Falling out of contention could dramatically impact Boston's roster this summer.
Although the Boston Red Sox spent heavily this offseason to improve a team that lost 93 games in 2012, they could trade many of their players this summer if the team doesn't play as expected.
WEEI’s Alex Speier outlined how the Red Sox have spent over $150 million this offseason in an effort to fill numerous roster holes.
Although the Red Sox hope their moves will help them compete in 2013, the current composition of their roster makes a fire sale later this summer a very strong possibility if the team falls out of contention.
The only players with more than two years remaining on their existing contracts are John Lackey, Shane Victorino, Clay Buchholz and possibly Mike Napoli. All other players on the roster would be relatively easy to trade because of their short contracts or because they have not yet reached free agency.
The Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson detailed how much the Red Sox value draft picks, which has dictated their activity this offseason. Presumably they would also covet prospects and young players who might offer a great deal of future upside.
ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark utilized Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projection system to predict the Red Sox as an 85-win team in 2013—and that was before the Hanrahan trade. That would likely put Boston on the fringe of contention, as AL Wild Card teams have won between 91 and 95 games during the past five seasons.
Who is the Red Sox player most likely to be traded this summer?
If Boston isn't contending by the trade deadline, it makes sense that GM Ben Cherington could decide to blow things up and look to stockpile prospects and younger players.
The Red Sox are loaded with players who could be highly desirable to contending teams.
Starting pitcher Jon Lester could bring the most significant return, as he is signed through 2014 for about $25 million. If he regains his pre-2012 form, where he averaged 16 wins between 2008-2011, teams will line up to inquire about the impact southpaw.
Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury will be a free agent after the upcoming season. However, if he is healthy and plays anywhere near his 2011 second-place AL MVP level, he could put a playoff contender over the top.
The Red Sox could also offer proven closers. Both Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey could be plugged into another team’s ninth inning (or setup) role, which can be a rare commodity come July.
Teams seeking other bullpen help could also come knocking on Boston’s door. Alfredo Aceves and Franklin Morales can start or relieve and are under team control for two more seasons. Craig Breslow and Koji Uehara are proven setup men with reasonable contracts that expire at the end of the season.
Need catching help? The Red Sox can help there too. David Ross is a prototypical backup with a two-year deal. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has his flaws, but his power is a rare attribute for the position.
Even players with longer deals like Buchholz and Lackey could be dealt if they perform well in 2013. Because of last year’s injury, Lackey will earn only $500,000 in 2015, the last year of his contract.
Buchholz is owed just over $25 million during the next three seasons, with two team options worth an additional $26.5 million in 2016-17—a steal if he is even just an average starter during the next five years.
If the Red Sox did decide to go into full-blown sale mode this summer, it wouldn't necessarily mean a total rebuild. Any youngsters obtained in trades could be seen as part of the future or be flipped during the offseason for more established players. Also, with their ability to spend, the team could dive back into free agency again next offseason.
For now, the Red Sox and their fans should expect to compete in 2013. However, it remains possible that if the first half of the season doesn't go as planned, a massive fire sale could ensue.
Only time will tell.
Statistics via BaseballReference