In a perfect world, the Boston Red Sox get to keep their young stars and stay under the luxury tax threshold. Unfortunately, that seems like a pipe dream now that J.D. Martinez has opted into his contract for 2020.
As it currently stands the Red Sox are projected to have a payroll of about $226 million next season, which is around $18 million over the luxury tax threshold of $208 million, according to Spotrac.
Now that Martinez has locked his $23.75 million in for the season, it’s officially budget cut season in Boston. The real question here is, how does Boston want to proceed? Do they want to just get under the tax and go for another title or blow it up and start from scratch?
Boston can get under the luxury tax in three moves. They would have to trade Jackie Bradley Jr., non-tender Sandy Leon and decline Andrew Cashner’s club option. In total it would drop them to $202.2 million, which gives them a bit of wiggle room for in-season moves.
Chaim Bloom, Red Sox chief baseball officer, please trade Bradley Jr. I cannot take another season of him at the plate. They could move him for three bags of peanuts if that’s what it takes. I can’t do another season of seeing him strike out in 31% of his at-bats again. He hasn’t hit at a replacement level or above since 2016, at some point his glove just isn’t worth it – also known as his past three seasons.
Bradley is also a free agent after this season, so there is not much time left to squeeze value out of him.
Releasing Sandy Leon is almost a no-brainer at this point. He’s a great defensive catcher and all, but those are a dime-a-dozen in today’s game. Retaining Leon is essentially pointless, especially with the emergence of Christian Vasquez at the plate last season.
Do I even have to explain why Andrew Cashner needs to get sent to the moon this off-season? There is not an easier decision out there. There is a reason he has already played for six teams in his 10-year career – he sucks. In 25 games for Boston last year, he had a 6.20 ERA through 53.2 innings.
Making these decisions – fairly simple ones, in my opinion – would set them up well, but if they’re serious about re-building the franchise and changing course, they can do a lot more. They might as well do whatever necessary to drop payroll and accumulate assets for the future.
That means everyone not named Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts should be on the block. Paying players like Price and Chris Sale to win 80 games and miss the playoffs has limited tangible benefit. It puts the club out of the running for a good draft slot and they don’t have a chance at a ring.
The Texas Rangers are interested in Boston’s starters and have conducted internal conversations about acquiring them, according to the Dallas Morning News. This is something to watch throughout the off-season as Texas has a need on the mound. They also have some promising prospects to deal, but Boston would likely have to give up a major asset to pry them away from the Rangers.
I also think Boston should explore moves for Andrew Benintendi this off-season; he is not as good as I thought he was going to be. His OPS+ fell 23 points from 2018 to 2019 and he struck out 32% more. Giving him another year in Boston may tank his value past the point of no return.
Next year’s outfield free agent market is very good, with the likes of Mookie Betts, George Springer, Michael Brantley and David Peralta. They should jump the market when they still have three years of control left and teams won’t have the option to wait a few months to fill their outfield needs.
This off-season really comes down to how willing the front office is to make waves. Do they want to make another run or accept their fate and move onto the future? It is incredibly difficult to cut payroll and play better than in the year prior, so what is the point of playing another season of middling baseball?
Yes, I know it’s extreme but it’s time for a fire sale in Boston. Bloom has his work cut out for him. Good luck pal.
Mike Mavredakis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @mmavredakis.