The Red Sox have a large group of players that could potentially hit free agency this offseason. That group includes Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez, as well as guys like James Paxton and Tommy Pham – in total there are nine players that could hit free agency. Here are my predictions for each player, going in alphabetical order:
Bogaerts has a very interesting case as a free agent, because even though his power numbers dropped, he was still a good hitter all around, and his defense took a very important leap. Bogaerts opted out of his deal, and it would make no sense to not extend the qualifying offer to him. In the New York Post, Jon Heyman predicted Bogaerts to get an 8 year deal for $225 million and in the Athletic Jim Bowden named the Red Sox as his best fit. That contract is around where I would put Bogaerts if Scott Boras wasn’t his agent. With Boras being there I think Bogaerts will get 10 years for $285 million from his old friend in Philly, Dave Dombrowski, after their World Series loss to the Astros. If you are the Red Sox, you don’t match that and turn to one of the other 3 free agent shortstops in Turner, Correa, and Swanson, all who are very good players in their own right. I have a sneaky suspicion that Trea Turner would be the main target, as he would be the leadoff hitter they need and would form a nice speed duo in the middle infield with Trevor Story.
If you went based on the last three years, Nate Eovaldi has been the best Red Sox pitcher. However, in 2022, things turned a little and Eovaldi had his struggles. Obviously there was an injury in there, but for someone who has already had two Tommy John surgeries, and had his fastball velo decline later in 2022, I don’t see the Red Sox bringing him back for the price he will cost. I predict that Eovaldi goes home to Texas to the Rangers on a 3 year deal worth $48 million, with incentives that can make it rise to up to $60 million based on performance and innings pitched.
In his 500th stint for the Red Sox, Rich Hil was a relative success. However, I don’t really see a world that has Hill returning to Boston in 2023. He did say that he would consider waiting until midseason to sign, but at his age retirement also has to be in the conversation. I have no clue what the future holds for Rich Hill, but I don’t see him returning to Boston.
Eric Hosmer can opt out of his current deal that pays him $13 million a year through 2025, but he’s not doing that. Hosmer will not opt out, although he could be a trade candidate if he waives his no trade clause to a contender who needs a 1B. Ultimately, I think he most likely will be the backup 1B for the Red Sox in 2023. There isn’t much else to say about Hosmer.
J.D. Martinez was everything the Red Sox could’ve asked for and more when they signed him to a 5 year deal heading into the 2018 season. However, in 2022, Martinez had his worst year in a full season since he was a Houston Astro. Add in the fact that he was limited to DH duty and it doesn’t seem likely that the Red Sox will bring him back. I think he will end up taking a 1 year deal with a team that isn’t great but could use a veteran presence for their young guys. A team like the Marlins could make sense, especially with J.D. being from Miami.
This is one of the most interesting scenarios the Red Sox have, with James Paxton not pitching a single inning for the Red Sox in 2022, and his only appearance at all was in the FCL where he got 2 outs and had to come out of the game for an injury. The Red Sox are likely to decline Paxton’s team option, which is for 2 years at $13 million per year, but then Paxton would get to decide on his 1 year, $4 million team option. I think Paxton will decline the player option and look for a deal around the $6-8 million range. I think someone might give that to him, but if not I would think that the Sox could still hold that $4 million out there if they believe in his ability. However, Paxton is the one guy that I have no clue on what will happen.
A trade deadline acquisition, Tommy Pham wasn’t bad in Boston, but I would be shocked if he returns in 2023 depending on what his mutual option is worth. Pham does have a mutual option for 2023, but we aren’t 100% sure what it is worth. It was reported that he had a $6 million option, but a month ago it was reported by Christopher Smith of MassLive that Pham’s option may actually be worth $12 million. Here’s how I see it: if the option is $6 million, Pham will opt out. If it’s $12 million, the Red Sox will opt out. And the agreement in the trade to bring Pham to Boston is that Cincinatti will pay the $1.5 million buyout if Pham or the Red Sox opt out, so the Sox won’t have to worry about that. I think Pham either signs a non-guaranteed deal and gets to spring training with a bad team, or a team will pick him up on a cheap one year deal. Unfortunately for Pham, that’s normally what happens with older players on a downward trend.
The wannabe starter, Matt Strahm has the pitch mix to start, but will a team actually be willing to put him in that role? Maybe, which is why I don’t see him returning to Boston in 2023. I think there will be a team that finished sub .500 last year who needs a starter, and would be willing to take the risk to try and potentially capitalize on the added value Strahm could have as a starter near the trade deadline. Teams like the Rockies, Reds, Pirates, and Athletics could all be interesting options considering they just need people to throw out there, and they’d probably be willing to let him start.
Last but not least is Michael Wacha, who had a surprisingly good year, but the analytics don’t fully back the year Wacha had, because although he had a 3.32 ERA, he had a 4.56 xERA and a 4.14 FIP. However, it seems like the Red Sox are interested in bringing him back, even more so than Eovaldi, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. As I always say, it all depends on the money. I see Wacha getting a 2 year deal worth $32 million with an option for the third year that would bring it up to 3 years $48 million. That would keep him in Boston through 2024 and potentially through 2025 as well.
That wraps up my predictions for all nine of the potential free agents the Red Sox have. This offseason will be a very interesting one for the Red Sox, and the 2023 Opening Day roster will look much different than the 2022 roster.