Offseason Outlook: Boston Red Sox

Next up in our Offseason Outlook series, the Red Sox.  Their likely commitments for 2010:

C – Victor Martinez – $7.7MM
C – Jason Varitek – $3MM
1B – Kevin Youkilis – $9.125MM
2B – Dustin Pedroia – $3.5MM
SS –
3B – Mike Lowell – $12MM
IF – Jed Lowrie – $415K
LF –
CF – Jacoby Ellsbury – $450K
RF – J.D. Drew – $14MM
OF – Jeremy Hermida – $3.5MM (est.)
DH – David Ortiz – $12.5MM
1B – Casey Kotchman – $4MM (est.)

SP – Josh Beckett – $12MM
SP – Daisuke Matsuzaka – $8MM
SP – Jon Lester – $3.75MM
SP – Clay Buchholz – $415K
SP – Tim Wakefield – $3.5MM

RP – Jonathan Papelbon – $10MM (est.)
RP – Hideki Okajima – $2.5MM (est.)
RP – Ramon Ramirez – $1.5MM (est.)
RP – Daniel Bard – $400K
RP – Manny Delcarmen – $1MM (est.)
RP –
RP –

Other commitments: Julio Lugo – $9MM, Billy Wagner – $1MM, Alex Gonzalez – $500K

I decided to do things a little differently this time and put in estimates for the arbitration-eligible players (Hermida, Kotchman, Papelbon, Okajima, Ramirez, and Delcarmen).  I also left four spots open as I think the Sox will acquire players to fill most of those vacancies.  I have the Red Sox with about $124MM committed after entering 2009 around $122MM.  Their payroll was $133MM in '08 and $143MM in '07.  As they did last year, Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe feels that the Red Sox have pretty good payroll flexibility.  Note that they could trim $5MM or so by trading or non-tendered Kotchman and Delcarmen.

Overpaying a bit for Marco Scutaro, in terms of both salary and a draft pick, seems like a legitimate possibility at shortstop.  He is the best available at the position this year.  Adam Everett is a solid, very affordable Plan B; he could battle it out with Lowrie.  It's not clear whether the Sox made a play for J.J. Hardy before he landed with the Twins.  Now that Hardy's a Twin, the trade market looks bleak.  If GM Theo Epstein is willing to wait, it'd be worth inquiring on the Angels' Maicer Izturis if they re-sign Chone Figgins and are willing to listen.  Moving Pedroia to shortstop appears to be a last resort.

Much has been written debating the merits of Jason Bay and Matt Holliday.  I'm guesing lesser players like Brad Hawpe, Josh Willingham, and Jermaine Dye could be considered as backup plans.  Or, Hermida could be given a shot.

It appears that the Sox are playing around with the idea of trading Lowell, which would put them in the mix for a corner infielder.  Adrian Gonzalez is the big fish possibly on the trade market.  Other speculative acquisitions have different strengths: Russell Branyan could add power, Nick Johnson could add OBP, Mark DeRosa brings versatility, and Adrian Beltre brings defense.  So far we've seen the Sox connected to utility infielder types like Adam Kennedy and Bobby Crosby, aside from DeRosa.

The rotation is in good shape, but most expect the Red Sox to add a starter or two for good measure in the vein of last year's Brad Penny/John Smoltz signings.  There's a laundry list of decent one-year deal options, including Rich Harden, Erik Bedard, Justin Duchscherer, Kelvim Escobar, Brett Myers, and Ben Sheets.  As for Aroldis Chapman, he'd probably be more of a long-term investment rather than a cog in the 2010 rotation.  If the Red Sox decide to prioritize pitching and pay a large cost in a contract or young players, there's always John Lackey and Roy Halladay.  A couple of considerations in acquiring a big-name starter are Beckett's impending free agency and the Yankees' targets.

Given Boston's inquiries on Scutaro, Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, and perhaps Holliday, I'm guessing they won't mind letting their #29 pick in next year's draft go.  And as we saw with the Yankees last year, once you sign one Type A, the price for the next one decreases.  Gonzalez and Soriano are two of the best free agent relievers out there, but the free agent market is packed with more affordable alternatives for a team that isn't desperate for relief help.  They could also trade a spare piece like Kotchman, much as they did last year getting Ramirez for Coco Crisp.

The Red Sox appear limited in their shortstop and power bat options, while they have tons of choices for pitching additions.  As usual, expect to see Boston linked to dozens of free agents and trade candidates this winter.

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