Red Sox Free Agents: Who Will Re-Sign?

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The Red Sox have been officially eliminated from the American League Playoff race, but let’s face it, we knew a long time ago this was not going to be their year.  Now that hey are in the final week of this forgettable season, it’s time to look toward 2020, and what moves may, or may not be coming.  In my long overdue Red Sox Column To Be Named Later, I look at the Red Sox players who are eligible for free agency and access their chances of coming back in 2020.

Photo courtesy of twitter.com  
In 2019 the Red Sox had an estimated payroll of $242.4 M, just a tick under the third and highest Luxury Tax threshold of $246 M.  This included “dead money” on the books for Pablo Sandoval (over $18 M) and Dustin Pedroia (over $15M).  It was this fear of triggering another tax threshold which allegedly kept management from signing off on bringing in help at the trade deadline.

Next season it is believed the Red Sox will want to drop below the Luxury Tax lowest threshold (currently $206 M) to avoid paying additional and more stringent penalties. However, the guaranteed money already committed for 2020 is already over $155M, and this does not include the salaries for arbitration eligible players like Mookie Betts and Eduardo Rodriguez, which should account for an additional $30 M - $35 M.

Given these self-imposed restrictions, it seems unlikely the Red Sox will not only not be vying for any of the higher priced free agents in the offseason, they may actually be content to allow their own free agents to depart.  With these parameters in mind, below is an estimate of the odds on the Red Sox re-signing their notable free agents to be.

J.D. Martinez – 2019 Salary - $23.75 M, 2020 Player option - $23.75 M

Martinez is now nearing the second year of his five year deal he signed prior to the 2018 season.  The contract provides for player options to opt out after 2019, 2020, and 2021.  If he decides to stay in Boston next season, he will be owed $23.75 M in 2020, which matches his 2019 salary.  Should he choose to stay in the outer years, he would receive $19.35 M in both 2021 and 2022.

Given that Martinez is now 32 and has had a myriad of nagging health issues in 2019 (back, groin), in additional to his defensive short-comings which limit his marketability to the DH position, it would appear Martinez’s option are limited in the American League.  With $62.4 M guaranteed over the next three years, it would be a risk for him test the free agent market.  I think he declines to opt out, as David Price did last season, and comes back for another year.  However, he is a Scott Boras client, so one can never be sure.

Odds at returning – Even money.

Rick Porcello - 2019 Salary - $21.15 M

Say what you will about Porcello, but he has been the most reliable starter in his Red Sox career in terms of taking the mound and staying off the injured list.  With Price, Chris Sale, and Nathan Eovaldi slated to earn $89 M next year, and Rodriguez expected to be in the $10 M - $12M range, it is doubtful Porcello comes back.

The X-factor in the process involves the health of Sale.  If treatments for his ailing elbow do not have the desired effect, he could be headed for Tommy John surgery.  Even if the surgery is performed in October, he will be lost until 2021 at the earliest.  If that were to open, the Red Sox may be forced to tender an offer to Porcello as insurance.

MLBshop.com The Official Online Shop of Major League BaseballOdds at returning - 100:1.

Mitch Moreland - 2019 Salary - $6.5 M

Unlike Martinez and Porcello, Moreland is not a big money player.  He signed a modest two year contract after the 2017 season for a $13 M AAV.  Expected to platoon at first base with Steve Pearce, the pair formed an affordable option while providing veteran leadership.  Unfortunately, Moreland has had difficulties staying on the field.

If you recall, the Red Sox would have gotten off to an even more horrendous start if it weren’t for the power hitting of Moreland.  But "Mitchy Two-Bags" once again landed on the IL, and was lost for the bulk of the season.  When healthy, his bat against right handed pitching and his gold glove defense fit nicely in the mix.  However, his inability to stay healthy, coupled with the presence of younger alternatives, such as Michael Chavis, make him expendable to free up room under the luxury tax.

Odds at returning - 20:1.

Steven Pearce - 2019 Salary - $6.25 M

The feel good story of the 2018 World Series was a forgotten man in 2019.  Not only will he not return to the Red Sox, odds are he gets no more than a minor league invitation to Spring Training in 2020, if he does not retire.

Odds at returning - ∞:1.

Brock Holt - 2019 Salary - $3.575 M

The “Brockstar” doesn’t get a lot of love from some Red Sox fans, who scoff at his being named to the 2015 All-Star team and his antics in the dugout, such as his campaign to get Andrew Benintendi to the 2018 All-Star Game.  But Holt is more than just a side-show.  He’s good at what he does, which is being a versatile role player who can step in and provide the team with a better than average major league caliber performance, as evidenced by his 1.4 WAR in 2019.

Holt has also been heavily involved in the Boston community, and is the Red Sox ambassador to the Jimmy Fund.  He is also one of the longest tenured members on the team.  He has been with the Red Sox since 2013, and has played all but 24 games in his major league career in a Boston uniform after coming over from Pittsburgh with closer Joel Hanrahan in exchange for Mark Melancon and three other players who, if you can name them, you seriously need to get a life.

“Mr. Brocktober” is now 31, and this could be his last chance to score on the free agent market.  The question is: is there a team out there that is willing to take a chance on him as an everyday player given his propensity for landing on the disabled/injured list?  If there is, then he’s likely gone, and good for him if he can get that kind of deal.  No one will fault him for leaving Boston under those circumstances.  If there isn’t, and he is willing to take a team friendly deal to remain in Boston, I say he’s back for 2020, and may get a shot to be the everyday second baseman.

Odds at returning - 3:1.


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Boston Sports Syndicate: Red Sox Free Agents: Who Will Re-Sign?
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