Depending on how some options play out, the Red Sox will see upwards of $50 million come off their books this offseason. However, some of that will go back into salary hikes for Adrian Gonzalez ($6.3 million to $21.9 million) and several others, raises through arbitration (Jacoby Ellsbury will get a sizable raise) and any re-signings that take place (Jonathan Papelbon, David Ortiz). There's a chance that the payroll will actually go up without the organization making a single move involving a player from the outside.
Saying that, ownership will not stand pat after the way in which 2011 ended. Boston will be a player on the free-agent market this offseason, and some of it will be done to address any concerns regarding the makeup of the clubhouse. What we do know is that the team is largely set at first base, second base, left field and center field. Let's examine some free agents at the other positions that could appeal to Boston in the coming months, keeping in mind the potential need for standout men as much as standout performers.
The Sox still hope Jose Iglesias can be their future at this position and there are options that could keep Marco Scutaro around for one more year, but don't discount another search for a starting shortstop. Here are two names that would make quite a splash.
One of the big prizes this offseason will be linked to the Sox the moment they part ways with Scutaro, if they do. This is a risky road, however. As a premier talent at a position that lacks star power, Reyes will command big money, but he has missed a lot of games in recent years. Reyes may be a great fit, but the club has to be sure of things with the way some free-agent signings have gone in the past.
He'll be 33 in a month, hasn't hit as high as .270 since 2008 and hasn't OPS'd as high as .800 since 2007, but Rollins will be second to Reyes on many lists. The '07 National League MVP still has good pop and good speed (16 homers, 30 steals in 2011) and can still pick 'em at shortstop. What's perhaps more important than any of the numbers is what Rollins would do for this clubhouse. He's a top-notch personality who has been through the wars and would make a wonderful addition if you are looking for leaders. Many viewed him as the leader in Philadelphia all these years.
Other options: Clint Barmes, Alex Gonzalez, Edgar Renteria (just kidding, only wanted to see if you were paying attention)
This did not look like a position of need before the season began, but Kevin Youkilis has finished two straight years on the sidelines and he will be 33 on Opening Day. It's worth kicking the tires on a couple of guys.
If Boston wants to make a splash at the position, Ramirez is the only big name. He's also 33, but has hit 25 or more home runs in seven of the last eight years while hitting over .300 five times. Anaheim looks like a good landing spot for Ramirez.
The Blue Jays may exercise their $3.5 million option on Encarnacion, who finished with a flourish this season. If not, the Red Sox might look at that finish as a sign that the inconsistent 28-year-old is hitting his stride. He hit .291 with 11 home runs after the All-Star break.
Other options: Nothing you want to think about. Just hope Youkilis can hold up for 162.
J.D. Drew is all but gone and those in the system waiting to replace him are interesting, but not slam dunks. Ryan Kalish, once thought to be a shoo-in to take Drew's place in 2012, will have to battle back from an injury-plagued season. Josh Reddick had some really nice moments in 2011, but it's unclear if he is the guy going forward. If not, here are some other guys.
When healthy, Willingham is a safe bet for some power that could help out near the bottom of the order. In each of the four seasons he has played at least 130 games he has hit at least 21 homers, topping out in 2011 with career highs in home runs (29) and RBIs (98). A right-handed bat, Willingham won't set the world on fire, but he is a steady contributor that could be a nice fit in an unsteady clubhouse.
The Yankees have a $10.25 million option on the Swishalicious one. If he's set free, Boston should consider taking on a guy who is overflowing with positivity. It's almost to annoying levels at times, but beggars cannot be choosers when looking for a positive effect on the clubhouse. Swisher helped transform New York's staid clubhouse when he came aboard in 2009 and he has produced at the plate, averaging 27 homers and 85 RBIs in his first three (only three?) years in the Bronx. He's been poor in the postseason and his defense is marginal, something to take into account with the quirky right field at Fenway.
Another guy whose club has an option to retain him, Sizemore has been a physical wreck in recent years. However, he's still in his 20s and may have a second wind in him at some point. The Red Sox will want to have some backup plans if and when they go this route.
His numbers have fallen off from a breakout 2009 season, but something tells me Red Sox fans would love him. He has a blue collar vibe and is really committed to oral hygiene. Kubel made $5.25 million last year, during which he hit .273 with 12 homers in 99 games.
The other Twin who can play the position, Cuddyer was one of the better performers on a Minnesota team that completely came apart in 2011. He tied his career high with a .284 mark and reached the 20-homer mark for the third time, good enough to make the All-Star team for the first time. Cuddyer can also play first, second and third base.
Heck, we've been talking about him coming to Boston for years. Now may be the right time. He's not really a center fielder anymore, and maybe he will want to return to an AL team to DH from time to time.
Other options: Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, Brad Hawpe, Ryan Ludwick, Cody Ross
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is your starting catcher, but if Jason Varitek walks and the organization wants to utilize Ryan Lavarnway in another role (designated hitter), then you may want a veteran backup. The pickings are somewhat slim, but a few names could surface.
The Pirates are expected to decline an option on Doumit. He is not considered much of a defender and struggles to stay healthy, but in a part-time role could provide a nice bat. The 30-year-old hit .318 with 15 homers in 2008 and was a .303 hitter in 77 games last year.
He's 36 but still a great option as a backup. Molina, who hit .281 with the Blue Jays last year, can still throw out runners at a steady clip, he knows the American League East and he caught John Lackey for several years in Anaheim. That can't hurt.
He began his career in Boston before moving on to Cleveland and Tampa Bay. At times, his reputation behind the plate was that of a marginal defender, but he drew rave reviews for his work with the Rays' staff this year. It's a good thing because his production with the bat continues to dwindle. Still, he has 49 homers in limited action over the last four years. A little pop and some quality D for $1.5 million or so might work.
Other options: Chris Snyder, Gerald Laird, Josh Bard
Ortiz has already dropped some hints that he is thinking of moving on. Let's just leave you with one name as a potential replacement.
That's right, the man you so waywardly boo. Anyone not named Sully and three sheets to the wind knows that Damon gave everything he had to this organization, and continues to make fans and friends in clubhouses everywhere he's gone since leaving Boston. If a clubhouse cannot whip into shape with Damon in the middle of it, then the problems run deeper than we know. Also, he can still produce. Maybe not to Ortiz levels, but a .270 mark with 15 homers and 15 steals can't hurt.
Other options: Vladimir Guerrero, Prince Fielder (if he was willing to be a DH), Albert Pujols (same as Fielder, and even less likely), Kubel, Cuddyer