It’s the afterglow season, always a time to beware.
You want to celebrate the great accomplishment of winning the 2013 World Series, yet you don’t want to celebrate for too long before you get your game face back on.
If we go by 2004 and 2007, the year after wasn’t as good in either case. Too much offseason stuff going on, from trophy caravans to late-night show appearances, and everything in between. But the Red Sox seem to be situated better this time around for a repeat.
Surely, the potential free agent losses of Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia would start to chip away at what Ben Cherington built, especially in terms of chemistry.
Ellsbury, obviously, would be the biggest loss because of his skill set. And losing a righthanded power bat like Napoli’s would also hurt.
Agent Scott Boras said he received 11 phone calls Thursday from general managers regarding clients Ellsbury and Drew, and that was in the morning alone, a few hours after the World Series and when free agency officially opened for 147 players.
“These are very popular players,” Boras said.
There will likely be a good market for Ellsbury and Drew, and qualifying offers could be made to both. Drew had a poor offensive showing in the postseason, which may hurt him a tad, but Boras was quick to point out that Drew was fitted for new contact lenses prior to Game 6 of the World Series, in which he hit a home run, and that only Drew and Troy Tulowitzki had OPSs of .775 or greater among shortstops.
“He played an outstanding shortstop,” Boras said of Drew. “That’s clear to see. And his offensive numbers rank with the best offensive shortstops in the game.”
Napoli’s agent, Brian Grieper, has said his client won’t accept a one-year deal because he agreed to one this season based on the diagnosis of a hip condition that never came into play. Napoli will have an exit physical soon and new MRIs will be compared with the ones he had at midseason to see if there has been any changes to his hips.
If there have been, the Red Sox probably won’t offer him a multiyear deal, though other teams will surely because of Napoli’s power. Grieper would not comment on whether he had already received calls from teams.
If Napoli leaves, what happens at first base? Does Daniel Nava get more of a full-time shot? Is Will Middlebrooks shifted there? Does Mike Carp get more playing time? Do the Red Sox acquire a full-time first baseman? Or do they swing a blockbuster deal for Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton? If they do, Shane Victorino could move to center field and someone like Nava could be put at first.
The interesting one will be Salatalamacchia. He had a breakthrough season as a game-caller and made leaps as a defender. His throwing was still helter-skelter, but better than in previous years. Saltalamacchia will make his money here or elsewhere.
But with David Ross starting the final three games of the World Series, you wonder if the Sox will want to move on from Saltalamacchia. Ross could assume more playing time now that he’s recovered from post-concussion syndrome.
Remember, the Red Sox signed Ross for two years at $6 million total, a little more than backups get because they wanted him to be more than a 35-game backup. They were thinking more in the 60-70 range for games played, and if he hadn’t suffered two concussions, he would have reached that.
The Red Sox also have young catchers Ryan Lavarnway and Christian Vazquez. It may serve no purpose to send Lavarnway back to Triple A, so the Sox may need to give him a major league job or deal him.
Yes, the team could look a lot different, but part of the success of any organization is based on reinventing itself. Free agency means that nothing really stays the same.
It would stand to reason that the Red Sox will trade one of their starting pitchers — anyone from Jake Peavy and Ryan Dempster to John Lackey or even Felix Doubront, to make room for one of their young starters. Right now that would likely be Brandon Workman, who performed so well as a starter before he had to shift to the bullpen when Peavy was acquired. Or Allen Webster, who has the stuff but doesn’t quite have the gumption yet.
If Workman remains in the bullpen, the Red Sox won’t have to search too hard for another reliever, but if he doesn’t, they would likely add a veteran reliever to the late-inning mix. They could even re-sign Joel Hanrahan, who would be coming off Tommy John surgery and could be available in May or June, much like Andrew Bailey. They could make the decision that Rubby De La Rosa would be their middle reliever, throwing 98 miles per hour.
Another question is do the Red Sox want to break two rookies into their starting lineup in Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.?
The offseason will likely include a lot of discussion about a long-term deal for Jon Lester, who has proved to be a big-game pitcher and will warrant a huge contract. There could also be buzz about David Ortiz wanting an extension since he’ll be entering the final year of his contract.
Cherington must address possible vacancies at certain positions, but depth as well. Depth can overcome a lot of things when starters get hurt. The strength of this year’s team is that it was able to survive injuries to Bailey, Hanrahan, and Clay Buchholz, while also navigating through Victorino’s nagging injuries. They had the personnel to do it.
We’re all interested to see what Cherington, the hottest GM in baseball, is going to do the year after. Cherington was there in 2004 and 2007 under Theo Epstein. So, he understands the pitfalls of the offseason after a championship. And maybe, just maybe, he can avoid them.