The Red Sox must decide on Monday whether to offer right-hander Andrew Bailey arbitration to secure his services for 2014. (AP)
A midnight deadline looms for teams to tender contracts to the players on their 40-man roster who, with less than six years of big league service time, remain under team control. In the case of the Red Sox, that means five mostly straightforward decisions on arbitration-eligible players as well as some additional decision regarding players who are not yet arbitration-eligible but whose roster spots are in question at a time when the Red Sox will need to round out their major league roster with additional players.
First, the arbitration-eligible players: left-handed relievers Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller as well as right-hander Junichi Tazawa all project to make less than $2 million through salary arbitration, a modest sum given their abilities. Miller is expected to be healthy in 2013 after he underwent season-ending foot surgery for a torn ligament last July; his stuff was among the most dominant of any left-hander’s in baseball prior to the injury. Tazawa endured some ups and downs but still offers excellent bang for the buck as a late-innings right-hander who attacks the strike zone and gets swings and misses. Morales (2-2, 4.62 ERA in 20 games and 25 1/3 innings) had a disappointing year after his strong showing in 2012, but his upside (a left-hander with three swing-and-miss pitches) is such that he represents a worthwhile investment in his third year of arbitration-eligibility. First baseman/outfielder Mike Carp may assume a growing role with the Red Sox if Mike Napoli leaves in free agency; given his tremendous offensive production against right-handed pitchers in 2013, he’s a lock to get tendered. Newcomer Burke Badenhop will also be tendered.
That leaves right-hander Andrew Bailey as the one Sox arbitration-eligible player on the bubble. The 29-year-old showed electric stuff at times in 2013, striking out 39 in 28 2/3 innings with a 3.77 ERA, but his availability for 2014 is in question after he underwent major shoulder surgery last July. He has a closer’s pedigree, but given that in a best-case scenario, he likely would be limited to pitching in the second half, and it remains to be seen how his stuff comes back from his procedure, the idea of offering him arbitration (and with it, a slight raise on the $4.1 million salary he made in 2013) might represent a potential salary inefficiency. On the other hand, if Bailey can bounce back from the injury, then there’s interesting upside for a team that needs closing insurance options behind Koji Uehara, for a team that values not having to commit to relievers beyond a single season given their typically volatile health and performances. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that Bailey will be tendered, but WEEI.com has not been able to confirm that suggestion; certainly, given Bailey’s uncertain outlook for the coming year, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Sox tried to negotiate either a minor league deal or a deal with a lower base salary that featured significant potential incentives.
While those are the arbitration-eligible players who are in line for the biggest salaries if tendered, those players are not the only ones on whom the Sox must make decisions. The team must also decide whether to tender contracts to the other 23 players on the 40-man roster. For the most part, these fall into the no-brainer category. The ability to bring back Daniel Nava and Felix Doubront for less than $600,000 — and receive production that vastly exceeds salaries that are just slightly above the major league minimum — is invaluable in roster construction.
But at a time when the Sox will need to free up roster spots on the 40-man roster for its major league needs (with a starting first baseman and catcher looming as the two most glaring) and when the 40-man roster is at capacity, other players without a defined big league role could prove vulnerable. A quick examination of those players:
Brayan Villarreal, Alex Wilson, Steven Wright
All three pitched in the big leagues in 2013. But Villarreal — while in possession of a huge arm — permits little roster flexibility since he is out of options. Wilson has two options left, and there were times when he emerged as a trusted seventh-inning option in 2013, and so he seems unlikely to be vulnerable. Wright has two options left, but the Sox with Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes now in Triple-A and Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman and Drake Britton all having reached the big leagues while representing potential contributors to either the rotation or bullpen, Wright’s role is in some question. Still, he offers inexpensive starting depth, a commodity that may be too valuable to consider sacrificing, even if it requires some roster management.
While the Red Sox have four catchers on the 40-man roster (David Ross, Ryan Lavarnway, Dan Butler and Christian Vazquez), the team’s catching depth is a strength that is not likely to be compromised, particularly at a time when the team has yet to sign a starting catcher for 2014. The Sox might consider trading at least one of those players, but all are virtually locks to be tendered.
Brock Holt is the only infielder on the 40-man roster without a defined big league role for 2014, but he offers the team optionable depth at three different infield positions, and so from a roster standpoint, there seems little sense in removing him from the 40-man.
Alex Castellanos, Alex Hassan, Ryan Kalish
Castellanos, like Holt, offers the Sox protection in a number of areas, including second and third base as well as left and right field (with the ability to play center), and he has an option remaining. While Hassan never reached the big leagues in 2013 after being added to the 40-man roster one year earlier, the team still values his on-base ability to the point where he wouldn’t seem to make sense as a non-tender option, at least in the immediate term. While Kalish still has an option remaining, his ability to provide depth to the big league team after missing all of 2013 while recovering from a pair of major surgeries (one to his shoulder labrum, another to his neck) is very much in question. Given the concerns about his health and the uncertainty about what kind of performance he might be able to achieve if/when back on the field, it is possible that he could be non-tendered, with the Sox hoping that he could clear waivers and remain in the organization to try to reclaim the considerable promise he showed in a callup over the final two months of 2010.