Everyone in Florida is going to have their eye on the door.
If nothing changes by next week, if the Red Sox lineup remains untouched from 2017, the start of spring training is going to feel like a continuation of the winter.
Players will get their work in at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers as they would normally. Some have already been at the team’s facility for a while. The flowers will bloom, there will be about 78 other cliches thrown around daily, and Red Sox Nation will gear up for Opening Day.
- MORE RED SOX: Boras: J.D. Martinez not 'fed up' with Red Sox
But the mood will be a different sort of anticipatory, if not a bit anxious. What about the basic expectation that the major-market Red Sox add to their team for 2018? No one will forget it.
The players' union, wading through nasty, deepening waters with the league because of free agency, is planning to host a camp for its unsigned players in Florida. (One player agent guessed — and they said it was just a guess — that of the roughly 100 players available, about 80 haven't even received an offer.)
J.D. Martinez is not expected at that unsigned players camp per ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, because Scott Boras clients have their own facility to work at. So do virtually all players.
The success of the camp is to be seen, and that curiosity will draw fan and media attention away from the usual daily activities of the clubs. The players are watching too, even those with deals.
Guys under contract care about the fate of the free agent class of 2017-18. They’ll throw their bullpens and go to the batting cage, and then they’ll check their phones. They have friends who are free agents. They themselves may be looking at free agency in the near future. They have a vested interest in both the effectiveness of their union and the betterment of the Sox.
- MORE FREE AGENCY: Boras: Red Sox still in negotiation with J.D. Martinez
Often around the trade deadline, the morale boost of a potential trade is discussed. Such a lift comes over the winter, too. (Or in this case, the spring.) The most jubilant day in Florida may be the one when help arrives, when J.D. Martinez or someone else shows up with another team’s equipment bag slung across his shoulder. Assuming there is such a day.
The Sox and Martinez acknowledged this week there are ongoing negotiations. We’ve been waiting months for something, anything. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski let Addison Reed walk and re-signed Mitch Moreland. Eduardo Nunez is still available.
There's a lot to discuss about the Red Sox as presently constituted.
How exactly do the young players, like Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts, improve for 2018? Health can't be the only factor. Rafael Devers is entering his first full season in the majors. Chris Sale has plans to increase his season-long effectiveness.
We'll get to that. But the backdrop, the fact the Red Sox were never expected to have this present constitution, won't be drowned out.
No big bat to replace Big Papi a year too late, no reliever. No news. And that means everyone’s going to be waiting for it.
The start of spring training may actually double as the start of free agency. The pop of the mitt and the smell of the green grass are about to be overwhelmed by uncertainty and whispers of collusion.