The Boston Red Sox enter the off-season with a major power outage in their lineup and other questions, such as the Pedroia injury and just how far are they willing to go over the luxury tax threshold. Damian Dydyn takes a look at some of the options Dave Dombrowski will be looking at to take the offense to the next level.
The off-season has officially begun, and with it comes a slew of questions that both the fans and the Boston Red Sox front office are sure to be asking. How to fix the home run problem? How far past the luxury tax threshold is too far? Is it worth bumping the team’s first-round pick down ten spots by signing or trading for multiple big contract players? Is it worth tanking the entire 2018 draft by signing qualifying-offer recipients? Who, if any, of the departing free agents are important to extend? Are any worth a qualifying offer (The answer was no).
Dave Dombrowski surely has a plan in place, and if we’ve learned anything the last two winters, it’s that we shouldn’t spend much time trying to predict exactly what he’s going to do. He likes to go big, and he likes to strike fast, but he also has a habit of pulling off the unexpected. With that said, here are some basic guidelines for what to expect:
What the Red Sox will almost certainly do:
Conversations with Eduardo Nunez and Addison Reed have probably already happened. If either, or both, are extendable at a cost the team is willing to pay, we should see an announcement soon. Beyond that, the team will be exploring the market for a big bat, whether via trade or free agency. The top free agent target has been written about before: J.D. Martinez. With Justin Upton signing an extension to stay with the Angels, the expensive options for a middle-of-the-order-presence are limited to one, though that one guy has signed with Scott Boras, which may mean an early deal for a reasonable sum is out the window.
On the trade market, Dombrowski will certainly give Derek Jeter a call to discuss Giancarlo Stanton. That is probably still unlikely, though if the Red Sox are dead set on getting a monster bat for the heart of the order and Martinez’s price tag has reached the $30-35M range, the team may prefer giving up the young players and prospects necessary for Stanton, longer contract and all. Of course, with his no trade clause, he is likely to demand his 2028 club option be picked up, which would raise his AAV from $29.5M to $31M.
Outside of Stanton, the trade market doesn’t have any obvious targets, though a phone call to Cincinnati about Joey Votto is all but guaranteed, even if the effort is nearly certain to be futile. The incredibly consistent and productive first baseman has made it clear that he prefers staying where he is, but nothing is set in stone.
If the Red Sox decide to bring in a slightly lesser bat on a shorter contract at fewer dollars, Jay Bruce and Lucas Duda would both be attractive. Neither should require a substantial investment and since both were traded, neither can be made a qualifying offer. Expect to hear the Red Sox as possible suitors for all four of these names for as long as they are out there.
What the Red Sox might do:
The team may decide to go past the $237M secondary threshold, even though that would move their top pick back ten spots in the draft. Without adjusting for lost picks or other alterations to the first few rounds of the draft, the Sox are slated to pick 26th or 27th. Looking at last year’s draft slots, that pick was worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.1M. The difference between that pick and one 10 picks lower (which depends on whether the drop includes or skips the supplemental first round) is likely between $400,000 and $750,000. So the team would be looking at a sizeable but not draft-crushing drop in dollars to spend, and whatever the drop in talent is from a pick in the last fifth of the 1st round to the middle of the supplemental round or the first few picks of the second. In other words, a fairly insignificant difference, historically speaking.
That said, the difference between one pick and the next could be Mike Trout to Eric Arnett. Even still, with a very specific two-year window in front of them, it would be reasonable to give up the draft slot if it means they could land a player they really want.
This would open up the possibility of a Stanton trade or a Martinez signing (even with Boras representing him), and even cracks the door to multiple big contracts being signed or acquired.
What the Red Sox almost certainly won’t do:
The Red Sox farm system is likely to be in the bottom 10 of the league when the system rankings come out this winter. It might even be in the bottom 5. This means that if the team decides to sign players who have received qualifying offers (Moustakas and Hosmer have already gotten theirs from Kansas City), it would deprive an already very thin prospect pipeline of a much-needed influx of amateur talent by removing their 2nd and 5th highest picks and $1M in international free agent money.
If the team does this on top of going over the $237M threshold, they would be dropping their top pick out of the first round, and removing their 2nd and 5th round picks (as it currently stands) as well. In 2016, the Red Sox second-round pick was worth $993,900 and their fifth-round pick was worth $296,500. That’s a combined loss of at least $2,690,400 from their draft and IFA spending pools. That’s a massive loss of resources. It is incredibly unlikely that the team will both go over the secondary luxury tax threshold AND sign a qualifying offer free agent.
Luckily, the winter market offers a number of non-qualifying-offer free agents to choose from, so this shouldn’t prevent the team from adding some power to the lineup through the free agent market if they want. And Dombrowski being Dombrowski, don’t be surprised to see them do exactly that.
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Feature image courtesy of Jim Davis/Globe Staff