Expect the Boston Red Sox to go on another spending spree next winter.
This past offseason, Boston had several holes to fill and didn’t hold back much when it came to negotiating with players. Sure, the Red Sox didn’t give out long-term, expensive deals like they have in the past, but they definitely did spend a large amount of money overall.
Next offseason, Boston will probably have just as many voids as it did coming into this past winter. Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew, Joel Hanrahan, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are all expected to hit the free-agent market after the 2013 season, and Jon Lester could join them should Boston decline his 2014 option.
Boston just started playing spring training games and a lot remains to be sign as to how the 2013 Red Sox will play, but general manager Ben Cherington and his group of executives will keep an eye on potential targets for 2014. The free-agent class is expected to be relatively good and there are several players that would fit nicely into Red Sox uniforms.
Here’s a look at who Boston could chase at the conclusion of the 2013 season.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Outfielder, Boston Red Sox
Plain and simple, it’s in Boston’s best interest to try and bring Jacoby Ellsbury back. Ellsbury is one of the Red Sox’s most dangerous players when he’s healthy—he’s just had bad luck when it comes to avoiding uncontrollable injuries.
Last season, Ellsbury only got into 74 games after suffering a separated shoulder early in the year. In the games he did play in, he hit .271/.313/.370 with four home runs and 26 RBI. The injury clearly played a huge role in the low numbers considering how well he played a year earlier, finishing second in the American League MVP Award voting.
Ellsbury has taken a bit of heat over the years, but told Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe that he loves playing in Boston. But when asked about his upcoming free-agent status, he deferred to his agent, the great Scott Boras.
The Red Sox can deal with Boras—even though he’s likely to ask for more than Ellsbury is worth no matter how he plays in 2013—but Ellsbury saying that he loves Boston is a big step. Him wanting to come back is only half the battle, but it’s certainly better than nothing.
Boston seems to be interested in either extending him during the season or at least re-signing him once the season ends.
“Would we like to have him here? Yes,” CEO and President Larry Lucchino told Alex Speier of WEEI. “Do I think there will be some negotiations that will take place during the course of the year, perhaps sooner? Possibly. We wouldn’t rule anything out. But we’d very much like to have him here, like to have him be part of a core Red Sox team.”
Overall, the Red Sox are interested in bringing Ellsbury back and Ellsbury is interested in staying with Boston. Let’s make a deal!
Shin-Soo Choo, Outfielder, Cincinnati Reds
Before the Red Sox signed Jonny Gomes or Shane Victorino this past winter, they had their eyes set on Shin-Soo Choo, who at the time was with the Cleveland Indians. Boston didn’t end up landing him—obviously—and he was later dealt to the Cincinnati Reds.
Even though Choo is likely to play the entire season in Cincinnati, there’s no guarantee he’ll be back post-2013 as he’s still in the last year of his contract. And if he fails to sign an extension with the Reds, Boston will likely be interested again.
Back in November, Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reported that the Red Sox were having talks about acquiring Choo from Cleveland and that Boston had the pieces necessary to acquire him. Morosi notes, however, that the Red Sox would be much more inclined to complete a deal if Choo had more years left on his contract.
Well once Choo hits the free-agent market, Boston can sign him for however many years it pleases—as long as that’s fine with Choo of course. But the Red Sox will likely only pursue Choo should Ellsbury decide he wants to play elsewhere in the future.
The Red Sox could financially take on contracts for Ellsbury and Choo, but that wouldn’t be very wise. Shane Victorino will still have two years left on his contract and a couple of Boston’s top prospects are about ready to make their major league debuts.
Without Ellsbury and with Choo in 2014, Victorino would shift to left field, Choo would play right and prospect Jackie Bradley will be seasoned enough to play center.
It’s the perfect scenario. But it’s more of a backup plan should Ellsbury leave Boston.
Matt Garza, Starting Pitcher, Chicago Cubs
It seems as if Matt Garza has always been one of Boston’s targets, but even though the Red Sox have failed to acquire him in the past, this upcoming winter is another opportunity to do so. Garza is in the last year of his contract with the Chicago Cubs and his future there is uncertain.
The Red Sox were working to trade for him toward the trade deadline last season, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN, who also notes in the tweet that Boston was out on Ryan Dempster. Funny how things work out since Dempster is now in Boston and Garza is still with Chicago.
Garza would be an intriguing option considering his past with the Tampa Bay Rays. In three seasons pitching in the American League East, Garza went 34-31 with a 3.86 ERA across nearly 600 innings. Since then, he’s gone 15-17 with a 3.52 ERA in two seasons with the Cubs.
Last season, however, Garza only made 18 starts due to an elbow. He isn’t off to the greatest of starts this year either as Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago reports that he’s expected to miss around a week after an MRI showed a mild sprain between his lat and oblique. Garza is still expected to start the season on the 25-man roster, not the disabled list.
A lot of things can go wrong in Boston’s starting rotation this year, and if some pitchers underperform, the Red Sox will surely address it in the offseason.
Garza’s name is sure to come up in discussion in the offseason no matter what happens in 2013.
Tim Lincecum had an off year in 2012, but that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t have what it takes to be an ace. Lincecum used to be one of the best pitchers, but hasn’t had the success he nor the San Francisco expected last season.
The Red Sox have lacked an ace for some time now. Pedro Martinez was the one Boston had and he left town after the 2004 season. If Lincecum bounces back he could be the ace the Red Sox have been looking for—since Jon Lester isn’t really an ace and Clay Buchholz hasn’t shown signs of improving much either.
Although Lincecum went 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA in 33 starts last season, no one knows how or if he’ll bounce back. No matter what, it wouldn’t be that crazy for the Red Sox to pursue him.
Last July, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald proposed that Boston explore an Ellsbury-for-Lincecum deal. That never happened, but at least someone was thinking that the Red Sox were a good fit for the right-handed slinger.
Lincecum is set to make $22 million in 2013, the year of his contract. That’s an insane amount of money for a guy who didn’t pitch all too well in 2012. But the Giants have to pay it. After the season ends, it’s very unlikely that he’ll be able to command that much on the open market.
Sure, if Lincecum has a strong comeback season, he’ll get paid. But if he has a bad or mediocre year, that might work for Boston. A low-risk deal for not an absurd amount of the money is the type of contract the Red Sox should be looking to give out in the future.