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