The Red Sox came off of a disappointing campaign that saw key players underperform and get injured. With an unusually low payroll heading into free agency, Boston can look to catch a few big names to fill key needs.
While some would point to second base as a key need, it could actually be pretty stable with Michael Chavis and Jonathan Arauz splitting the workload. Both have proven that they can hit at league average at worst, and with a more consistent season should come more consistent form.
With Jackie Bradley Jr. testing free agency, a strong center fielder is the biggest need to fill in their lineup. JBJ may actually be the best option for the Red Sox to pursue. We know how he plays, and he wouldn’t cost as much as a guy like Springer. His defense is top in the league, and his bat appears to be finally following suit.
A contract in the range of four years, eight million dollars per year is likely with whoever he signs with. Though there may be a team that offers him in the $10 million range, the Red Sox would likely be able to match it or get close enough for Jackie to return. Benintendi is still a huge question mark after last season, so having a consistent presence on defense and hopefully, a solid bat in the lineup would do wonders.
J.D. Martinez had a very poor season, and the Red Sox would be smart to try and trade away his $20 million salary. Even if he returns partially to his prior form, it will not be enough to live up to that contract. With said contract also expiring soon, Martinez getting traded is more than likely.
Free-agent Marcell Ozuna has been linked with Boston and could fit in the capacity of DH. He would also provide a backup option in case, Verdugo, Benny, or JBJ need a rest day. He would be relatively expensive, but likely cheaper than J.D. currently is.
Over the past three years with Ozuna as primarily an outfielder, he batted a strong .280 with 89 homers. But as a DH last year, he batted .338 with a league-leading 18 homers. Not to mention the fact he also won a silver slugger award and came in sixth for NL MVP voting. For a guy like Ozuna, it would be hard to pass up a large, and likely long, deal to head to a well managed, young, high upside offense.
Boston had one of the worst pitching staffs in all of baseball last year. Yet there are pieces that, when paired with an ace like Trevor Bauer, would excel. Sure, Bauer is the best scenario in free agency, and would certainly cost a pretty penny. But Boston has the money, and if Bauer won’t take it then someone like Mashiro Tanaka or Taijuan Walker will.
Eduardo Rodriguez will be back, and Chris Sale will eventually be as well. Eovaldi had an impressive season when he was healthy, with a 3.72 ERA, and could be a very deadly third option behind E-Rod and Sale. Tanner Houck looked extremely promising in his first year, boasting a 0.53 ERA through three starts, and could slot in at the four. Nick Pivetta would be at the five, but he would move to the rotation if a signing was made.
Now imagine that rotation but insert Bauer as the one. You would have two all-star pitchers in Sale and Bauer, followed by fringe all-stars in Rodriguez and Eovaldi, and capping it all off is the future of the rotation, Tanner Houck. That’s five pitchers that, when healthy and playing at their best, can all pitch well under the league ERA average of 4.44.
As with bringing in a starting pitcher ace, this would help elevate the whole unit greatly. Phillips Valdez and Ryan Brasier were good, and Barnes and Weber weren’t terrible either. But the relief rotation was missing that one pitcher that could consistently close out a game. A guy that could take over in the final innings.
Liam Hendriks would be a smart target in free agency, as he is the best relief pitcher on the market. He finished last year with a 1.78 ERA, somehow lower than the 1.80 he had the season prior. He wouldn’t be too expensive either, barring a bidding war at least. The last time Boston had a closer of Hendriks’ caliber, they won the World Series.
There are a couple of other closer options that would be similar to Hendriks. Mark Melancon, who is coming of a season where he was third in saves in the NL, could make his return to Boston. Brad Hand is another relatively under-the-radar option. The 30-year-old was first in the AL in saves, with 16, and had a 2.05 ERA. Hendriks would come in at $10 million a year, with Hand likely priced around seven and Melancon four respectively.