Craig Breslow’s first offseason as Boston’s chief baseball officer has been marked by one notable free agent signing (Lucas Giolito’s two-year, $38.5MM deal) and several significant trades, with the likes of Tyler O’Neill and Vaughn Grissom joining the roster and Chris Sale, Alex Verdugo, and Luis Urias all leaving Fenway Park. With more work on the pitching staff still to be done, the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier writes that the Red Sox could again turn to the trade market, though with some limitations on the scope of their talks.
Rather than pursue pitchers who are just under team control through the 2024 season (i.e. Corbin Burnes or Shane Bieber), Speier reports that the Sox are trying to acquire pitchers who have multiple years of control. Naturally, such hurler come at a high asking price in trade talks, yet Boston is unsurprisingly wary about parting ways with its top prospects. It doesn’t appear that any of Marcelo Mayer, Roman Anthony, or Kyle Teel are available in talks, though it isn’t clear if the Red Sox might be more open to dealing from the next tier down on their list of minor leaguers. Speier cites outfielder Miguel Bleis and second baseman Nick Yorke as among the several other Sox prospects who have drawn trade interest from rival clubs.
Between these relatively lesser prospects and other potential younger trade chips on the big league roster, the Red Sox might be able to swing some kind of deal for a more proven upgrade, whether in the rotation or perhaps even somewhere else on the roster. However, as Speier writes, “there’s little sense they’ll push in the chips to land an established top-of-the-rotation starter either via trade or free agency. Further additions appear more likely in the middle or back of the rotation to improve depth and reliability.”
This isn’t markedly different from past reports about Boston’s offseason plans, though the Sox were at least somewhat engaged on enough big-ticket names (Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Jordan Montgomery, Blake Snell) to create the impression that the team was willing to splurge in the right circumstance. Even with Montgomery and Snell still unsigned, it doesn’t look like the Red Sox will emerge as a real suitor unless either starter drops his asking price — though in that situation, one would imagine a lot of other clubs might also step up their pursuits.
One of the lingering questions of Boston’s offseason is how much Breslow has been authorized to spend, considering that some level of payroll limitation appears to be in place. The Sox currently have approximately $177.5MM on the books for 2024 according to Roster Resource, so they’re pretty close to matching their $181.2MM Opening Day payroll from 2023. That figure from last year ranked 12th in all of baseball, the first time in the 21st century that the Red Sox weren’t at least in the top ten in Opening Day spending.
This relative hesitation towards larger spending has manifested itself not only in the lack of movement on Montgomery or Snell, but also in Boston’s pursuit of Shota Imanaga. Granted, it appears as though the league as a whole perhaps had some concerns over Imanaga’s viability as a Major League starter, given that his four-year, $53MM deal with the Cubs fell below industry expectations. However, Imanaga’s contract could become a five-year, $80MM pact if the Cubs exercise a club option for 2028, and they’ll have to make that decision following the 2025 season and 2026 seasons or else Imanaga can trigger an opt-out clause.
The Red Sox also had interest in a more creative deal for Imanaga, but Speier reports that their offer included only two guaranteed years “with the potential for two additional vesting years.” Imanaga will earn $23MM ($22MM in salary and a $1MM signing bonus) over his first two seasons in with the Cubs and Speier writes that Boston’s offer paid him more than that $23MM amount through 2025, though it isn’t surprising to see why Imanaga decided to take the Cubs’ offer.
There’s still plenty of offseason left for Breslow to make more moves, and an argument could be that made that the Red Sox roster is already looking better than it did in 2023. That said, simply being better doesn’t necessarily translate to a team capable of contending for a championship or even a playoff berth, and patience is running thin amongst the fanbase after consecutive last-place finishes in the AL East.