With the 2016 World Series now in the rear view mirror, several Boston Red Sox players at the end of their contracts will officially become free agents.
Now that the Chicago Cubs have been crowned champions, the 2016 MLB season is officially in the books. As of today, players at the end of their contracts are eligible to file for free agency, joining a market that is bound to include several members of this year’s Boston Red Sox roster.
The most prominent player to have their contract expire is David Ortiz, but of course he won’t be filing for free agency. The 40-year old slugger is hanging up his cleats, choosing retirement over one last pay day. Besides, in the highly unlikely event that Big Papi has a change of heart and decides to return for one last run, there’s no chance that he would do so with any other franchise.
This leaves Boston in a position where they could potentially see their bullpen severely depleted. Ziegler is likely to go in search of somewhere that he has a chance to become a closer again. If Koji doesn’t retire then he’s likely to want to stay here. The Red Sox will be open to that as long as it’s at a reduced salary, but how much can they rely on him given his age and recent injury history? Tazawa has faltered under the strain of a heavy workload the past couple seasons, which may convince the team to move on.
Hill was a useful platoon option to use at third base against lefties, but he doesn’t seem to be a priority for a team with several other options to fill that role.
The Red Sox also have some decisions to make on a couple of team options, most notably the $13.5 million option for Clay Buchholz. The team turned to the 32-year old to start Game 3 of the ALDS due to a lack of options, but there doesn’t seem to be room for him in the rotation heading into next season if everyone is healthy. That price tag is too steep for a middle reliever that hasn’t proven he can be light’s out in a versatile role similar to what Andrew Miller did for the Cleveland Indians this postseason. Boston could use a guy like that, but there’s little reason to feel comfortable that Buchholz is that guy.
Ryan Hanigan‘s contract has a $3.75 million team option, which the Red Sox are almost certain to buy out for a reasonable $800,000. Sandy Leon has earned the starting catcher gig, while Christian Vazquez is out of options to be sent to the minors. With no need for a third catcher on the big league roster to start the season, Hanigan becomes expendable. He may get an invite to big league camp and potentially return at a reduced salary to serve as depth, but he’s more likely to latch on somewhere else as a backup for a team that values his abilities to manage a pitching staff.
We may soon wave good-bye to at least a few members of the 2016 Red Sox, but the team isn’t in danger of losing anyone that would significantly alter their outlook heading into next season as long as they are successful in replenishing any departing pieces from a bullpen that could use a bit more bolstering to begin with.