Jacoby Ellsbury, Koji Uehara, Stephen Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Mike Napoli and Joel Hanrahan.

You have just read an exhaustive list of Red Sox players who will become free agents after the 2013 season.

We should all want Ellsbury back, but the Red Sox can survive without him. Photo by Kelly O'Connor.

We should all want Ellsbury back, but the Red Sox can survive without him. Photo by Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.net.

Two additional players – Jon Lester and Matt Thornton – have team options for 2014. The former’s will probably be picked up, while the latter’s is likely (but not guaranteed) to be declined.

If said scenario comes to pass, even despite the midseason acquisition of Jake Peavy, the Red Sox have a good amount of payroll flexibility headed into the offseason. I’m not going to tell you exactly how much because a) I’m bad at math and b) more
importantly, it really doesn’t matter for this post.

Because for a moment, I want you to imagine a scenario where the Red Sox cannot sign a single free agent or make a single trade this offseason. No return of Uehara or Salty. No modest return of Napoli or Drew. No unexpected megadeal to retail Ellsbury, and no offers to court players leaving other teams.

Let’s subtract all of the above without adding anything, and see an approximation of what the Red Sox lineup could look like on opening day next season.

Starting Lineup Rotation
Shane Victorino, RF Clay Buchholz
Dustin Pedroia, 2B Jake Peavy
Xander Bogaerts, SS John Lackey
David Ortiz, DH Felix Doubront
Jonny Gomes/Daniel Nava, LF Jon Lester
Mike Carp, 1B
Will Middlebrooks, 3B Bullpen
David Ross, C Ryan Dempster
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF Franklin Morales
Craig Breslow
Bench Brandon Workman
Ryan Lavarnway, C Andrew Bailey
Brandon Snyder, 1B/3B Andrew Miller
Brock Holt, 2B/SS Junichi Tazawa
Jonny Gomes/Daniel Nava, OF

Please don’t debate the minutia here – yes, batting Bogaerts third on opening day is overly optimistic, and perhaps you think Lester should be higher in the rotation or he should be the one in the bullpen. Let’s not get caught up in semantics.

My point is that what you’re left with is probably a team that could fight to finish .500. The rotation is good, the bullpen is very deep and spots 1-5 in the lineup are poised to do some damage, with spots 6-7 possessing upside as well. The bench is probably the weakest point, with only whoever sits out between Carp/Nava/Gomes on a given day serving as a true MLB-caliber bat.

This is not an awe-inspiring team, but it’s not outright terrible and given the talent the Sox are losing in this scenario, that’s pretty impressive.

And this says nothing of the depth Boston would still possess as well. On the farm, our pitching would still be in relatively good shape. Drake Britton, Rubby De La Rosa and Alex Wilson would be first in line to get a call to the bullpen, while Anthony Ranaudo and Allen Webster would stand ready for the rotation. The picture more desperate on the offensive side of the ball, where only Bryce Brentz and Ryan Kalish seem poised to be able to contribute near the beginning of 2014.

The point here is that the core of this Red Sox team is very intact, even if it loses one (or possibly two) of its members in Ellsbury and Lester. Ditto for complementary players who I expect to be back, like Salty and Uehara – even if they are lost this offseason, the beat will go on.

Once you factor in the considerable financial and player resources the Red Sox have, the picture becomes much rosier. It wouldn’t mesh with last season’s strategy, but who’s to say the Red Sox can’t spend big on a bat like Ellsbury or Brian McCann or Shin-
Soo Choo? Or maybe the Sox can go out and sign the newly-defected Jose Dariel Abreu to a deal that would give them the right-handed power they so sorely lack (yes, please).

Perhaps they’ll go the trade route instead and put together a modest package for Aramis Ramirez or a more serious one for Giancarlo Stanton. They’re one of the few teams with enough inventory to pull that move off, even if it ends up costing several top-shelf young players.

The strategy that Boston will take remains to be seen, as the cliché and cop-out sentence goes, but the point remains: this is a team with a tremendous amount of flexibility, and the success of the farm system is a big reason why.

Contract information courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Categories: Alex Wilson Allen Webster Andrew Miller Anthony Ranaudo Boston Red Sox Brandon Snyder Brandon Workman Brock Holt Bryce Brentz Clay Buchholz Daniel Nava David Ortiz Drake Britton Dustin Pedroia Felix Doubront Franklin Morales Jackie Bradley Jacoby Ellsbury Jarrod Saltalamacchia John Lackey Jon Lester Jose Dariel Abreu Junichi Tazawa Matt Thorton Rubby de la Rosa Ryan Kalish Ryan Lavarnway Will Middlebrooks Xander Bogaerts

Ben is a graduate of Boston University with a degree in journalism and a love of all things Red Sox and minor league baseball. He has experience writing for Baseball Prospectus, NESN, RotoExperts, BU Today and other sites, and typically serves as an in-house MiLB writer. An editor for a business website by day, Ben likes to grill, sample IPAs and re-read Faulkner novels by night. He is an unabashed J.D. Drew apologist with a deep-seated fear of middle relievers. Follow Ben on Twitter here.

4 Responses to “Putting Prospect Depth In Context” Subscribe

  1. Brendan August 12, 2013 at 11:14 AM #

    Koji is about to trigger some kind of option….Cafardo mentioned on Twitter. Think he’s 100% back. Baseball Reference says he’s a 2015 FA.https://twitter.com/nickcafardo/status/366388055306801152

    • BenCarsley22 August 13, 2013 at 8:53 PM #

      @Brendan Thanks, Brendan. Yes, this seemed to be confirmed by a few sources after the piece was posted, you are correct. Glad to have Koji back!

  2. joarmenteros August 13, 2013 at 2:32 PM #

    Great article!

    • BenCarsley22 August 13, 2013 at 8:53 PM #

      joarmenteros Glad you enjoyed it!