Charlie Morton helped the Tampa Bay Rays reach the World Series and is now a free agent. In an offseason when teams will likely be unwilling to spend big money, Morton might be a good target for the Red Sox. Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Charlie Morton gave the Tampa Bay Rays a veteran presence, while leading them in the postseason with a 3-1 record and 2.70 ERA.

But the Rays declined the $15 million option for Morton in 2021.

Left-hander Brad Hand led the major leagues in saves in 2020 (16), with a 2.05 ERA. Cleveland had a $10 million option on Hand for 2021. Before the Indians declined his option on Friday, Cleveland put Hand on waivers – and he was not claimed.

One of the game’s best closers, and no team wanted him because of a $10 million salary.

Free agency begins Sunday in Major League Baseball and it will be a buyer’s market. The COVID-19 pandemic financially socked major league organizations, and they won’t be opening their checkbooks too wide.

There are deals to be had, and the Boston Red Sox, a team sorely in need of pitching, should be able to out-spend the Tampa Bay’s and Cleveland’s of the league.

So, how about a Morton or a Hand, or Jake Odorizzi or Corey Kluber or Kevin Gausman or Shane Greene?

Trevor Bauer figures to be the most sought after free-agent pitcher this offseason after finishing with a 1.73 ERA in 11 starts this season. The Reds will likely give him a qualifying offer, meaning any team that signs him would have to forfeit a draft pick. That price is probably too high for the Red Sox. Aaron Doster/Associated Press

Topping the free agent pitching list is Reds right-handed starter Trevor Bauer, who helped his negotiations with a 1.73 ERA in 11 starts. If there is going to be a bidding war this offseason, it will be for Bauer. Boston does not appear interested to be part of it; especially since Bauer, as a premier free agent, will likely receive a qualifying offer from the Reds, meaning Boston would forfeit a draft pick to sign him.

That is why signing a free agent like Morton makes more sense. Morton, who turns 37 in November, brings stability to a rotation like Boston, which has Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, and two players coming off the injured list – Chris Sale (Tommy John surgery) and Eduardo Rodriguez (heart complications from COVID-19).

Tanner Houck showed promise but, unless he proves too dominant, Houck is best as part of Boston’s desperately-needed depth in Triple-A.

If Boston doesn’t like Morton (or vice versa), there are two established pitchers coming off injury – Odorizzi and Kluber, who had his $18 million option with Texas declined.

Gausman rebounded from a bad 2019 (5.72 ERA) to post a 3.62 with the Giants.

For the sentimentalist, there is former Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester, who will be 37 in January, and had his $25 million option declined by the Cubs. Lester has expressed a desire to stay in Chicago, so we’ll see.

Boston’s bullpen needs major work, including an established closer, which is why pursuing Hand makes sense.

White Sox right-hander Alex Colome dominated in 2020 (12 saves, 0.81 ERA). He is not expected to receive a qualifying offer from Chicago (the deadline for offers is Sunday). If he doesn’t, he is right there for the Red Sox to make an offer. Colome pitched for the Rays from 2013-18, so Red Sox baseball operations chief Chaim Bloom is familiar with him.

Greene was not a closer for Atlanta, but he has been dependable, including a 2.60 ERA this year.

Besides regular free agents and players having their options declined, other players – those who are up for arbitration – could hit the open market if their team does not want to give them a big raise. Arizona reliever Junior Guerra (3.04 ERA) could be among that group.

BESIDES PITCHING, the Red Sox might pursue a thrifty deal on a first baseman. Boston’s Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec both show promise but there are questions of consistency. Boston may want some insurance. Boston could bring back old friend Mitch Moreland (if San Diego declines his option) or look elsewhere, like C.J. Cron, who played four games for Detroit this year before needing knee surgery. He hit 55 home runs over the previous two seasons, including 30 in 2018.

THE RED SOX reinstated six players onto their 40-man roster, from the injury list – pitchers Sale, Rodriguez, Kyle Hart and Colten Brewer, second baseman Dustin Pedroia, and outfielder Andrew Benintendi.

Boston now has 37 players on the 40-man. It will be interesting what Boston does with Pedroia. Unless he makes a miraculous recovery from his knee injury – which has limited him to nine games over the past three seasons – look for him and Boston to work out a deal for his retirement.

THE SEA DOGS are looking for a new manager after it was confirmed the Red Sox did not renew Joe Oliver’s contract. Oliver said he was told the reason was because of the expected contraction of the minor leagues in 2021. With fewer teams, organizations will need fewer coaches.

Oliver, 55, said he hopes to manage or coach again, but it will be difficult with a decrease in jobs, and other unemployed coaches looking for work.

“It is a tough marketplace,” he said.

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