NBC Sports

Tomase: Arbitration projections hint at Red Sox' offseason plans

NBC Sports
Alex Verdugo Rafael Devers

MLB Trade Rumors just released its invaluable arbitration projections, which means we now have a better understanding of how the Red Sox might attack the offseason.

From a high -- but not as high as we thought -- of $16.9 million for Rafael Devers, to a low of $900,000 for recently acquired infielder Yu Chang and outfielder Abraham Almonte, the Red Sox have 11 players due raises in arbitration.

Here are thoughts on all of them, along with MLBTR's projections, which can be found here. (Note: service time in parentheses).

Rafael Devers (5.070): $16.9 million

Considering that All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado settled for a record $26 million in 2019, just a year after Josh Donaldson earned $23 million from the Jays, it's surprising to see Devers register so low. Then again, Arenado was coming off of three straight top-five finishes in the MVP race, and Donaldson had already won the award.

Either way, if Devers settles in this range, it would give the Red Sox flexibility to strengthen the roster elsewhere before trying to re-sign him in free agency next fall.

Alex Verdugo (4.078): $6.9 million

When Hunter Renfroe reached a similar point in his career after a far more productive 2021 than Verdugo's 2022, the Red Sox traded him to the Brewers for prospects, a deal that spectacularly blew up in their face.


As the centerpiece of the Mookie Betts trade, Verdugo will probably be harder to move, and manager Alex Cora has already singled him out as the player with the most to prove. That said, with the Red Sox looking to address a number of holes by trade, Verdugo could be dangled, even though his production is barely league average.

Nick Pivetta (4.166): $5.9 million

Of all the players on this list, Pivetta is probably the greatest lock to return, not because his 2022 was particularly inspiring -- he might be the pitching version of Verdugo -- but because he's the only dependable starter under contract and the rotation needs to be revamped around him.

Pivetta's 4.47 ERA in Boston pretty much defines what he is, which is a fourth starter on a good team, and not the No. 1 or 2 he was asked to be this year. Abysmal against the AL East with a penchant for serving up home runs, Pivetta is at least reliable, with 30 starts in 2021 and a league-leading 33 this season.

Ryan Brasier (5.109): $2.3 million

Talk about nine lives. Brasier looked cooked after missing most of 2021, but he returned in time to contribute to the playoff push. This year became even more of a high-wire act, and included a brief demotion to Triple-A Worcester.

While chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom cut relievers all season, Brasier always survived by being just a little bit better than the worst arm in the pen, be it Phillips Valdez, Austin Davis, or Hirokazu Sawamura.

It's hard to imagine his luck continuing this winter at that salary number, making him a prime non-tender candidate.

Christian Arroyo (4.036): $2.2 million

Since arriving in Boston, Arroyo has proven two things. The first is that when healthy, he's actually pretty good, especially offensively. The second is that he's never healthy.

Tomase: Arroyo among three players who should be part of Sox' solution

Still, if Xander Bogaerts leaves, Arroyo could actually become the starting second baseman, with Trevor Story sliding over to short. He brings versatility to the table, thanks to an ability to play outfield and first base, and he has produced enough at his best to earn another year.

Rob Refsnyder (4.048): $1.6 million

Unsung hero, anyone? Refsnyder spent half the year biding his time at Triple-A Worcester as little more than depth, but once given an opportunity, he never relinquished it.

Whereas other outfielders like Franchy Cordero, Tommy Pham, and Jarren Duran did little to impress, Refsnyder hit .307 with an .881 OPS and actually delivered the same WAR (1.2) in 57 games that Verdugo did in 152.

Tomase: On J.D. Martinez and the murky future of the DH in Boston

With the outfield already in flux and Kiké Hernández coming off an injury-riddled campaign, Refsnyder looks like a solid bench piece for 2023.

Franchy Cordero (4.092): $1.5 million

What a strange trip it has been. Acquired as the only player with big-league experience for outfielder Andrew Benintendi, Cordero alternately endeared, frustrated, delivered, and stumbled over the last two seasons. Popular and positive in the clubhouse, he nonetheless showed too many holes in his game, be it an inability to learn first base or make consistent contact.


The physical tools simply haven't been matched by production, and he could be non-tendered, too.

Reese McGuire (3.027): $1.3 million

Had the Red Sox somehow made a playoff run after the trade deadline, McGuire would've been hailed as a genius acquisition. He hit .337 and significantly outclassed predecessor Christian Vazquez offensively, though it's worth noting his catcher's ERA of 6.33 was the worst on the staff by more than two runs.

Regardless, he played himself into at worst a backup role, and could even be the starter alongside Connor Wong if the front office decides to allocate resources elsewhere, though Bloom has already intimated the Red Sox will be exploring the catching market this winter.

Josh Taylor (3.121): $1.1 million

It's shocking that Taylor never threw a pitch after opening the season on the injured list with a back strain. He seemed to be nearing a return at multiple points, only to suffer setbacks during rehab stints in May and July.

The money is short, so this one will come down to medical evaluations. If the Red Sox believe he's finally on the road to recovery, then his success in 2021 (3.40 ERA in 61 appearances) makes him a worthwhile gamble.

Abraham Almonte (5.012): $900,000

The final ignominious straw for a clubhouse that chafed at front office decisions all year was cutting popular catcher Kevin Plawecki late in September in favor of Almonte, a 4-A player if ever there was one.

Almonte played a horrific, disinterested outfield over the last couple of weeks, and at least proved that he's not worth bringing back in 2023.

Yu Chang (3.007): $900,000

Bloom loves utility players, and Chang has bounced around since debuting with Cleveland in 2019. He's athletic and strong-armed defensively, and the Red Sox hope he can become Arroyo 2.0 as a former top prospect who finally puts things together after being discarded as a bust.

He can play all four infield positions and has even pitched two innings of mop-up relief, but it's hard to see what's appealing about a lifetime .213 average.