The Boston Red Sox are in what one assumes is an enviable position. Unlike after 2004, when an aging, veteran team was largely broken up within two years thanks to free agency, the Red Sox have few major free agents and won largely because of their young players, who are all locked up long-term.
That’s exciting for the upcoming years, but there’s still some work that needs to be done in the offseason. Rest assured, the other AL contenders won’t stay pat — the Tigers have already brought Edgar Renteria back to the
better junior division.
Here are the Red Sox’ free agents this offseason, according to the Associated Press:
- Mike Lowell
- Royce Clayton
- Eric Hinske
- Doug Mirabelli
- Bobby Kielty
- Tim Wakefield*
- Curt Schilling
- Julian Tavarez*
- Mike Timlin
- Eric Gagne
- Matt Clement
Two of these are easy to figure.
Royce Clayton went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts and a run scored as a late-innings replacement for Julio Lugo. He never made it onto the postseason roster, but he got a ring after 17 seasons in baseball. He wept in the clubhouse as he hoisted the trophy. The Red Sox did right by him, but he won’t be back.
Likewise, Eric Gagne is pretty assuredly gone. One doubts he would get much money anymore after tanking in Boston, and I assume the Red Sox will be happy to get whatever draft picks they can and bid him farewell. He, too, got his ring and a 0.00 World Series ERA.
The rest have varying degrees of uncertainty.
Clement should be ready to pitch at the beginning of next season. Would the Red Sox bring him back for dirt cheap, assuming he would likely replicate his old pre-beanball, pre-injury self? It probably depends on how the rest of the free agent market for pitchers goes.
Wakefield may retire. The Sox may not want him back, in which case Wakefield probably would retire. Back and shoulder problems have derailed the past two seasons — but he very well could have won 20 games in 2007 if not for the strugglles caused by his injury in August and September. Right now, I would bet he won’t be back. Doug Mirabelli’s status is, of course, inextricably linked to Wakefield’s.
Tavarez also has an option on his contract. There’s no reason the Red Sox shouldn’t pick it up — except that the Red Sox don’t seem to like him anymore, rarely using him down the stretch and leaving him off the World Series roster in favor of Kyle Snyder. It’s hard to imagine him having a better year than the one had in 2007. He provided a great deal of value as an above-average fifth starter/long man — value any team could use next year, including the Red Sox.
Hinske and Kielty are capable backups. They play decent defense and they can hit the ball at times. You look at Hinske’s .204 batting average and think he had a career-worst year, providing little value. But his .715 OPS (83 OPS+) off the bench is serviceable, thanks to his ability to walk and hit for some power — and his ability to at least competently field two infield and two outfield positions. Kielty, similarly, had some good moments with the Sox during the regular season, then had THE moment in Game 4, when he hit what ended up being the game-winning home run on the only World Series pitch he’s ever seen. He’s coming off his worst season ever, though, plagued by injuries. I’m guessing he won’t be back; the Sox already have Brandon Moss in waiting. If Hinske is willing to take a one-year deal, I could see him returning.
Timlin had a fantastic year. Slowed by injuries in the first half and seemingly on the cusp of retirement, Timlin wound up posting a WHIP of 1.08, the second-best of his career (best since 2003) and a 139 ERA+, fifth-best in his 17-year career and second-best since 1998. In the topsy-turvy world of middle relief, Timlin has been as consistent as you can get. He hasn’t had an ERA+ below 106 since 1994. I see no reason why he couldn’t return on another one-year, incentives-laden deal — unless some other team realizes the value still left in his arm and overpays.
And finally the two big fish — Lowell and Schilling.
Based on stats alone, there is no better fit for Lowell than playing half his games at Fenway Park. He was the reason the Red Sox made the playoffs this season (well, him and some starter or other), and both sides seem more than willing to make a deal work. Both sides are saying the right things — unlike in the Damon and Pedro cases. If the Sox are willing to pay a little more per season, Lowell should be willing to take one fewer year. How does 3/40 sound?
Schilling seems amenable to picking back up where he left off in spring training, telling WEEI that if he tests free agency, he’ll go for the best combination of money, chance to win and young pitchers to teach. This seems to indicate he’ll come to the Sox at the $13 million, one-year deal he proposed in February. If so, there’s no way you don’t make that deal. The man posted a 3.34 ERA in nine second half starts and a 3.00 ERA in the postseason. He seems to have effectively made the transition from a power to finesse pitcher, and a 3.87 ERA (which he posted in 2007) is certainly a desirable result from your third or fourth starter.