The 2014 offseason is officially underway.
The Red Sox don’t figure to be the big players in free agency this year that they were before the 2013 season, but depending on which players leave and which players stay, there will still be a few holes to fill.
You’ll see no shortage of articles predicting where new free agents from the 2013 Red Sox will land, and I’ll probably write one of my own at some point, too.
But, before we dive into that, let’s focus on some past Red Sox who will hit the market, and see if any reunions are likely.
First, let’s get this out of the way: there are a plethora of former Red Sox reliever free agents who are unlikely to sign with Boston this offseason. The Red Sox have plenty of options in the bullpen as it stands right now thanks to the likes of Brandon Workman, Drake Britton and a (potentially) healthy Andrew Miller, and while I fully expect them to add an arm or two, I expect those arms to be quality over quantity.
That means that the following: David Aardsma, Matt Albers, Scott Atchison, Rich Hill, Javier Lopez, Darren Oliver and Ramon Ortiz, likely won’t be returning to the Red Sox.
With that caveat out of the way, let’s take a look at former Red Sox on the free agent market this off-season.
Bronson Arroyo, SP (CIN)
They key cog headed back to Cincinnati in the ill-fate Wily Mo Pena trade, Arroyo helped with Sox win the World Series back in 2004, and became something of a fan favorite in his three seasons in Boston. Arroyo has gone on to have a solid, unspectacular career for the Reds, racking up league average innings and throwing 199-plus innings every season since 2005, his last year with the Sox.
While back-end fillers like Arroyo are more useful than fans lead on, the current iteration of Red Sox already have such a player in Ryan Dempster. Arroyo would be redundant, and would also be unlikely to want to come to a place with no immediate starting spot.
It’s easy to see Arroyo landing a modest two-year deal as a back-end starter for a contender or as a middle of the rotation guy for a team that’s rebuilding. But that money won’t be coming from Boston.
Possible landing spots: San Francisco Giants, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels, Colorado Rockies
Erik Bedard, SP (HOU)
We’re a long way away from the dominant Bedard of the mid-2000s, but the 34-year-old is hanging on in the league, throwing 151 innings for the Astros in 26 starts and 32 appearances last season. That represented Bedard’s heaviest workload since 2007.
Bedard threw just 38 innings for the Red Sox in 2011 and largely underwhelmed at a time when Boston needed good pitching most. He’s in line for another one-year deal, but it’s unclear whether his next team will view him as a starter or a reliever. Given Boston’s full rotation and quartet of lefty relievers, there’s no reason to think they’ll be in the market for Bedard.
Possible landing spots: Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins, San Francisco
Giants, Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians
Marlon Byrd, OF (PIT)
Byrd’s turnaround in 2013 was pretty miraculous. He hit .270/.298/.320 with one homer in 34 games for the Red Sox in 2012, and looked cooked. His subsequent suspension for PED use gave Byrd the appearance of someone grasping on to the twilight of his career, and I expected him to be out of the league by season’s end.
Instead, Byrd hit .291/.307/.414 in 147 games for the Mets and Pirates, hitting 24 homers and having the best season of his career by fWAR. I love baseball.
While it feels like Byrd has been around forever, he’ll be just 35 when next season starts and could be in line for a two-year deal. He doesn’t make sense for Boston, even if Ellsbury departs, but figures to have no shortage of suitors who need outfield help and some down-the-lineup pop. Lefty-heavy lineups like those in Kansas City or Baltimore make some sense, as do teams who just need offense like the Mariners and Mets. It wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see him stay in Pittsburgh, either.
Possibly landing spots: Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota Twins, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies
Bruce Chen, SP (KC)
Chen threw just 12.1 innings for the Red Sox in 2003 before heading to the Orioles for a three-year stint, where he continued his career as a back-end starter. Now 36, the southpaw has enjoyed three of the best years of his career from 2011-2013 with the Royals, making 74 starts during that time.
Chen is pretty much the definition of a replacement-level starter, but he’s a cheap backend option for non-contenders or teams on the periphery of contention next season. There’s no reason to expect the Red Sox to be interested, unless they need him to start Game 162 a la 2011.
Possible landing spots: Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Angels, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays, Houston Astros
Bartolo Colon, SP (OAK)
While Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Masahiro Tanaka will receive the biggest deals among free agent starters this offseason, there’s a decent chance that Colon, if had one a one-year deal, could produce the best value.
Colon found the fountain – or elbow ligament – of youth prior to the 2011 season, and has produced 9.1 fWAR in this three campaigns since. He’s a solid No. 3 starter for a non-contender or a backend option for a competitive team, and I’d expect half of baseball to court him. That being said, the Red Sox already have a surplus of starters, so Colon should land elsewhere.
Possible landing spots: Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels, Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays
Mark Kotsay, 1B/OF (SD)
Kotsay seems like a great guy and was a pleasure to watch while a member of the Red Sox, but he hasn’t posted positive fWAR since 2008. It’s sort of a miracle he’s held on this long, and it’s tough to justify guaranteeing him a contract now.
Possible landing spots: Retirement, Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins, Minnesota Twins
James Loney, 1B (TB)
Considered a throw-in in the Nick Punto deal in the midst of a season in which he produced -0.4 fWAR, Loney went on to have the best season of his career with the Rays, because Rays. Loney didn’t hit for much power, but he did put up a .299/.348/.430 line and has always been regarded as an outstanding defender.
As a lefty without much pop, a Red Sox reunion doesn’t make much sense here thanks to the presence of Mike Carp and Daniel Nava. Loney could also reasonably command a two-year deal this offseason, but he should still be cheap enough for one of the small market teams to grab him.
Possible landing spots: Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Minnesota Twins
Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP (NYM)
Lol. Moving on.
Possible landing spots: Anywhere that will take him on a MiLB deal
David Murphy, OF (TEX)
Between Murphy, Josh Reddick and Brandon Moss, among others, the Red Sox shouldn’t trade away “spare” corner outfielders. Part of the Eric Gagne trade (sorry for the memories), Murphy has gone on to produce 10.7 fWAR for the Rangers over the past five and a half seasons. That being said, Murphy had his worst professional career in 2013 and may have blown his best shot at getting a starting gig outside of Texas.
Murphy is a left-hander, and even if Jacoby Ellsbury leaves the Red Sox have Daniel Nava and Jackie Bradley Jr. as lefties set to patrol the outfield. Instead, look for Murphy to go to a right-handed heavy team, or to one that simply needs outfielders.
Possible landing spots: Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners
Lyle Overbay, 1B (NYY)
Overbay never actually played for the Red Sox, losing his roster spot to Carp before the 2013 season and then signing with the Yankees, where he served as an uninspiring backup to Mark Teixeira. He’ll probably land a MLB deal somewhere, but he shouldn’t start for a competitive club.
Possible landing spots: New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers
Carlos Pena, 1B (KC)
Pena faces many of the same challenges in terms of fitting on this team as did Overbay, only he’s a worse player at this point in his career. After floundering with the Astros, it’s hard to see the Northeastern Product landing an MLB deal. The end may be nigh.
Possible landing spots: Miami Marlins, Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies
Nick Punto, INF (LAD)
Punto is the butt of a lot of jokes on Red Sox Twitter on and among Red Sox writers, but he is one of the better utility infielders in the game. He generally only needs 200-or-so PA to be worth around 1.5 fWAR, and he can play any infield position.
Punto is a luxury for a good team or a starter for a bad team. Thanks to a strange twist of fate, Punto actually wouldn’t be a bad fit for the Red Sox, but I still don’t entirely expect them to make a big for his services. A return to the Dodgers would make plenty of sense.
Possible landing spots: Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals, New York Mets, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox
Kelly Shoppach, C (CLE)
Shoppach is a right-handed backup catcher. The Red Sox already have the best one of those in baseball in David Ross. There’s always a need for semi-passable backstops, though, so I’d expect Shoppach to land somewhere.
Possible landing spots: Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, Texas Ranger, Colorado Rockies
Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B (NYY)
I bet if you polled Red Sox fans, this is the man they’d most want to see back in a Red Sox uniform. And truth be told, if we’re unable to resign Napoli, he makes some sense as a right-handed platoon partner at first base with Mike Carp.
But Youkilis barely played last year, hasn’t been truly productive since 2011 and has a somewhat acrimonious departure from Boston the first time. Plus, if Will Middlebrooks starts struggling again, the onslaught of “Youk should replace WMB” stories will be miserable. The Red Sox are better off finding a left-handed hitter who can play short and third to handicap both Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts instead.
Possible landing spots: Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Rays, Seattle Mariners, Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, Texas Rangers, Miami Marlins, Boston Red Sox