The Red Sox ranked 27th in the major leagues in on-base percentage (.295) from the leadoff spot in 2022. Leadoff hitter Brandon Nimmo will be a free agent and could make for a nice fit.
Boston blew 28 saves in 2022. Pending free agent Edwin Díaz is an obvious fit after he posted a 1.31 ERA and 32 saves in 61 outings for the Mets this past season.
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom will need to upgrade his starting rotation as well. The Red Sox finished 22nd in starter ERA (4.49) this past season. Starters Carlos Rodón, Jacob deGrom and Chris Bassitt will be free agents.
Bloom said he also will explore additions at catcher. Three-time All-Star Willson Contreras will be available in free agency.
Might pending free agents Dansby Swanson and Trea Turner fit at shortstop if Xander Bogaerts leaves via free agency?
Any player mentioned above would be a huge free agent addition. But they all would come with a steep price beyond money.
The 2022-26 Collective Bargaining Agreement has the same qualifying offer system in place as it did the 2017-21 CBA. The league and union did not agree on an international draft by July 25, which kept the qualifying offer system intact.
The Red Sox’s 2022 payroll ($234.5 million) exceeded the competitive balance tax base threshold of $230 million. And so Boston would lose its second- and fifth-highest draft picks in the 2023 MLB Draft (and $1 million in international bonus pool money) if it signed a qualified free agent. Boston then would forfeit its third- and sixth-highest remaining picks if it signed a second qualified free agent.
Diáz, Contreras, Rodón, deGrom, Bassitt, Nimmo, Swanson, Turner, Clayton Kershaw and Aaron Judge all are eligible to receive a qualifying offer.
But there are other big-name free agents — Carlos Correa, Jose Abreu, Justin Verlander and Josh Bell — who won’t be attached to qualifying offers and would fit the Red Sox just as nicely.
A player can’t be extended a qualifying offer twice in his career. Correa and Verlander each received the offer from the Astros last offseason. Abreu received one from the White Sox after the 2019 season,
The Padres also can’t extend a qualifying offer to Bell because they acquired him midseason from the Nationals. A player must be on the team’s Opening Day roster to receive the qualifying offer.
The Red Sox were willing to give up a second-round pick to sign then-qualified free agent Trevor Story last offseason. But they also still had two other second-round picks (a protected 41st overall pick after Jud Fabian didn’t sign in 2021 and a compensatory pick for losing qualified free agent Eduardo Rodriguez to the Tigers).
Xander Bogaerts is expected to receive a qualifying offer from the Red Sox. And he’ll decline it. But the Red Sox won’t receive a compensatory pick after the second round if he signs elsewhere like they did with Rodriguez last offseason.
A team like the Red Sox that has a payroll exceeding the CBT threshold receives a compensatory draft pick after the fourth round for losing a qualified free agent while a team that stays under $230 million receives a compensatory pick after the second round.
Michael Wacha and Nathan Eovaldi also are candidates to receive a qualifying offer from Boston. The Red Sox aren’t likely to offer one to J.D. Martinez.
Red Sox roster decisions: Trade acquisitions David Hamilton, Wilyer Abreu among Rule 5 eligible prospects
Red Sox’s Enmanuel Valdez (Christian Vázquez trade) must be added to roster to prevent free agency