The World Series is in the books, so let the hot stove portion of the offseason begin!
Well, at least, let’s let the offseason begin.
It’s widely expected to be a slow-developing offseason as teams around the league feel the financial pinch of lost revenue from the shortened 2020 season, one that saw zero gate and concession revenue until the postseason.
There are some big names on the free agent market, and while some should net their desired long-term contracts, those will be the exception to the rule this offseason.
In other words, expect plenty of one-year deals on this year’s open market while teams potentially explore the trade route in hopes of improving their outlook for the 2021 MLB season.
With that in mind, let’s take a look inside the American League East. In part one of what will be a six-part series, we’ll identify needs, potential free agent targets to help solve those needs, 2021 odds as well as the outlook for the upcoming campaign.
Buckle up and let’s get started!
*Odds courtesy of BetOnline
Tampa Bay Rays
- Last Season: 40-20 (1st in AL East)
- Playoffs: Lost World Series vs. Dodgers (4-2)
- 2021 World Series Odds: +1200
- 2021 American League Odds: +500
Like Morton, catcher Mike Zunino saw his option declined as the defense-first backstop also hits the open market.
The Rays acquired Zunino from the Mariners prior to the 2019 season, knowing exactly what they were getting: an elite pitch-framing backstop that will hit for some power but absolutely not for average. And that’s what they got. After slashing .165/.232/.312 with nine homers in 2019, Zunino hit .147/.238/.360 with four homers and a 44% K-rate in 2020. He also hit .170/.196/.396 with four homers in 19 postseason contests.
The problem is that despite an excellent defensive season in 2019, his defense dipped severely in 2020 with FanGraphs giving him -2 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and Statcast pegging him in the league’s 13th percentile in terms of pitch framing. After nailing 38.6% of attempted base-stealers in 2019, Zunino fell to 26.7% in 2020 while the Dodgers feasted on him in the postseason.
With FanGraphs currently pegging Ronaldo Hernandez and Chris Betts to get the bulk of playing time – neither of whom have played above High-A – it would certainly appear catcher is the team’s biggest need at this juncture.
The Rays predictably declined Charlie Morton’s $15M option, making the 36-year-old a free agent on the heels of an injury-plagued regular season that saw him work to a 4.74 ERA, but also a 3.45 FIP.
A reunion with Morton isn’t out of the question, but the low-budget Rays were never going to pick up that pricey option, not in this economy. They will attempt to sign Morton at a cheaper rate, sure, but now 29 other clubs have a shot at nabbing a proven playoff performer on the open market.
The Rays still have Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow atop the rotation and Ryan Yarbrough will factor in, but you wonder if they’ll be interested in bringing in a low-cost starter, perhaps on a multi-year deal, to help fill a rotation and take some pressure off a bullpen that’s been leaned on heavily over the last two seasons. After all, we’re hoping for a full, 162-game season in 2020 and you cannot have enough pitching to fill innings over that time.
Free Agent Targets
Don’t expect the Rays to enter the J.T. Realmuto sweepstakes, but there’s a wealth of catching options the team can entertain on the free agent market. Is a reunion with Wilson Ramos possible? At 33, he’s one of the younger free-agent catchers on the market, but his defense and offense dipped last season, but familiarity with the organization and pitching staff could help.
Tyler Flowers is another name that could be had for cheap. His bat is superior to Zunino’s and his pitching framing was middle-of-the pack in 2020. An intriguing left-handed bat could be Alex Avila. Avila, 33, hit just .184 with the Twins last season, but posted an excellent .355 OBP on the back of a monster 17.7% walk rate. His pitching framing wasn’t great, but FanGraphs has been a fan of his defense over the last few seasons. He makes sense as a veteran, low-cost addition with some pop and excellent on-base skills.
We’ve mentioned a reunion with Morton as an option, maybe somewhere in the $8M range. He is said to be very open to a return despite having his option declined.
Free agent Charlie Morton “wants to play” in 2021, according to his agent, B.B. Abbott, but only in the right personal/professional fit. Morton has said he prefers to continue pitching for the #Rays, near his Florida home; Abbott said discussions with the team will continue.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 2, 2020
Other veterans with playoff experience on a one-year deal make sense while the team grooms the likes of Brent Honeywell and Brendan McKay for full-time duty. Jon Lester, Rich Hill, Alex Wood and Rick Porcello would be options as veterans with postseason experience.
Remember, the team doesn’t need a starter that gets deep into games as they shown over the last couple of seasons, which makes Hill and Wood potential targets that could give them 4-5 innings a start.
The potential loss of Morton would leave a rotation spot to be filled, but they shouldn’t have much trouble filling their openings at catcher with cheap, free-agent additions.
The good news with the Rays is that every other facet of their 2020 roster remains in tact. Their valued bullpen still sports the likes of Diego Castillo, Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks, Ryan Thompson, John Curtiss, Shane McClanahan, Josh Fleming etc. and their lineup will, barring a trade, be identical.
Yes, that means (hopefully) a full season from Randy Arozarena who took the baseball world by storm in 2020. Arozarena homered 17 times across 43 regular season and playoff games, posting a .515 wOBA and 239 wRC+ in 20 postseason games. Of course, such level of production is wildly unsustainable, but it nevertheless appears the Rays could very well have a superstar on their hands with the 25-year-old who isn’t eligible for free agency until 2027.
We could see the Rays move an outfielder, however. They have Arozarena, Austin Meadows, Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe and Kevin Kiermaier currently in the mix. That could lead to general manager using one of these names as bait to upgrade their rotation on the trade market, so stay tuned on that front.
Otherwise, there’s no reason to expect a drop-off from Kevin Cash’s club. They will absolutely remain a competitor based on their elite pitching staff and defense while the offense could very well see a boost with a full season of Arozarena and a quality supporting cast around him.
A second straight AL East title and American League Pennant is very much in the cards.
Futures Value Rating: 9/10
New York Yankees
- Last Season: 33-27 (2nd in AL East)
- Playoffs: Lost ALDS vs. Rays (3-2)
- 2021 World Series Odds: +700
- 2021 American League Odds: +300
After Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ starting pitching is in flux. The trio of Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ are all free agents, and while a reunion with Tanaka seems like a reasonable assumption, there is still work to be done.
Remember, former ace Luis Severino underwent February 2020 Tommy John surgery and general manager Brian Cashman said a return around June or July 2021 is a reasonable estimate. We also don’t know what kind of Severino we will see after he missed all of 2020 and just 20.1 innings in 2019 between the regular season and playoffs, although he was quite good in that brief time.
Nevertheless, the Yankees are looking at some combination of Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia, Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga after Cole, as it stands right now. Twenty-five-year-old Michael King could factor in, but at the end of the day, the Yankees can’t go into the season with one bonafide, proven big-league starter in their rotation. Starting Pitching is first and foremost on the Yankees’ offseason checklist.
I reference middle infield as Gleyber Torres can be deployed at both shortstop and second base. He played exclusively at shortstop in 2020, however FanGraphs has him with -9 DRS and a -13.0 UZR/150 there while Statcast was disgusted with his defense, ranking him the league’s 2nd percentile in terms of outs above average (OAA). It should be noted that he didn’t fare much better at second base in 2019, but it’s safe to say the Yankees will at least check in to see if they can upgrade their defense at the most important position among the four infield spots.
He’s probably still the future at the shortstop position, but I don’t see his glove work from 2020 getting another chance at shortstop in the immediate term.
Like almost every team in the league, the Yankees will be in search for bullpen pieces this offseason. More so than any other team in the league, however, the Yankees are under vigorous pressure to compete for a World Series every single season, and their 16th-ranked 4.51 bullpen ERA from 2020 ain’t gonna cut it.
The Yankees exercised left-hander Zach Britton’s 2022 option, which due to a unique contract structure, means the team also retains control of Britton for the 2021 season at $13M, otherwise Britton could have opted out of his deal and hit the open market on the heels of back-to-back sub-2.00 ERA campaigns.
The Yanks also have fellow lefty Aroldis Chapman at the back end of that bullpen while Adam Ottavino, Chad Green and Luis Cessa also remain. Save for Ottavino, all of the mentioned names had solid 2020 seasons, but don’t be surprised to see the Yankees in on the wealth of high-end free agent relievers such as Liam Hendriks, Kirby Yates and Brad hand.
Free Agent Targets
It feels like it would be a surprise to see Cashman not bring back Tanaka given the consistent 3.74 ERA/3.91 FIP he’s given them over seven seasons with the club. I just don’t see him going anywhere else, although there would certainly be outside interest.
Do they go big-game hunting after that? I’m not so sure. They gave Cole $324M last winter and an assumed Tanaka reunion would probably cost them somewhere around $40M. With a Severino return hopefully midway through the 2021 season, the Yankees could theoretically be okay in the top three down the stretch with Montgomery, German and Garcia chipping in underneath.
I do feel it’s prudent to add another reliable arm, however, at a modest cost, even if it’s short term like many deals will be this offseason. Do they give a Jon Lester/Cole Hamels type a look? What about a Matt Shoemaker type to plug in at the back end? His market might price the Yankees out considering their obligations and his resurgence, but 28-year-old Taijuan Walker is a name that we will hear a lot this winter. He will be a candidate for a longer-term deal given the 2.70 ERA he turned in last season, although his 4.56 FIP tells a different story. After missing two full seasons before that, however, he will have a sizeable market.
I’ll go out on a limb and suggest Brett Anderson as well. The left-hander is by no means flashy and doesn’t strike out many, but he’s an elite ground-ball pitcher with excellent command and ranks 15th among free-agent starters with a 3.3 fWAR over the 2019-20 seasons. He worked to a solid 4.21 ERA/4.38 FIP with the Brewers last season.
Given the fact I believe Torres will shift back to second, if only for the 2021 season, we can call this the shortstop market, where the list isn’t extensive in quantity but high in quality.
In short, there are four names available: Marcus Semien, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons and Freddy Galvis. Now, FanGraphs assigned negative DRS to all four of these names, but Simmons is a four-time Gold Glove winner and was worth 12 DRS last season, tying for fifth among 25 shortstops with at least 800 innings played at the positions in 2019 alongside… Semien. Semien offers the superior bat despite a down 2020 from his MVP-caliber 2019 season.
The switch-hitting Galvis has generally graded well with his glove and brings pop at the plate and could aim for the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium against right-handed pitching. Of course, the Yankees know Gregorius well after he spent five seasons with the club, and he offers excellent power production from the left side, frequently targeting that short porch in his Yankees tenure. His glove work has regressed over the last couple of seasons, but would still represent a major upgrade on Torres.
Time will tell if the Yankees go out and grab one of these shortstops, however there are certainly four quality options with Galvis and Simmons the likeliest to accept a one-year deal. If I had to choose, I’m going with Galvis as a cost-efficient option.
We can throw out all sorts of names when it comes to teams needing bullpen help as a whole whack of teams will be in on the same relievers in a baseball society where relief pitching continues to gain value, especially after watching bullpens decide just about every single postseason game.
My educated guess is that Cashman is confident in his bullpen. Relief pitching can be volatile and almost every team would rejoice in having the quintet of Chapman, Britton, Green, Ottavino and Cessa – all of whom have fantastic track records – at their disposal.
So, I don’t see the Yankees throwing big money at relievers. Rather, they could look at some swing-man, multi-inning types, perhaps someone such as Brad Peacock or Mike Montgomery. Maybe rebound candidates such as Wade Davis or Bryan Shaw make sense. Like Peacock, Chris Devenski dealt with an arm injury throughout 2020, but he’s performed in the past.
I don’t expect a major splash for this Yankees bullpen, but adding a multi-inning arm or two, or perhaps a rebound candidate at low costs seemingly makes sense.
The Yankees should of course be competitive next season, but they have their flaws.
Outside of the sizeable starting pitching and middle infield need – along with some relief help – the lineup is not without its flaws. After all, this offense has been injury plagued over the last two seasons and it appears Giancarlo Stanton’s day as an outfielder are over. Aaron Judge missed time again in 2020 as well.
What’s to guarantee these two can stay healthy in a 162-game season if they couldn’t in a 60-game campaign? Mike Tauchman can help in the outfield, but the team also declined Brett Gardner’s 2021 option, and while a reunion is possible, Judge, Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier are the team’s outfield group. One could an additional outfielder would be a fourth need for this club.
When I compare the Rays to this Yankees team, it appears the Yankees have far more patchwork to do, and now they’re playing catch up.
It’s not to say they won’t compete for an AL East crown, but there’s some major competition and the favorites have serious holes to fill before first pitch next season.
Futures Value Rating: 6/10
Toronto Blue Jays
- Last Season: 32-28 (3rd in AL East)
- Playoffs: Lost to Rays in Wild Card (2-0)
- 2021 World Series Odds: +5000
- 2021 American League Odds: +2500
Second Base/Third Base
I say both of these positions due to the fact that Cavan Biggio can handle both positions (as well as right field), although he graded out a little better at the keystone than he did the hot corner in 2020, spending much more time at the former.
Travis Shaw is the team’s third baseman on the depth chart, but he hit just .239 with a .310 wOBA and 95 wRC+ for the season and was worth -2 DRS and ranked in the 36th percentile in OAA. Given Shaw’s ability to play third, second and first (he played 268 innings at second in 2018), it might make for sense for the Jays to send him to the bench as a left-handed pinch hitter with some defensive versatility.
This would leave the option open to grab a full-time player either at second or third base, but likely the latter as Biggio is a second baseman by trade and to this point he’s been a superior defender there as well.
The Jays entered the 2020 season with Ken Giles as their closer, but when persistent elbow issues forced him to miss most of the season, fellow right-hander Anthony Bass took over at the back end of the bullpen.
The problem, if you view it that way, is that both relievers are now free agents, leaving the team without a pair of back-end bullpen pieces.
It’s also a bullpen that posted a fifth-ranked 3.10 ERA in August, but a 28th-ranked 6.77 mark in September as the general lack of reliable options reared its ugly head. Projected names to get the bulk of the work in 2021 read like Jordan Romano, Rafael Dolis, A.J. Cole, Ryan Borucki, Thomas Hatch, Shun Yamaguchi, Anthony Kay and Patrick Murphy. We’ve seen anonymous bullpens perform well in the past, but that’s certainly an uninspiring group.
Rumor has it the Blue Jays will have the required resources at their disposal this winter, so don’t be surprised if they get involved on some of the top free-agent relievers on the market as they enter their window of contention.
Like many teams, the Blue Jays will be in the market for pitching help up and down their staff, but they’ll certainly be involved in the starting pitching market.
I ranked this need behind the bullpen as the rotation has a bonafide ace in Hyun-Jin Ryu, a reliable starter in Ross Stripling and one of the top pitching prospects in the game in Nate Pearson, however that’s not to say a big splash here is out of the question, either.
The Jays have, so far, lost Matt Shoemaker, Taijuan Walker and Robbie Ray from the starting pitching group that finished last season, and while a reunion with Walker is of interest, his market is going to be sizeable after impressing in 2020 following nearly two full seasons dealing with injuries.
It would not shock me to find a co-ace with Ryu at the top or a 1B underneath as well as a reliable arm or two to round out the group.
Free Agent Targets
The first name that comes to mind here is DJ LeMahieu coming off a pair of dynamite seasons in the Bronx. The 2020 AL MVP candidate lead all of baseball with a .364 batting average in 2020 while logging time at third, second and first. Like Biggio, he spent most of him his time at second base, but he graded out evenly with precisely 0 DRS at all three positions played in 2020.
LeMahieu not only brings an elite bat to the table, but also a veteran presence for an otherwise young core. In fact, MLB Trade Rumors recently pegged Toronto as LeMahieu’s landing spot on a four-year, $68M. Signing him will cost the Blue Jays draft pick compensation after the Yankees issued LeMahieu a qualifying offer, but I don’t see that as enough to keep GM Ross Atkins from being involved in the sweepstakes along with their AL East rival.
If the Jays miss out and turn to an everyday third baseman, they’ll find a thin market. Justin Turner is the top name available in that group with former Blue Jay Eric Sogard posting the second-highest fWAR over the last two seasons among free-agent third basemen.
It would appear it’s LeMahieu or bust for the Jays to solve their lone infield need.
The names here could theoretically be endless with a glut of free agent relievers on the market. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Jays involved with former Indians closer Brad Hand, arguably the second-best reliever on the market behind former Blue Jay Liam Hendriks. Hendriks’ 5.2 fWAR over the last two seasons is the top mark in baseball hand owns half that mark with a 2.6 fWAR in that time.
Otherwise, there’s plenty of other high-end options available. Blake Treinen would make sense with a closer job available following a strong season with the Dodgers while Trevor Rosenthal will be of interest given his huge bounce-back 2020 campaign.
We could go over the lower end of the market all we want, but those are three names I could expect the Blue Jays to pursue on the relief market.
As he’s done with many clubs, the top free agent pitcher on the market, Trevor Bauer, has teased Toronto has a possible destination. For what it’s worth, Bauer rejected his qualifying offer from the Reds on Wednesday afternoon.
Toronto is a nice city. Could be a destination 😉
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) November 4, 2020
That said, could a reunion with Marcus Stroman be in order? The ground-ball specialist enjoyed plenty of success in his five and a half seasons with the club and a reunion cannot be ruled out as a result and the same goes for Walker despite his short tenure with the club.
Aside from the likes of Bauer, Stroman and Walker, the team could make a play for a mid-rotation arm or two in the form of Jose Quintana and Rick Porcello on short-term deals for the time being. A one-year deal for a veteran such as Charlie Morton, Jon Lester or Brett Anderson could be in the cards too.
With the Jays set to loosen their purse strings, there are a bevy of targets for the club on the open market.
Bright times certainly appear to be coming the Blue Jays’ way as they have not only graduated top hitting prospects such as Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the trio are already significant big-league contributors. Don’t forget the electric stuff Pearson put on display in his brief big-league time in 2020 despite dealing with his fair share of struggles as well.
The trick is getting over the Rays/Yankees hump in the AL East. They’re firmly ahead of the Red Sox and Orioles within the division, but as the final Wild Card team in the AL in 2020, it’s no secret the Jays benefited from the expanded postseason format.
While MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has stated he wishes for the expanded postseason to continue, that discussion is ongoing and we truly don’t know how the postseason picture will look in 2021.
We do know the Jays are firmly a team on the rise and combined with their seemingly large budget entering free agency – as opposed to most of the entire league – there would seem to be some value in their 2021 futures.
Futures Value Rating: 7/10
- Last Season: 25-35
- Playoffs: Did Not Qualify
- 2021 World Series Odds: +10000
- 2021 American League Odds: +4000
Like the Rays, Yankees and Blue Jays before the, the Orioles are in need of some starting pitching help. They also won’t be the last team in the division looking to upgrade.
That said, we shouldn’t expect a major splash whatsoever. The team will have John Means and Alex Cobb at the top of the rotation and will give the likes of Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin and Bruce Zimmermann a chance to contribute out of the rotation as well. For what it’s worth, Akin led Orioles starters with a 0.9 fWAR in just 22.1 innings with Means and Cobb throwing close to or more than double the innings.
Nonetheless, when you have such young, inexperienced pitching in the projected rotation, a veteran arm or two never hurts, especially when you’re transitioning from a 60-game season to (hopefully) a full, 162-game campaign.
To be honest, I don’t see any clear-cut needs for this team aside from adding a couple of veteran arms to help eat some of the innings next season.
The team will bring a near-identical offense to the table in 2021, only this time they’ll get a full season from impressive rookie Ryan Mountcastle and while we haven’t heard much of the status of veteran Trey Mancini, he hoped to return to baseball in 2021 after March surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his colon.
With the offense set and the bullpen actually being a strong point with a ninth-ranked 3.90 ERA and 10th-ranked 3.0 fWAR from last season – and most of that group returning – I expect a quiet offseason from the Orioles as they develop their young talent for another season.
Free Agent Targets
The starting pitching market is laced with veterans who could come in on a one-year deal, eat some innings, perhaps be flipped for a draft pick and hit the open market against next offseason when the league’s finances should be in better shape.
We should probably be looking at the younger tier, however, as many of the senior free-agent members are likely looking to latch on with a competitor in what is likely to be an expanded postseason.
I would look at the likes of Chris Archer (32), Michael Wacha (29), Garrett Richards (33) and maybe even Julio Teheran (30) as pitchers that are still relatively young and looking to re-establish themselves in search for an increased commitment on next year’s market. Maybe even veterans such as Corey Kluber, Flex Hernandez and Gio Gonzalez would be interested in a one-year deal with the hope of both re-establishing their worth and potentially being flipped to a contender at the deadline if everything works out.
Needless to say, a big splash shouldn’t be expected in Baltimore this winter.
The shortened 2020 season has to go down as a success for the Orioles. Some young starters impressed in limited duty, the bullpen bounced back in a major way from a dismal 2019 and offensive building blocks such as Mountcastle, DJ Stewart and Austin Hays gave fans something to look forward to.
In short, none of the offense, starting pitching and especially the bullpen were nearly as bad as predicted. For a rebuilding club, that’s a win.
It’s going to be difficult to compete with the Rays, Yankees and Blue Jays in the short term, but with top prospect Adley Rutschman perhaps on his way in 2021, there will be more for the Orioles faithful to look forward to in 2021, hopefully in person.
Futures Value Rating: 3/10
Boston Red Sox
- Last Season: 24-36 (5th in AL East)
- Playoffs: Did Not Qualify
- 2021 World Series Odds: +5000
- 2021 American League Odds: +2500
I’ve listed this need for all five AL East clubs as it’s rare to see a team not at least add one starter to their pitching staff in free agency, but these Red Sox could be in more need than any of the above.
They’ll get ace Chris Sale back after March Tommy John surgery, but it’s not likely to be until mid-season or later. The Sox will also get fellow southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez back into the rotation after he missed almost all of 2020 with an illness.
Factor in Nathan Eovaldi and the team will hope for a Sale/Rodriguez/Eovaldi rotation come mid season. Still, there’s very little underneath in terms of both productivity and experience.
GM Brian O’Halloran and his boss Chaim Bloom should certainly be on the look for starting pitching help, regardless of Sale’s recovery, after a 2020 season in which the Red Sox rotation worked to an unacceptable 25th-ranked 5.34 ERA and 29th-ranked 5.50 FIP.
Let’s go ahead and group these two into one.
The left side of the infield is set in stone as all-world players in Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers will handle shortstop and third base, respectively, but the team has a definite need at second base and a potential need for additional help at first base.
The team got some big-time power out of prospect Bobby Dalbec who homered eight times in 23 games, and while he’ll be given the first base job, he also struck out in 42.2% of his plate appearance in that time. He’ll start at first, but we’ll see if the team will bring in some insurance moving forward.
The main need is certainly at second. There’s no official word, but Dustin Pedroia’s career is likely over after missing all of 2020 and appearing in only nine games from 2018-19 and Jose Peraza elected free agency after being removed from Boston’s 40-man roster. The need at the keystone is clear as 25-year-old Christian Arroyo own a career .219 average and 73 wRC+ across 85 big-league games with the Giants, Rays and Red Sox.
You could perhaps rank this above their need for a second baseman as the Red Sox bullpen struggled mightily in 2020. The ‘pen worked to a 5.79 ERA, good for 27th league wide, although that had some poor luck baked into it as they also tied for 11th with a 4.40 xFIP. They aren’t likely to allow home runs on a whopping 19.2% of their fly-balls again next season, especially since they ranked sixth with a 44.7% ground-ball rate.
The team dealt former closer Brandon Workman along with Heath Hembree to the Phillies at the deadline, and both are now free agents. Otherwise, the current mix is much the same as it was to finish last season as many of those arms are under team control and resided at their alternate training camp before the carousel began after the trade deadline.
Free Agents Targets
If the Mookie Betts trade taught as anything, it’s that the Red Sox are looking to reduce payroll. As it stands today, the Red Sox have $138,925,000 committed to the 2021 payroll, as per Spotrac, with a roster of 36.
It’s safe to say the team won’t be making any runs at the top of the pitching market with names such as Trevor Bauer, Charlie Morton, Marcus Stroman and Masahiro Tanaka not on the shortlist.
Rather, they will likely be patient, wait deep into the offseason and see whats available at a reduced cost. This could feature a combination of bounce back candidates and veterans with names such as Robbie Ray, Julio Teheran, Jake Arrieta, Drew Smyly, Corey Kluber, Chris Archer, Chase Anderson, Ivan Nova, J.A. Happ and Mike Leake as potential options.
They aren’t the sexiest of names and its a wide list, and while the need exists in a big way, I would expect the Red Sox to exercise patience and grab some cost-efficient names to fill out the rotation late in the offseason.
The second base market is far more distinct than the pitching market. In other words, far fewer names, although the second base list trumps that of its third base, shortstop and first base counterparts.
In other words, there’s no reason to believe the Red Sox can’t find someone to try and hold down the fort. Among names that won’t fetch much in terms of salary and term could be the likes of Dee Strange-Gordon, Jason Kipnis, Joe Panik, and Jonathan Villar.
The DJ LeMahieu’s, Cesar Hernandez’s and Jonathan Schoop’s of the world will command a much larger commitment, although with a top-heavy group, perhaps the Red Sox will entertain the trade market as well.
The Red Sox strategy this offseason will be a wait-and-see approach, it will be with many clubs, especially the non-contending teams looking to reduce payroll – and that won’t change with the bullpen.
Again, Boston will be out on top names, instead looking for a combination of veterans and reclamation projects that can perhaps be flipped for future assets at the deadline if they can outperform their contracts.
The list of relievers is deep, and the Red Sox could make some minor-league offers later in the offseason, but names such as Bryan Shaw, Wade Davis, Pedro Strop, David Robertson, Chris Devenski and Tommy Kahnle come to mind. Many will hold out for Major-League deals, but not everyone is going to be able to obtain such a thing in this financial setting.
If the team can find some value on the open market in the rotation and bullpen, the Red Sox might surprise to the upside.
Their offense was the least of the concerns in 2020 as they ranked ninth with a .333 wOBA despite a dismal season from designated hitter J.D. Martinez and Benintendi. The top four in the lineup consisting of Alex Verdugo, Devers, Martinez and Bogaerts looks mighty fine and if the team can get notable contributions/bounce back seasons from Benintendi, Chavis and Dalbec, this offense is going to look quite formidable.
While I don’t expect the Red Sox to poach top names on the market, that doesn’t mean meaningful additions won’t be had. I just don’t see the new cost-conscious regime beating anyone to the punch for top names, but rather biding their time and seeing what is out there in the New Year and likely into February. We’re going to see a lot of that this winter across the league.
All that said, a bounce-back here seems likely, if only for a regression to the mean for players such as Martinez and Benintendi. The outfield defense suffers some without Betts and now Bradley Jr., but the offense is legit and the starting pitching should get a major mid-season boost, although I would still list the bullpen as a concern.
Add it up and we can begin to discover some value in the Red Sox’s 2021 futures.