Chaim Bloom should have more options in MLB free agency with teams on tighter budgets because of COVID-19

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom must upgrade his starting rotation, add an outfielder if Jackie Bradley Jr. leaves in free agency and identify a closer this offseason.

That’s not all. Boston’s 40-man roster is about to change drastically. Expect even more roster turnover than last winter.

One positive working in his favor: He’ll have plenty of options. The free agent field likely will be larger than usual.

Most MLB teams likely will be on tight budgets this offseason and that could lead to more players being non-tendered and fewer team exercising 2021 team options.

All organizations experienced significant revenue losses in 2020 because of no gate receipts and TV money being down due to the shortened 60-game schedule.

Uncertainty also exists heading into 2021. Limited capacities at stadiums if no vaccine is available to the general public again would lead to more revenue losses.

Team president Sam Kennedy said the COVID-19 pandemic will have an impact on the Red Sox’s 2021 budget. Still, it’s difficult to imagine the Red Sox won’t look to add in free agency (and via the trade market) after slashing so much payroll last offseason.

Non-tender deadline

The non-tender deadline in early December should be fascinating.

More arbitration-eligible players than in a normal offseason likely will be non-tendered with teams on tighter budgets. An arbitration-eligible player becomes a free agent when his team does not tender him a contract. And so the free agent field could expand significantly both in size and talent ahead of the Winter Meetings, which are scheduled for Dec. 6-10 in Dallas, Texas.

The Red Sox added six major league free agents — Collin McHugh, Mitch Moreland, Martin Perez, Kevin Plawecki, Kevin Pillar and Jose Peraza, in 2020. Of the six, three, Pillar, Plawecki and Peraza, became free agents last December after being non-tendered. Perez, meanwhile, became a free agent when Minnesota did not exercise his 2020 option.

Team options

We might see more team options declined this offseason with clubs on tighter budgets.

For example, Cleveland exercising Brad Hand’s $10 million team option seems like a no-brainer, right? He converted 16-of-16 save opportunities. He posted a 2.05 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and 1.37 FIP. He’s one of the game’s best closers. But not so fast.

Cleveland.com’s Paul Hoynes wrote, “It’s easy for me to say I’d exercise his option, but I don’t own the team. Paul Dolan, like every MLB owner, has suffered big losses because of the pandemic, shortened season and no attendance. So exercising Hand’s option is far from a done deal. Especially when the Indians have younger (and cheaper) options in James Karinchak and possibly Emmanuel Clase.”

Hand seems like a perfect fit for Boston if the Indians decline his option.

Corey Kluber, who lives in Massachusetts during the offseason, also might be an interesting free agent target if the Rangers decline his option, which seems highly likely.

Texas has a $18 million team option and $1 million buyout for Kluber who pitched only one inning in 2020 because of a shoulder injury. Kluber has started just eight games in 2019-20 combined, but he’s 2021 comeback candidate.

Fewer qualifying offers

The qualifying offer for next season has been set at $18.9 million, The Athletic’s Evan Drellich reported.

Ten players were offered qualifying offers last offseason. We could see as few as four players — Trevor Bauer, DJ LeMahieu, George Springer and J.T. Realmuto — receive qualifying offers this offseason.

MLBTradeRumors.com named those four as the only obvious candidates.

It’s no guarantee Marcus Semien will receive one in this economy and after posting a .223/.305/.374/.679 line in 53 games.

Athletics beat writer Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted, “In a normal year, the A’s might have considered this for Marcus Semien. Not sure that’s going to be realistic now.”

Michael Brantley also seems like an obvious candidate to receive a qualifying offer from the Astros. But does Houston want to extend two qualifying offers in this economy? MLBTradeRumors.com did not name him among the obvious candidates to receive one.

The Red Sox will need to add an outfielder if Bradley leaves via free agency. Springer seems like an obvious target for Boston. But perhaps Bloom might have more interest in Brantley if he’s not attached to a qualifying offer.

The Braves cannot extend a qualifying offer to outfielder Marcell Ozuna because he received one from the Cardinals last offseason. A player can’t receive more than one qualifying offer. And so Ozuna — who led the NL in home runs (18) and RBIs (56) this season — could be a free agent target for Boston.

Boston would forfeit its second-highest pick and $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money if it signs a qualified free agent.

Related Content

Jay Groome, Bryan Mata, four Boston Red Sox prospects acquired in trades must be added to 40-man roster in November

Boston Red Sox 40-man roster about to change drastically; Will Dustin Pedroia keep a spot all offseason?

Boston Red Sox payroll 2021: Chaim Bloom will enter MLB free agency a projected $36M below $210M base threshold

Might Boston Red Sox trade any major leaguers such as Christian Vazquez this offseason? Will they exercise Martin Perez’s option?

Will Trevor Bauer, George Springer be Boston Red Sox free agent targets? They would cost more than money

Boston Red Sox will explore long-term extensions before 2021; could Rafael Devers, Eduardo Rodriguez be candidates for deals?

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