The Red Sox can no longer rely on simply throwing money at problems.
The Boston Red Sox entered 2012 as legitimate World Series contenders, but exited with their first losing season (69-93) since 1997, and unloaded more than $250 million in future salaries in a blockbuster August trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
With their new financial flexibility the Red Sox might be tempted to spend heavily in free agency, even though it's considered a weak market.They may not regain their contender status overnight, but would be best served to be patient and wait for the right players to pay the big bucks, even if it takes longer than this offseason.
As the Red Sox begin their rebuilding process, here are five budget-conscious moves they can make to improve the team in 2013 without breaking the bank:
Ryan Hanigan is just what the doctor ordered for the Red Sox behind the plate.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia may hit home runs, but he is a horrible catcher. Without any obvious replacements lurking in the minors, the Red Sox must look outside of the organization for a better backstop.
Enter Ryan Hanigan.
B/R’s Scott L. Hutchinson believes highly regarded youngster Devin Mesoraco is poised to take over as starter for the Reds, meaning Hanigan could be had for the right price (perhaps Jose Iglesias and a lower level prospect).
Although he is 32 and not a star, Hanigan is a career .275 hitter and would be a significant short term upgrade in Boston.
Hanigan is also an excellent defensive catcher, leading the National League last season by throwing out 48 percent of runners. Reds' starting pitchers had a 3.31 ERA when caught by Hanigan, as opposed to a 4.07 mark with other catchers, proving his ability to call a game.
Hanigan is under team control for two more seasons and will likely see his 2013 salary rise to something in the range of $3 million, which would be more than acceptable to the Red Sox.
Cody Ross was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal 2012 Red Sox season.
One of the bright spots in the lost 2012 Red Sox season was outfielder Cody Ross, who was brought in on a one year contract.
He thrived during the dysfunctional season, hitting 22 home runs and proving to be a fan and clubhouse favorite. Ross killed left-handed pitching, belting 12 home runs and posting a 1.010 OPS in 150 at bats against southpaws, a skill that Ross has displayed throughout his career according to BaseballAnalytics.com.
The Red Sox have holes at both corner outfield positions, where Ross can be used interchangeably. A three year contract for $15 million would be a great deal for both sides.
Even coming off a shoulder injury, Ryan Madson is a good gamble.
The shaky and injury plagued Red Sox debut of closer Andrew Bailey leaves the back end of Boston’s bullpen with major question marks entering 2013. Signing a premiere reliever would be a foolish expense, but bringing Ryan Madson into the fold could turn into a great bargain.
Madson signed with the Cincinnati Reds as a free agent prior to 2012, but missed the entire season with a shoulder injury. But he has experience as both a closer and setup man, making him a perfect addition to the Boston bullpen even if they may not yet know where Madson would fit best.
B/R’s Jordan Ball reports that Madson would prefer to close, but teams may be leery of simply handing him a closer's job before seeing how his arm holds up.
If the Red Sox like what they see on his medicals, a two year contract for $9 million plus incentives might be enough to bring him to the Fens.
Keppinger does nothing great, but does many things well.
Every successful team needs a reliable utility player. Keppinger fits this position to a "t" as his greatest value is a 300 at bat type of player.
The soon to be 33-year-old Keppinger is an excellent hitter, batting .325 for the Rays in 2012 and has a .288 career batting average. He can play all over the infield—even the outfield, in a pinch.
Keppinger has played for six teams in an eight year major league career, so undoubtedly he would welcome a little security. If the Red Sox can get him in the range of two years and $6 million, they should jump at the chance.
Not a flashy pitcher, Jackson is a reliable innings gobbler.
The Red Sox had an opportunity to sign the right-handed Jackson before last season, but were unwilling to offer the money he wanted. He ended up signing with the Nationals on a one year deal and is now seeking a long-term contract.
With pitching depth at such a premium, the Red Sox would do well to nab Jackson and stick him in the middle of their rotation. He's not a star but is a reliable innings eater with a pristine medical history, throwing 180 or more innings and winning 10 or more games every season since 2008.
Some baseball analysis view Jackson as one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball, including Pinstripedbible.com.
Still just 29, Jackson would be an excellent deal for the Red Sox if they could get him for something in the neighborhood of three years and $40 million.
Statistics via BaseballReference
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