Back to work for Red Sox GM Ben Charington

The Boston Red Sox will celebrate their 2013 World Series championship with their fans by participating in a parade on Saturday, November 2. The parade will begin at Fenway Park and travel through the streets of Boston.

Once the celebration ends, though, the work resumes in the Red Sox front office. General manager Ben Cherington and his staff will have to find a way to keep the team together and give them a chance to repeat as World Series Champions, something that has not happened since their most-heated rival New York Yankees turned the trick from 1998 through 2000. Besides the Yankees, only the Toronto Blue Jays have repeated as champions since 1992-1993.

Free agents

Obviously, we can expect at least some minor roster changes; no team stays 100% the same from one year to the next. First, though, Cherington has to deal with upcoming free agents. MLB.com’s Ian Browne lists the Red Sox’ free agents as CF Jacoby Ellsbury, SS Stephen Drew, 1B Mike Napoli, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, INF John McDonald, and RP Joel Hanrahan.

The most pressing of these is Ellsbury, the team’s catalyst and quintessential lead-off hitter. NBC Sports.com has Ellsbury listed as the #2 overall free agent. The speedy center fielder led the Major Leagues in stolen bases with 52, helping his team to finish fourth in the Majors in steals. He did so in just 134 games. Ellsbury also hit .298 and was on base at .355. He is a true gamer. He played hurt — bruised hand and foot — throughout the postseason.

Ellsbury will draw great interest from many teams — including the Yankees, Rangers, Cubs, Mariners, Phillies, and more. He could command well over $100 million. The Red Sox could pay that, but that would make it tougher to retain some of the other players or bring in more. Still, Cherington should make Ellsbury the best offer possible and keep him in Boston just as he did with Dustin Pedroia.

As for the remaining free agents, Saltalamacchia is right in his prime and is very productive. He might command a raise from his $4.5 million that he made this year. David Ross could become the starter if Saltalamacchia leaves; Brian McCann and A.J. Pierzynski are also available on the market. That gives Cherington a very tough decision behind the plate.

Napoli is #13 on the top free agent list and the highest-rated first baseman. He had to overcome some hip issues, but he could land that three-year deal that he could not get last winter because of the hip. The Rangers and Mariners would want him if the Red Sox do not sign him. Drew has drawn interest from the Yankees, but since they just re-signed Derek Jeter, they would want Drew to play third base, assuming Alex Rodriguez  serves his 211-game suspension, essentially ending his career.

Jon Lester

On a positive note, Cash Kruth reports that the Red Sox have exercised the 2014 club option on ace left-hander Jon Lester for $13 million. See the details here. Lester went 4-1 in the postseason, including two wins in the World Series in which he allowed one run in 15.1 innings to the St. Louis Cardinals. For the season, Lester was 15-8, 3.75 ERA, and he pitched 213.1 innings in 33 starts. He is the true ace that any team would covet, and he will stay in Fenway Park for at least one more year. He is 100-56, 3.76 ERA, for his career.

Trade and free agents rumors will occur throughout the entire offseason. It is difficult to keep a championship team together but not impossible. Cherington and his staff have some tough decisions, but they will make those decisions in the best interest of the Boston Red Sox. They will give the team a fair chance to repeat as World Series champions.

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