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Who the Red Sox Could Target in the 2014 Free Agent Market

Robinson Cano (William Perlman/The Star-Ledger)

The 2013 free agent market has stirred up excitement and suspicion about where possible free agents like Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn and others will land.

Looking ahead in the 2014 free agent market, the excitement and suspicion grows even more with Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Nelson Cruz, Tim Lincecum and other top players possibly heading into free agency.

Targets

1) Michael Morse

With the Nationals finally acquiring a center fielder (Denard Span), the outfield for the Nationals could be stacked. Having Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth in the outfield with Span, Morse could be left out of the picture. It’s ironic to see Morse be left out of the picture with the numbers he has produced in the pas couple seasons. Ever since he joined the Nationals, he has improved every season. For the past three seasons, Morse has had an average above .288. Although Morse was injured half of the season in 2012, he was able to finish with a .291 avg with 18 home runs, 62 RBI’s, and a .321 OBP.

Morse has been in trade talks but if he does end up going into the free agent market, the Sox should seriously consider making a run at him. Some may argue that he would not fit because of his time early in his career with the Mariners. But in that case, Morse was not given enough playing time. Morse’s bat would contribute to the lineup ­and he can also play left field, right field, and first base. And if the Nationals are looking to get rid of Morse during the season, the Sox should step up to the plate and see how much it would take to get him.

2) Rajai Davis

Some of you may say why would the Sox ever consider signing Rajai Davis when Boston has Jacoby Ellsbury? Ellsbury’s future with the team, though, hangs in the balance. Ben Cherington has made it clear that Ellsbury will stay with the Sox for now. If Ellsbury does leave for another team in free agency, would the Sox feel comfortable with giving the starting center fielder job to Jackie Bradley Jr?

If not, Rajai Davis would fit the bill of being a fantastic signing if Ellsbury does go. I see the signing of Rajai Davis as a smaller version of signing Carl Crawford. One of the positives with Crawford was his exceptional ability to stealing bases.  Davis dominates at stealing bases too but he would not cost the sox over nine figures. If Ellsbury does go, Davis could become that top-of-the-order guy.

Davis is not known for being the power bat, but he would impact in the lineup and out in the field.

3) Colby Lewis

Every offseason, the Sox always seem to be looking for pitching. Seeing that the Sox are not likely to go all in and sign a top ace like Zack Greinke, the team has to be able to look for pitchers who can contribute to the rotation at a decent price.

Looking at the 2014 free agent market for pitchers, one of the best options could be Colby Lewis. Lewis has had on and off seasons, but he has always been a reliable pitcher for the Texas Rangers.

As the Opening Day starter last year, Lewis had big shoes to fill after C.J Wilson signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Lewis later tore his flexor tendon in his right elbow, causing him to miss the whole season. During the time he did play, Lewis finished with a 3.43 ERA with six wins, 93 strikeouts, and a 1.08 whip.

Another great thing about Lewis is when healthy, he is able to eat up innings. In 2010 and 2011, he was able to pitch around 200 innings. At the age of 33, it should not be expected for Lewis to ask for a big contract, but he will still deserve a good salary. If the price is right, the Sox should consider him an option.

Players to Avoid

1) Nelson Cruz

The problem with Ellsbury is deciding whether he is worth the money. Hurting Ellsbury’s value is his injury history, despite his monster 2011 season with the Sox in which he really showed his potential.

The injury history is also true with Nelson Cruz. When healthy, Cruz is known to be a dominant hitter. But seeing that the past injuries have mostly dealt with his hamstring, it would be risky signing him to a pricey contract. Cruz has been playing more games each season and has had fewer injuries. But, his average has declined substantially. In 2010, Cruz finished with a .318 average. In 2011, he dropped down to a .263 average and he then finished the 2012 season with a .260 average. His strikeouts have also steadily increased. In 2010, he struck out 81 times. That total increased to 116 strikeouts in 2011 and 140 strikeouts in 2012.

It is hard to estimate what his asking price would be too.

2) Tim Lincecum

After having a disastrous 2012 season, it was still a surprise to see Tim Lincecum come out of the bullpen for the Giants rather than being the top ace starter for the Giants. It’s not known what was wrong with Lincecum in 2012. Some assumed that it was just some mechanical issues, and if so, he was never able to correct it.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald later brought up the idea of trading Ellsbury to the Giants for Lincecum. I see no problem with the possible deal because both teams would benefit. But, as for actually signing Lincecum after next season, that’s when I would pass. Seeing that Lincecum has posted dominant numbers throughout his career and has already won two Cy Young awards, signing him would not be cheap.

Even if Lincecum has a bad season in 2013, his asking price would still command a lot of money because his past numbers are too impressive. If Lincecum posts up Cy Young numbers in 2013, my answer would be ‘no’ to the Sox signing him. If Lincecum posts the same numbers as he did in 2012 for the 2013 season, my answer would still be no.

3) Closers

The 2014 free agent market has a whole bunch of closers that will hit the market. A few of the names are Joel Hanrahan, Fernando Rodney, Brian Wilson, Joe Nathan, and a few others. All of these players have made an impact to their teams. Besides the reason of Andrew Bailey being our closer, the Sox have Rubby De La Rosa in their farm system. One of the key pieces in the Red Sox and Dodgers blockbuster trade was De La Rosa. In Gordon Edes’ projections of the 2016 Red Sox lineup, he projected De La Rosa being the closer for the Red Sox, which is certainly possible.

For now though, the Sox should stick with Bailey as their closer and look for minor options like David Aardsma to close games, instead of going after a big name.

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