By Jeff Louderback
As it does every offseason, the 40-man roster carousel continues to spin for the Boston Red Sox. On Friday, arbitration-eligible players Rich Hill, Scott Atchison and Ryan Sweeney were not tendered contracts and became free agents, opening three spots.
Last offseason, Hill and Atchison were non-tendered, re-signed to minor league deals, worked their way back onto the 40-man roster and pitched effectively for the Red Sox though they both endured injuries that warranted disabled list stints. Hill and Atchison could be brought back on minor league deals this offseason, though both relievers will likely attract significant interest from other clubs.
As for Sweeney, the outfielder who was acquired from Oakland last offseason with Andrew Bailey for Josh Reddick and two minor leaguers, he will not likely return to Boston since the club already has Ryan Kalish, the 24-year-old left-handed hitter who can proficiently play all three outfield spots and has a higher power ceiling. If he is fully recovered from shoulder and neck injuries that hampered his abilities in 2011 and 2012, Kalish will see time in left field platooning with the right-handed hitting Jonny Gomes. Kalish could also be used in right field if the Red Sox re-sign Cody Ross or ink another right-handed hitting outfielder like Ryan Ludwick.
Here is a glance at Boston’s updated 40-man roster:
- Jon Lester
- Clay Buchholz
- Felix Doubront
- John Lackey
- Rubby De La Rosa
- Allen Webster
- Steven Wright
- Stolmy Pimentel
- Drake Britton
The Red Sox have a formidable core of starting pitchers in Lester, Buchholz, Doubront and Lackey (whose elbow will be healthy for the first time since 2008). De La Rosa and Webster are the two highly regarded prospects Boston obtained from the Dodgers. Wright is an intriguing knuckleballer in the mold of R.A. Dickey in that he throws a hard knuckler and has a fast ball that touches the mid to high 80s. Pimentel and Britton are prospects who have Major League futures either as a starter or a reliever.
This offseason, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington will undoubtedly acquire a starting pitcher via free agency (Dan Haren?) or trade (Justin Masterson?). Matt Barnes, another of Boston’s top pitching prospects who is about Major League ready, is not on the 40-man roster.
- Andrew Bailey
- Junichi Tazawa
- Daniel Bard
- Franklin Morales
- Andrew Miller
- Alfredo Aceves
- Craig Breslow
- Clayton Mortensen
- Mark Melancon
- Alex Wilson
- Chris Carpenter
- Pedro Beato
Hill and Atchison could be re-signed to minor league deals and work their way back onto the 40-man roster. Miller or Morales could be packaged in a trade this offseason. Beato and Carpenter are names who could be designated for assignment if 40-man roster spots are needed through free agent signings and trades.
When the Red Sox announced a two-year deal with Ross, it wasn’t a splashy signing, but it could be the most valuable addition by the club this offseason because of the veteran’s strong and accurate arm, well-respected game-calling abilities and his right-handed bat that has some pop.
Boston could keep Saltalamacchia and have Lavarnway open the 2013 campaign at Triple-A Pawtucket since the latter has an option remaining, but chances are the Red Sox will package Saltalamacchia in a trade this offseason making Ross and Lavarnway the catching tandem. Butler and Vazquez are highly regarded by the Red Sox for their defense and game-calling skills. Vazquez is just 22 and has not played above advanced Single-A Salem (Va.), but the organization thinks so highly of him that it placed him on the 40-man roster to protect him from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.
Obviously, Ortiz will only be used at first base when the Red Sox play interleague games in National League ballparks, and the club is looking for a first baseman. Boston could sign someone like Stephen Drew to a one-year deal so the team has insurance in case Iglesias is not Major League ready with his bat. Sands, the right-handed slugger who the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers, can play the corner outfield spots and first base. He has hit for power at every minor league stop and could emerge as one of the pleasant surprises in 2013.
The Red Sox will acquire via trade or sign through free agency one or two outfielders. The 24-year-old Hassan was a surprise addition to the 40-man roster last month. He was added to protect him from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, and he is known as a patient hitter who works the count, but he is not a top prospect like Kalish and other names who don’t need to be placed on the 40-man roster yet like Bryce Brentz and Jackie Bradley.
Currently, Boston has 37 players on its 40-man roster. Trades and free agent signings will reshape that number in the approaching weeks. Saltalamacchia, one of the left-handed relievers, Iglesias (if the Red Sox would work out a deal with the Indians for Cabrera) and Aceves are trade possibilities. De La Rosa or Webster could also be included in a package to land a starting pitcher since the Red Sox appear more reluctant to part with top pitching prospect Matt Barnes.