Two of the Red Sox’ four major free agents are gone. The club’s attention has shifted to the pair left unsigned.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have signed with the Yankees and Marlins, respectively, and Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew are still free agents with the winter meetings looming next week. It’s unclear how far talks have progressed between the Red Sox and Napoli and/or Drew, but manager John Farrell, who said that he heard from a number of players who were curious about the club’s recent developments, made it clear Wednesday that the preference is to re-sign both players.
“Because Jacoby and Salty hit the airwaves that they both signed, it was, OK, are we bringing any guys back? That was part of the question,” Farrell said on WEEI’s Salk & Holley Show. “I said, ‘Absolutely, we’re in the works. We’re in the process.’ … That’s where [general manager Ben Cherington] is doing the best he can with the two remaining guys, with [Napoli] and [Drew]. We’re going to do anything we can to bring both guys back.”
The Red Sox signed catcher A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year deal to replace Saltalamacchia behind the plate. Cherington didn’t rule out potentially adding an outfielder in the wake of Ellsbury signing with the Yankees, but also said that he feels good about Boston’s in-house alternatives, including Jackie Bradley Jr.
Boston could withstand the loss of Drew by beginning the season with Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third base. The Sox could also deploy a Daniel Nava/Mike Carp platoon at first base or pursue someone like Corey Hart if Napoli signs elsewhere. Retaining Drew and/or Napoli would give the Red Sox much more depth, however, so it’s reasonable to think that Boston will continue to negotiate with both players as we get deeper into the offseason.
There was a widespread assumption at the beginning of the offseason that Drew would sign elsewhere on a multiyear deal, but there isn’t much that indicates that a market has materialized. The draft-pick compensation attached to the shortstop by virtue of Boston’s qualifying offer could be one reason why. Napoli, who, like Drew, turned down a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer, is also believed to be seeking a multiyear deal on the open market.