Checking in on Boston’s 2019 Payroll

Image result for red sox contractDespite dropping two out of three games against the Chicago White Sox, the Red Sox stand at 44-22 on the year, good for best in all of baseball. While the team has been experiencing incredible success, it has certainly come at a steep cost – $235 million to be exact, also best in baseball by a large margin. Playing in a large market, Boston is always expected to have a big payroll, however this year’s is the highest is has ever been. It is a result of a combination of factors such as a trio of poor, past investments (see: Pablo Sandoval $95 million, Hanley Ramirez $88 million and Rusney Castillo $72 million), a wealth of mid-money talent and large contracts for the team’s most reliable stars like J.D. Martinez and David Price. The good news, however, is that a lot of money will be coming off the books after the season, when several players will have to make decisions about their free agency.

The first round of savings will come from the aforementioned poor investments made under General Manager Ben Cherington. Hanley Ramirez, who was cut from the team earlier this season, was signed by Cherington to a 4 year, $88 million dollar deal in 2014, so the Red Sox will have $22 million dollars to play around with in free agency if they are comfortable with their current payroll figure. Moreover, the John Lackey trade that brought Allen Craig to the Red Sox will take its toll for the final year, as the team will shed the last $1 million of the $25 million the team has paid (for close to zero production might I add).

The next group of players, Chris Sale, David Price and Eduardo Núñez, all have options, be it club or player, that will have just as big an impact on next year’s payroll. While Sale has a club option (meaning the team gets to choose whether or not he is on the team next year), Price and Núñez have player options. However, it is hard to imagine any of them not being a part of the 2019 ball club.

Sale, again pitching at a Cy Young caliber level, is on tab to earn $15 million next season. Yes, it is a nice bump from the $13 million he is earning this year, but it is well below market value for a pitcher of his pedigree. So, the Red Sox will certainly activate the option and he will have to wait one last year before a large payday in free agency.

Price’s player option for 4 years and $127 is slightly trickier. Much has been made about Price’s struggles and unhappiness in Boston, but a large portion of this has been overblown by the media driven by last year’s altercation with fan favorite Dennis Eckersley. In reality, Price is the second ace on a team that will be a World Series contender for the foreseeable future and is pitching well in a big market like Boston. Couple this with teams’ unwillingness to give big contracts in last year’s free agency, it is virtually impossible to see Price walking away from so much guaranteed money and a chance to win his first-ever World Series ring.

Núñez is in the midst of a subpar 2018 campaign where he has hit .256 with four home runs. His player option for next year is for $4 million, which is about right for a middle infielder with his levels of production. Although originally signed as a utility player, he has seen much more starting time than anyone anticipated thanks to the recurring knee injuries to Dustin Pedroia. So, while he has not exactly impressed, he is serving a decent replacement role that adds value to both himself and the club. Barring a strong second half, it is hard to see Núñez testing free agency, especially with a 2019 market that includes plenty of other strong infield options.

The final area where the Sox can cut some payroll is from their pending 2019 free agents. This class consists of Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, and Joe Kelly. Kimbrel is earning $13 million this year, but is in line for a big raise, having recorded 86 saves alongside a 2.23 era for the Red Sox since they acquired him in 2016. While the team will certainly want him back, they will have to open up their wallets as Kimbrel has arguably been the most reliable closer in the league over the last decade, with over 300 saves. The good news for Boston is that Zach Britton and Kelvin Herrera, both very strong relievers, will also be free agents in 2019. So, if the team elects not to get in a bidding war, there are fallback options, however they have been thrilled with Kimbrel’s production thus far and will do everything they can to have him back in uniform next year.

Drew Pomeranz has faced a little “Clay Buchholz syndrome” during his brief time in Boston. After the controversial trade in which the Padres failed to disclose Pomeranz’ necessary medical information, the curveball-heavy pitcher has been off, then on, then off-again in what has been a rollercoaster experience with the Sox. Given, it is hard to say what he could earn on the open market. Teams will likely be wary to invest multiple years into Pomeranz with his recent performance and injury struggles, so he will likely sign a one-year deal to build up some value. However, it is hard to see the Red Sox being that team. Between Steven Wright impressing in his first few starts of 2018 and top prospect Jalen Beeks knocking on the door, there is simply no need for Boston to bet on a Pomeranz renaissance campaign.

And finally, Joe Kelly. His first four years with the team saw many ups and downs and he was probably the hardest player to “figure out” on the team. While he always possessed a fastball that could touch 99 mph, he often struggled with control and composure late in games, even leading to a demotion in 2016 to AAA Pawtucket. However, Kelly in a new player in 2018. An early season brawl with the Yankees’ Austin Martin has made the reliever a fan favorite and given him a new edge on mound. He has been stellar in his 28 appearances so far and has provided stability to the setup role, which has sorely missed Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg to injury. Kelly is another hard case to predict what he might earn in free agency given his spotty past, but a two to three year contract averaging around $5 million per year should be a reasonable price tag to retain him.

Ultimately, while the Red Sox are shedding some money from their payroll next year (likely around $32 million), they will need a sizable chunk of that cash to bring back Kimbrel and Kelly (or another reliever). This also does not yet account for arbitration eligible players like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, amongst roughly ten others, that will all be due for a slight bump in pay. So, while the 2019 free agent class is loaded with young talent, the same can be said with the current Red Sox team which features five key starters age 25 or younger. Accordingly, don’t expect to add any big names to next year’s jersey wish list, because the team will likely be investing in their own talent rather than entering what is likely to be a competitive free agent market. But that’s not such a bad thing after all, because the 2018 Boston Red Sox already have the talent they need to make a deep playoff run and they will be back to do it all over again in 2019.

The Curious Case of the Slow Offseason



It is now Christmas day and many of the top free agents are still available including names such as Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez. The sluggish pace of the market is a result of a few factors, the first couple being Shohei Otani’s posting and shortstop new owner Derek Jeter’s dismantling of the Miami Marlins. With the majority of the MLB contending for the services of Otani and/or Giancarlo Stanton, free agents have had to be patient for these dominos to fall before teams turned their attention to their likeness. However, now that these two stars have found new homes with the Angels and Yankees respectively, one would imagine that the market would have picked up pace. Instead, negotiations have continued at a slow clip, with the only notable signings coming in the form of SS Zack Cosart (Angels, 3 years/$38 million) and 1B Carlos Santana (Phillies, 3 years/$60 million).

For comparison, last year at this time, the majority of major free agents had already been signed, but teams are being more patient this time around opting to build their teams through trades and top prospects, while they wait out the demands of players’ agents. This can largely be attributed to last year’s Collective Bargaining Agreement which has discouraged larger market teams from going over the luxury tax line of $197 million by increasing the penalty for consecutive years of spending overage. This modification was put in place with the intention of making the league more competitive, which makes sense, because it is admittedly hard for a team like the Milwaukee Brewers to be considered on the same playing field with a payroll of $63 million when going up against the LA Dodgers with a payroll exceeding $240 million. In turn, these big market teams are curbing their traditional heavy spending methods in an effort to get beneath that 197 million-dollar threshold – and it’s working. Despite six teams (Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Cubs, and Giants) paying the luxury tax last year, all but the Red Sox seem positioned to avoid the penalty in 2018.

So what does that mean for this free agent class? Well, for starters, there is less money to go around and that is especially bad news when two of the top free agent hitters, J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer, have Scott Boras as their agent. As his reputation affirms, Boras is seeking multi-year deals worth big money for his prized players – seven years and $200 million plus – to be exact. He has dubbed J.D. Martinez the “King Kong of Slug” and Eric Hosmer as the elite talent that will take a team to “Playoffville.” While Boras’ demands are likely farfetched (especially in this year’s market), it is not hard to imagine that he will produce the offseason’s largest contracts in these two players. What will make his job harder this year however, is the new CBA, which is limiting teams’ willingness to get into bidding wars – the very thing that allows him to reel in the crazy contracts his clients dream of.

The reality is that Martinez and Hosmer will likely sign for far less than the 7 year, 200 million dollar benchmark that Boras has established, but even when they do, what’s next for the rest of the free agent crop? The usual suspects that can be counted on to make a least one major splash each year are scrambling to get under the $197 million threshold. Is someone like 3B Mike Moustakas, who is coming off a productive .272/38-homer year, supposed to get a 100 million dollar contract from the Tampa Bay Rays? Or the Oakland Athletics to sign Jake Arietta to a multi-year deal? These are good players that will find new homes one way or another, but as the offseason drags into January they are going to have to temper their expectations as the reality of a new MLB market sets in.

As the calendar flips to 2018, one of either Boras or the teams with which he’s negotiating will have to blink at some point and contracts for the Hosmer/Martinez slugging duo will get done. After a couple months of waiting, this will finally set the market for the offseason and for better or worse, determine the earning capacities of remaining free agents. However, until then, the rest of the league will be waiting and watching as teams and agents alike adapt to the complexities that the new CBA has introduced to the 2017-2018 offseason.

What Does the Jake Peavy Trade Mean For the Red Sox

Jake Peavy

As the July 31st trade deadline nears, teams around the MLB have to make the decision to buy or sell. The Red Sox are in a unique position seeing as they are the defending World Series Champions and still have a core of great players. For weeks, there have been internal discussion of wether or not the Red Sox should give up on this season and prepare for 2015. Because of how streaky Boston has been since the All-Star Break (winning 4 in a row, to losing 4 in a row), the decision had to be made soon, and Sox GM Ben Cherington made it clear that he believes the Red Sox are out of the playoff hunt for this year having fallen 10.5 games back in the AL East.

Jake Peavy was the first big-name casualty of trade deadline and for most Red Sox fans it was tough to see him go. Not only was he an integral part of the 2013 World Series run, but he quickly became a fan favorite by repeatedly voicing his love for Boston and being part of this Red Sox team. Peavy was traded to the Giants for their #2 and #11 ranked pitching prospects per The Red Sox reportedly added $3 million dollars to take some burden off of Peavy’s $16 million salary, which could help explain why Boston was able to get such high level prospects for a pitcher who only recorded one win and threw a 4.72 ERA.

A surprising part of the trade is that the Red Sox went after two pitching prospects, when they have arguably some of the best pitching in all of the minor leagues, with prospects such as Henry Owens, Allen Webster, and Matt Barnes on the doorstep of the major leagues. The pitching returns could hint that there might be a bigger plan in the works to turn these prospects around in another trade for an outfielder (Matt Kemp?) or front of the rotation pitcher (Cole Hamels?). This trade also takes a step towards the youth movement in Boston, which has already seen rookies such as Jackie Bradley Jr, Mookie Betts, and Christian Vasquez getting regular playing time. With Jake Peavy leaving the rotation, that could open the door for one of the aforementioned pitching prospects to take a permanent role in the Red Sox rotation or more likely, for Brandon Workman who has already proved to be effective at the major league level.

So, where does Boston go from here? Well, it should not surprise many to see Cherington looking to sell off more veterans. There have been rumors of Kansas City’s interest in Johnny Gomes, several teams in Andrew Miller, and Jon Lester who is very willing to stay with Boston and even says that he would return in free agency if traded; but even John Lackey and Shane Victorino could be up for consideration since they are presumably not part of Boston’s longterm plans. Regardless, of who goes and who stays, the Jake Peavy trade shows that Boston is looking to get younger and make a run at the playoffs in 2015.

Does David Ortiz Deserve a Contract Extension?


There has been much news lately of David Ortiz wanting an extension to ensure at least another year in Boston. Ortiz, who is in the second year of a 2 year $26 million contract, has been with the Red Sox since 2003 and it is tough to picture him wearing anything besides a Red Sox uniform. A contract dispute with the Red Sox, such as this one, is not new to Ortiz as he went through many difficulties getting a two year extension from very reluctant management that was much more comfortable only giving him one year. Ortiz has been very frustrated, not as much with the Red Sox as much as he has been with the media saying this earlier in February, “I don’t even know why they’re bitching about me talking about contracts, guys putting up my numbers, they’re making $25, $30 million. I’m not asking for that. I’m asking for half of it. And they’re still bitching about it? (Expletive) them. I’m tired of hearing them talk (expletive) about me when I talk about my contract. Hey, every time I talk about my contract, I earn it, (expletive). So don’t be giving me that (expletive). The Red Sox have come out and said that they are interested in giving Ortiz an extension the only question is who has the leverage in the negotiations.

The argument to be made here for the Red Sox is Ortiz is a designated hitter; he can play first base, but that benefits no one since he defense is subpar and there is no need to add risk of an injury to an aging body. That wipes out the national league leaving fourteen potential suitors, outside of the Red Sox. Also, Ortiz would only be willing to play for a winning team and compete for another World Series ring, so the Astros, White Sox and Twins are unlikely destinations. As Ortiz stated, he is not looking for $25, $30 million, he wants half of that, still teams that are cash-strapped can’t afford to go out and spend on high profile free agents, so low-budget teams, such as the Athletics, Rays and even Mariners would not be able to sign Ortiz. This leaves about eight teams to compete against the Red Sox, that is if they are all interested. Once, you start breaking it down team by team, the roster situations would not allow room for some like Ortiz, who is locked down to the DH spot, unless a corresponding move would be made. For example, Texas already have Mitch Moreland as their DH, who is nothing close to the same player as Ortiz, but comes at a much cheaper price and the Rangers offense is good enough to cover that weakness. Detroit is moving Miguel Cabrera to first base and has Victor Martinez as a full time DH so it would be tough for Ortiz to fit there. Six teams would realistically have a need for Ortiz: Angels, Royals, Indians, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Yankees. Really only five, because it is impossible to think that the beloved Big Papi could ever play in New York. It would be a betrayal so shocking and disgraceful, worse than Damon and Ellsbury combined, it might generate another 86 year curse. Ultimately, this is a good pitch for the Red Sox and they could let Ortiz see what would be out there on the free agent market, but since he is a DH and creeping up on his 40th birthday, Ortiz has a shorter list of suitors that one would expect for someone ,who is coming off an all star season.

The case for Ortiz is much more simple. He is the face of the Red Sox, he was the face that represented the Red Sox after the marathon bombings, he is irreplaceable. Big Papi is the last remaining member of the ’04 championship season and his experience and leadership cannot be overlooked. Rookies that come up during the season or play with Ortiz during Spring Training often praise him on some influence he has had on them. A quote from SS Jose Iglesias expresses this well,”David’s been in the league for a long time and he knows the guys really well. Every time he says something, you know why he’s saying it. I just listen to him, hear his advice and get better.” These are all good reasons why the Red Sox want to keep him around and this is before even talking about his own field success. Ortiz had to prove many people wrong that wrote him off after his injury-plagued 2012 season, where nothing went right for the Red Sox. He responded by playing in 137 games and hit .309 along with 30 home runs in his age 37 season. Then he really took off in the playoffs hitting .353 with 5 home runs in 16 games, including a game changing grand slam in the bottom of the 8th in the ALCS against Detroit, when the Red Sox were losing 5-1. Ortiz was unstoppable in the World Series, hitting .688 and reaching base 19 times. His whole performance in 2013, leading the Red Sox to their 8th World Series title, is enough to have earned another year in Boston and it is hard to think that the Red Sox don’t get a deal done before the end of the season, although it could come much sooner. Ortiz is deserving of a contract for one year somewhere in the neighborhood of $14-$16 million and he will earn it not only for everything he does on the field, but also because of how much Big Papi means to Boston and its fans.

Spring Training Battles: Bullpen Pt. 2

Bullpen Picstitch

If you missed part 1 click here:


Andrew Miller: As mentioned above, Miller was out for the season after needing surgery on his foot. He is a big, powerful lefty out of the bullpen and posted an improved 2.64 ERA from his prior two years with Boston in 30.2 innings before he was sidelined. Contract-wise, Miller will receive roughly $2 million this year in his final year before free agency. Chances are he will stick to the roster as he has developed into a reliable 7th inning reliever and the Red Sox are looking to see what he can do coming off of his injury.

Craig Breslow: Another lefty out of the bullpen, Breslow put it all together last putting up a 1.81 ERA and making 61 appearances. He raised his stock even more in the postseason, in which he allowed zero earned runs in his first eight appearances and  become the most reliable late inning reliever. Currently, Breslow is in the last year of a two year contract he signed last winter that will pay him around $3 million anually. He should have a spot secured as an a 7th or 8th inning reliever in the bullpen.

Junichi Tazawa: He put a decent season last year, but left the ball in the strike zone a little too much gave up 70 hits in only 68 innings. The one positive in this is he only granted 12 walks, but still allowed more base runners than most managers would like. He also had a tendency when he  came in with men on base to let up a hit before retiring the next batters. He is now in his first arbitration year and will get paid slightly above $1 million this year. He should survive the roster cuts, but he will face serious competition as a late inning reliever.


Edward Mujica: The Red Sox signed Mujica, who for most of the season was the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals to a two year contract worth $9 million, but they are paying him for what he did in the first five months of the season in which he posted a 1.73 ERA and collected 35 saves. He seemed to lose it in the month of September allowing 9 runs in 7 innings and lost his closing job. He only appeared once in the postseason, against the Dodgers in the NCLS and allowed a home run in his one inning. The Red Sox are relying on Mujica going back to mid-season self in which he was one of the best closers. It seems likely that Mujica will pitch out of a set-up role in the eight inning and could take over as closer if Uehara misses time to injury.

Burke Badenhop: Outside of Jonathan Herrera, Badenhop has probably been the most overlooked acquisition this offseason. The Red Sox swapped minor league pitcher Luis Ortega for Badenhop with the Brewers early in the winter to add to their bullpen depth. This transaction didn’t gain too much attention because the Red Sox traded someone most hadn’t heard of and received a reliever from the Brewers, that even fewer people had heard of. Ultimately, it is not clear what role Badenhop could play in the Red Sox bullpen, but he was a very reliable middle reliever pitching 62.1 innings in 63 appearances to the tune of a 3.47 ERA. He will earn roughly $2 million avoiding arbitration in his final year before free agency. Whether or not he makes the roster, will largely depend on his performance in Spring Training unlike the previous relievers mentioned who are likely to have a spot saved for them.

Chris Capuano: After the announcement was made that Ryan Dempster would not pitch in 2014, the Red Sox went out and signed Chris Capuano for a one year $2.5 million that can reach as high as $5 million with incentives. This signing is part of a childhood dream for Capuano, who grew up in West Springfield rooting for the Red Sox. He made 20 starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year and had an ERA of 4.26. He figures to fill a swingman role in the bullpen, going multiple innings if needed and getting occasional starts in case a regular starter is injured or has to skip a start. Capuano will see a lot of innings this year whether filling in for a starter or coming out of the bullpen.


Brandon Workman: The Red Sox have two rookies in camp that have a legitimate shot to push out one of the previously named relievers for a spot in the bullpen. One of those rookies is right hander Brandon Workman. He was overlooked last year as a pitching prospect due to the abundance of other young arms that include Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, and Matt Barnes. Workman is still projected to be a starter in his future, but he is more than willing to pitch out of the bullpen if it would earn him a roster spot. He had a few stints at the professional level last year and despite struggling heavily in September with a 7.00 ERA, he was put on the postseason roster where he shined. In 8.2 playoff innings, he did not allow a single earned run receiving some well deserved popularity from the fans. Workman showed that he had the capability to pitch at the major league level, the only question is will it be enough to earn him a roster spot out of Spring Training. Chances are that the Red Sox leave him at AAA Pawtucket to start the year, but he will be the first man up if an injury occurs.

Drake Britton: The lefty quickly turned his season around, after getting arrested for a DUI in Spring Training of 2013. Britton made 17 starts between AA and AAA posting a 3.77 ERA, which was good enough to get the call to the major league team in July. He didn’t allow a run in his first 9 innings and finished the year with a 3.86 ERA. Although he is a starter by trade, the Red Sox seem to profile Britton as a reliever given how successful he was in this role last year. Britton is considered to be a longshot to make the roster this year, especially because of the new presence of Chris Capuano who is in the same role as Britton ideally would fill. This makes it very likely that Britton will start the year in Pawtucket and could potentially make a return to the major league roster at some point in 2014.

In recap, six relievers seem to have a role already geared towards him. Koji Uehara– closer, Edward Mujica– set up man, Craig Breslow– set up man, Junichi Tazawa– middle reliever, Andrew Miller– middle reliever, Chris Capuano– long reliever/spot starter

There will be fierce competition for that last bullpen spot between Burke Badenhop, Brandon Workman, and Drake Britton, it’s up to each to prove in Spring Training that they have what it takes to get that last roster spot, but who will it go to?