Last offseason, GM Theo Epstein opted against making a big splash in free agency and instead decided to make a number of "low risk, high reward" signings. Epstein went out and signed John Smoltz, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, and Rocco Baldelli to 1 year contracts with plenty of incentives. All of those players were coming off injury plagued seasons, but their history suggested that if they were healthy, they could be productive and help the Red Sox.
However, the plan did not work out. The only signing that truly panned out for the Red Sox was Takashi Saito. Penny and Smoltz struggled with the Red Sox and failed to complete the season with the team and Baldelli was nothing more than a average hitter and never really made a big impact with the Red Sox.
Most teams can't afford to go 1 of 4 on free agent signings. However, the Red Sox are not like most teams. The Sox have the second highest payroll in baseball and they can afford to take risks on free agents. The Red Sox spent almost $12 million dollars on Smoltz, Baldelli, and Penny; which is not even 10% of the teams' total payroll.
This offseason, it looks like the Red Sox are taking a very similar approach. Yesterday, the Sox acquired OF Jeremy Hermida from the Marlins for two prospects. Hermida was one of the Marlins top prospects a few years back, but has never fully figured it out at the major league level. The Marlins were likely to non tender Hermida this offseason because Hermida was arbitration eligible and likely to get a nice raise that would make him too expensive for the frugal Marlins.
But for the Red Sox, acquiring Hermida was a risk they could afford to take. While $4 million dollars is a lot for the Marlins to pay the struggling outfielder, the Red Sox could afford to take a chance on Hermida, hoping that he discovers his ability in the majors. The Red Sox $140 million+ payroll gives them the flexibility to take risks.
This is another example of a "low risk, high reward" deal for the Red Sox. If Hermida pans out, then the Red Sox have a starting OF under team control for the next few years, but if Hermida continues to struggle, then the Red Sox can simply not offer him arbitration next year and cut their minimal losses.
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