Sunday, January 20, 2013

Red Sox Avoid Arbitration Drama

The Boston Red Sox have had a busy holiday weekend so far.  General Manager Ben Cherington reached agreements with all eight of Boston's arbitration-eligible players, listed below. He also came to terms with Mike Napoli, who signed with the Red Sox six weeks ago but was flagged after his physical revealed a hip condition. The new deal is much cheaper; a one-year, $5 million contract that could be worth up to $13 million with incentives.

Jacoby Ellsbury: one-year, $9.5 million
-Possibly the last paycheck Ellsbury ever receives from the Boston Red Sox, for the Scott Boras client is expected to cost a pretty penny when he hits the free agent market next winter. If he walks, expect the speedy center fielder to go out with a bang (read: big contract year).

Joel Hanrahan: one-year, $7.04 million
-Boston's new closer nearly doubled his 2012 salary but will still earn little more than half of what the Philadelphia Phillies are paying Jonathan Papelbon.

Craig Breslow: two-year, $6.25 million
-The well-traveled southpaw has put together a solid career coming out of the bullpen and continued to pitch well after the Arizona Diamondbacks shipped him up to Boston for Scott Podsednik and Matt Albers. His deal includes an option for a third year.

Alfredo Aceves: one-year, $2.65 million
-Thrust into the closer's role when Bailey got hurt last year, Aceves struggled from the outset and never looked comfortable. Buried himself in Bobby Valentine's doghouse by the end of the summer, so Ace should benefit from a fresh start under new manager John Farrell. Expect him to be the dependable middle reliever he was for Boston in 2011, when he went 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA.

Andrew Bailey: one-year, $4.1 million
-The former Rookie of the Year will serve as a setup man for the first time in his career and might need some time to adjust to his new role. I'm willing to chalk up his failed 2012 to injury and give him a second chance in 2013.

Daniel Bard: one-year, $1.86 million
-Moving Bard to the starting rotation backfired last year, but hopefully he can put the failed experiment behind him and dominate hitters like he did for most of 2011.

Franklin Morales: one-year, $1.49 million
-Has been a solid addition to Boston's bullpen since Theo Epstein purchased him from the Colorado Rockies in the spring of 2011. Morales stunk with the Rockies but has revived his career with Boston, where he's averaged nearly a strikeout per inning and holds a 117 ERA+. There's been talk that Morales, who made nine starts in 2012, may be converted into a starting pitcher, especially if John Lackey bombs in his return to the rotation.

Andrew Miller: one-year, 1.48 million
-The former first round draft pick cost the Red Sox a playoff spot two years ago, when Terry Francona gave him a dozen starts in place of the injured Clay Buchholz. Working exclusively out of the bullpen, the perennial disappointment settled down last year and developed into a useful reliever for Bobby V. Miller maintained an impressive 11.4 K/9 over his 53 relief appearances to complement his 3.35 ERA (131 ERA+) and 1.19 WHIP.

After addressing the team's most pressing concerns, Cherington's payroll currently sits around $145 million. Spring training starts in a month, so he's likely done with major moves for the winter. While he's improved the team considerably without overpaying for big name free agents such as Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke, and Anibal Sanchez, I don't think he turned the Red Sox back into contenders overnight. Napoli, Hanrahan, Shane Victorino, and Ryan Dempster are all good players, but can they do enough to help a 93 loss-team reach the postseason?

 We'll find out soon enough.

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