Offseason: Players to re-sign

The Red Sox have a number of players whose contracts are up, but the first extension I expect to hear about will be Terry Francona’s contract. He is signed through 2008 and will make $1.75M next season, but the front office will definitely offer him at least three more years.

Okay, on to the nitty gritty. Here are the players who are up for free agency, ranked in order of Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), a commonly used stat which kind of puts player values on a similar scale for hitters and pitchers. We should note that for bench players, VORP is not really an accurate indicator of their value to the team, because of the small sample size in many cases

Name		VORP	2007$M	VORP/$M
Mike Lowell	46.5	 9.00	 5.17
Curt Schilling	33.5	13.00	 2.58
Tim Wakefield	23.2	 4.00	 5.80
Mike Timlin	14.0	 2.80	 5.00
Brendan Donnelly 5.9	 1.40	 4.21
Julian Tavarez	 1.7	 3.10	 0.55
Matt Clement	 DNP	 9.50	 0.00
Eric Gagne	-1.4	 2.10	-0.67
Eric Hinske	-1.5	 5.63	-0.27
Royce Clayton	-1.6	 0.35	-4.57
Doug Mirabelli	-2.2	 0.75	-2.93
Bobby Kielty*	-2.5	 0.35	-7.14
*Includes 2007 numbers with Oakland

What we want to look for here is the most efficient contracts in the context of team need. As you can see, Mike Lowell was quite valuable to the team, and this doesn’t even count his defensive contributions. Tim Wakefield, Mike Timlin and Brendan Donnelly were bargains as well. The only other player with any real value was Curt Schilling from a statistical perspective. The Sox will have 14 days to negotiate with these players exclusively, but if a deal is not reached, they become free agents and can sign with anyone.

Let ’em go
Matt Clement’s contract is finally up, and the Red Sox are not considering him. Julian Tavarez was a real team player for us this year, but truth be told, he is not worth what he will be paid next season. Eric Gagne, Eric Hinske, Royce Clayton, Doug Mirabelli and Bobby Kielty actually gave us negative VORP values, meaning that the average free agent player would probably have outplayed them this season. Almost guaranteed that all of these guys will walk. Especially Gagne, who will be a Type A free agent and will net two compensation picks for the Red Sox in next year’s MLB draft.

Make ’em stay
I think the Sox will sign Wakefield for 2008, that’s pretty much a no-brainer. I also think there’s a good chance that Timlin will be back on a one-year deal, unless he chooses to retire. He likes playing for the Sox, and gave them a cheap one-year deal this season. As for Mike Lowell, I’ve already said my piece on him, and given the alternatives of Alex Rodriguez, Mike Lamb and Pedro Feliz, I’d resign him, but to no more than a 3 year/$40M contract.

Could go either way
Curt Schilling was good for us this season, and came up big again in the postseason. I wouldn’t count on a rotation of Beckett, Matsuzaka, Wakefield, Buchholz and Lester getting you through the whole season; you need to have a veteran starter in the mix. That being said, he doesn’t have to be 41 years old and he doesn’t have to make $13M. On the other hand, Schilling wants to play another year at least before retiring, and he could still have value for us. It would be nice for him to bury his career here in Boston, bloody sock, two (three?) championships and all. He will likely have to play a shortened season, much like this year, in order to be strong late in the year.


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