I’ve been surprised by how little negative reaction there has been in Boston to Jacoby Ellsbury leaving the Red Sox and signing with the Yankees. Most of this seems to stem from feelings that Ellsbury was overpriced, and the Red Sox were wise to let him go.

While the Yankees may have overpaid in the long run, in the short term this deal makes the Red Sox weaker and a team they face almost 20 times a season stronger. Add this to losing Jarrod Saltalamacchia and replacing him with A.J. Pierzynski, and the Red Sox look to be weaker at two key positions in 2014.

Ellsbury and Salty had a combined WAR of 9.5 per Fangraphs in 2013. Even the kindest projections for Jackie Bradley Jr. and Pierzynski wouldn’t put them anywhere near that number. The Sox certainly saved money by letting Ellsbury and Salty go, but that doesn’t necessarily improve the product on the field.

So what options do they have to upgrade other positions in 2014?

Photo by Kelly O'Connor of sittingstill.smugmug.com

Photo by Kelly O’Connor of sittingstill.smugmug.com

Alex Speier posted in an article recently that the Red Sox have a budget of around $32 million this offseason. Close to $13 million of that has gone to sign Pierzynski and Edward Mujica. That leaves roughly $19 million to pursue available free agents.

One obvious move is bringing back Mike Napoli at first base. Napoli has confirmed he would like to play again in Boston. His original deal was for three years at $13 million per year, so that seems a likely amount to sign him for.

Signing Napoli would leave the Sox with about $6 million. That would seem to prevent them from entering the market for any of the high end free agent outfielders.

Of course, they could free up additional money by trading John Lackey, Jake Peavy or Ryan Dempster. All three are being paid like top of the line starters, when they are more mid to back of the rotation guys. Any of the three could leave this offseason to help ease budget concerns.

Rumors have the Sox exploring trading for Matt Kemp. This might look strange on the surface, as Kemp has a monster contract that pays him over $20 million a year through 2019. However, he’s younger than Ellsbury (29 in 2014) and it’s rumored that the Dodgers are willing to eat some of the money on the deal.

If the Red Sox included one of the starters mentioned above, this might balance out the dollars a bit. Trading for Kemp would be a risky move with his injury history, but his MVP caliber upside dwarfs what other players on the market could offer.

The Sox could also explore trading for Chase Headley. 2014 is his last season before free agency, so the Padres might listen if Boston offered Will Middlebrooks. Just those two players straight up doesn’t fit, as Middlebrooks has many years of team control left, and all the money would be coming to the Red Sox side. Still, the framework is there for a deal that would make sense for both teams.

The Red Sox would get a bit more certainty on the left side of the infield. With Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts as the current starters, there’s a wide range of possible performance outcomes.  Even in a down season last year, Headley was a 3.4 WAR player, and has upside much higher than that.

The Padres would get a cost controlled starter for their future. The Red Sox would gain a steady performer at third base. They could then evaluate if they wanted to re-sign Headley after the season, or give Garin Cecchini a shot at third.

It’s far too early to panic or worry about the state of the 2014 Red Sox. There are still several months left (very LONG months) before Spring Training begins. Still, significant work remains to get the 2014 version of the club ready for another season of contention.

Categories: 2014 Red Sox offseason A.J. Pierzynski Boston Red Sox Chase Headley Edward Mujica Garin Cecchini Jackie Bradley Jacoby Ellsbury Jarrod Saltalamacchia John Lackey Matt Kemp Mike Napoli Ryan Dempster Will Middlebrooks Xander Bogaerts

I've been a Red Sox fan since before birth, as my mom was watching the '75 World Series while pregnant with me. 1986 was a major life trauma, but I have always been a fan who believed that "next year" was the year. That faith was finally rewarded in 2004, and again in 2007, coincidentally the last 2 years that I have seen games in Fenway Park. I now follow the Sox from Texas, and love that I will see them in person in Houston this season. Follow Josh on Twitter here

6 Responses to “Holes to Fill” Subscribe

  1. KentHathaway December 6, 2013 at 5:01 PM #

    I agree with a lot of this post but I think josh forgot about the signing of badenhop.. That adds $4 plus million to the payroll and leaves only about $14 plus million to spend unless we go over the threshhold.

  2. Josh Cookson December 6, 2013 at 6:54 PM #

    KentHathaway Damn you are right I missed Badenhop. Makes it even more likely one of those pitchers is traded… they could use a bit more payroll flexibility.

  3. KentHathaway December 6, 2013 at 8:01 PM #

    Most fans haven’t read speir’s article.. They think we have money to burn.. I think at this point we either need to sign Corey hart for first base at $10 million or so or package dempster, a reliever and maybe lavarnway for an established first baseman.. Since we only have about $14 million to spend I don’t think we can sign Napoli, which really doesn’t bother me that much.. Most people have forgotten his 187 k’s and horrible summer when he was demoted to batting 7th and even benched for a while.. I like our relief pitcher signings.. Control and very few bases on balls.. Unlike Napoli I think we need more batters who can put the ball in play rather than just strike out most of the time and once in a great while get an extra base hit.. Keep up the good work josh..

  4. jsc1973 December 7, 2013 at 10:49 PM #

    Headley makes a lot of sense if they don’t trust Middlebrooks, and the Red Sox are in a position to go over the $189M luxury tax number if they want to, since they were under it in 2012 and 2013 (thanks again, Dodgers), without too much penalty. I was looking at Headley’s home/away splits earlier, and he is absolutely killed by Petco Park. He just can’t hit there, which is bad since he has to play there 81 times a season. If we liberated him from Petco, we might just get another Adrian Beltre-like breakout.

  5. Josh Cookson December 8, 2013 at 1:56 PM #

    jsc1973 I like Headley a lot. Switch-hitter, and reasonably priced at least for this season. Only one year of team control hurts, but they have Cecchini if they want to let him go after the season. Middlebrooks+Peavy or Dempster makes sense in terms of dollars going both ways, but Padres would have to include at least one more player for that to work.

  6. Tim P December 9, 2013 at 2:02 PM #

    Lackey is playing for the league minimum in 2015 because of his elbow injury per his contract.  So trading him seems like a bad idea unless what the team got in return for trading him was really good.