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Red Sox decline 2021 option for Martín Pérez

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Another sign of how bad the market will be this winter for players.

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Red Sox have made their first real decision of the offseason — I’m not counting taking fringe players off the 40-man roster. Sue me — and it comes in regard to Martín Pérez’s option for 2021. The lefty could have been kept on the roster for next season for $6.85 million, but the Red Sox have opted to decline that option, instead paying the $500,000 buyout.

This would have seemed unimaginable back in September. Pérez was the most steady Red Sox pitcher all year, and looking ahead to 2021 they really don’t have much of anything to be trusted in the rotation considering we have no idea what Eduardo Rodriguez will be like come March and Chris Sale will be out for at least the first couple months of the season. Pérez isn’t a great option, and even his final numbers in 2020 — he pitched to a 4.50 ERA (104 ERA+) over 62 innings with 46 strikeouts and 28 walks — painted the picture of an average-at-best arm, but the Red Sox need bodies who can take the ball every five days, and it didn’t seem like $6.85 million would be too much for that role.

It has been made abundantly clear, however, that the market is going to be incredibly depressed this winter. To me, that is the takeaway here moreso than what it means for the Red Sox pitching staff. Pérez can still be brought back and will likely get less than this salary in a market that has already seen every team turn down Brad Hand at one year and $10 million. At a certain point it does become a numbers game with the Red Sox probably needing to add at least three and more realistically four starting pitchers this winter. But there will be bargains out there to be had, at least relative to our normal understandings of player value in free agency.

As the team’s tweet states above, the Red Sox 40-man roster is now at 36 players with free agency officially beginning this evening. In addition to the Pérez move, the Red Sox also did not extend a qualifying offer to Jackie Bradley Jr., meaning they will not get draft pick compensation if/when he signs with another team. J.D. Martinez also officially declined his opt out and will remain on the roster as free agency begins.

Edit: A previous version of this story indicated the option was for $6.25 million. It was instead worth $6.85 million, as Chris Cotillo explains here.