The best way to start this offseason is by running a bad joke into the ground.
Anyway, I found some time to actually do the research for this. My aim here is less to project what the ideal offseason looks like than what I think they can realistically put together. I think they’re likely to have to pay a premium to land any free agents of note. There are a handful they will pursue but likely only a couple they’d be able to land. So the Sox will have another round of creative trades. Especially since Rick’s shown a knack for being able to take marginal assets and convert them into legitimate major leaguers and prospects.
Arbitration-eligible (with projected salaries from MLBTR):
· Ronald Belisario, $3.9M – Non-tender.
· Tyler Flowers, $2.1M - Tender
· Dayan Viciedo, $4.4M – Non-tender
· Hector Noesi, $1.9M - Tender
· Nate Jones, $600,000. - Tender
· Javy Guerra $1.3M (if he is a Super Two) - Tender
I think Belisario can bounce back, especially if the defense can be improved. $4m is too expensive, though. I’d like to get him on a 1-year, incentive-laden deal between $2-3m.
Contract options (pick up or buy out):
· Felipe Paulino: $4M for 2015 or $250,000 buyout -buyout
Free agents (re-sign or let go?):
· Matt Lindstrom: $4M salary in 2014 – Let him walk.
I think they’re in on Headley, Markakis, and Aoki but there’s no way they land all of them. I think they view Flowers as productive enough that they won’t pursue Martin at market rate with any seriousness. They’ll try to land a decent free agent starter and some bullpen help before being active in signing other teams’ non-tenders.
No. 1 Brandon McCarthy (3/$36m). I don’t think the Sox want to make a long-term commitment to any of the top 3 starters. Just about every other free agent starter has flyball tendencies that aren’t a strong fit for the park. I’d probably be willing to slightly overpay, up to 3/$40m to get him. I wouldn’t go to 4 years.
No. 2 Chase Headley (4/$60m). I think the Sox have to pay a premium to land him. His defense is worth it but I wouldn’t want to go much higher than this.
No. 3 Wil Nieves (1/$1.5m). The internal options to be Flowers’ backup, let alone replace him, aren’t. There isn’t a good fix that the Sox can afford, so this buys them time at low cost.
No. 4 Ramon Santiago (1/$1.75m). The Sox need to improve their bench. I also have an irrational dislike of Emilio Bonifacio. Santiago’s best days are behind him but he provides cheap, positive value as a super-utility and likely won’t require a longer contract. Switch-hitter but not especially good from the left side.
No. 5 Neal Cotts (2/$5m). The Sox need a lefty. Miller is too much money. Duke is the definition of reliever volatility. Cotts offers affordable quality.
No. 6 Burke Bradenhop (2/$6m). Bradenhop has good groundball tendencies. He’s capable of not being awful against lefties, though I wouldn’t bet on it. If the Belisario experiment fails, he’s my backup option. Tim Stauffer is a less interesting alternative.
My goal was to find major league ready prospects who are on the older side or blocked. It’s really difficult to find them on teams that have a direct need the Sox can fill. I found 2 deals that are at least plausible. I think Hahn will also have to be on the lookout for an opportunity to jump in as the third wheel again like he did with the Peavy and Santiago trades. It’s beyond my imagination to project what that looks like right now but I wouldn't be surprised to see Sanchez, Semien, Garcia and/or a couple of their top 20 prospects moved.
No. 1. Conor Gillaspie to the Braves for Joey Terdoslavich. Headley makes him superfluous and Gillaspie is probably a better fit in the NL, anyway. The Braves could use a lefthanded bench bat and someone to platoon with Chris Johnson. Terdoslavich is a switch-hitting OF/1B/DH who’s currently blocked in their system. Like Davidson, he also struggled in a repeat of AAA but there’s potential here.
No. 2. Micah Johnson to the Padres for Alex Dickerson. Two 24 year old players with recent injury troubles. I don’t think Johnson sticks at 2B with the Sox but he’s probably an upgrade there over Gyorko for the Padres. His speed should play better at Petco, even if he moves to the OF. Dickerson’s a lefty OF/1B with some power and decent on-base skills. He cut his K% after returning from injury. This might be a PTBNL situation where Johnson has to show he’s healthy.
These moves give the Sox some flexibility with OF/1B/DH. I considered options like Fowler and Heyward but I think the Sox are still probably looking for players with more team control left. Trading for pre-arb major leaguers like Khris Davis is intriguing but I think the cost probably ends up too high.
Payroll lands around $96m. While that does leave about $14m below their ceiling, I think it’s unlikely they’d use that to land another premier free agent. It does give them the freedom to take flyers on other team’s non-tenders. It wouldn’t be the worst thing if they found someone to push Noesi to the bullpen and Bassitt and Dickerson back to AAA.
I think these moves add some consistency, depth, and flexibility without costing the team too much in cash or players. I think the offense probably doesn’t look much better than 2014 but there are steps forward everywhere else, especially with flexibility. That might put them in a position to add at the deadline and make a second half push.
Lineup (not a lineup)
C - Flowers
1B – Abreu
2B – Sanchez
SS – Alexei
3B – Headley
LF – Terdoslavich
CF – Eaton
RF – Garcia
DH – Rotation
Semien – INF (R), Santiago – INF (S), Dickerson – OF/1B/DH (S), Sierra – OF (R), Nieves – C (R)
Putnam (RH), Petricka (RH), Bradenhop (RH), Cotts (LH), Guerra (RH), Bassitt (RH), Belisario (RH)