MLB Contract Extensions Mean No Quick Fix for the Boston Red Sox
Derick Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
It was a big day in MLB for teams extending their star players.
And all these extensions will have a direct impact on the Boston Red Sox moving forward.
First, Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers came to an agreement on a five-year extension that will keep Verlander with the Tigers until 2019 with a vesting option for 2020. Total package could be worth $202, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that the Los Angeles Dodgers and star lefty Clayton Kershaw are talking about an extension as well. Given that the market has been set by Verlander, getting the 25-year-old Kershaw under contract seems like a wise idea.
Earlier this winter the Seattle Mariners locked up Felix Hernandez with a seven-year $175 million contract. It is great for baseball that a team like the Mariners can hold onto a player like Hernandez without crippling their team.
In the past, all of these players would have been linked to the Red Sox as they moved closer to free agency. Now, the Red Sox don't have a shot at them or even a second-tier player like the St. Louis Cardinals' Adam Wainwright.
What this means moving forward is that there are no quick fixes coming for the Red Sox.
This will be the year to have one eye on what figures to be a pretty tight race in the AL East while having another eye looking at Pawtucket, Portland and the June draft.
For all the attractiveness of free agency, the Red Sox in recent years have been really burned when signing free agents from other teams.
The recent examples are obvious—from Carl Crawford to John Lackey to Edgar Renteria. Committing big money to players who haven't come up through your own system is never a sure thing, and doing so has backfired on the Red Sox.
Now when a star player hits free agency, he probably has an obvious flaw or a serious question mark surrounding him. Josh Hamilton and concerns about his off-the-field behavior or Zack Greinke and his ability to handle a high-pressure market come to mind.
The days of a Mike Mussina or a CC Sabathia or Mark Teixeira or Prince Fielder hitting the market appear to be over. MLB has done a very good job of spreading the wealth recently and almost every franchise is doing well financially.
In the past, the Red Sox have been able to throw their weight around financially. Now the luxury tax has changed the way Boston and even the New York Yankees will operate.
With a more level playing field, every team in baseball should be able to retain the players they want to retain, meaning that Boston will have to be better at developing its own talent.
Looking at MLB Trade Rumors' Tim Dierkes list of top 10 free agents for 2014, now that Wainwright's off the board only Robinson Cano profiles as a true free agent star, and he plays a position where the Red Sox are actually set.
Developing Red Sox prospects like Jackie Bradley, Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster now takes on added significance for Boston. At some point, they will all have to have an impact in the major leagues for Boston to contend.
When the season starts Monday, the Red Sox are likely to field a team with six of the nine starters being homegrown. Looking at the current landscape, that's a starting point for Boston.
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