not only would they be able to control his cost during the potentially lucrative arbitration years, but they’d also ideally be able to buy out a couple free agency years as well.

Cons:

The risk is also bigger than many be willing to admit. As hard as it is to think about, there is no guarantee that Bogaerts bounces back at the plate and settles in as a below-average hitter for his career. Having him locked up in a huge deal in this scenario could be a killer. Bogaerts won’t even be arbitration-eligible until after next season, so they have plenty of time to get things done before he gets expensive. He’s also a Scott Boras client, so the extension talk would surely not be easy.

My Decision:

You have to try it here. Control your costs and get huge value when he bounces back and becomes the All-Star caliber player he should be. Just don’t get your hopes up, because Boras is hard enough to get an extension with even when his client is coming off a down year.