I know my time in the Armchair has taken a little longer than everyone else, but I wanted to wait until after the qualifying offer deadline to make my predictions. It didn’t make a lot of sense to try and chase guys who might not even be open for signing; but, as it turns out, not one of the fourteen free agents who were offered the “QO” accepted it.
The first glaring hole that needs filling is the one vacated by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. My vote here is to pick up Ruiz at 2-years and $15 million. Ruiz has a strong defensive reputation, and while his power lags behind Salty’s, his on base percentage is likely to be higher. Ruiz’s agents are going to claw for a Russell Martin comp (Martin signed for 2-years $17 million) but Ruiz is five years older than Martin was at the time, and he is coming off a worse year. A two-year pact allows the Sox to use Ruiz as a stop-gap until Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez are somewhere near ready to ascend to big league duty.
Moving right along, the Sox have given the Qualifying offer to Mike Napoli, which he subsequently turned down. Now, we have heard that the Sox have given Napoli a multiyear offer, but he intends to explore the market before making a decision. Apparently, Napoli wants to return to Boston, but at the same time, we can’t play games with the catcher-turned-first-baseman. I’m offering Napoli 3 years at $45 million with a vesting option for a fourth year based on games played/ time spent on the DL, specifically with his AVN.
As infield insurance, I’m calling old friend, Nick Punto, back to Boston on one year at $3 million dollars. A guy with the nickname “shredder” has to be good for the club house… right? Not to mention Punto posted a WAR of 2.2 last year with the Dodgers and can cover three infield positions in the case of an injury to one of my starters.
I’ll leave the outfield alone, letting Jackie Bradley, Jr. take over in center and employing Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava and Mike Carp have right and left field, with the latter two filling in at first for Napoli.
The bullpen is a bit harder to figure out than it appears. Andrew Bailey is a non-tender candidate after being lost to shoulder surgery, especially as MLBTradeRumors predicts him to make a whopping $4.3 million in arbitration for doing nothing all season. I’m bringing back Joel Hanrahan on two-years, $8 million to provide some insurance as a buy low candidate incase Koji Uehara falters.
Okay, so now we’ve hit the rotation, one place where it seems like it doesn’t need messing with… but I’m going to mess with it anyways. Our projected 2014 rotation now includes, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, John Lackey, Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster. My first move is to ship out Dempster to the Milwaukee Brewers for High-A prospect Damien Magnifico. Maybe I just like the name, but the Brewers wanted Dempster last year, and now they can have him; the 22-year-old Magnifico consistently reaches triple digits with his fastball and has the makings of a short stint, power reliever in the future.
Then, I’m signing Tim Hudson, because there is no such thing as too much pitching. Hudson can choose between a one year $10 million dollar deal or two years at $18 million. Hudson gives the rotation insurance, not to mention he is a strong clubhouse leader who can help nurture the Allen Websters of the world. If Doubront doesn’t like being kicked to the bullpen as a long reliever/spot starter, it shouldn’t be too hard to get a nice return for him, a young controllable lefty will have almost every team salivating.
Lastly, I’m calling Jon Lester’s agent and offering him a massive extension that will kick in after the 2014 season. I think the Zack Greinke deal is the best comparable, at six years, $147 million, but I will offer Lester $120 million over the same span, with an option or two towards the end of the deal and some injury protection, à la John Lackey, written in. If I have to, I will stretch the deal to $150 million, but hopefully Lester will take the hometown discount and stick around at a generous $20 million a year.
RECAP: I’ll be committing $81 million in future salaries to five guys: Ruiz, Napoli, Punto, Hudson and Hanrahan. But when I account for Dempster being traded, I will only spend about $27 million on free agents in 2014 leaving me with approximately $5 million in breathing room before luxury tax calculations. The best part is that none of our free agents were offered a qualifying offer, meaning I would stand to collect compensatory picks for both Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew if/when they sign elsewhere. Meaning we would hold the 30th pick in the rule IV draft, and two low thirties compensation picks.