Trevor Bauer is the best available starting pitcher on the free agent market. It is unlikely the Red Sox would be in the running, but with the lack of starting pitching available the health concerns in their rotation, don’t rule it out. Aaron Doster/Associated Press

Free agency in Major League Baseball is underway and the Red Sox once again have money to spend.

The question is whether or not they will.

Chaim Bloom’s first offseason as the Sox’ chief baseball officer in 2019 was completely future-focused. This time, he’s tasked with taking the Sox from their worst season since 1965 and making them competitive.

The good news is that many teams are expected to be gun-shy due to the coronavirus pandemic affecting the economy. Already we’re seeing teams across the game decline small-money options to free themselves of as many financial commitments as possible.

The Sox’ declined their $6.25 million option on lefty starter Martin Perez. Even the Padres declined a measly $3 million option on former Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland.

With fewer dollars expected to be spent and a largely unimpressive free agent market upon us, here’s the top five free agents the Red Sox should be paying attention to:

1. Trevor Bauer, RHP

Bauer is the only legitimate ace on the market, and the volatile right-hander has signaled that he’ll no longer stay firm on his desire to sign only one-year contracts.

MLB Trade Rumors released its annual top 50 free agents with predictions and projected Bauer to get a four-year, $128-million deal with the Dodgers, who somehow still have loads of money to spend despite signing Mookie Betts to a long-term deal.

It’s hard to see the Red Sox involved in the Bauer sweepstakes, but you never know. And given the lack of other top-end talent on the market, it’s likely the Sox will either pursue Bauer or look into the trade market to boost a rotation that needs to rely on a healthy Chris Sale recovering quickly from Tommy John surgery, Eduardo Rodriguez to recover from myocarditis and Nathan Eovaldi to stay healthy for once.

2. Jose Quintana, LHP

MLBTR predicts the Sox will sign Quintana, the 31-year-old lefty who has spent his entire career in Chicago pitching for both the White Sox and Cubs, to a two-year, $18-million deal.

While it seems like a bargain contract for a pitcher who was once a solid No. 2, he’s coming off two of the worst seasons of his career and rated poorly in advanced metrics during his four appearances in 2020. Coming off injuries to his thumb and lat, Quintana is far from a sure thing, but does possess the upside Bloom may be looking for.

MLBTR also predicts the Sox will sign righty Anthony DeSclafani, the 30-year-old right-hander with a 4.19 ERA over the last five seasons with the Reds, to a one-year, $4-million deal. The Sox don’t necessarily need starting depth; for once they appear to have plenty of near-ready starters in their farm system. But it never hurts to add cheap starters.

3. George Springer, CF

MLBTR predicts Springer will sign a five-year, $125-million deal with the White Sox, who just hired Tony La Russa to be their next manager and figure to be all-in on competing in the near future.

The Red Sox were linked to Springer in the past, but MLBTR doesn’t even have him on the Sox’ radar this winter, likely because they have Andrew Benintendi and Alex Verdugo anchoring their outfield with center fielder Jarren Duran not far away in the minors.

At 31, Springer hasn’t shown signs of slowing down, with a .953 OPS over the last two seasons. It just doesn’t seem likely that a Red Sox team that wouldn’t pay Betts would suddenly be interested in a nine-figure contract for an older, less-productive outfielder.

4. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Bradley is predicted to get a two-year, $16 million deal with the Astros, who will need to replace Springer in center field. But Bloom has been vocal about his admiration of Bradley as a player and a person, and the 30-year-old is coming off his best offensive season in five years.

The Red Sox have financial flexibility and could use a stopgap in center until Duran is deemed ready. But how soon will Duran be ready? He was smoking the ball in spring training against big league pitchers last February and there’s no question he has the defensive capabilities and speed to make an impact in the big leagues. His bat may still have developing to do, but it’s hard to see the Sox making a big play on an outfielder unless they decide to trade Benintendi, who would likely be a sell-low situation after a career-worst year that ended in injury.

Expect the Sox to keep Benintendi and Verdugo while finding a low-risk veteran outfielder to plug the gap until Duran is ready.

5. D.J. LeMahieu, 2B

If the Red Sox are looking to make a legitimate splash in free agency, this is their man.

Not only is LeMahieu coming off a season in which he made better contact than almost every other big leaguer on his way to a batting title and .364 average, but he was the Yankees’ best and most important player, their leadoff hitter and their spark plug. To steal him from their division rivals would be a double whammy for a Red Sox team that has not only the Rays, but also the Yankees ahead of them in the American League East.

LeMahieu is predicted to get a four-year, $68 million deal with the Blue Jays, who have Cavan Biggio at second base but could play him anywhere.

The other most likely option for the Red Sox at second is Kolten Wong, who has won two straight Gold Gloves for the Cardinals and is built in the Dustin Pedroia mold, willing to put his body on the line to make a play. His range, style and fluidity at second base is impressive and could give the Sox some much-needed reliability at a position that’s been a black hole for years. The issue is he hit just one homer in 2020 and doesn’t make a huge impact with his bat, but MLBTR predicts the Sox will sign Wong to a two-year, $16 million deal.

The question is how much faith the Sox have in Jeter Downs, who they think is pretty close to being big-league ready, and what they could get for Michael Chavis via trade.

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