Before the official start to the Red Sox off-season begins, they have one more World Series celebration on the docket—this time celebrating with the city of Boston in the much loved Duck Boat Rolling Rally. If you find yourself in Boston Saturday morning around 10am, find a spot on Boylston, Tremont or along the Charles to try for a glimpse of the new World Series champions. It's supposed to be a beautiful November day... I'm sorry I'll miss it.
The first order of business: Jon Lester. The Sox have exercised their $13 million option on the lefty, keeping him with the team through the 2014 season. Lester was 15-8 with a 3.75 ERA in 33 starts and in the playoffs, he was even better going 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA and 29 strikeouts in five starts. That's one they can cross off the list.
Jacoby Ellsbury is also a concern. He hits the free agent market coming off a season where he batted .298 and led the team with 52 stolen bases. The problem with Ellsbury is that mouth-breathing agent of his. Scott Boras is not a friend to the Red Sox. After the high of winning a World Series title, you might hope that Ellbury would like the winning more than a long-term, big-money contract. I'm going to guess Boras won't let that happen...
If Ellsbury doesn't get paid the big bucks, neither does Bor-ass. It's too bad, really. I mean Ells has had his ups and downs over his time in Boston—some might even question his physical toughness, but he's a speedy center fielder who can cover a lot of ground and shred pitchers' and catchers' nerves while on base. If he does go, will the Sox place their stock in Jackie Bradley, Jr. as a replacement in center? In his limited time in Boston this season, he really didn't make much of a splash.
In addition to Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Stephen Drew and Mike Napoli are all free agents and the Red Sox have until 5pm on Monday to make $14 million qualifying offers to all three. If the Sox do so, the players then have one week to accept the offer or decline and sign with another team. The qualifying offer isn't required, and the Sox can still make deals with those free agents.
If the team opts not to put forth the qualifying offers, they could be on the hunt for another catcher, a first baseman and possibly another infielder. If Drew doesn't return, there's always Xander Bogaerts waiting patiently in the wings to talk over at short. He more than proved himself and his ability to perform on the big stage in the postseason.
We'll see how it goes... the front office won't get much of a break heading into the holidays. This season's success will be a hard act to follow.