I’m making three assumptions in putting together this plan. First, the Sox are gonna Sox – by which I mean that even though they should embark on a full teardown, they probably won’t, and they also won’t sign any marquee free agents. So this plan attempts to put together a decent 2024 team, finishing in the neighborhood of .500 without sacrificing any of their limited number of prospects. There are several trades – hence the name of the plan – but they bring back players who can contribute this season. Second, Shohei Ohtani will sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. If/when this happens, the Sox should take advantage. The Dodgers will be all in on 2024 and teams that were in the running but missed out – San Francisco, San Diego, and Seattle – will be under pressure to make moves as well. That may create a market that the Sox can try to exploit. Doing so would take a lot more savvy than their front office has shown in years, but hey, Chris Getz, let’s see what you’ve got. Finally, Banny’ll fix ‘em. Bannister has a reputation for getting the most out of veteran pitchers, so hopefully that’ll translate into getting good results out of some reclamation projects for the rotation.
- Dylan Cease: $8.8M – tender
- Andrew Vaughn: $3.7M – tender
- Michael Kopech: $3.6M – tender
- Touki Toussaint: $1.7M – tender
- Trayce Thompson: $1.7M – non-tender
- Garrett Crochet: $900K – tender
- Clint Frazier: $900K – non-tender
- Matt Foster: $740K – non-tender
Write “pick up” or “decline” or “rework” after the option.
- Tim Anderson: $14M ($1M buyout) – decline. This hurts. TA was my favorite player of the past decade besides Jose Abreu. His fall from grace is inexplicable, but while I’d love to give him another chance, his game has disintegrated and he obviously doesn’t want to be here anymore.
- Liam Hendriks: $15M ($15M buyout, paid $1.5M annually over next 10 years) – decline. This hurts too, but when Hendriks comes back, he deserves a shot at being on a winning team.
- Manager Pedro Grifol: This one doesn’t hurt. Fire his ass into the sun.
Write “exercised” or “takes buyout.”
- Mike Clevinger: $12M mutual option ($4 million buyout) – takes buyout. Clevinger will probably opt for the security of a multiyear deal elsewhere.
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
Try to retain, extend qualifying offer, or let go?
- Yasmani Grandal (Made $18.25M in 2023) – let go
- Elvis Andrus ($3M) – resign for 1 year / $4 million
- Bryan Shaw ($720K) – resign for 1 year / $1M
- José Ureña ($720K) – let go
No. 1: Sign P Lucas Giolito for 2 years / $25 million. Giolito was solid in the first half for the Sox before imploding in the second half. Coming back to the Sox is his best bet to rebuild his value.
No. 2: Sign P Jack Flaherty for 1 year / $10 million. Let’s see if Bannister can work some magic here. Flaherty was bad for Baltimore, but pretty good before the trade, and will be looking for a pillow contract to have another shot at free agency before turning 30.
No. 3: Sign P Frankie Montas for 1 year / $3 million. Oft-injured Montas is a pure flyer as a swingman or starter who could have some trade value if he works out.
No. 4: Sign C Martin Maldonado for 1 year / $3 million. The Astros will likely move on from Maldonado, who can’t hit at all but is great with pitchers. He’ll get a chance to start with the Sox and hopefully teach their young catchers a few things.
No. 5: Sign IF/OF Whit Merrifield for 1 year / $8 million with team option for 2nd year. Yeah, I know, another Royal – but Merrifield’s versatility fills a need.
No. 1: Trade P Dylan Cease to the Los Angeles Dodgers for INF/DH Max Muncy, P Gavin Stone, INF Michael Busch, and OF Andy Pages
The Dodgers need to address their rotation and while giving up 3 of their top prospects is steep, that’s what it’ll take. Stone and Busch both made their MLB debuts last year so should be able to step into the rotation and 2B immediately. Pages has huge power and can be our RF of the future if he recovers from the injury that kept him out most of 2023. With Ohtani taking over at DH, Muncy will be squeezed out. The Sox could keep him or get creative (see below).
No 2. Trade DH/OF Eloy Jimenez and INF Romy Gonzalez to Seattle for P Bryan Woo
Seattle narrowly missed the playoffs last year and got little production from their designated hitters (.688 OPS for the year). Woo was solid in his MLB debut last year and with Robbie Ray set to return, Seattle has a surplus of pitching. Despite Eloy’s lack of production last year, more analytically inclined teams will probably still be willing to take a chance on his raw power.
No. 3. Trade INF/DH Max Muncy (acquired from LAD) and 1B Gavin Sheets to San Diego for INF Jake Cronenworth and INF Graham Pauley
You know the Padres are going to make deals. This one addresses their DH hole, where they got nothing from Matt Carpenter last year, and also lets them save some money. Cronenworth has a bad contract, but can fill the shortstop and 2B needs the Sox will have; for taking on his contract, we’ll get a good infield prospect and end the Gavin Sheets era.
No. 4. Trade P Michael Kopech to San Francisco for OF Mike Yastrzemski, P Hayden Birdsong, and OF Heliot Ramos.
It’s time for the Sox to move on from Kopech, who for whatever reason just hasn’t harnessed his talent here. The Giants need another starter and Kopech might do better in a more pitcher-friendly ballpark. Yastrzemski is a good outfielder who may be overextended as a full-time starter, but he still becomes the best RF the Sox have had in a long time. Birdsong reached AA this year and is a potential starter down the road; Ramos is a former 1st rounder who seemed to figure things out in AAA this year, but is squeezed out in SF by other prospects.
Here is what all this adds up to:
Starting pitchers: Giolito, Flaherty, Woo, Stone, Montas/Toussaint
Relievers: Santos, Crochet, Montas/Toussaint, Shaw, Bummer, Davis Martin
C – Maldonado / Korey Lee
1B – Vaughn
2B – Merrifield / Busch
SS – Cronenworth
3B – Moncada
LF – Benintendi
CF – Robert
RF – Yastrzemski / Merrifield
DH – some combination of Yastrzemski, Merrifield, Busch, and the backup outfielders
Backup INF – Andrus, Sosa
Backup OF – Colas, Ramos
This is not a great team, for sure. But by replacing black holes at SS and RF with competent major leaguers, and improving defensively across the board, the team should at least be watchable while adding five legitimate prospects to the farm system. I didn’t total up the salaries but it should be cheaper by letting go of Anderson, Hendriks, and Jimenez and not adding any long term contracts except for Cronenworth; there’s still one roster spot available.