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.
The Yankees defeated the Astros 4-1 during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, staving off a potential postseason elimination and forcing the series to at least six games.
In just the third playoff appearance of his career, Yankees southpaw James Paxton turned in another impressive performance, limiting the Astros to four hits and four walks over six innings of one-run ball. According to MLB Stats, his nine strikeouts made him the second Yankees lefty to record multiple starts of 8+ strikeouts in the same postseason campaign, two decades after David Wells did so for the 1998 championship-winning club.
Paxton’s strong outing was backed by a handful of runs from DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks, both of whom went deep against Astros ace Justin Verlander in the bottom of the first inning. LeMahieu’s leadoff solo shot marked his first postseason home run since Game 1 of the ALDS, while Hicks’ three-run 347-footer was his first home run of any variety since July 24 (and his first in the playoffs since the 2017 ALDS).
Neither team managed a single run after the first inning, leaving the two pitching staffs to duke it out for eight quick innings. Verlander outlasted Paxton — taking the game through the seventh with five hits, four runs, and nine strikeouts — but even with a flawless contribution from Brad Peacock in the eighth, there was little the hurlers could do to help the Astros solve Paxton and an airtight Yankees bullpen.
With the win, the Yankees will try to push the series to a full seven games in order to snatch the AL pennant from the Astros. They’ll have to do in Houston, however, as the Astros will regain home field advantage when Game 6 kicks off on Saturday at 8:08 PM EDT. Neither starter has been announced yet; per Houston skipper A.J. Hinch, it will likely be a bullpen day.