Friday, November 8, 2013

Looking Ahead: Losses

After winning the championship, the Red Sox have a lot of players coming off the books. These include core contributors, including the entire swath of up the middle hitters, and guys you may have forgotten will be getting a ring for 2013.

Oh yeah, you were on the team (2013 salary)
Joel Hanrahan ($7.04)

Just as with Bailey,  Hanrahan came over in a trade with the Pirates, in one of the larger moves of the offseason (or so we thought at the time). Unfortunately, Hanrahan was bad, then injured. He pitched a mere seven innings ($1 million/inning!), before undergoing Tommy John Surgery. Given that he's a Proven CloserTM, someone will probably take a flier on him on a one year deal with a team option, but we're probably looking at a return around the All Star Break next season. He won't be a great loss, doubly so given the emergence of Uehara as a closer and Uehara's affordable $4.25 million option, which vested in September, but the $7 million is always nice to have.

Non-tendered or minor league free agents (2013 salary):
Alfredo Aceves ($2.65)
Andrew Bailey ($4.1)

Ah, Alfredo Aceves. Your saga with the Red Sox (after your saga with the Yankees brought you to the Sox in the first place), has finally come to an end. Aceves wore a lot of different hats in his three years with the Sox - shockingly effective spot starter and long man in 2011, terrible closer with lots of saves in 2012, and finally a mediocre middle reliever in 2013. All throughout one thing was consistent about Aceves - a bad attitude. While he was successful in 2011, Aceves managed to avoid any of the attitude issues that led to his release by the Yankees, but he feuded with Bobby Valentine in 2012 and instantly got off on the wrong foot with new manager John Farrell in 2013. After his demotion in the summer, Aceves never made it back to Boston and elected free agency at the end of the minor league season.

Andrew Bailey is officially still on the Red Sox roster, although is very likely to be non-tendered. Bailey, the original closer trade bust, made $8 million ($4.1 in 2013) for 44 average to poor innings of relief. At times, Bailey looked like he had turned the corner in 2013, but was eventually shut down with damage to his shoulder. Recovery from shoulder injuries are dicey, so it makes sense for the Sox to walk away, rather than pay Bailey more than $4 million to be a lottery ticket, especially given the pitching depth in the upper minors.

Photos from USA Today

Key contributors (2013 salary, QO = qualifying offer)
Jacoby Ellsbury ($9, QO)
Mike Napoli ($13, QO)
Stephen Drew ($9.5, QO)
Jarrod Saltalamacchia ($4.5)

Finally, we get to the real losses. It normally can be difficult to replace up the middle players, especially in free agency, and trying to replace a catcher, shortstop, and centerfielder in the same offseason can be difficult, especially when they were the first, fourth, sixth, and seventh best hitters on the team. The small silver lining is that because three of them have been offered qualifying offers (1 year, $14 million), if another team signs Ellsbury, Napoli, or Drew, the Red Sox will get a first round (if that team picks 11-30 in the first round) or a second round (if that team picks in the top 10) pick.

Ellsbury led the team in Wins Above Replacement in 2013, thanks to solid numbers across the board in defense, hitting, and base running. In fact, Ellsbury, with his 52 steals out of 56 tries (93%), was the most valuable base runner in the league, per Fangraphs. Napoli, coming in at 4th, hit well and held his own defensively at first. Drew, despite his struggles in the playoffs, was actually a top ten shortstop in the majors last year, and might have been higher had he not missed so many games due to injury. In a similar vein, Salty was top 10 as well. Granted, you could argue that Salty and Drew being top ten players is more of an indictment of the lack of quality players at the position, but in some ways, that will drive up their price.

All told, the above players leaving mean that the Red Sox are freeing up just under $50 million of salary. With only a handful of raises via guaranteed contracts (~$6 million), and midseason addition Jake Peavy's $14.5 million contract of 2014, that leaves about $28 million in free agent spending to keep the payroll at similar levels to 2013.

Looking at it this way, it's clear that the Red Sox are going to losing two or maybe even three of the four free agent starters or will be looking at increasing payroll substantially. Ellsbury alone will likely crack $20 million per year, and Drew and Saltalamacchia are among the only options at shortstop and catcher, respectively. Come 2014, we'll almost certainly be looking at a very different starting lineup, but the money plus the farm system give the Sox the flexibility to pursue many different strategies.


  1. Cross Drew off that list:

    What is the relative downgrade from Drew at SS and Bogaerts at 3B to Bogaerts at SS and Middlebrooks at 3B? Over a small sample, Bogaerts was apparently a stellar SS and a terrible 3B according to UZR/150 so I'm not sure what to make of that. Middlebrooks put up some pretty terrible offensive numbers in the first half of 2013 but turned it a bit around when he was called back up. If Middlebrooks hits like she should be able to, I'm not sure the left side of the infield losses much defensively or offensively.

  2. I started to reply to this, but it ended up being it's own post. Here is the link.

  3. I think Ellsbury, Drew, and Saltalamacchia are gone. Ellsbutry and Drew are going to get deals for more money and years (especially years) than the Red Sox want to give out. Saltalamacchia might come back on a short deal, but that is only if all the teams that need a catcher are afraid of his terrible OBP.

  4. I think Ellsbury is a bit of a wild card. Despite his injuries, Ellsbury has shown himself to be an elite talent, when he's healthy. Without his massive power showing from 2011, Ellsbury was still a 6 win player in 2013. I wouldn't want the Sox to rush out and sign a Carl Crawford deal, but 6 years, $115 million is fairly palatable. The going rate for a win on the free agent market is about $5 million, but with a lot more team revenue coming in (and a rising luxury tax threshold), we could be seeing a great deal of salary inflation in the next few years.