Boston Red Sox: 10 Free Agents That Ben Cherington Should Pursue This Offseason

Adam MacDonaldAnalyst IIOctober 12, 2012

Boston Red Sox: 10 Free Agents That Ben Cherington Should Pursue This Offseason

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    The Boston Red Sox are officially in rebuilding mode after their worst season in 47 years and August's blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    That deal freed Boston from being under the rock of salary commitments totaling more than a quarter of a billion dollars. That gives GM Ben Cherington money to spend this winter, but he has to be more careful than his predecessor was. More bad, long-term contracts will snooker them again a few years down the line.

    With that in mind, Cherington knows that he will have to target players who can be signed cheaply or to short-term deals. Don't be expecting to see anyone receive a five-year contract from the Red Sox this offseason.

    And certainly don't be expecting to see Josh Hamilton, either.

David Ortiz, DH

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    Let's start with an obvious one. Even at 36, David Ortiz is the Boston Red Sox's best offensive threat. He's also been the face of the franchise for almost a decade and is the only player from the 2004 World Series championship squad still on the team.

    An Achilles injury cost him the last two months of the 2012 season, and he played just 90 games—his fewest since 2001. His age, the poor market for DHs and the fact that the Sox are in full-on rebuilding mode make a two-year deal a tough sell to Ortiz.

    Even if the sides can't agree on a multi-year contract, though, Ben Cherington has to bring Big Papi back for 2013 at least.

Cody Ross, OF

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    Another in-house free agent Boston should be quick to snap up is Cody Ross. Signed to a one-year, $3 million contract last winter, Ross proved to be a great bargain. He hit 22 home runs, drove in 81 and was second on the team—only to Ortiz—with a .481 slugging percentage.

    He also played some decent defense and was reasonably durable in a season where the Sox went through outfielders like they were going out of style.

Edwin Jackson, SP

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    The Red Sox need pitching. Nothing went right for the team in 2012, but the starting rotation has to take more of the blame than anyone else. Boston's 4.72 team ERA was fourth-worst in all of baseball. Their starters were even worse, posting a 5.19 mark.

    Ben Cherington could make a rotation out of what he has, with Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester at the top, a returning John Lackey, and young guys like Felix Doubront and Franklin Morales.

    But that's essentially what he had this year, and it was not nearly good enough. The Red Sox cannot afford to put the same people out there in 2013 and hope they perform better.

    One option is Edwin Jackson. Though he's only 28, he's already pitched for seven different teams—though that is more due to luck and circumstance than talent. He's durable, having made at least 31 starts in each of the last six seasons, and has pitched well.

    This year Jackson had a 4.03 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 1.22 WHIP and 2.90 K/BB ratio. Those stats aren't going to land him in the Hall of Fame, but each one of them was better than every single Red Sox starter.

Brandon McCarthy, SP

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    Another pitcher Boston could look at pursuing is Brandon McCarthy. He made national headlines for the wrong reasons in September after he was hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of Anaheim's Erick Aybar. He fractured his skull, but Oakland manager Bob Melvin reportedly thought he could be back to full health in time for a postseason game before the Athletics' loss in the ALDS.

    Setting aside the concerns about lingering health issues from the fracture, he's an intriguing prospect. He missed all of 2010, but in the last two years has been solid with a 3.32 ERA in 2011 and 3.24 in 2012.

Ervin Santana, SP

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    Ervin Santana is the sort of pitcher who might seek a one-year contract somewhere to redeem himself and land a decent contract the following offseason.

    In 2008, 2010 and 2011, Santana was great. In those three seasons combined, he threw over 670 innings with a 3.59 ERA. In 2009 and 2012, though, he wasn't nearly as spectacular. In each of those years, his ERA leaped to over five, and he led the league in home runs allowed this season with 39.

    If the team who signs him ends up getting the version of Santana we saw in '08, '10 and '11, they'll have gotten a bargain.

Hiroki Kuroda, SP

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    It's still hard to work out why, when they were busy trying to justify the hiring of Bobby Valentine as manager, the Red Sox front office didn't make a run at signing Hiroki Kuroda.

    The 37-year-old was the mark of consistency in his four years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, pitching to an ERA between 3.07 and 3.76 every year. After he signed a one-year deal with the New York Yankees, he continued to pitch well, posting a 3.32 ERA while pitching a career-high 219.2 innings.

    His age is a detractor, but it's really the only one, and Alex Speier of WEEI.com believes that the Sox could pursue him, though the Yankees would be foolish not to offer him a new contract.

Kyle Lohse, SP

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    Kyle Lohse made himself a lot of money this year. He led the St. Louis Cardinals' rotation in ERA (2.86), innings pitched (211) and WHIP (1.09). In fact, he might have priced himself out of Boston's reach.

    Should they pursue him? Yes. Should they sign him? Given his 2012 performance, the fact that his agent is Scott Boras, and the likelihood for a substantial price tag, probably not.

Adam LaRoche, 1B

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    Adam LaRoche was a member of the Boston Red Sox for exactly nine days in July 2009. After being acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates on the 22nd, LaRoche was flipped at the deadline to the Atlanta Braves for Casey Kotchman.

    He played six games for the Sox, homering in his debut. Since then, he's performed well between his time in Atlanta, Arizona and Washington. Disregarding an injury-shortened 2011 season, LaRoche has batted at least .261 with 20 home runs and 80 RBI in each of the last six years.

    In 2012, he hit .271 with career-highs in homers (33) and RBI (100). John Tomase of the Boston Globe suggests that Boston should look at LaRoche, but only if he's happy with a two-year contract.

Michael Bourn, CF

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    Michael Bourn is fast. He has stolen more than 40 bases in each of the last five years, averaging 51 swipes a year and leading the league in the category three times. The center fielder also has two Gold Gloves and is decent with the bat, sporting a .272 career average and a career-high nine-homer season in 2012.

    If the money and the years are right, the Sox should look at Bourn. If it gets a little too expensive or long-term, they should back away. When a guy's offensive game is built on speed, it can fall away very quickly when he loses it.

B.J. Upton, CF

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    If the Red Sox don't feel confident in retaining Jacoby Ellsbury beyond next season, when he will become a free agent, B.J. Upton might be worth considering.

    Though his average was again below .250, the 27-year-old Upton showed some decent power this season with 28 home runs.

    WEEI's Alex Speier mentions Upton as an option, though the last time Boston signed a former Tampa Bay outfielder, it didn't go very well.

    Adam MacDonald is a Scottish journalism student at GCU and has been a featured columnist for the Boston Red Sox since October 2010. You can follow him on Twitter or circle him on Google+.