The day after Thanksgiving is known as “Black Friday” and is often referred to as the start of the Christmas shopping season.
As a baseball fan, I’m more interested in this Friday – the start of the free agent shopping season.
Boston’s biggest priority is left field and it seems likely that the Sox will either re-sign Jason Bay or spend a similar amount on Matt Holliday.
The Red Sox also need to address shortstop since injuries have made it impossible to project Jed Lowrie as an every day player for next season. The Sox declined their $6 million option on Alex Gonzalez, but could try to bring him back at a lesser price. I wouldn’t mind seeing Boston try to sign Houston’s Miguel Tejada to a one or two-year deal. Yes, he’s 35-year-old and has the range of a sumo wrestler, but the 6-time All-Star and 2002 American League MVP can still rake (.313, 46 doubles, 14 HR, 86 RBI in ’09). Perhaps he can man the position until 19-year-old Cuban signee Jose Iglesias is ready for prime time.
It seems that Boston often looks to sign a low risk/potentially high reward player who is coming back from an injury (John Smoltz and Brad Penny last year). How about 31-year-old pitcher Ben Sheets? After missing last year with an elbow injury, the 4-time All-Star says he’s healthy. After never pitching in a playoff game in his 8-years with Milwaukee, Sheets is probably eager to join a contender – especially one with a history of giving good deals to pitchers with recent medical problems.
While major league free agents get all of the attention, the Red Sox will also be active in the minor league free agent market to build organization depth, and give the PawSox a few veterans with proven records at the Triple-A level. Last year, the team signed Nick Green to be Pawtucket’s second baseman and he wound up being Boston’s shortstop for much of the year. Fernando Cabrera was also picked up as a minor league free agent last winter, and was Pawtucket’s Most Valuable Pitcher, going 22-for-22 in save opportunities with a 1.71 ERA.
Green and Cabrera are free agents again this year along with several key Pawtucket players including Jeff Bailey, Marcus McBeth, Billy Traber, Devern Hansack, Jose Vaquedano, Charlie Zink, Travis Denker, Angel Chavez, and Gil Velazquez.
Other familiar former PawSox in the minor league free agent market include David Pauley, Paul McAnulty, Chad Spann, Matt Ginter, Alejandro Machado, Rocky Cherry, Eric Hull, Bryan Corey, Jason Lane, and Jon Spitzer.
Baseball America published a lengthy list of more than 500 minor league free agents that you can find here. Be sure to scroll past the team-by-team rundown to see a list of players who became free agents after being removed from their team’s 40-man-rosters. Those players are the ones that would most likely appeal to Boston as candidates to join Pawtucket next season.
Some of the most attractive names from other organizations include Brad Eldred, Kevin Barker, Mitch Jones, Ryan Freel, Jason Grilli, Winston Abreu, and Jason Childers.
One name that does not appear on those lists is George Kottaras who was released by the Red Sox on Wednesday. With Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek under contract, there isn’t room for George on the major league roster next season and he’s out of minor league options. Kottaras is only 26-years-old and should have no trouble finding a team that will give him an opportunity to make the major league club in spring training.
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