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2020 MLB Free Agents: Top Rumors Before Regular Season Ends

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2020

Boston Red Sox batting helmets are seen in the dugout before a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Boston, Thursday, July 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

There are 16 teams preparing for the start of the 2020 MLB postseason. For everyone else, there's going to be heavy focus on the offseason and what will happen in free agency.

Any concerns about whether teams would choose to spend money after this season with lower revenue because of the shortened season and no ticket sales was put to rest, at least temporarily, when the Los Angeles Dodgers gave Mookie Betts a 12-year extension worth $365 million July 22.

Betts is a unique case because he's arguably the best all-around player in MLB and is only 27. But the point remains that there's money available if teams want to take an aggressive approach on the open market this winter.

One team, in particular, could be ready to make multiple moves to improve coming off a difficult 2020 season.

                           

Red Sox Open to Spending?

Per The Athletic's Peter Gammons, the Boston Red Sox have already started thinking about ideas for this winter.

"They expect [Jarren] Duran somewhere in the lineup next season, but they plan to try to re-sign Jackie Bradley Jr.," Gammons wrote. "Problem is, there may be a lot of daylight between what Scott Boras will ask and where the Red Sox think the market will go post-COVID."

Bradley has seemingly been on the trade market for years, but the Red Sox have never found the right deal for the 30-year-old. He's hitting free agency at an opportune time, as he's on pace to set career highs in batting average (.279) and on-base percentage (.354).

Per FanGraphs, Bradley is tied for third among all center fielders with six defensive runs saved.

Outfield depth is one of the few areas that wasn't a major problem for Boston in 2020. Andrew Benintendi was the biggest disappointment with a .442 OPS in 14 games before a rib injury shut him down for the year.

Alex Verdugo may not turn out to be as good as Betts, but he's been terrific with a .315/.370/.487 slash line in 52 games. Duran owns a .322/.376/.446 slash line in 199 minor league games since 2018.

Bradley's ability as a defender in center, combined with his improved offensive performance this season, could be enough for Boston to bring him back, especially if their confidence in Benintendi is shaken. Duran could handle left-field duties if they want to get his bat in the lineup early in 2021.

Gammons noted the Red Sox "have the money to sign a couple of free-agent pitchers."

Pitching would seem to be a bigger priority for the Red Sox than retaining Bradley. They are the only staff in MLB with a negative FanGraphs wins above replacement (-0.5) this season. Their starters rank 29th in innings pitched and ERA, and they rank last in fielding independent ERA.

Of course, the bad news for Boston is this year's starting pitching market is thin. Trevor Bauer is the closest thing to a No. 1 starter who will be available. That could put more pressure on Chris Sale, who will be returning from Tommy John surgery, to find his old form when he's able to return.

The Red Sox could have $158.2 million in salary commitments next season between their guaranteed contracts and projected arbitration salaries, per Baseball Reference.

Boston chairman Tom Werner recently told NESN (via Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com) that the team isn't planning a "long rebuilding process" and "we spend and we're not a small-market team. We're going to be back next year."

Considering the Red Sox chose to focus their attention this season getting under the luxury tax, it's at least encouraging that a key member of the front office is discussing being a player in free agency.

This isn't the best offseason to go after stars in free agency, though there could be plenty available via trade. However the Red Sox approach this winter, they have to do what it takes to make serious progress after finishing last in the AL East in 2020.

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