Even before the duck boats make their way down the Charles River to formally celebrate this season, the Boston Red Sox front office is hard at work getting ready for 2014.
With only 106 days between now and the start of spring training at Fort Myers, the opportunity to prepare is short.
What will the payroll budget be?
In 2013, the estimated payroll was $176.4 million. Baseball Reference estimates with their current roster in place, 2014’s number will be $146.9 million.
Injured closer Joel Hanrahan and veteran John McDonald are also free agents.
The Sox are likely to extend qualifying offers to Ellsbury, Drew, Napoli and Saltalamacchia at a rate of $14.1 million for 2014. In the unlikely event all four players sign off on that, the payroll hits $203.3 million, over the luxury tax threshold.
Giving a qualifying offer gives the Sox a sandwich draft pick next summer to any player that declines the offer and leaves the club. It does give some protection for the future.
Given Drew’s $9.5 million salary last year, Boston would rather him decline the offer and not give him a $5 million raise.
Depending on what happens with those four, the Red Sox need to see where they need to upgrade.
Ace pitcher Jon Lester is due for a long-term extension. The Sox will certainly pick up his $13 million option for next year, but Lester will hit the open market after next season if he is not resigned soon.
If Ellsbury leaves, will they go hard in trying to replace him in center-field either via free agency or trade?
Will they take a shot at putting a trade package together for either Max Scherzer or David Price and lock them long-term?
If not, how much would they spend on the likes of Matt Garza as a No. 3/4 starter?
With the Red Sox so successful, and a number of high-profile managerial jobs open, how much of the coaching staff stays put heading into next year and how much time will that take away from the rest of this list?
Not even the eternal optimist Pollyanna could have predicted how this season would turn out. The best estimates for this year was an 85-90 win club that had a good chance to contend for the second wild card.
Realistically, an 80-85 win season would have been considered a good one, closing the gap until the prospects on the farm had another year or two to be major-league ready.
Championship success came early.
The biggest question the front office has to answer now is do they continue on their plan for a run the middle part of this decade or take another serious shot next year.
It is a nice problem to have.
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