Boston Red Sox: Six steps for a perfect 2020-2021 offseason
Red Sox offseason plan Step 6: Spend on a big bat
These additional roster cuts plus the Perez trade could open up about $12 million in spending room under the tax line. That might be enough to re-sign Jackie Bradley Jr. or another comparable mid-tier center fielder.
They might also consider bargain hunting for cheaper options, perhaps by bringing back Kevin Pillar, or they could turn the position over to promising prospect Jarren Duran if they feel he’s ready. Either scenario would leave Boston with some wiggle room under the tax line in case they need it for a mid-season trade.
That’s a sound strategy but if the Red Sox are going for the perfect offseason, they need to be prepared to dive into the tax. That doesn’t mean spending recklessly as if the penalties don’t matter but Boston can afford to cross the line as long as it’s by less than $20 million to stay in the first tier of penalties, especially if Bauer’s one-year deal provides the flexibility to potentially reset again next year.
That would open the door for one of the top bats on the market. George Springer would be the top choice. The three-time All-Star is a solid defensive center fielder and his bat is a tremendous upgrade over the streaky Bradley jr.
Like most Astros hitters, Springer’s production at the plate dipped a bit during a season cluttered with outside distractions. His .265 average and .899 OPS were still solid and he added 14 home runs. We know that he’s capable of more though and a fresh start away from Houston might be just what he needs.
Springer won’t be cheap but his salary should fall below former MVP outfielders Mookie Betts, Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper and Christian Yelich. Springer is a tier below those guys and at 31 years old, he won’t demand the same type of long-term commitment.
An average annual value of $23 million is a fair projection so let’s call it a 5-year, $115 million deal.
Marcell Ozuna is an appealing backup plan if Boston wants to add a big bat to their outfield. He hit .338 this season while leading the National League with 18 home runs and 56 RBI.
He’s not a perfect fit since Ozuna is a poor defender at this stage of his career. The Red Sox would need to move Alex Verdugo or Andrew Benintendi to center field and put Ozuna in a corner spot. He would eventually take over the DH role once Martinez’s contract is up.
The 29-year-old might require more years than Springer to sign him but the limited defensive value could make Ozuna a bit cheaper on an average annual basis.
Either way, the Red Sox can afford one of these star outfielders and still have room for some minor roster tweaks mid-season without crossing into the second tier of tax penalties.
Signing an ace in Bauer plus an elite closer would be a strong offseason that puts the Red Sox back in the mix for playoff contention and they can conceivably do so without paying the tax. It’s not a perfect offseason unless their moves transform them into a potential championship contender though. If the Red Sox are willing to pay the first-tier penalties for one season, there is a viable path to making that work.