Where Red Sox stand with four key players as start of offseason looms

Tomase: Where Sox stand with four key players as hot stove looms originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Red Sox are currently milling around with 28 other clubs, shaking their quads, stretching their hamstrings, and waiting for the World Series between the Astros and Phillies to end. Once it does, the pistol will sound and we'll see how quickly they burst from the offseason blocks.

Until then, now is a good time to catch up on where the Red Sox stand with some of their most important players.

Xander Bogaerts

Start with Xander Bogaerts. The All-Star shortstop and recent Gold Glove finalist is widely expected to opt out of his contract within five days of the World Series. There has been precious little news since management conducted its post-mortem press conference in early October.

At that time, both president Sam Kennedy and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom reiterated their desire to keep Bogaerts in a Red Sox uniform, recognizing him as a foundational piece. Since then, we haven't heard a peep, although it should be noted that Bogaerts's agent, Scott Boras, isn't afraid to let negotiations marinate deep into the offseason.

The question is if it's better to wait or strike quickly in a crowded shortstop market that should also include Twins All-Star Carlos Correa, Braves Gold Glover Dansby Swanson, and dynamic Dodgers standout Trea Turner. Four of the top five players in this winter's free agent class are shortstops, which means there could be an odd man out. It would certainly benefit the Red Sox if Bogaerts makes up his mind early.

Rafael Devers

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Next is Rafael Devers. Per multiple reports out of the Dominican, the Red Sox plan to increase their extension offer in the hopes of securing the slugging third baseman before he reaches free agency next fall.

The New York Post provided more specific numbers, saying the Red Sox offered Devers over $200 million, still well short of his asking price of at least $300 million. If the Red Sox can't sign Devers this winter, they could find themselves in the position of trading him before he walks, a la Mookie Betts.

Given the hostile reaction to the Betts trade, ownership is leery of losing Devers in similar fashion, which has led many to believe owner John Henry will step in to spearhead negotiations with both Bogaerts and Devers.

Chris Sale

Next on the list is left-hander Chris Sale. To no one's surprise, he decided not to opt out of the final two years of his five-year, $145 million extension. Since that deal kicked in for the 2020 season, Sale has made only 11 starts, with his 2022 nicely summarizing two solid seasons of frustration. Sale opened the year by breaking a rib while pitching for an Instagram Live audience during the lockout, and he closed it by breaking his wrist during an August bike accident. In between, a line drive mangled his pinky. It was that kind of year.

With Sale officially in the fold, the Red Sox must decide whether they want to count on him as their potential ace, or if they should view any value he provides purely as bonus, thanks to a litany of injuries over the last four years, including Tommy John surgery.

It's worth noting that in a free agent class where someone is probably going to offer Mets ace Jacob deGrom $30 or $40 million annually despite major injury concerns, Sale could once again be an X factor for the season.

Expectations for Chris Sale with the Red Sox next season

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J.D. Martinez

That leaves J.D. Martinez. The New York Post reported that the Red Sox don't plan to make him a qualifying offer, though Bloom later told the Boston Globe that no decisions have been made. Given the emphasis on increased athleticism across the game, it never made sense for the Red Sox to tender Martinez an offer, since he'd probably take it.

The club no doubt envisions saving that roughly $19 million for other expenses, thus ending the 35-year-old's highly productive five-year run in Boston.

A case can be made that outside of Manny Ramirez, Martinez should go down as the second-best big-money free agent signing in franchise history.