MLB Boston Red Sox

Five Impending Free Agents The Boston Red Sox Should Let Walk

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Five Impending Free Agents The Boston Red Sox Should Let Walk

John Rieger- USA Today Sports

The Boston Red Sox are in the latter stages of a bounce-back season. They're running away with the American League East, 8.5 games in front of the Tampa Bay Rays.

A lot of the Sox' success in 2013 has come from players developed within their system--Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, and Jacoby Ellsbury are all having great years. However, in this day-and-age, to succeed as an organization at the major league level, you're going to need plenty of help from the free-agent market and you're going to have to throw a lot of cash at your problems and hope it all works out.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, they knew when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em during free agency this offseason, letting marquee free agents like Josh Hamilton take their talents elsewhere. They instead decided to focus far less money on holes they needed to fill that have turned into valuable commodities as the season has progressed. Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, and Mike Napoli have more than made up for their contracts with their production in 2013.

This offseason, however, the Red Sox have a multitude of expiring contracts to deal with. They'll have to decide whether they should re-sign these players, let them walk, and whether they should go after other free agents to fill these holes or let the rising prospects in their flourishing minor league system take the open spots.

Chances are even if the Red Sox put the perfect recipe players together in 2013 to win themselves a World Series title, the team is going to look a whole lot different in 2014. It happened in 2005, it happened in 2008, and it will happen again.

That's just the nature of the business.

Shawn Ferris is a Boston Red Sox and Fantasy Sports Writer for Follow him on Twitter @RealShawnFerris or "like" him on Facebook.

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5. Joel Hanrahan

Winston Townsend- USA Today Sports

Let's just act like this signing never happened and move on. Koji Uehara has shown he's an elite closer after taking the job by default following season-ending surgeries to Andrew Bailey and Hanrahan, and there's no reason to take on the contract of a one-year wonder closer coming off Tommy John surgery. It's doubtful I'm on an island with this one.

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4. Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Jerome Miron- USA Today Sports

I'm gonna miss you, Salty. Switch-hitting catchers with pop are hard to come by and to find someone bold enough to rock a 'fro for an entire season may be an even harder find, but I just have my heart set on the Red Sox signing Brian McCann next year, making Salty expendable.

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3. Stephen Drew

Rick Osentoski- USA Today Sports

Maybe it's the fact he's the younger brother of my least favorite Red Sox player of all-time, J.D. Drew, or maybe it's the fact I just want to see stud prospect Xander Bogaerts play every day next year. Either way, doesn't make much a whole lot of sense to re-sign Drew.

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2. Mike Napoli

Greg M. Cooper- USA Today Sports

This isn't to say Napoli hasn't been a solid add to the Red Sox. On the contrary, his 85 RBI rank 9th in the AL. But it's his downside (173 strikeouts, 3rd most in MLB) that gives me some pause. Also, I prefer my long-term investments to be without "degenerative hip" conditions, but maybe that's just me.

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1. Jacoby Ellsbury

Rick Osentoski- USA Today Sports

Ellsbury's accomplishments and value as a Red Sox player cannot be understated. He's had an MVP type season, helped the team win a World Series in 2007 as a September call-up, led the league in stolen bases a couple of times, played great defense in center, and been one of the best lead-off hitters in baseball during that time.

So why the apprehension to re-sign him long-term?

Three reasons:

1.) He's a dreaded Scott Boras client, meaning forget the hometown discount, and he has already been reported to be looking for a contract north of $25 million a year.

2.) The Red Sox had better be gun-shy after the disastrous Carl Crawford signing a couple years ago. Signing a base-stealing outfielder in his late 20s to a long-term deal is going to look increasingly worse as he creeps into his 30s and the speed and skills start to diminish.

3.) The Red Sox have Jackie Bradley Jr. waiting in the wings. Bradley is cheap, has a great track record of getting on-base, and has plenty of speed and defensive prowess as well. No need to spend big money on Ellsbury when you have a top 20 prospect as a viable replacement.