Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Ryan Dempster is taking the 2014 season off, citing physical reasons and a desire to spent more time with his kids. The 36-year old Dempster, who turns 37 in May, is expected to be placed on the restricted list by Boston, meaning that they won't be on the hook for his $13.25 million salary in 2014.
This creates an interesting situation for the Red Sox. They have plenty of young pitching to fight for Dempster's role in the rotation, including Allen Webster, Rubby de la Rosa, and Brandon Workman, among others. Whoever wins the spot won't need to blow the doors off of the team to replace Dempster's production – he had a 4.57 ERA in 171 1/3 innings a year ago, his second-worst ERA and lowest innings pitched total since shifting back to the rotation in 2008. He also wasn't much of a factor during Boston's run to the World Series last season, throwing just three innings in the entire Postseason, all in relief and all in games that were out of hand at that point.
Where things will now get interesting for Boston lies in their payroll. Shaving Dempster's money off of their coffers for 2014 gives them that much more money to play with to fill other holes in their club – for example, bringing back shortstop Stephen Drew. The Red Sox were already under the luxury tax threshold prior to Dempster's announcement, but now they're even further under that mark. Their cadre of pitching indicates to me that they wouldn't be in on a starting pitcher like Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, but you never know with the Red Sox – they tend to surprise people at times.
Bringing back Drew would allow Boston to move top prospect Xander Bogaerts to third and trade, bench, or demote Will Middlebrooks. Dempster ended up doing the Red Sox a pretty big favor here, and the team is arguably in a better position without him in the fold for 2014 than they would be with him.