Ryan Dempster to sit out 2014

The last time Ryan Dempster threw a baseball in Fenway Park was hours after winning the World Series, as he threw batting practice to his friends and family late into the night. Dempster may not throw another pitch as a member of the Red Sox, after announcing today that he will sit out the 2014 season.

Dempster, who turns 37 in May, was set to enter the final year of his two-year $26.5 million contract. However, Dempster plans to spend time with his family and allow lingering neck problems time to heal while the Red Sox are going for a repeat. Dempster will most likely be placed on the restricted list and will not be paid his $13.25 million, freeing up some money for the  front office.

This all but solidifies Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront’s spots in the starting rotation, as the two would have had a spring training battle for the four and five slots with Dempster. Young pitchers such as Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and Anthony Ranuado will also get more opportunities as the season goes on.

Will this mean Stephen Drew’s return to Boston?

If Dempster hadn’t performed well this spring training, he may very well have been traded. The Sox wouldn’t want to keep his salary and have him in a long relief role when they have so much pitching depth.

With Stephen Drew still on the market, some believe that the money opened up by Dempster will be used to re-sign the shortstop. But just because the Red Sox have a bit more money to spend doesn’t mean that they necessarily should. Drew originally turned down a one-year qualifying offer of $14.1 million from Boston and reportedly wants more than a one-year deal.

Drew was originally intended to be a transition player for the Red Sox in 2013 so Xander Bogaerts could get ready for the starting job in 2014. Giving Drew a multi-year deal would just be giving in to his agent Scott Boras and make a complicated situation for the left side of the infield. The Red Sox would be better off keeping the money available to take on a contract at the trade deadline, when they will have a better knowledge of what the team needs.

Dempster taking a year off may remind Boston fans of Tim Thomas, who took a year off for the Bruins during the 2012-13 season. Although a different situation altogether, Thomas never played for Boston again, and it would not be surprising if Dempster is done in Boston for good.