Following a World Series victory last season, the Boston Red Sox have seen just about everything go wrong in 2014. Looking to recapture their 2013 glory, the Red Sox are expected to be major players in this winter's free agent market, as chairman Tom Werner stated on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show (via Jerry Spar) that the club is "determined to get back to being in first next year."
Among other things, Werner also noted that the organization has "a lot of money to spend" and intends to use the free agent market as a mechanism to bring the team back into contention. Werner cited "extreme [financial] flexibility" thanks to 2013's August blockbuster with the Los Angeles Dodgers that allowed the Red Sox to free themselves of monstrous contracts to Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett.
Looking at Boston's payroll situation, their flexibility is evident. The Red Sox are currently on the books for just under $106 million next season, and that number goes down drastically in 2016, as the teams owes a total of $33.4 million in guaranteed salary to the trio of Dustin Pedroia, Allen Craig, and Rusney Castillo.
As for where the Red Sox could spend some of their excess money, the expected progression of youngsters such as Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts likely negates any need to make a key addition to the offense, though a trade for an elite player such as Giancarlo Stanton isn't out of the question. Boston could also look to upgrade at third base, where Will Middlebrooks has been disastrous and prospect Garin Cecchini wasn't particularly good this season. The biggest names at that position expected to enter the market are Chase Headley and Pablo Sandoval, though neither are probable options to land in Boston.
Of course, Boston's biggest need is pitching, as Werner put it: "we need some front-line pitching talent." The Red Sox should have a number of options when looking for a top-of-the-rotation starter this winter. The market is headlined by the trio of James Shields, Max Scherzer, and Jon Lester, who has expressed an interest in returning to the Red Sox (though they may have some competition).
This won't be the first time in recent years that Boston will look to follow up a disappointing season with a spending spree in free agency. Prior to the 2013 season, the Red Sox added Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, David Ross, Koji Uehara, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli, all of whom were closer to average players than stars. Those moves all worked out brilliantly for the Red Sox, as all seven acquisition played instrumental roles in bringing another World Series title back to Boston. They're hoping some of that magic strikes again this winter.