With the World Series coming to a close Monday night, it's time for baseball to transition smoothly into the offseason. In just five days' time, the free agent bidding war will begin in earnest, as teams look to snap up big names like Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth.
For the Red Sox, the beginning of free agency means the opening of holes, specifically at third base and catcher. Victor Martinez is already a free agent, and Adrian Beltre will be too when he inevitably declines the player option on his contract. David Ortiz could be joining them soon if the Sox don't pick up his option before the Thursday deadline. While there was word that the Red Sox were prepared to exercise their option, that came well over a month ago, and Ortiz has made it clear he wants to be back on a multi-year contract.
It's not just the big stars that are possibly on the way out, either. Bill Hall will be testing the market after hitting 18 homers in a utility role for the Sox (no chance they pick up that particular option at nearly $10 million), Felipe Lopez could gift the team an early draft pick by declining arbitration, and even team captain Jason Varitek could be moving on in 2011 after 13 years with the Sox.
And then there's the bullpen, where both Hideki Okajima and, yes, Jonathan Papelbon both face the possibility of being non-tendered and sent on their way.
The Red Sox have a lot of money to spend over the next few months, and a lost season to make up for. There's a bullpen to fix, positions to fill, and options to be picked up or passed on. With outfield free agency providing slim pickings after this year, and the current trio filled with question marks, expect them to be in on the big names there too. It's Hot Stove season, Sox fans, and this one might be the hottest in a long time.