The GM's Office: Boston Red Sox

Will MiddlebrooksRon Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsWill Middlebrooks will get a lot more at-bats if Stephen Drew isn't around.
General managers use the offseason to improve their team at various positions via free agency, trades and waiver claims. Some of these moves are significant upgrades, others are slight improvements.

Yet some general managers simply aren’t able to improve a position because they don’t match up well enough to get a trade done with the other clubs, or they don’t have enough money in their budget to persuade free agents to sign with them.

When this happens, a number of players get second chances or an opportunity to win the job in spring training. Here are five players who might benefit this season because their teams didn’t make a move:


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Max ScherzerLeon Halip/Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw's contract could lead to a $200 million payday for Max Scherzer next winter.
Clayton Kershaw's seven-year, $215 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers has set the ceiling for next offseason's free-agent starting pitching market. This is a significant event for a market that’s seen record-breaking deals for almost every top-tier pitching free agent over the past several years.

While the 2015 free-agent class is light on position players, it has plenty of elite pitchers, led by Max Scherzer, James Shields, Jon Lester, Justin Masterson and Homer Bailey. None of them are expected to top Kershaw's deal; it probably will be the next generation of Jose Fernandez, Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey to do that.

Nonetheless, Scherzer, Shields, Lester, Masterson and Bailey should all benefit from Kershaw and his agent, Casey Close, eclipsing the $30 million bar because that will only bring their deals closer to that threshold. Here is a quick look at the top of next year's free-agent starting pitching class with my early contract predictions and the chances of each pitcher leaving his current team:




1. Max Scherzer, RHP, Detroit Tigers
Predicted contract:
Seven years, $196 million ($28M average annual value)

As soon as Kershaw closed his deal with the Dodgers, Scherzer quickly became the No. 1 starting pitcher expected to hit the free-agent market next November.

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The missing link for every AL team 

January, 15, 2014
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Matt Garza AP Photo/Colin E. BraleyIf the Los Angeles Angels lose out on Masahiro Tanaka, they should go after Matt Garza.
On Tuesday, I focused on the missing piece for every National League team heading in to spring training, and today we turn our attention to the American League.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Houston Astros

Missing link: Pitching prospects
Solution: Trade 3B Matt Dominguez for prospects
The Astros are doing a masterful job of following the blueprint of general manager Jeff Luhnow, building through the draft and player development while mixing in a few veteran free agents who will have some trade value at the deadline.

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BeltranAP Photo/John MinchilloWith FAs like Carlos Beltran, it will be tough for the Yankees to stay below the tax threshold.
Some big free-agent names were signed over the holiday season, but that doesn't mean the market is dried up. With many teams waiting on the final destination of Japanese free agent Masahiro Tanaka, several quality free-agent pitchers remain, as well as some trade possibilities.

Plenty of big moves are still likely to come. So, here are my 10 bold predictions of the rest of the offseason. Not all are personnel related, but most will have significant impact on teams or the game itself.

1. New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels go over the luxury-tax threshold
The Yankees have worked hard over the last couple of seasons to try and keep their payroll below $189 million dollars for this season, and the Angels have worked diligently this offseason to do the same.

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10 moves that still need to happen 

December, 17, 2013
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Matt Garza, C.J. WilsonGetty ImagesMatt Garza might look pretty good in the Angels' rotation with C.J. Wilson.
This has been a wild offseason so far, with blockbuster trades and free-agent signings taking place even before we got to Orlando for the Winter Meetings. Yet, with two weeks left in 2013, the free-agent and trade markets still have a lot of unfinished business.

As I look around the league, I can see 10 more moves that make a lot of sense and should to get done for their teams to remain viable contenders for 2014. Let's take a look:

1. Los Angeles Angels | Move: Sign free-agent RHP Matt Garza

The Angels have worked hard

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Teams best-positioned for the offseason 

November, 4, 2013
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David FreeseRichard Mackson,USA TODAY SportsThe Cardinals' depth would allow them to trade David Freese in the offseason.
In the offseason, teams bid for the same free agents, try to negotiate trades for many of the same players, and even vie for the same players in December’s Rule 5 draft at the annual winter meetings. However, that doesn’t mean the teams are on a level playing field as they compete for those players. Some teams will have definite advantages going into the offseason, and not simply because of financial wherewithal.

Indeed, the teams that are best-positioned for the offseason already have gone to great lengths to ensure they have trade assets on their major league rosters and in their farm systems as well as adequate money to spend on free agents. And these teams usually feature a general manager who’s ready to wheel and deal. The teams that have this positioning usually are the ones that are playing deep into October.

On Friday we discussed which general managers had the toughest jobs this offseason. Let’s take a look at the four teams best-positioned for this offseason. I evaluated them using five categories: major league roster, farm system, payroll/money to spend, trade bait and needs (plus a quick look at the GM's priorities).



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How the Red Sox can repeat 

November, 2, 2013
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Jacoby EllsburyRick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsIt's hard to envision the Red Sox ponying up the kind of deal Jacoby Ellsbury is seeking.
Right now, the most pressing thing for the Boston Red Sox is the parade celebrating their World Series championship -- the first won in Fenway Park since 1918.

However, once all the celebrations are completed, the Red Sox will begin the same arduous offseason campaign 29 other teams will be engaged in -- preparing for the 2014 season by addressing some significant baseball issues facing them this winter.

Here is a quick look at what Boston must do to repeat.

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World Series players possibly on move 

October, 25, 2013
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Carlos Beltran and David FreeseDilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesDavid Freese and Carlos Beltran could be playing elsewhere next season.


As the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals battle it out in the 2013 World Series, no one's thinking past the next game, with perhaps the exception of the two managers as they plan out their pitching and lineups. For the players, it's the here and now.

However, there's a very good chance that several key players for both teams will be wearing different uniforms come February, when spring training arrives. And as the players try to win today, their general managers already have started looking at the roster adjustments they will have to make.

Here are nine players in the Fall Classic who could very easily be playing for different teams next season.

1. Jacoby Ellsbury | OF | Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox would love to be able to re-sign Ellsbury to a long-term contract, and Ellsbury would prefer to stay in Boston. However, he's also represented by Scott Boras, who has a proven track record of negotiating record-breaking deals for his clients, leveraging for the most money and most years unless his client insists otherwise.

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Ranking the 50 World Series players 

October, 22, 2013
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With the start of the World Series just two days away, let's take a look at both rosters. Every year someone rises to the occasion and has a profound impact. It could be one of the team's stars, or it could be a role player called upon to do one specific task.

Here are my annual World Series rankings of the 50 active players of the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. They are ranked based on their potential positive impact on the World Series only (not on their regular-season performances or on their future potential).

1. Yadier Molina | C | St. Louis Cardinals
There is no catcher in baseball better at preparing and executing a game plan. His ability to frame pitches, shut down the running game and call a game are simply the best in the sport. Offensively, he didn't have a good championship series, so I expect him to break out during the World Series.

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FAs who could cash in this October 

October, 4, 2013
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Jacoby Ellsbury John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsWith a great postseason, Jacoby Ellsbury could see his free agent value rise.

Just a season ago, Detroit Tigers right-handed pitcher Anibal Sanchez entered the postseason with a 9-13 record, a 3.86 ERA and a track record that saw him post double-digit wins just twice in six previous seasons, all with the Marlins. At best, he was considered a middle-of-the-rotation, innings-eater type of pitcher. His market value going into the postseason was perhaps four years at $12 million per season.

However, after three big starts, a 1.77 ERA and 0.984 WHIP in the 2012 postseason, his value skyrocketed, allowing him to land a five-year, $88 million deal. In turn, the 29-year-old rewarded with a league-leading 2.57 ERA in the first year of a deal he wouldn’t have gotten if it weren’t for his stellar postseason performance.

Indeed, postseason performances can change the value of a potential free agent. Here are seven players from this postseason who could see their value improve.

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Ranking aces of AL contenders 

September, 25, 2013
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On Monday, I ranked all the National League aces of postseason contenders. The list featured a mixture of young power arms and seasoned veterans with postseason experience. What's more important: ability or experience? While veteran savvy is important and can help to a point, as I wrote, velocity is effective. I lean toward the best and most successful power arms. Usually postseason teams have the best lineups in the game, so the best way to win is with velocity and pitch-ability.

With the postseason almost upon us, I've ranked the No. 1 starters on all the teams still mathematically alive for an AL playoff spot.

1. Max Scherzer | Detroit Tigers

20-3, 3.00 ERA, 230 K's, 0.97 WHIP
I asked Tigers manager Jim Leyland this week whether he would have believed me if I had told him in spring training Justin Verlander would be his third best starter come October? He responded with a resounding "No!" But that's exactly where the Tigers are, as both Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez have not only outpitched Verlander, but outpowered him, too, giving the Tigers arguably the best 1-2 punch in the AL this postseason. Scherzer is the frontrunner for AL Cy Young Award and his power fastball/slider combo and devastating changeup will be formidable in the postseason’s short series.

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Early look at MLB free agency 

August, 14, 2013
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CanoElsa/Getty ImagesRobinson Cano will command a hefty contract this offseason.
Throughout baseball, general managers and their scouting departments are already out in force evaluating this offseason's impending free-agent class. They’re watching every at-bat, every pitch and every defensive touch. They’re also conducting background checks on player character and medical reports. The preparation is essential, rigorous and exhaustive considering the millions of dollars that might be invested.

Here is an early breakdown of some of the top free agents who will be available in this year’s market:


Top position players

Robinson Cano | 2B | .291, 22 HR, 73 RBIs
Cano remains baseball’s best second baseman since Roberto Alomar. He’d like to start and finish his career with the Yankees. However, with one of the best negotiators in baseball in CAA’s Brodie Van Wagenen as his agent and Jay-Z as his marketing/promotional engine, it won’t be easy. The length of Cano’s contract will be the biggest barrier.
Best fits: New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers


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Who will land Jose Abreu? 

August, 12, 2013
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Jose AbreuAP Photo/Koji SasaharaJose Abreu is sure to spice up what most thought would be a dull free-agent class.
Over the past few years we've seen a trio of Cuban defectors receive big free-agent contracts and subsequently take the league by storm. Aroldis Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig all came to the majors with a lot of hype, and thus far all have delivered on it.

Enter Jose Dariel Abreu. According to reports, the 26-year-old Cuban slugger has defected. He is reportedly in Haiti now, and he could be up for bidding right around the time free agency gets going in November. Expect a bidding war.

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Grading the GMs at the deadline 

July, 31, 2013
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While many people are going to say this year's trade deadline was a bit of a dud, there were still plenty of deals made. Here's the way I would grade how every GM did leading up to the deadline, but please keep in mind that sometimes standing pat is the best course of action, and some GMs who did very little still received good grades.

So here are the grades for every GM, with the teams listed in alphabetical order.

Kevin Towers, Arizona Diamondbacks

This was a team that I thought should stand pat, but they did make one notable move, shipping Ian Kennedy to San Diego for Joe Thatcher, pitching prospect Matt Stites and a competitive balance draft pick. Kennedy once looked like a potential No. 2 starter, but he's had a terrible year and would have been the odd man out in Arizona's deep rotation next year. Thatcher is one of the best situational lefties in the game, and he will come in handy against Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier in September, when the D-backs face the Dodgers seven times.

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Cliff LeeAP Photo/Matt SlocumNow it's just a waiting game for Cliff Lee as to whether he will be traded by Wednesday.
With the clock ticking down to the major league trade deadline, there has been some activity the past two days, and we're bound to see some more between now and 4 p.m. ET Wednesday.

So I decided to handicap the odds of these players being traded and which teams they’d best fit based on what I’m hearing from around the front offices. You can bet any movement that happens will somehow involve one of these guys.


Starting pitchers

Jake Peavy | RHP | Chicago White Sox | Odds: 75 percent
The White Sox have been demanding prospect packages far beyond what the Texas Rangers gave up to the Chicago Cubs for Matt Garza. Although the White Sox should get slightly more than the Cubs got for impending free agent Garza -- because the acquiring club would be getting an additional year of control of Peavy in 2014 -- their asking price still must come down if they want to move him.

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