Even the Red Sox have a budget


Last season, the Red Sox payroll on Opening Day was $143M. Very strategic, considering that the luxury tax threshold was $148M in 2007. For 2008, that threshold will be $155M, so we could assume that the front office has been given about $150M to play with for next year. There are several scenarios that could play out at this point.

Here are the current major league contract obligations for 2008:

$16.0M Manny Ramirez ($4M deferred)
$14.0M J.D. Drew
$12.5M David Ortiz
 $9.5M Josh Beckett
 $9.0M Jason Varitek
 $9.0M Julio Lugo
 $8.0M Daisuke Matsuzaka
 $4.8M Coco Crisp
 $4.0M Tim Wakefield
 $3.9M Julian Tavarez
 $2.7M Edgar Renteria
 $2.0M Alex Cora
 $1.3M Hideki Okajima
 $0.7M Craig Hansen
 $0.5M Jonathan Papelbon
 $0.5M Kevin Youkilis
 $0.4M Jon Lester
 $0.4M Dusty Brown
 $0.4M Clay Buchholz
 $0.4M Manny Delcarmen
 $0.4M Jacoby Ellsbury
 $0.4M Dustin Pedroia
 $0.4M Jay Marshall
 $0.4M Brandon Moss

There are a few extra players who could be kept or non-tendered, who I haven’t included here yet. But these 24 players will probably stick on the payroll, and they are owed $100.4M. Crisp is likely to be traded this offseason, so his salary will probably come off the books.

Option 1: Re-sign Mike Lowell and Curt Schilling

The most conservative option would be to keep the core of this World Series Champion together. Unlike 2004, this year’s team is stocked with players in their primes as well as young, improving players for cheap money. To the Sox’ credit, it seems like they’ve chosen to stick with this plan unless the salaries really get out of hand for these two. Assuming Lowell signs for $15M and Schilling for $13M, we’ll be at $128.4M and sitting pretty and ready to make some moves. Where does the salary relief come from? Matt Clement, Eric Hinske, Brendan Donnelly, Bryan Corey, Mike Timlin, Doug Mirabelli and Royce Clayton are all off the books. I’d like to see us re-sign Timlin or Corey and pick up one other veteran for the bullpen.

Option 2: Sign Alex Rodriguez as a free agent

Obtaining A-Rod is not a move that is favored, because of the associated price tag. Scott Boras thinks the bidding should start at 10 years and $350M, which is ridiculous. No player is worth that. By the end of that deal, we’d be paying $35M per year for a 43-year old DH. Rodriguez would  take this lineup to the next level, yes, but his salary would hurt the starting pitching depth and give the Yankees our 1st round draft pick. It would also leave us with very little wiggle room to sign veterans for important depth for our team. For the Sox to entertain this option, they’d have to let both Lowell and Schilling walk, move Kevin Youkilis to third and fill first base with a cheap bat like Chris Carter or Brandon Moss. I’m not sure anyone wants to see that happen.

Option 3: Trade for Miguel Cabrera

One move that’s getting a lot of attention these days is trading for Florida’s Cabrera and moving him to first base. This would probably cost Clay Buchholz and probably two other prospects. Cabbie will likely earn about $11M next season through arbitration, and has another year left before he is eligible for free agency. He is just 24 years old, and the righty could be the eventual replacement in our lineup for Manny Ramirez. This makes a lot more financial sense than A-Rod for 10 years. Rodriguez can’t last in any town more than four years anymore, it seems. Just imagine our lineup with his bat added to it. Whew. Two questions marks on Cabrera are his ballooning weight and how much it would take to re-sign him after 2009.

Option 4: Trade for Johan Santana/Erik Bedard/Scott Kazmir 

Getting one of the top left-handed pitchers in the game is tantalizing, and it’s amazing that all three of these names could be available this offseason. Imagine a rotation with a righty/lefty punch of Beckett and one of those guys. Santana has one year left, Bedard two and Kazmir three before free agency. All three teams would want at least Buchholz and Lester, and Minnesota is also interested in Coco Crisp. Bedard and Kazmir are both within the division, so I don’t see the Sox giving away that kind of talent to a direct rival, but the Minnesota deal could work. Because Santana only has one year left, the Sox could possibly try to get a slight discount on this trade. The big question with this option is, does Boston, already with the best pitching staff in the majors, need to give away young talent to get a top starter?

Me, I like boring old option #1 right now. I think it’s the right balance of stability and fiscal flexibility. Let A-Rod sign his max contract and ruin some other team long-term. Let Cabrera get fat and continue mashing on NL pitching. If the Yankees can’t get Santana this offseason, he’s on the free agent market next year, and by then we’ll know if we need him or not. If they do, we can shoot for Bedard or someone else. I envy Theo Epstein, as he gets to imagine all the possibilities and scenarios this offseason. Coming off of a championship, he is in the driver’s seat- everybody wants to trade for Red Sox players right now. Let’s see what they come up with.

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4 Responses to Even the Red Sox have a budget

  1. dodgers253 says:

    The Red Sox had the best record in MLB last year. If they re-sign Lowell and Schilling, they’ll be the same team except with Ellsbury and Buchholz playing all season.

    I think getting rid of Buchholz would be a huge mistake, especially when there is no reason to deal for a veteran.

  2. redsoxtalk says:

    The Sox were tied for best record, yes. But championship teams rarely field the same team the following year.

    Theo is trying to hammer out Lowell’s contract right now. There has been some speculation that A-Rod might be convince to take a shorter-term deal with another opt-out built in, but I’m skeptical. What these guys want is guaranteed money, so unless you pay him $40M a year, why should he take that?

    Nobody WANTS to trade Buchholz. But the other side of that argument is that Buchholz’ value might be at its peak. We don’t know what a full season will bring, but I think it’s safe to say he won’t keep up that 1.59 ERA in the AL East. I agree with you that there isn’t a clear reason to sign a veteran; HOWEVER, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this team is perfect. Far from it, they came pretty close to giving up the division in September, and Schilling, Wakefield, and maybe Manny Ramirez can’t give you full seasons anymore. Given they will have quite a bit of budget room to work with, Theo is always looking for ways to upgrade the team, i.e. younger and better.

  3. Pat says:

    I think I’ve read someone mention Carlos Pena as a possibility with an infield shift. Does this hold any weight to it?

  4. redsoxtalk says:

    Yeah, I read a posting about that on a blog too. Pena’s definitely a possible target, esp being a Boston guy. He’s improved his plate patience a lot, but I’d be surprised if he can match his 2007 numbers next season. I’m thinking maybe .265 with 27-32 HR for him.

    I think Tampa will do what they can to sign him (I believe he’s still arbitration eligible). If I’m not mistaken, Scott Boras is his agent, so there’s a possibility that the money could get too pricey for them. In the event that he is non-tendered, yeah, I think Boston could be a player for him. But we won’t know that until December/January sometime, I think. I’d be surprised if he isn’t re-signed.

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