5 Dream Free-Agent Pickups for the Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox figure to be active players in the free-agent market, and they'll need to be if they hope to compete once more in 2015.
The Red Sox need to add significant pieces to their starting rotation. They need to shore up their bullpen. And they must seriously considering pursuing upgrades at the hot corner and at backup catcher, too.
With a glut of young talent, live arms and outfielders, the Red Sox can fill some of these holes by turning to the trade market. Yet more are likely to be filled through free agency, as the Red Sox have plenty of cash to work with.
In fact, by WEEI.com's Alex Speier's estimates, the Red Sox had about $52 million to spend this offseason. They've already spent $9 million of that retaining Koji Uehara, but that leaves plenty of cash left for one or two major acquisitions and some minor moves, too.
With that in mind, let's take a look at five free-agent "dream acquisitions" for the Red Sox. Keep in mind that these perfect deals exist independent of one another, and that they certainly represent best-case scenarios for the Red Sox.
5. Andrew Miller, LHP
Regardless of whether teams see him as a closer or a setup man, Miller is going to get paid this offseason. He's coming off of a season in which he struck out an incredible 42.6 percent of the batters he faced, and he posted a 2.02 ERA in 62.1 innings. Lefties have better odds of being struck by lightning twice than they do putting good wood on the ball against Miller.
Miller is the best left-handed reliever on the market, and it's not particularly close. Given the holes that major market teams like the Dodgers, Tigers, Cubs and Yankees have in their bullpens, it would not at all be surprising to see a substantial bidding war for Miller emerge.
But if the Red Sox can find a way to bring Miller back on semi-reasonable terms, they should do so. Miller and Uehara formed a devastating one-two punch at the back of Boston's bullpen for much of 2013 and 2014. Plus, given Uehara's late-season implosion last year, it would be smart for the Red Sox to acquire some insurance in the form of a second dominant reliever.
If the bidding for Miller gets crazy, the track record for long reliever deals suggests that the Red Sox should bow out. But if we're talking best-case scenarios here, it's possible that Miller accepts a three-year deal for under $30 million, and if that's the case, the Red Sox should take a good, hard look at re-signing him.
4. Brandon McCarthy, RHP
Much has been made about the Red Sox's supposed pursuit of James Shields, Jon Lester or Max Scherzer, and it's true that they need a top-of-the-rotation type of arm to anchor their staff. But the Red Sox also need depth rotation pieces capable of performing at an above-average level, and McCarthy presents an intriguing option as such on the market this year.
McCarthy was terrible for the Diamondbacks in the first half of 2014, but the Yankees saw the disparity between his ERA (5.01) and his FIP (3.82, per FanGraphs) and decided to roll the dice and trade for him anyway. The 31-year-old was much better in New York, pitching to a 2.89 ERA in 90.1 innings.
The right-hander is a bit homer-prone, to be sure, and he's had a long history of medical issues that are worrisome and could suppress his market. But when he's right, McCarthy is a legitimate No. 3 starter, and he could help flush out Boston's rotation until the likes of Matt Barnes and Henry Owens are ready to assume prominent roles.
Given his lengthy injury history, it's tough to imagine McCarthy getting more than two guaranteed years, which means a ton of teams will be in on him. But if the Red Sox can use some of their financial flexibility to secure him additional funds up front, he'd be a terrific rotation addition to their 2015 and 2016 teams.
3. Chase Headley, 3B
It's no secret that the Red Sox have interest in Pablo Sandoval. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman reported as much in late October, and we've seen numerous projected deals for Sandoval and projected Red Sox lineups with Sandoval in the mix ever since.
Yet within that piece, Heyman also notes that the Red Sox have interest in Headley. And given how much Sandoval is likely to command on the market this offseason, it's quite possible that Headley represents the smarter signing.
Another transplant from the NL West to New York, Headley hit .262/.371/.398 in 224 games with the Yankees after scuffling in the hitter's nightmare that is Petco Park earlier in the season. He's not the star-level performer he was in 2012, but Headley is a good defender, still has some pop and would fit perfectly in Boston's order as a left-handed hitter.
Sandoval could very well be looking at a five-year deal in excess of $100 million, and while he's a fine player, that's a hefty price tag for a non-elite performer. Headley, though, could be had on a two- or three-year deal, and while he's older than Sandoval, that seems a more reasonable price.
If we're going with best-case scenarios, let's imagine it's possible for the Red Sox to offer Headley a very lucrative AAV and secure him for two years with a vesting option for a third year. It's unfortunate that Garin Cecchini would be blocked, but he can be moved for depth elsewhere.
2. James Shields, RHP
At this point, we all know that the Red Sox have been heavily linked to Shields. The Kansas City Star's Andy McCullough reported last month that the Sox are the favorite to acquire Shields this offseason, and given his age and level of performance, that makes a ton of sense.
Yet the rumors have left many Red Sox fans and analysts less than thrilled, since as WEEI.com's Rob Bradford noted in September, the Red Sox are only likely to acquire one of the three of Shields, Lester and Scherzer. Shields is a good pitcher, to be sure, but he's also undoubtedly the worst of the three.
Yet if we're evaluating these signings in a vacuum, signing Shields would be a terrific move. He's as consistent as they come, has a track record of success in the AL East and is lauded for his willingness to work with young pitchers. If the Red Sox can acquire him on, say, a four-year deal, it would be a coup.
So while landing Shields and Shields alone as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher doesn't represent a dream scenario, landing Shields and a certain former Boston left-hander would be too good to be true.
1. Jon Lester, LHP
Not much needs to be said here; it's the dream of many Red Sox fans that Boston reacquires Lester as a free agent this offseason.
The left-hander is one of the better pitchers in Red Sox history, is coming off one of the best seasons of his career and should have several seasons of peak performance left in the tank. He's going to require a huge commitment, but that commitment may very well be worth it.
Plus, signing Lester would make the Red Sox look like the master architects of some plan to land Yoenis Cespedes for what turned out to merely be a rental. Many would have a tough time believing that was the plan all along, sure, but it would be fun to believe nonetheless.
The Sox have likely blown their chances at receiving a significant hometown discount from Lester, but if the southpaw truly wants to return to Boston, he could take slightly less than top dollar to return. If the Sox can acquire him for a deal in the seven-year, $150 million range, they should consider themselves lucky.