MLB Free Agency is finally starting to heat up. The top two available free agents in George Springer and D.J. LeMahieu have both come off the board in the past two weeks. LeMahieu re-signed with the New York Yankees for 6 years/$90 million while Springer signed with the Toronto Blue Jays for 6 years/$150 million. We also saw the New York Mets land Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco in a blockbuster trade and the San Diego Padres acquire their third top of the rotation starter of the offseason in a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates that will send Joe Musgrove to SoCal.
One team that has been relatively quiet is the Boston Red Sox. The 2018 World Series Champions had an atrocious 24-36 2020 season. If they want to compete it in 2021, they need to make some splashes in free agency. 26 different pitchers took the mound for Boston last season with most of them finding very little success. The Red Sox clearly need to upgrade and fill out their rotation and bullpen, but that is not the only major need.
Ever since Dustin Pedroia suffered a knee injury in 2017, the Red Sox have had very little stability at the second base position. With the 2008 AL MVP unlikely to attempt one final comeback in 2021, Boston needs to finally address the second base position and acquire someone who can patrol the right side of the infield until top prospect Jeter Downs is ready to make his Major League debut.
Centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is currently a free agent so the Red Sox need to add a another outfielder to the mix. It looks like Andrew Benintendi will not be traded away, so Boston needs to go after a platoon type outfielder who will join Alex Verdugo and newly signed Hunter Renfroe.
The Red Sox seem hesitant during this offseason to dish out big contracts. Boston seems to be emphasizing buy low candidates on a one year deal. They signed Renfroe to a 1 year/$3.1 million deal and re-signed Starting Pitcher Martin Perez to a 1 year/$5 million contract as well. It seems unlikely that they will get into a bidding war with other teams which is the main reason why they lost out on Corey Kluber. The Red Sox will look to fill out their roster with undervalued signings.
Matt Shoemaker | Starting Pitcher
The 34-year old looked set for a breakout season in 2019 with the Blue Jays until he tore his ACL in an April game against the Oakland Athletics. Shoemaker posted a 1.57 ERA in 28.2 IP in 2019 before he went down with the injury. He came back healthy for the 2020 season but would not find the same success.
Shoemaker once again pitched 28.2 innings in the shortened season and would give up 15 earned runs in six appearances. The right-hander struck out 26 batters, so he does have potential as a strike out pitcher. The aspects that held him back in 2020 were the amount of home runs and walks he gave up. Shoemaker had eight home runs hit against him and would also issue nine free passes. Boston could pick him up on a 1 year/$6 million deal with an option for a second year. If Shoemaker can limit the long ball in 2021, he will be in store for a bounce back year.
Mike Leake | Starting Pitcher
Mike Leake made headlines last season as the first player to opt out of the 2020 COVID-19 shortened MLB season. The Diamondbacks would go on to decline his $18 million option at the end of the season which made him a free agent. Since Leake has not pitched since the 2019 season, he might be forced to sign a one year/prove it deal.
Leake did not have a fantastic 2019 as he led the league in hits allowed with 227 hits and home runs allowed with 41 given up. His K/9 also came in at an astonishingly low 5.8. Leake did not miss many bats, but he still ate up a lot of innings which could prove valuable for the Red Sox. Perez significantly decreased his H/9 once joining the Red Sox, so Boston’s system may be able to do the same for Leake. The Red Sox could scoop the 33-year old for a 1 year/$5 million with a second year option that includes a $500K buyout.
Brett Anderson | Starting Pitcher
Brett Anderson is a guy who has flown under the radar this offseason. He had two solid years in a row with the Oakland Athletics and Milwaukee Brewers. Once Chris Sale is healthy and Boston has a rotation of Sale, E-Rod, Eovaldi, and Perez, Anderson could be a dependable fifth starter. His stats do not blow you away, but there is a potential for him to fill out the back of the rotation. He does not strike out many batters and does issue a fair share of free passes, but he still finds a way to get outs. The main aspect holding him back is his tendency to give up hits. He consistently has a H/9 of over nine, which means he gives up about one hit per inning. With that said, I still think he is a great fit for Boston as he may only cost $8 million on a one year deal.
Chaz Roe | Relief Pitcher
Chaz Roe saw enormous amounts of success in his three and a half years with Tampa Bay. With Chaim Bloom coming from the Rays front office, this could be a perfect fit for Roe. His 2020 season was prematurely cut short to a right elbow injury, but it seems he will be ready for the start of the 2021 season. In 9.1 innings in 2020, Roe struck out nine batters, walked three, and only gave up three runs. The 34-year old has a devastating slider that would be a godsend for the Red Sox bullpen.
Ryan Tepera | Relief Pitcher
Ryan Tepera had a solid 2020 season out of the Cubs’ bullpen. He struck out 31 batters in 20.1 innings and only gave up 17 hits. His biggest issue was his 12 walks, so if he can get those down he can be a shutdown reliever. The Boston bullpen has struggled the past few seasons, so Tepera would be a significant improvement.
Brad Boxberger| Relief Pitcher
The 9-year veteran looked impressive out of the Miami Marlins’ bullpen in 2020. Brad Boxberger allowed 17 hits over 18 innings with 18 strikeouts and six earned runs. The issue for him throughout the majority of his career has been the walks. He allowed eight free passes last year, which was an improvement from years past. Boxberger led the AL in saves in 2015 with the Rays, so he does have experience in pitching the 9th inning. That could prove valuable for the Red Sox as they currently have to rely on Matt Barnes to close games.
Tommy La Stella | Second Base
Tommy La Stella looked like a star on the rise in 2019 as he was selected to his first All-Star game. He would go on to miss the second half of that season after fracturing his tibia. La Stella would make a strong return in 2020 by hitting to the tune of a .281 batting average and .819 OPS between the Los Angeles Angels and Athletics. The 31-year old has shown in the past two seasons that he can be an every day player, so the Red Sox could lock him up for the next three seasons on a $20 million deal.
Kevin Pillar / Outfield
In 30 games with the Red Sox last year, Pillar had a .274/.325/.470 slash line. The former Toronto Blue Jay also played stellar defense in center and right field. With Boston way out of the postseason race, they traded him to the Colorado Rockies, but a reunion could be in store for the 2021 season. Bradley Jr. is currently a free agent and is likely seeking a multi-year deal, while Pillar may be okay with signing another one year deal with the Red Sox. Pillar is also a righty, which will help balance the outfield with lefties Verdugo and Benintendi and righty Renfroe. The 32-year old may only cost $5 million which seems right in the price range of what the Red Sox are looking to spend this offseason.