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Red Sox Offseason Free Agent Spending: How About No?

Remember this guy? Carl Crawford: Exhibit A for why the Red Sox shouldn't offer a massive free agent contract this offseason. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The San Francisco Giants are the 2012 World Series Champions, the franchise’s second title in three years.

I suppose some sort of “Congratulations!” is in order, but to be honest, I’m simply relieved that the past season of baseball is gone from my life forever. (I’m not kidding. It’ll be like it never happened. Deny, deny, deny. For the September 2011-2012 Red Sox fan, the first stage of grief is less a “stage” than a mantra.)

With the World Series over outside the Bay Area (where I imagine the percentage of Giants-related Halloween costumes was sickeningly excessive), the offseason has officially begun, as players have been able to submit their paperwork to file for free agency.

Now that the payroll is a quarter billion dollars lighter, the Red Sox all of a sudden find themselves with only $46 million committed to next year’s payroll and the potential to unload fistfuls upon wads of cash in free agency to retool the 2013 roster.

The question is, should they? No. A thousand, million, 142 million, quarter of a billion times no.

Obviously the Red Sox need to spend some money to improve a lineup that regularly featured James Loney hitting fifth, followed by a Who’s Who of Triple-A members (the travel and insurance agency, for all the success they showed). The Red Sox have finally avoided the annual drama surrounding David Ortiz’s contract situation by giving him a 2-year, $26 million deal, and should (hopefully) be paying Cody Ross a handsome sum to keep him in uniform as well.

Other than that, though, I can’t envision anyone on the free agent market this year worth making a splash for.

Josh Hamilton?

Sure, he’s a perennial All-Star and former MVP who just put up monster numbers (43 HRs, 128 RBIs, .285/.354/.577). But I’m sure I don’t need to tell you he’s also a constant injury risk and former drug abuser with the ever-present threat to relapse. On top of that, he’s already 31 years old; I don’t know about you, but I’ll pass on paying a 38-year-old Hamilton $20 million to strikeout incessantly as a DH too broken down to roam the outfield anymore.

Besides, he’s an avowed free swinger, hacking at nearly half (45.4%) of pitches he saw outside the strike zone while connecting with just 64.7% of pitches he swung at overall. Both figures led the league. Upon further reflection, this actually might fit perfectly into the new direction the Red Sox are trending – fewer walks, more strikeouts. The team should definitely add Hamilton’s 162 strikeouts (to just 60 walks) to their 2012 totals of 1,197 strikeouts (100 more than the American League average) and 428 walks (good bad for 29th in the majors, just ahead of the Kansas City Royals).

In other words, if the Red Sox sign Hamilton to some Carl Crawford-esque deal (I don’t think they will, but you never know), I’m going to start chugging caffeine until my eyes fall out and I never have to watch him play a single inning in a Boston uniform.

Zack Greinke?

Please. If Crawford experienced a palpable sense of relief escaping Boston, how is Greinke going to manage his well-documented history with social anxiety disorder and depression. Maybe those days are behind him. He is, after all, just three years removed from winning the Cy Young Award, and has been nothing short of impressive in his stints with the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels (2011: 16-6, 3.83 ERA, 2.98 FIP; 2012: 15-5, 3.48 ERA, 3.10 FIP).

(FIP, for those who don’t know, attempts to adjust for luck in a pitcher’s ERA by using league average numbers, meaning Greinke pitched better than his ERA suggests the past two seasons.)

Frankly, the man could have pitched like Nolan Ryan and I still wouldn’t want any part of him. One John Lackey contract is enough, thank you very much.

Edwin Jackson? Kyle Lohse? Anibal Sanchez? Nick Swisher? BJ Upton? Michael Bourn? Shane Victorino? Buehler?

That sound you hear is the silence of a nation of Red Sox fans glancing at one another anxiously, wondering who will be the first one to jump on the bandwagon of one of these free agents. Sure, Upton or Bourn could be meaningful free agent pickups, but Jacoby Ellsbury should hold down the fort in centerfield for at least the remaining year on his contract. And is anyone truly excited about overpaying another Tampa Bay outfielder? How many of them can we pawn off on the Dodgers before they wise up?

When it comes to the ex-Yankee Swisher, what’s the point of signing someone with a proven track record of vanishing come October? If the goal is to sign players to help the Red Sox reach the postseason, doesn’t said player also have to produce come playoff time? Too much of A-Rod has rubbed off on Swisher for him to be trustworthy.

As for Victorino and the various and sundry pitchers on the above list, someone might be able to talk me into an Adrian Beltre contract, a one-year semi-lucrative flyer for a player to reestablish their value for their next contract. (Much like the Red Sox are reportedly looking to do with Dan Haren, who is now a free agent after the Los Angeles Angels bought out the final year of his contract for $3.5 million.)

Of those pitchers listed, Sanchez could be worth a multi-year deal, particularly considering the shortage of starting pitching the Red Sox currently have. He has a no-hitter to his name (among a couple other close calls), and proved he could hold his own in the AL en route to the World Series with the Detroit Tigers this year en route. Then again, he has never won more than 13 games in a season, and for his career has a record of 48-51 with a 3.75 ERA and 3.79 FIP. How much is that really worth? Besides, the Josh Beckett parallels with Sanchez and the Marlins (not to mention his mid-3’s ERA) are a little too coincidental for comfort. Thanks, but no thanks.

Then Again, It’s Only Money

I realize the Red Sox are unlikely to go out and unload a Godfather offer on Hamilton or Greinke, and that I’ve pretty much shot down every other potential impactful free agent on the market this winter.

Maybe I’m a little too jaded from the last 14 months of misery I’ve endured as a Red Sox fan. Maybe I’m masochistically enjoying the team’s fall from grace and the ability to whine and moan about how miserable this team is. Maybe I’d just as soon watch our minor league squads to track the development of Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Xander Bogaerts, not to mention newcomers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster.

Or maybe I’m outthinking myself trying to get the Red Sox to spend smarter when they can afford to eat up the Edgar Renteria, Julio Lugo, and John Lackey contracts of the world. I suppose I’m just hoping that the Red Sox will return to their more likable days as a small(er) market team, instead of another (less successful) version of the New York Yankees. How much more fun would it be to root for a team full of home grown stars and hard-working grinders like the Tampa Bay Rays?

But why should I care? It’s not my money, so what do I care what Ben Cherington, Larry Lucchino and their minions do with it? Buy headphones, Josh, Hamilton, a new fleet of helicopters, a John Henry clone. Go crazy.

Heck, even the Giants had the seventh highest payroll this year (one spot and less than $2 million behind the Detroit Tigers, incidentally). Maybe there is hope for us high-rollers after all.

About Nick Bohlen - @ndbohlen

Nick is an editor and regular contributor for the Patriots, Celtics, and Red Sox sections of SoB. (Despite growing up in Vermont, just a short drive from Canada, hockey never really caught on with him.) Follow him on twitter: @ndbohlen

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