The Red Sox have slashed prices, mattress outlet-style, over the past couple of years but never, ever confuse them with the Houston Astros or Kansas City Royals of the hardball world. Heading into the 2013 season, the Sox still had the fourth highest payroll in baseball at $158, 967,286, according to the Associated Press.
Not many Sox fans will cry foul if the front office avoids a “splashy” free agent signing this offseason and even if the Sox lose the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury in free agency, Ben Cherington and crew will get a pass from most due to the unlikely World Series championship this fall. Right now, in the eyes of most fans, they’re Teflon.
Cherington maintains that he’d like to keep all four of his main free agents on Yawkey Way.
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“Really, with all of our free agents, there’s interest in every one of them,” Cherington said. “I also think it’s unlikely that every one of them will be back, just because it’s the nature of the game. It’s difficult to do that. In between there, there’s all sorts of permutations and combinations that could work, and we’re going to have to, again, keep the conversation going with all of them and also with alternatives and see how the market shapes up for them and ultimately see what makes sense for us.”
Here’s a look at the likelihood of the Sox retaining their own free agents.
Stephen Drew – Solid bet
The Sox gave Drew a qualifying offer Monday and it’s likely that he’ll be back in Boston for another year. Boston still likes his defensive capabilities despite his often lackluster bat. His solo homer in the fourth inning of Game 6 of the World Series likely got a few fans off his back.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia – Toss a coin
Much was made about how the Red Sox did not offer Saltalamacchia a qualifying offer Monday, but that shouldn’t rule out a return. The Sox currently don’t have many options at catcher. Ryan Lavarnway didn’t show much during his opportunities to play in 2013 and 36-year-old David Ross’ days as an every day player are long gone. Brian McCann, Carlos Ruiz, A.J. Pierzynski and Dioner Navarro are options in free agency at catcher.
Mike Napoli – Toss a coin
Napoli is the toast of the city due to his phenomenal ALCS and the fact that he gave prominence to more than one local watering-hole this past weekend. But it wasn’t too long ago that Sox fans were poking fun at Napoli’s penchant for striking out by calling him “Mike Knapoli” on Twitter (the added ‘K’ means strike out, get it?). Napoli will be seeking a significant pay raise, given that he was short-changed last offseason when the Sox medical staff found issues with his hips. His contract was re-negotiated, going from a three-year, $39 million deal to just a one-year contract at $5 million guaranteed. He’ll want to make up that money.
Jacoby Ellsbury – Unlikely
The Red Sox are likely hoping other teams spend big money early and the market on Ellsbury runs dry by mid-January. In their favor: Ellsbury’s agent, Scott Boras, enjoys letting the hour glass run out of sand. But Ellsbury will be seeking something above $100 million over multiple years and in Boston’s new era of avoiding big money contracts, the center fielder’s time in Boston is likey over.