There are only two things in life that are guarantees; death and taxes. For years, many would argue that the Red Sox and Yankees spending on free agents is also a sure bet when it comes to the winter months of the baseball season. But lately, that has changed, leaving just the inevitable bright light at the end of the tunnel and the annual debts to the IRS as the only sure things.
This off season has given us every indication to expect the unexpected. Despite their being some big names available on the free-agent market, Carlos Beltran, Mark Buehrle, C.J. Wilson just to name a few, both the typical big spenders have been penny wise to say the least even with both clubs in need of some starting pitching help. So you have to wonder, are the Red Sox waiting for next year’s off season to pounce on a rich class of free-agent starting pitchers?
The luxury tax threshold is having a profound effect on both the Bronx Bombers and the Olde Towne Team. The two clubs were the only ones in the MLB to pay a luxury tax for this past season’s payrolls and now both organizations appear timid to exceed the $178 million dollar mark in a great amount. Because of it, both clubs passed on the services of Wilson or Buehrle and could also sit and watch as another club signs Edwin Jackson to a multi-year deal.
In an attempt to keep the payroll around the tax threshold is one method for the stingy spending. But perhaps it’s also due to the lack of deep talent in this year’s free-agent starting pitching class. Wilson and Buehrle headlined the class this winter and even those two aren’t exactly two marquee names. Not when you compare the class that could be free-agents next winter.
Names such as Matt Cain and Cole Hamels could headline the free-agent market next November. Others such as Zack Greinke, Anibel Sanchez, Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd are also possibilities providing they don’t receive extensions from their respective clubs. So maybe, just maybe, the Red Sox are playing a little possum this winter in an attempt to keep the payroll under the threshold, avoid a major tax hit, reset the threshold penalty and go after some major players in the form of starting pitching.
Just how good would a Cole Hamels or Matt Cain look in a Red Sox uniform. Those are the top two in a fairly deep class of potential free-agents for next season and both could hit the open market.
Cain could become second fiddle in San Francisco should Tim Lincecum sign an extension either this off season or during next year’s playing period. The Giants, the eighth highest payroll in 2011 may not be willing to shell out ‘ace’ type money to both Lincecum and Cain, not when they’ve done a remarkable job scouting and developing players in the past.
Hamels, like Cain, could be the odd man out in Philadelphia. With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee leading the Phillies staff and with the young Vance Worley showing maturity well beyond his years, the price tag for Hamels may be deemed unsuitable for the Phillies. Of course another mediocre year from Hamels will help make the Phillies decision all that more easier, with an extension the least bit likely.
Greinke might be worth taking a pass on given his anxiety issues. The Yankees did so this past year when they were looking at acquiring the former Cy Young winner, but passed on him as they were unsure of his ability to cope with a pressure cooker market like New York.
Anibel Sanchez, Jonathan Sancehz, Peavy and Floyd would all make great additions to the rotation, Peavy providing he is healthy. With this year’s Red Sox rotation having so many questions surrounding it, this could be a bridge year to get the club through to next winter where it is there that the brass could beef things up by spending big money on some free-agents.
Then again, if Daniel Bard can make the rotation and not have any ill effects, then maybe a Carlos Silva or another low cost type addition this year proves worthy of another year on his contract for next season.
Is a bridge year in Red Sox Nation acceptable? Well, like it or not, we may be in store for one.