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Where will the Red Sox spend this winter?

Nov 1, 2013, 1:07 PM EDT

Masahiro Tanaka AP

With Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia all filing for free agency, the world champion Red Sox would seem to have a whole lot of flexibility this winter. Even without signing any replacements, they have a perfectly legitimate 25-man roster ready to go:

SS: Xander Bogaerts: $500,000
RF: Shane Victorino: $13 million
2B: Dustin Pedroia: $10 million
DH: David Ortiz: $15 million
LF: Jonny Gomes: $5 million
1B: Daniel Nava: $580,000
3B: Will Middlebrooks: $520,000
CF: Jackie Bradley Jr.: $500,000
C: David Ross: $3.1 million

C: Ryan Lavarnway: $500,000
1B-OF: Mike Carp: $1 million (arbitration)
2B-OF: Alex Castellanos: $500,000
INF: Brock Holt: $500,000

SP: Jon Lester: $13 million
SP: John Lackey: $15.25 million
SP: Clay Buchholz: $7.7 million
SP: Jake Peavy: $14.5 million
SP: Felix Doubront: $580,000

RP: Koji Uehara: $4.25 million
RP: Junichi Tazawa: $2 million (arbitration)
RP: Craig Breslow: $3.825 million
RP: Brandon Workman: $500,000
RP: Andrew Miller: $1.8 million (arbitration)
RP: Ryan Dempster: $13.25 million
RP: Alex Wilson: $500,000

Obviously, that’s not the group they’ll head into Opening Day with, but if they did, it would give them a $127.75 million payroll, down from a peak of $175 million in 2012 and about $155 million (not counting Napoli’s $8 million in incentives) in 2013.

The only arbitration choices to make are on Miller, Andrew Bailey and Franklin Morales. Miller seemed to be coming into his own prior to his July foot injury, so I’m guessing the Red Sox keep him, which would make Morales expendable. Both would be due about $1.8 million in arbitration. Bailey would probably command $4.5 million or so, and after major shoulder surgery, he’s not an option at that price.

One other thing the Red Sox could do: pay part of Dempster’s contract to move him elsewhere. He’s their sixth best starter as is, and it’s doubtful he’d be happy working in middle relief. The Red Sox could potentially free up another $8 million-$10 million by dealing him.

So, the Red Sox have at least $30 million and maybe as much as $50 million to play with this winter and not a single dire need to fill. That makes it an easier call to extend $14.1 million qualifying offers to Napoli and Drew and maybe to Saltalamacchia as well. Salty might accept his, but that’s not such a bad thing; the Red Sox would be overpaying by $3 million-$4 million, but it’d be just the one-year commitment. Despite his postseason struggles, Salty is a quality starting catcher and seemingly a big upgrade over Lavarnway.

There’s a slim chance Drew could also accept his qualifying offer, though he shouldn’t have any problem landing a three-year contract elsewhere. Again, that wouldn’t be so bad; Drew at shortstop and Bogaerts at third base is probably an upgrade over Bogaerts at short and Middlebrooks at third.

But let’s say Salty and Drew depart. Where might Boston’s money go? Some candidates:

Masahiro Tanaka: The pitching prize of the offseason, Tanaka is a 25-year-old coming off a perfect 24-0 season with a 1.27 ERA in Japan. The Red Sox aren’t likely to target any middling starters with six guys already under contract and prospects behind them, but Tanaka would be very appealing if the Red Sox believe he’s at least a long-term No. 2. For one thing, the posting fee wouldn’t count against the luxury tax, just his likely $10 million-$12 million annual salary. He also wouldn’t cost a draft pick. What he will cost is at least $100 million overall, in terms of his posting fee and contract.

Shin-Soo Choo: The Red Sox have Bradley to step in for Ellsbury in center field, but he’s probably not ready to take over the leadoff spot. Choo would be a huge asset there after posting a .423 on-base percentage with the Reds last season. He’d play left field in Boston, shifting Jonny Gomes to the bench.

Carlos Beltran: If not Choo, then why not one of the greatest postseason players of all-time? Beltran can’t cover all that much ground in the outfield any longer, but that wouldn’t be an issue playing left field in Fenway. He’s still one of the game’s top offensive outfielders, having hit .296/.339/.491 for the Cardinals last season. Plus, unlike Choo, he shouldn’t require more than a two-year commitment.

– Napoli: Of Boston’s free agents, Napoli is the most likely to return. The Red Sox don’t have a real answer at first base in the farm system. A Nava-Middlebrooks platoon would likely work as a stopgap, with Carp also there to step in if Nava slumps or is needed in the outfield, but Napoli offers the team’s best source of right-handed power and surprisingly strong defense.

Brian McCann: McCann is a more likely fit for the Yankees or Rangers, but he’s the one catcher out there who looks like an upgrade over Saltalamacchia. If the Red Sox signed him, they could recreate the McCann-Ross platoon that worked so well for Atlanta for four years.

Jesse Crain: The Red Sox will probably add one name reliever to help in a setup capacity, plus a couple of other arms to compete for the last spot. Crain and Joe Smith are probably the top two relievers available among those not looking for a closer’s role. They’ll be costly, but with the Red Sox’s budget, that’s not a problem.

Eric Chavez: If the Red Sox do go cheap and pencil in Bradley and Bogaerts as starters, expect them to spend to upgrade the bench. Chavez would give them a third baseman to pair with Middlebrooks, at least when he’s healthy. Chris Young or David DeJesus would give them a fallback in case Bradley disappoints and a legitimate starter if someone gets hurt. And, while it probably won’t happen, Kevin Youkilis would be an interesting fit as a part-time first baseman and third baseman. The Red Sox have the ability to spend starter-type money on part-time players, and while that’s not a role for everyone, some will find it attractive.

  1. raysfan1 - Nov 1, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    …and here I thought “Where-will-the-red-sox-spend-this-winter” was going to be an article about their favorite beaches in the Caribbean, Florida, California and Hawaii.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:07 PM

      Not my best headline.

      • raysfan1 - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:12 PM

        Just struck me funny. You know what they say “small things amuse small minds” and I confess to being easily amused.

      • drelms - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:56 PM

        You may be right on that one, regarding your headline, but your article is full of some great information and insight, thanks sir.

    • nbjays - Nov 1, 2013 at 3:36 PM

      Hey, they just won the World Series… next logical thing would be to go to Disneyworld, right?

      • rje49 - Nov 1, 2013 at 4:34 PM

        I wanted to hear some of them say “to the bathroom to shave!”

  2. jm91rs - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    Man that Dempster price tag sticks out like a sore thumb.

    • pastabelly - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:27 PM

      So do Koji’s and Workman’s, but that’s from the other end of the spectrum.

  3. pastabelly - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    Time to move on from Youkilis. He will go down with an injury and his skills are eroding. What’s the point? Lackey is easy to deal, if they choose to unload a starter since he has two years left on his deal at an average of $8 million per season. His trade value will never be higher. However, given that Buchholz just can’t be depended on, they probably have to stay with Lackey and take advantage of his low average annual salary and take on a good portion of Dempster’s salary and get pennies on the dollar for him.

    • dan1111 - Nov 2, 2013 at 5:18 AM

      I see little harm in bringing Youkilis back as a bench player, as long as he doesn’t cost too much. He could be quite useful in that role, and the fact that he is a hometown favorite doesn’t hurt.

      Whether dealing Lackey is a good idea depends on how fluky you think 2013 was. Given his long track record of success before coming to Boston, and the fact that at least some of his previous struggles were due to injury, I think Lackey is a good bet to continue his strong performance. In my opinion, the Sox are better off keeping him.

  4. xpensivewinos - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    I sure hope they move on from Saltalamacchia. Just don’t like his game.

    I would rather have Lavarnway and Ross split time for wear and tear purposes than spend a dime to bring him back. McCann will be an overpay, but they’ve got the money and he’s an upgrade over Salty.

    Interesting to see if they bring Napoli back or make a move for another first baseman. They could re-sign Drew, put Bogaerts at 3B and move Middlebrooks to 1B.

    Lots of options. Going to be fun…….

    • joestemme - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      Catchers are hard to come by, and Salty is in the upper end of the middle of the pack guys. The Sox have had hopes on Lavarnway for years, but, he doesn’t seem to be any more than just a bottom of the pack journeyman.

      • nbjays - Nov 1, 2013 at 3:38 PM

        They can have JP Arencibia… that’s one trade I would not object to within the division. :-)

    • fatheruburu - Nov 1, 2013 at 6:07 PM

      Middlebrooks is going to have to earn a job at first base. The Red Sox won’t just give it to him if the opportunity arises. Young and talented, but too streaky.

    • theskinsman - Nov 3, 2013 at 7:38 AM

      I’d keep Salty over McCann. McCann is trending downhill steadily from what I’ve read, and he won’t be cheap.. Give Lavarnway a shot with Ross if they can get something substantial for Salty. If not, leave things as they are and monitor Lavarnways’ development.

  5. jbartlett79 - Nov 1, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    The $15M figure listed above for David Ortiz is incorrect. Per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Ortiz makes $11M next year:

    2 years/$26M (2013-14)

    re-signed by Boston as a free agent 11/2/12
    $1M signing bonus (paid 1/15/13)

    13:$14M, 14:$11M

    • Matthew Pouliot - Nov 1, 2013 at 4:21 PM

      And then it goes on to say that his 2014 salary increases to $15 million if he spends 20 days or fewer on the DL with the Achilles’ injury in 2013. And he spent exactly 20 days on it (which probably wasn’t a coincidence).

  6. misterdreamer119 - Nov 1, 2013 at 4:36 PM

    im sure the Redsox will make all the right moves. Since the big trades last year they have the midas touch.

  7. negaduck - Nov 1, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    The Red Sox avoiding trading away their prospects at the trade deadline, and they are now rewarded with a roster that isn’t filled with holes.

    Winning a World Series on top of that is even better.

    This is a great time for Sox fans.

  8. docboss - Nov 1, 2013 at 9:10 PM

    Great series. Congrats Bosox. See ya next year. Cards fan. Just beat the Yankees.

  9. doublezero74 - Nov 1, 2013 at 10:31 PM

    Watch Jackie Bradley jr become the next ellsbury

    • peterjohnjoseph - Nov 1, 2013 at 10:44 PM

      He can’t run like him, and while that’s not saying a ton, since, well, almost no one runs like Ellsbury, its still an area that made him so much of a threat. Ellsbury leading off was not only amazing because of his batting average, but also because once on base, he got into the pitchers head, making it easier for the number 2 guy to draw a walk or hit himself. Add his range in the outfield, his potential to have power that he seems to be able to turn on and off, and replacing Ellsbury with a single person is going to be hard to do, or in my mind, near impossible at least with this offseason. I’ll miss him. I think once he’s gone it will be apparent how good he really was.

      Of course none of this is to say that a Jackie Bradley Jr. or the likes can’t rise to the level that Ellsbury achieved, I’m just saying a player with Ellsbury’s unique skillset is something that will be tough to replicate. Especially in a single season.

  10. ezthinking - Nov 2, 2013 at 2:35 AM

    That lineup does suck you know. 3 and 4 are good/great, but counting on the rest is a fool’s parade. Especially after a ring party.

    The starting pitching is no sure thing, ask the Giants. And the bullpen, well , Keith Foulke and Chad Cordero had a few great years too.

  11. thegr81mikal - Nov 2, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    I’d love the redsox to spin one of their extra pitchers or pitching prospects to the Angels for CJ Cron

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