This is a project where 30 people got together to act as the GMs of the 30 MLB teams with the idea of conducting the offseason in one week. This is what happened in this simulation, not a prediction of what will happen in real life.
By Joe Barbieri
Following the 2016 season, the Boston Red Sox had one glaring hole that needed to be addressed: fill the void created by the retirement of David Ortiz. While the team had a player in mind, being able to afford him took a little creativity.
A slugger who Ortiz himself endorsed during his final season, Edwin Encarnacion was earmarked as the new big bat at the heart of Boston’s order. The 34-year-old Encarnacion was expected to command an annual salary north of $15 million as a free agent, so the Red Sox needed to prepare.
Despite Ortiz’s salary coming off the books, there was not enough in the budget upon paying raises due to Dustin Pedroia and first-time arbitration-eligible players like Xander Bogaerts, Drew Pomeranz, Joe Kelly and Jackie Bradley, Jr. Allen Craig also received a $2 million raise despite being a fixture in the minor leagues the last two seasons. He and Rusney Castillo combine for over $22 million against the budget, making the Pawtucket Red Sox one of the most expensive Triple-A teams in baseball.
This need to free up salary prompted the club’s most eyebrow-raising move of the offseason, both in terms of the player involved and the trading partner. The Red Sox dealt David Price to the archrival New York Yankees for Chase Headley, Tyler Austin, Chad Green and Gleyber Torres. The latter was the prized prospect received by the Yankees in their deal with the Chicago Cubs for Aroldis Chapman during the 2016 season.
This trade with New York helped Boston clear over $15 million in salary, paving the way for the signing of Encarnacion for $18.5 million. In the process, the Red Sox received a jewel of a middle-infield prospect and a first baseman of the future in Austin. Taking on Headley’s $13 million salary was required if the Yankees were to assume Price’s $30 million contract.
Moving on from Price was as much performance based as it was about the money. His struggles in the postseason continued in 2016, dropping his record to 0-8 with a 5.74 ERA in nine career postseason starts. During his first regular season in Boston, Price surrendered a career-high 30 homers and posted a 3.99 ERA – his highest since his first full season in the majors (2009) – in 35 starts.
Raisel Iglesias, 26, was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds for Henry Owens and prospect Mauricio Dubon, making the separation from Price more palatable. Though Iglesias concluded the 2016 season as the Reds’ closer, he had success as a starter early in the season and will be used in that capacity in Boston behind new ace Rick Porcello and Pomeranz.
Eduardo Rodriguez and knuckleballer Steven Wright will round out the projected rotation with Green and Doug Fister, who was brought in as a non-roster invitee, providing insurance. The 25-year-old Green impressed as a rookie with an 11-strikeout performance against the potent Toronto Blue Jays lineup on August 15. He made only three appearances thereafter before being shut down with a sprained UCL, which should be recovered in time for Spring Training.
While not on Boston’s initial 25-man roster, Green eventually could inherit the swingman role vacated by Clay Buchholz, whose $13.5 million option was declined. Buchholz instead was bought out for $250,000.
After failing to acquire a left-handed reliever both via trade and free agency, the Red Sox will enter 2017 with two lefties in the bullpen. Robbie Ross Jr. and Robby Scott are far from household names, but they performed well down the stretch last season and will be given bigger roles in 2017.
Boston also attempted to obtain right-hander Nate Jones from the Chicago White Sox, but a trade never materialized. The Red Sox expect Carson Smith to return as closer Craig Kimbrel’s primary setup man following “Tommy John” surgery. If his rehab is delayed or he suffers a setback, Iglesias would become the setup man with Green or Fister occupying the fifth spot in the rotation.
Offensively, the Red Sox will have a deep lineup headlined by Encarnacion at the designated hitter spot. Hanley Ramirez played well enough defensively at first base in 2016 to keep that job going forward, but Encarnacion occasionally could spell him there. Pablo Sandoval and Headley will share playing time at the other corner.
Dexter Fowler was acquired to provide depth to an outfield featuring Mookie Betts, Bradley and Andrew Benintendi. A bona fide starter on almost any other team, Fowler was fetched for a bargain price of $1.9 million and could be an attractive trade piece if needs develop over the course of the season or if Benintendi requires more seasoning in the minors.
Sandy Leon and Bryan Holaday will split the catching duties while Blake Swihart again is groomed as a full-time catcher. Swihart was shifted to left field last year but is more highly valued behind the plate. Ryan Hanigan, who was bought out for $800,000, is no longer in the picture.
With lineup and positional depth as strengths, the Red Sox will challenge for a second consecutive AL East Division title in 2017. The moves made during the offseason also put the organization in good shape it the years that follow.
|Position Player||Projected position||2017 salary|
|Jackie Bradley, Jr.||OF||$3,300,000.00|
|Rick Porcello (RHP)||SP||$20,125,000.00|
|Craig Kimbrel (RHP)||RP||$13,250,000.00|
|Drew Pomeranz (LHP)||SP||$4,700,000.00|
|Raisel Iglesias (RHP)||RP||$4,214,000.00|
|Joe Kelly (RHP)||SP/RP||$2,600,000.00|
|Robbie Ross Jr. (LHP)||RP||$1,800,000.00|
|Brandon Workman (RHP)||RP||$600,000.00|
|Eduardo Rodriguez (LHP)||SP||$575,000.00|
|Steven Wright (RHP)||SP||$575,000.00|
|Matt Barnes (RHP)||RP||$550,000.00|
|Carson Smith (RHP)||RP||$515,000.00|
|Chad Green (RHP)||SP||$512,000.00|
|Brian Johnson (LHP)||SP||$510,000.00|
|Robby Scott (LHP)||RP||$510,000.00|
|Noe Ramirez (RHP)||RP||$510,000.00|
|Heath Hembree (RHP)||RP||$510,000.00|
|Clay Buchholz buyout||$500,000.00|
|Ryan Hanigan buyout||$800,000.00|
|Kimbrel bonus paid by Atlanta||$(250,000.00)|
|Rusney Castillo’s contract||$11,271,429.00|
|Allen Craig’s contract||$11,000,000.00|