General manager Ben Cherington said the Boston Red Sox will have one of the highest payrolls in baseball next season, and speculation has begun as to how they will disperse their money.
Cherington further explained his comments on Boston radio station WEEI Thursday.
"Exactly where it ends up, exactly what rank we are, I don’t know that yet," Cherington said. "I think it just depends on what we do. We’re not going to shoot for an arbitrary payroll number just to say that we’re going to get to this. We just have to look at each opportunity as it comes and figure out whether it’s the right thing for the Red Sox.”
The Red Sox have a lot of ground to make up with their fans after finishing with their worst record in nearly 40 years this past season, which included a monumental collapse that began when manager Terry Francona left the club.
Boston will have to address both their lineup and starting pitching in free agency, though the market for pitchers is rather thin. The Red Sox have just $45 million committed to their payroll next season.
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They could make a huge splash this winter by grabbing one of the most talented, albeit riskiest, players in Josh Hamilton. The outfielder is reportedly demanding a long-term deal worth nearly $175 million, but Texas was only willing to give him three years, leaving the door open for Boston, the Seattle Mariners, and the Baltimore Orioles to make a run at the slugger.
Hamilton has a history of drug and alcohol abuse, which some believe is why the Rangers won’t commit both the time and huge money to one of the league’s best all-around hitters.
After completing a blockbuster trade that shipped out the hefty contracts of Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett to the Los Angeles Dodgers, speculation arose that the Red Sox were clearing salary for a run at Hamilton.
Boston could also pair Hamilton with another Ranger in catcher Mike Napoli. They have reportedly reached out to the 31-year-old, who hit 24 home runs and was named an All-Star last season. Napoli could play a dual role at catcher and first base, and perhaps get at-bats as a designated hitter.
In terms of pitching, the Red Sox have apparently taken themselves out of the hunt for starter Zach Greinke, but could pursue right-hander Jeremy Guthrie of Kansas City.
Guthrie was traded to the Royals by the Colorado Rockies last season, and posted a 2.17 ERA afterwards. The 33-year-old also has experience in the AL East, having spent five seasons with Baltimore.
Cherington could also chase Baltimore’s Joe Saunders, who helped the Orioles reach the playoffs with a 2.75 ERA and 3-2 record in September, and won both of his postseason starts by allowing just two earned runs.