Jul. 31, 2018
Are the Red Sox Really in Good Shape for the Future?
The Boston Red Sox are one of the best teams in baseball. When healthy, they have one of the best rotations in the game, headlined by Chris Sale and David Price. Not to mention a potent lineup with young stars Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and rookie phenom Andrew Benintendi.
On top of the young talent in the majors, they also have top prospects Rafael Devers and Jason Groome to build around in the future.
What could be wrong with this situation you may think. The Red Sox have way too much money tied up, with way too many players to pay soon.
Let's start with the players with contracts for next season. David Price is owed $30 million next year, Hanley Ramirez is owed $22 million, Rick Porcello is owed $21 million and Dustin Pedroia is owed $16 million.
For those playing along at home, that equals 89 million dollars.
Chris Sale and CP Craig Kimbrel both have club options for next year worth $12.5 million and $13 million, respectively. The Red Sox would be fools not to pick them up, as that cost is a bargain. Sale is waltzing his way toward a Cy Young Award, while Kimbrel has 26 saves, a 1.54 ERA and a .69 WHIP.
One more year of having two premier lefties atop the rotation, and having a top 5 closer in the back end for a combined $25 million is a bargain.
So, again, you may think to yourself that there is no problem with this situation.
The problem is that the MLB luxury tax threshold is 197 million dollars. Currently, assuming the options are picked up, the Red Sox have spent 114 million dollars on 6 current players for next year alone.
The Red Sox bigger financial problem is the "dead" money in their system. The Red Sox released now-Giant third baseman, Pablo Sandoval 18 million dollars next year. In addition to that, they are paying outfielder Rusney Castillo 11 million dollars, putting their 2018 payroll at 118 million and 143 million if the Sale and Kimbrel options are picked up.
Going into the arbitration process this year are outfielders Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr, as well as infielder Xander Bogaerts and pitcher Drew Pomeranz. All 4 of these players are expected to get a steady raise. I would assume that Boston's front office tries to buy out some of these players arbitration years in a club-friendly deal as opposed to filing for arbitration every year.
However, if they don't, baseball-reference.com estimates the arbitration costs for the Red Sox at 56.5 million dollars. This would bring their payroll total to 199.5 million. After this, Red Sox gold glove first baseman Mitch Moreland, who is in the midst of a career year, is a free agent. If Moreland walks, the Red Sox need a first baseman or a DH. Hanley Ramirez will do the other, but there is still a hole in 2 very offense heavy slots in the batting order. Top first base prospect Sam Travis is not likely going to be ready for the 2018 season, meaning the replacement needs to come from outside of the organization.
At market value, the Red Sox would likely spend 13-17 million dollars to resign Moreland, who is probably their cheapest option. Guessing the figure is around 15, that would push Boston's 2018 payroll to 214.5. That number is before slight consideration of signing Addison Reed, Fernando Abad, Doug Fister and Eduardo Nunez. The Red Sox aren't going to go over the luxury tax, they are going to leap over it.
GM Dave Dombrowski does not seem to care about the tax, as 3 of his teams have gone over it, but he should come to the realization that the Red Sox need to be smart with their money (i.e. don't give Pablo Sandoval $95 million).
With superstars Mookie Betts and Chris Sale likely wanting long term job insurance, I can't imagine the Sox will be able to hold onto every key piece. Sale is going to get David Price-esque money and Betts is likely to get a payday like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will in 2019.
It's highly unlikely the Red Sox will be able to keep Sale, Price and Betts if they try and keep the supporting cast.
If I were in their shoes, I would re-sign Eduardo Nunez this offseason and try and trade Xander Bogaerts. This probably sounds insane right now, as the Red Sox are pushing toward their 2nd consecutive AL East title, but the Red Sox have to realize they won't have the money to keep the shortstop if they are going to keep Sale and Betts.
I know that is a ridiculous idea, but they have to cut their spending or be forced to pay a fortune in luxury taxes. They're good enough already, they don't need to hold on to every expensive player in order to be good.
The growing problem with the Red Sox is that they have 5 stars and only 3 spots on the marquee.