One of the prevailing themes for the coming Red Sox offseason seems to be continuity. Even if a legend has played his final game, there’s not a whole lot of turnover facing this Red Sox team, particularly in key roles. The rotation is coming back, as are most of the starting position players, and the closer in Craig Kimbrel. But there are certainly a few potential departures to handle, both in terms of players whose contracts are ending, and those who the Sox might cut loose of their own volition.
So let’s see who should be brought back, and who very much should not.
Clay Buchholz: Well how the hell are we here? Yes, Clay Buchholz should be brought back. Check that—the Red Sox should pick up Clay Buchholz’ option. The starting pitching market is a damn wasteland this offseason, and while the Sox could put five men out there without Buchholz (Pomeranz, Porcello, Price, Rodriguez, and Wright), that doesn’t mean they should jettison the talent they already have around.
[Pause for snarky comments on Buchholz being considered talent]
While Buchholz was miserable early on, he pulled himself together well enough in the latter half of the season to earn a playoff start which, while it was hardly amazing, was at least serviceable, cut short only due to the desperation of the moment. It doesn’t hurt that this is a well-established cycle with Buchholz, who is always really bad coming off injury, but rarely reverts to his horrible ways after he’s made his way back until the next injury crops up.
Maybe you don’t put enough faith in that, but even then, the Sox should take advantage of the weak market and trade Buchholz rather than just letting him walk. This is an easy keep.
Aaron Hill: Hill was one of those moves which is great on paper and miserable in practice. He did fit pretty perfectly with Boston’s platoon needs at the time of the trade deadline, but just...didn’t hit. He still does kind of fit with those platoon needs, but as it stands, Boston’s plans with third base are probably to let the guys they have sink or swim, and move on in a hurry to the next man on the list if they sink. There’s not real need for another man in line.
Brad Ziegler: The Sox got Ziegler for a bargain price on the trade market, and he was a terrific addition. It’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t be interested in having him back given that he showed little trouble adjusting to the pressures and competition found in Fenway. At his age, it’s also not clear how big his market will get. He’s a great reliever, but with a lot less flash than the likes of Jansen and Chapman. With Mark Melancon also set to hit the market, the Sox stand a decent chance of bringing Ziegler back a bit under-the-radar, and seem likely to do what they can (within reason) to make that happen.
Koji Uehara: More than perhaps anyone else, Koji’s status likely depends on how the rest of the bullpen shakes out. He managed to get his season under control late, there’s certainly some quality innings left in him, and at this point he’s not getting more than one year, which is always attractive to the Red Sox. But the Sox are going to have a lot of guys in line for the pen, particularly if they bring Ziegler back and need a spot for Steven Wright. That could make it hard to fit in Koji, who is frankly a part-time pitcher at this point. At this point I think we’ve probably seen the final days of Koji Uehara in a Red Sox uniform, but there’s always an outside chance that the high fives return for one last year.
Junichi Tazawa: Taz, on the other hand, never did get things together. It’s a shame, because it very much feels like the reason he’s heading into free agency as an afterthought or reclamation project is because the Red Sox used him so heavily at times over the past few years. But baseball is ever a business, and while some team is likely to have space for a semi-reclamation project, the Sox probably aren’t that organization.
Ryan Hanigan: It might be tough enough finding a place for Christian Vazquez this year. Ryan Hanigan had a decent backup catcher season in 2015, but he seems to be well and truly out of gas now. They’ll let him walk with an $800,000 option buyout.
Fernando Abad: Abad still has one last year of arbitration left. Yes, there were issues in Boston, but I do think if the lefty still had options, the Sox might consider keeping him around with the idea that they might end up stashing him in the minor leagues for a rainy day. But from what I can tell, those options were burned in 2011, 2012, and 2013. With the Sox bullpen already likely to be reasonably full, they’ll likely choose to save a couple million dollars and let Abad hit free agency.
Joe Kelly: If Kelly hadn’t put up a big bullpen performance at the end of the year, he might have been a legitimate non-tender candidate, albeit one who would probably survive the cut. But he did. So he’s not really all that close to being one. Now if only we’d done this a year ago...
Robbie Ross Jr.: Ross is one of those glue guys that quietly goes about their business as the fifth man in the bullpen. He’ll probably cost the Sox about $2 million in his second year of arbitration, and they probably won’t think twice about paying it. Guys like him always seem like they’re a dime a dozen until it’s July 25th, Sean O’ Sullivan is taking the seventh, and the Twins are demanding a package of Sam Travis, Michael Kopech, and Bobby Dalbec for their setup man.
Josh Rutledge: Rutledge is the kind of guy who’s nice to have around in the minors, but he’s not worth a major league arbitration contract, particularly with so many other guys around for infield roles. He’ll join Abad in free agency.
Brandon Workman: Yup, he’s still around. This is one of the stranger ones on the list, as Workman hasn’t even made it all the way back from Tommy John Surgery. The good news for the Red Sox is that there aren’t many new players who need to be added to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 draft—Justin Haley and Kyle Martin are the biggest names I can come up with. With Workman likely headed to a very low arbitration number, if there’s a spot to stash him until the disabled list returns, the Sox can afford the money.
Bryan Holaday: Nope. Holaday was an emergency add to deal with injuries. They’ll let him go.