Fans of America’s major professional leagues have become accustomed to accepting certain spending limits for their teams. In football, basketball, and hockey, these limitations are burned in by the salary cap, so every dollar spent is scrutinized.
This discourse also exists in baseball, only the limit is a mirage.
With no salary cap, there’s nothing stopping a deep-pocketed owner from signing every big free agent in the market, just like George Steinbrenner used to do with the Yankees. The competitive balance sheet tax is often treated as a soft cap, but really most teams could exceed it if they wanted to, most just choose not to.
So don’t let anyone tell you that the Red Sox can’t afford to swing big in the free hand once the lockout ends. They can and they should.
The Red Sox, coming off a surprise run to the American League Championship Series, are ahead of schedule with their rebuild and ready to fight for years to come. While the terms of the CBT are still being negotiated under the next collective bargaining agreement, Boston has positioned itself where the cost of exceeding the tax line should not be onerous. With significant gaps in the roster, Boston should act aggressively once lockdown ends, starting with those three free agents.
Carlos Correa is worth the big bucks
Most of the arguments against signing Carlos Correa revolve around how expensive he will be plus the perceived unlikelihood that the Red Sox would attract so much attention. And it’s all fair, under Chaim Bloom, the Red Sox have taken a methodical approach to roster building, and the club hasn’t really broken the bank for an elite free-agent player since Manny Ramirez in 2001.
But sometimes the biggest investments deliver the biggest payouts.
Correa is an elite talent who has consistently ranked among the best in the game since debuting at the age of 20. His career 34.1 wins over reserve is the sixth-highest in baseball since his debut in 2015 and ranks 36th all-time out of all players aged 26 and under during the season. Almost everyone above him on this list is either in the Hall of Famer, will be eligible, or would have been had it not been for steroid issues.
Correa does everything well too. A reliable hitter with a penchant for getting through the clutch, he might also be the best defensive player in baseball. Whether playing shortstop or moving to second base out of respect for Xander Bogaerts, his presence would transform the Red Sox, address some of the club’s biggest problems and make the team a legitimate World Series favorite.
And long term? He is only 27 years old. Even if it takes a 10-12 year deal to get him on board, you’re still looking at a long line of best years before worrying about a possible back-end drop. With the alternative of starting Christian Arroyo at second base and the long-term uncertainty surrounding Bogaerts’ Boston future, the Red Sox shouldn’t let sticker shock stop them from chasing the best player on the market.
Seiya Suzuki a potential game changer
Unlike Correa, who almost feels like a pipe dream, Seiya Suzuki’s signing is entirely plausible, and the Red Sox appear to have already laid the groundwork for such a move.
Considered Japan’s top player since Shohei Ohtani, the outstanding right fielder is an instant all-star and possesses a rare combination of strength and disc discipline. He also has a superb throwing arm and seems bursting with personality, allowing him to move the needle on and off the field in a way few other signings can.
Suzuki will be highly desirable in the open market, but if the Red Sox win the Seiya Sweepstakes, he could slip straight into Hunter Renfroe’s old right field spot, leaving the club with either keeping Kiké Hernández in midfield or playing Jackie Bradley Jr can .in the middle while Hernández is moved back to second base.
Jansen should be at the top of the wish list
The Red Sox need to field and it’s far from certain the club will add multiple arms once lockdown ends. Bloom is likely to explore any opportunities to strengthen staff – and the trade market could be particularly interesting – but as far as free agents go, Kenley Jansen should take a close look.
Jansen, one of the top three baseball players of the past decade, was excellent as ever for the Dodgers last year. He posted a 2.22 ERA with 38 saves in 69 innings and had 86 strikeouts compared to 36 walks, which combined marked his best season since 2018.
Even at 34, Jansen remains a byword for high leverage relief and the kind of pitcher the Red Sox desperately need more of. With the question of whether Garrett Whitlock staying in the bullpen or Matt Barnes able to bounce back after his disastrous second half, the addition of Jansen or someone like him would go a long way in helping late-game situations not take the adventure stay, which they are often were last season.
Email: [email protected] Twitter: @MacCerullo.