The 2014 season for the Boston Red Sox is over. It has been for quite some time. So, let's go back to a line that hasn't been used in ten years: wait 'til next year. That's right despite probably finishing the American League East at the bottom of the standings, Red Sox fans are fulling expecting the team to compete next season. Since we have no idea what next season's roster is going to look like just yet, let's have some fun and see what it could hold, in a completely realistic way.
Let's start with the guys we know are here. Dustin Pedroia signed that massive extension last season and he here for the remainder of his career. David Ortiz got an extension as well and is safe. Rusney Castillo just signed the largest deal for a Cuban player in the history of Major League Baseball, so expect to see him around next season, and for many to come. Other than those three, I would say anybody could go including Mike Napoli, who is due $16 million next season.
Let's also say that Henry Owens and Xander Bogaerts are untouchable.
Everybody knows the Red Sox are interested in Giancarlo Stanton; however, what team isn't? He's 24 years old and a true slugger. In this scenario, the Red Sox not only pursue him, but they land the right fielder.
Mookie Betts: 2B/OF
Anthony Ranaudo: SP
Garrin Cecchini: 3B
Rubby De la Rosa: SP
Allen Craig: 1B/OF
Red Sox Receive:
Giancarlo Stanton: RF
The Marlins would not have to pay Stanton, as many believe they do not want to do, and get a great package of young talent. There are some people out there who are saying "send them Middlebrooks and Bradley instead of Betts and Cecchini." Come on, guys. Those two have little to no value on the trade market. Bradley could have some because of his gold glove defense, but the days of them being the center piece of a deal are long gone. The Marlins get two good young pitching prospect, a speedy outfielder (really second baseman or where ever they decide to put Betts) who can hit, and a third baseman who had a great 2013 campaign, but has struggled in 2014.
For the sake of argument, let's just put Stanton's arbitration number at $15 million. Expect the Red Sox to make a long-term offer to the slugger once he is here, but that number is impossible to predict. What can be said about it though, it will be a big number.
So the Red Sox are able to hold onto Yoenis Cespedes and Rusney Castillo, and add a great bat to the outfield. A position that was historically bad on offense in 2014 becomes one of the most dangerous outfields the next.
Now, the Sox need to work with the rotation; they traded four out of their five starters at the deadline, leaving only Clay Buchholz in Boston. He has pitched very well lately, but is wildly inconsistent and cannot be the ace of a staff with his inconsistency. Many are calling for Cole Hamels; however, his numbers against American League teams are not very good. Let's go a tier higher...
White Sox Receive:
Blake Swihart: C
Matt Barnes: SP
Sean Coyle: 2B
Allen Webster: SP
Red Sox Receive:
Chris Sale: SP
Gordon Edes reported that a Major League source believes that the White Sox have so many holes that they would consider moving their ace. Catcher is one of their biggest needs and the Red Sox have the top catching prospect in baseball in Swihart. They also get two top ten Red Sox pitching prospects and one of their top middle infield prospects, who can hit.
As for both of those trades, the prospects could vary. However, if a trade for Sale is going to get done, Swihart will be a part of it.
It is safe to assume that Jon Lester will not be coming back to Boston. I believe he has wanted the big contract all along and has been trying to look like the victim. While Sale is one of the best pitchers in baseball, possibly trailing only Clayton Kershaw for the top spot, he alone cannot carry the staff. With their farm system depleted after the two major trades, the Red Sox must look to free agency to fill the void. James Shields, who will be 33 at the beginning of the season, claimed to be looking for a Zack Greinke. While a good pitcher, he is not on the level of Lester and Max Scherzer, and is older than both. The Red Sox will sign him to the four year, $70 million dollar deal that they offered Lester.
With these moves, the starting lineup and rotation will look like this...
C: Christian Vazquez - $0.5M
1B: Mike Napoli - $16M
2B: Dustin Pedroia - $12.625M
3B: Brock Holt - $.05M
SS: Xander Bogaerts - $.0517M
LF: Yoenis Cespedes - $10.5M
CF: Rusney Castillo - $11.271M
RF Giancarlo Stanton - $15M
DH: David Ortiz - $16M
SP: Chris Sale - $6M
SP: James Shields - $17.5M
SP: Clay Buchholz - $12.25M
SP: Joe Kelly - $0.523M
SP: Henry Owens -$.05M
These players make up $119.69M for the 2015 season. The luxury tax is $189M. The bench and bullpen will not cost $60 million to fill. Here are some players who could make the team in the pen or on the bench.
Will Middlebrooks, 3B: $0.5405M (Platoon with Holt at 3B)
Jackie Bradley Jr., OF: $0.502M
Daniel Nava, 1B/OF: $0.5565M
David Ross, C: $1.5M (Red Sox will re-sign on a one year deal, or find another veteran catcher on a one year deal)
Jemile Weeks, IF: $0.515M
I do not know how they well do it, but the Red Sox should (and hopefully will) unload Shane Victorino and his $13 million he is due next season.
Koji Uehara, RHP: $8M (The Red Sox will not offer him a qualifying offer because $14-15 million for an aging closer is absurd.)
Junichi Tazawa, RHP: $2M (Slight upgrade from his previous arbitration number.)
Heath Hembree, RHP: $0.5M
Edward Mujica, RHP: $4.75M
Brandon Workman, RHP: $0.518M
Tommy Layne, LHP: $1M
Drake Britton, LHP: $0.503M (Just because they need another left hander in the pen.)
That makes up a 25-man roster. The bench and bullpen makes up $20.89 million. That comes to a total payroll of 140.58, a number that is well under the luxury tax. Some of the contracts that are under $1 million will likely be higher than they are listed, but not my much. The number listed is their current salary.
Want to really make this a fantasy team? Let's spend that $40+ million that we have left over and get a star third baseman. Hanley Ramirez and the Los Angeles Dodgers have not worked out a contract extension yet. Yes, he has been injury prone lately, but is still a great player. Ben Cherington offers him $90 million over five years ($18 million per year) and he plays third base for the Sox next season. That will bump Middlebrooks from the roster and he will likely be traded. The Red Sox would still be at $158 million for the season. They have a $3.9 million payment that they owe the Dodgers through the 2015 season, which brings them to $161.9 million. That leaves plenty of room for any other transactions they may wish to make, as well as the possible $13 million that they will owe Shane Victorino, if they still have to pay him. Let's say they do have to pay him, which I find unlikely if they trade him (they would be getting rid of him because of the contract and try to eat very little of it), they would be at $174.9 million.
Can all of these moves happen? Yes, they can. The Red Sox have the money, the ability to stay under the luxury tax, and the prospects to go out and make it happen. There you have it, Ben; think you can pull off these moves?
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