And now it's time for a breakdown.
As the Red Sox stare headlong at an offseason of doubt, let's examine where they stand on a position-by-position basis.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia finished the season on a sour note, batting .162 with 27 strikeouts and just one walk in September. He was even on the bench the last two games after taking a foul ball off his right clavicle. But don't forget the improvement Saltalamacchia showed during the middle portion of the season. He overcame a dreadful start both at the plate and behind it, and figures to be a fixture here for years to come. Saltalamacchia, 26, is about to enter his first arbitration year.
It remains to be seen who Salty's partner will be (Pepper?). Jason Varitek may walk into the sunset, or perhaps he comes back for another year at around $2 million, the figure for which he signed last offseason. Ryan Lavarnway has shown he is ready to hit at the major league level. He could serve as Saltalamacchia's backup and the occasional designated hitter if things play out in a particular way.
Adrian Gonzalez is signed through 2018, but he gets expensive next season. After the Sox got an MVP-caliber season from him for the nice price of $6.3 million, Gonzalez will make over $21 million for the next seven years. If he produces like he did for the bulk of 2011, it's worth it.
Dustin Pedroia had a phenomenal bounce-back campaign, establishing career highs in home runs, RBIs, walks and stolen bases and playing phenomenal defense. His salary escalates a bit each of the next couple years before an $11 club option in 2015. Pedroia's the rock, and he'll need to assume an even greater leadership role in a clubhouse that needs a makeover.
Marco Scutaro will be 36 later this month, but he gave such an outstanding performance down the stretch that the club has to seriously consider picking up his $6 million option. If not, he can exercise a $3 million player option or get a $1.5 million buyout and hit free agency. There is a pair of Joses to think about as well. Jose Iglesias remains the shortstop of the future in the organization's eyes, but he may need one more year of seasoning in the minors. Jose Reyes figures to be one of the big-name free agents, although with salaries escalating at several other positions and perhaps new ones signed by guys like Jonathan Papelbon and David Ortiz, it remains to be seen how interested the Red Sox will be.
Jed Lowrie could be in the mix again, although he struggled defensively at the position and may be better suited elsewhere or in that super utility role once again. Lowrie will have to be tendered a deal. He could be a trade option.
One of the keys to the team-building for 2011 was Kevin Youkilis' ability to slide from first to third. However, he ended his second straight season on the mend after a physically demanding campaign that casts some doubt about his future at the position. Some feel he may be a good candidate to slide into the designated hitter role if Ortiz is not re-signed. Others sense he could be a trade chip. Youkilis makes $12 million in 2012 and there is a $13 million club option for 2013. Will Middlebrooks, one of the organization's top prospects, is waiting in the wings. He hit .285 with 23 home runs and 94 RBIs at three levels this year, including a handful of games at Pawtucket. Lowrie might be involved here as well. Mike Aviles is arbitration eligible and did some nice things.
Like others on this list, Carl Crawford's contract jumps in value next year when he will haul in $19.5 million, up from $14 million in 2011. The organization has to hope for a similar increase in his production.
The most-watched arbitration situation of the offseason in all of baseball will be that of Jacoby Ellsbury, who may win the MVP in a year in which he made $2.5 million. He may haul in three times that, although it will be interesting to see if it gets that far. Theo Epstein has never gone to arbitration with a Red Sox player and likes to lock up his homegrown talent at about this time in their respective career paths. If Epstein is still around, chances are he will attempt to do so with Ellsbury. Scott Boras is Ellsbury's agent and he likes his players to go year-to-year before hitting free agency.
J.D. Drew's $70 million deal has come to an end and it's extremely likely he is coming back to Boston, unless he is interested in a much cheaper deal for a reserve role. Josh Reddick ended the year on the bench and had some struggles down the stretch, but hitting .280 with seven home runs in 87 games cannot be taken lightly. He and Ryan Kalish, who recently underwent neck surgery, will be in the mix for the starting job as long as the club doesn't trade them or sign a free agent (Jason Kubel and Josh Willingham are among the more attractive names on the market). This position is very much up in the air.
It would be nearly impossible to replace Ortiz's production at this spot, but if he wants more money (or years, or both) than the organization is willing to give, it could open up to someone like Youkilis or even Lavarnway. Guess who else might be available? His name starts with Johnny and ends with Damon.
Josh Beckett and John Lackey are both signed to big-money deals through 2014. Jon Lester's deal takes him through 2013 (with one club option for 2014) and Clay Buchholz through 2015 (with two club options). Daisuke Matsuzaka, who hopes to return at some point in 2012, is entering the last year of his contract.
Altogether, those five will make well over $50 million next season. While some may want to get rid of Lackey, he has almost $50 million left on his own deal, so there may be too much salary for the organization to eat if they can find a trade partner. Expect some cheaper depth options to flood Fort Myers next spring as the club tries to prevent what occurred to its starting pitching down the stretch.
The construction of the pen rests largely on the club's plans for Papelbon, who hits free agency after a very solid season. Daniel Bard is entering his arbitration years. Bobby Jenks is hoping he can overcome a season mired by health issues and make good on the second half of a two-year, $12 million contract. The club has a $3 million option on Dan Wheeler. That may not be picked up.
Alfredo Aceves is in the same situation as Bard. He will be a bargain no matter what he gets, and could join that high-priced rotation.
Rich Hill is a great candidate to get re-signed to a minor league deal. He is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Other left-handed options are Felix Doubront and Franklin Morales, who impressed at times with some hard stuff that could get out hitters on both sides of the plate.
Matt Albers is going into his third year of arbitration. As bad as he was in August and parts of September, he was so good for three solid months before that. For about $1 million he could come back.
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