As the Red Sox celebrate their third World Series victory in a decade Wednesday, the likelihood exists that several key players won’t be back in 2014.
Red Sox free agents this winter include Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Ellsbury and Drew in particular delivered big games on Wednesday, with Ellsbury reaching three times and scoring two of Boston’s six runs. Drew went 2-for-4 and homered to snap a postseason-long slump that had led some to call for his benching.
Of Boston’s free agents, those two seem the least likely to return. Ellsbury is in line for the second biggest contract of any free agent this winter (behind Robinson Cano), and the Red Sox have a center-field replacement ready in Jackie Bradley Jr. Drew likewise can be replaced by a youngster, Xander Bogaerts. The Red Sox will probably make Drew a qualifying offer, giving him the chance to return on a one-year, $14.1 million contract. However, he should be able to get at least a three-year deal as the top shortstop in free agency.
The Red Sox don’t have such ready-made replacements for Napoli and Saltalamacchia and could be more aggressive about re-signing them. They’ll certainly have plenty of flexibility, particularly since they can go cheap in center, shortstop and at third base.
One spot the Red Sox won’t have to worry about: Koji Uehara in the closer’s role. While the deal he signed last year was reported as a one-year pact, it included a $4.5 million option for 2014. The Red Sox will be on the lookout for some additional setup help, but the ninth appears locked down.
CC Sabathia‘s contract with the Yankees expires after the 2017 season but the lefty feels that he has enough left in the tank to pitch in 2018 and beyond, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports.
Sabathia said, “I just know myself. I know I feel like it’s not my time yet. Barring any crazy injuries I know I can pitch past next year. I feel like this is just the beginning of what I’m trying to do. I feel like there’s a lot more still to learn and a lot better to get. It’s exciting.”
The 36-year-old lefty currently holds a 4.02 ERA and a 144/63 K/BB ratio in 172 1/3 innings. It’s his best and healthiest season since 2012. He battled a knee injury last season and checked into rehab for alcohol addiction last October. Sabathia said that being treated for his addiction put him “in a good spot.”
Sabathia is owed $25 million through a vesting option for the 2017 season.
The Red Sox can thank the Orioles for not having to fight to clinch the division on Thursday or later. The Orioles came from behind to defeat the Blue Jays 3-2 on Wednesday evening, clinching the AL East for the Red Sox.
A few minutes after that game went final, the Red Sox squandered a 3-0 lead taken in the eighth inning, culminating in a walk-off grand slam by Mark Teixeira in the bottom of the ninth inning. Closer Craig Kimbrel started the ninth, but didn’t have control over any of his pitches. He allowed a leadoff single followed by three consecutive walks to force in a run. Joe Kelly relieved Kimbrel and seemed to be close to wriggling out of the jam, getting Starlin Castro to strike out looking and Didi Gregorius to pop up. But after starting Teixeira with a first-pitch curve ball for a strike, Teixera clobbered a 99 MPH fastball, sending it over the fence in right-center to end the game.
For the Yankees, the come-from-behind victory was crucial as it staved off Wild Card elimination for one more day.
This is the first time the Red Sox have clinched the AL East since 2013, also the last year they won the World Series.