The Boston Red Sox have a number of players eligible for arbitration next season. How much will they be offered – if they receive an offer at all.
Aug 26, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Boston Red Sox first baseman Travis Shaw (47) celebrates with shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) after hitting a two run home run during the eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S Cellular Field. The Boston Red Sox defeated the Chicago White Sox 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Projecting the total salary of the Boston Red Sox roster for next season is an important step for the front office to plan their budget early in the offseason before they consider splurging on free agents or trading for pricey veterans. The tricky part is that not every player on the roster has their salary set in stone.
The Red Sox have 11 players eligible for arbitration next season. Any player with more than three seasons of service time, but less than six, is eligible for arbitration. The process involves a bit of negotiation, but players typically hold a minimal amount of leverage. Unlike with free agency, teams don’t have to compete with others to drive up the price. If the two sides are unable to come to an agreement than an independent arbitrator will decide if the team’s offer is sufficient or if they are required to meet the player’s demands.
Sep 29, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) advances to third during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Locks for an offer
These players are core members of the roster that are virtual locks to be offered arbitration.
The All-Star shortstop remains a tremendous bargain at this price. His second half swoon and decline in defensive metrics are a bit concerning, but he still posted solid numbers overall with a .294 average and career-high 21 home runs. Bogaerts is a key cog in the future of this franchise who isn’t eligible for free agency until 2020. There remains the possibility that the Red Sox could try to work out a long term contract with the 24-year old shortstop, buying out his remaining arbitration years and at least a year or two of his free agency years.
JBJ put together the best all-around season of his career, hitting .267 with 26 home runs and an .835 OPS. While he remains a streaky hitter, he finally showed that he was capable of contributing offensively for an extended period. His major league best 29-game hit streak fueled his campaign for his first All-Star selection, rewarding him for a stellar first half. His bat cooled off in the second half, but his elite defensive skills in center field make him valuable even when he hits a cold spell.
The Sandyman became one of the year’s best breakout stories. The career backup hit below the Mendoza Line in limited time in the big leagues over the past four seasons before bursting out this year with a stunning .310 average. He showed enough to put himself in the driver’s seat for the starting catcher job entering next season and has the defensive skills behind the plate to make him valuable even if his bat declines a bit.
May considered Pomeranz to be a disappointment after he failed to produce anything resembling the All-Star numbers he put up in San Diego prior to the mid-season trade that brought him to Boston. The lefty went 3-5 with a 4.59 with the Red Sox, but we have to keep in mind that he had already blown by his previous career high in innings pitched before he got here, finishing with 170 innings that nearly doubled last year’s workload. He’s a talented pitcher who the Red Sox gave up their best pitching prospect for, so he’ll certainly be back unless the team uses him as a trade chip for a bigger fish.
Aug 12, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox second baseman Brock Holt (26) runs to first base after hitting a single during the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Probable to receive an offer
These players may not be starters, but should still fill important roles next season.
2016 was a bit of a step back from his All-Star season a year ago, but the Brock Star will certainly be welcomed back. His versatility is invaluable, as it gives the Red Sox flexibility in filling out the roster knowing they can rely on Holt to fill in at virtually any position. Boston will enter spring training with uncertainty at third base, so Holt may be relied on as a potential starter given that the team turned to him to take over at the hot corner down the stretch.
Kelly would have been a long shot based on early season returns, but his career was revitalized after a transition to the bullpen. The 28-year old was hammered in his six starts to the tune of an 8.46 ERA that earned him a trip back to Pawtucket. It was there that he began the long overdue process of converting into a reliever. Kelly returned to the Red Sox late in the season, posting a stellar 1.02 ERA in 17 2/3 innings of relief, followed by 3 2/3 shutout innings in the postseason. Expect Kelly to be back in the bullpen next year, possibly in an 8th inning setup role that would make him well worth this salary.
Ross had a solid season, posting a 3.25 ERA in 55 1/3 innings, which was the second-highest workload among Red Sox relievers. He held left-handed hitters to a .188 average and .545 OPS, so a bullpen short on reliable lefties will need him.
Aug 19, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Fernando Abad (58) pitches in the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Boston won 10-2. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
These players seem unlikely to be offered arbitration.
Abad was a disaster following the trade that brought him to the Red Sox, posting a 6.39 ERA in 12 2/3 innings. He’s still tough on lefties, but needs to be utilized exclusively in a lefty specialist role. That could leave him on the verge of being squeezed off the roster, making him a poor value. By the end of the season manager John Farrell had lost faith in Abad, who was left off the postseason roster. Look for the Red Sox to seek an upgrade this winter.
The Red Sox picked up Holiday mid-season after he was designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers to provide depth at the injury ravaged catcher position. He failed to impress in limited opportunities, hitting .212 in 14 games. Leon’s breakout year entrenches him as the starter, with Christian Vazquez likely backing him up. Holiday is out of options to be sent to the minors, so without an open roster spot available it’s likely the Red Sox let him go.
The 28-year old hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2014 due to a series of injuries and can’t be counted on to make the roster next year. Given that his projected salary is barely above the league minimum, perhaps the team will take a flier on him by sending him to the minors to serve as depth for their pitching staff, but only if he proves he’s healthy.
Aug 14, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) smiles after he was doused with Powerade by shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) after the Boston Red Sox 16-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Fenway Park. Betts had three home runs in the win. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Pre-Arbitration eligible players
The Red Sox also have a number of players with less than three seasons of experience that aren’t eligible for arbitration yet.
Mookie Betts is among the best bargains in baseball, a potential MVP making just above the league minimum. The Red Sox should give him a bit of a bump in salary as a sign of good faith toward future negotiations, but he’ll still be dirt cheap until he becomes arbitration eligible in 2018. Betts is another candidate for the Red Sox to explore a long term deal with to buy out some free agency years, if he’s open to it.
In the other corner of the outfield is Andrew Benintendi, who will remain rookie eligible in 2017 and years away from pushing the Red Sox into shelling out big bucks to keep him around. Boston has arguably the best outfield in the majors and they are all young, cost-controlled emerging stars.
A disappointing second half spoiled a promising start to the season for Travis Shaw, but he’ll be in the mix for the third base job heading into next season. There’s also currently an open spot at DH, which Shaw could fill, or he could take over at first base if Hanley Ramirez becomes the DH. Shaw isn’t arbitration eligible until 2019, so he’ll offer a cheap solution for whichever role he earns.
Steven Wright should be a lock for a rotation spot as long as the kunckleballer can return to form following a season-ending shoulder injury. He’s not arbitration eligible until 2018, so the production the rotation gets from his bargain salary helps balance out David Price‘s hefty contract.
Eduardo Rodriguez will also compete for a spot in the back end of the rotation while making close to the league minimum.
Blake Swihart, Marco Hernandez and Deven Marrero are also pre-arbitration players on the 40-man roster that could be in line for a bench spot. Top prospect Yoan Moncada could also compete for a spot, but is more likely to begin the year in the minors after he was exposed against breaking balls from big league pitchers.