Red Sox’ offseason forecast clouded by future dealings


Every offseason happens in the shadows, and in the context of every other offseason.

Expiring contracts create holes. Developing prospects create opportunity. Past commitments become obligations. Future free agents become considerations.

The Red Sox are experiencing that reality this winter as a 2014 decision to sign Hanley Ramirez stands as a financial roadblock, and Ramirez’ 2019 option looms as a potential problem. Three years of Mookie Betts means a substantial raise through arbitration, while two good months of Rafael Devers suggests three more years of well-below-market-value production.

The slow nature of this winter might actually be explained by looking ahead to next winter. Teams anticipating what could be the richest, deepest free agent class in memory might be hesitant to spend on this relatively weak class.

As we wait for this offseason to inch forward, it’s worth looking ahead to all that the Red Sox must consider in the near future. Prediction is often a fool’s errand in this game — just a few years ago, we might have predicted Rusney Castillo and Yoan Moncada playing key roles in Boston without imagining Chris Sale or Andrew Benintendi — but some contractual situations come with clear endpoints, and those markers carry at least some level of predictability.

The Red Sox’ situation this winter has been well established, but here’s a look ahead to the next three offseasons:

2018-19

Potential free agents: Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, Joe Kelly

Contract options: David Price, Hanley Ramirez, Chris Sale

First-time arbitration: Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree

Next winter will be fascinating throughout baseball, and the Sox will be among the more interesting organizations.

At a time when Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson are set to become free agents — with Clayton Kershaw free to opt out — the Sox will face the departure of their closer, a key reliever and an increasingly valuable starting pitcher.

They’ll also face the potential of losing Price, who has the right to opt out of his contract. And Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts will only get more expensive in their second and third years of arbitration.

The Red Sox’ contract options for next winter are about as different as they could be. Sale’s is a team option, which will be picked up — barring an injury — without hesitation. Ramirez’ kicks in if he has roughly 500 plate appearances this year, and that’s something the Red…



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