The 2019 Boston Red Sox followed up their World Series win with baseball’s highest opening day payroll. The total dollar amount was at just over $213 million dollars. With that payroll, they received 84 wins. Even though they were 6 games over .500 their record got them third place in their division. Coincidentally, it would have ranked them third place in all the American League Divisions. While placing them fourth place in two of the three National League Divisions. At season’s end, they fired their General Manager Dave Dombrowski, and replaced him with 36 year old Chaim Bloom. Moreover, 18 year principal owner John Henry has promised the fans that no matter what, Boston will stay competitive. But that, Red Sox Nation, is the wrong long term and short term plan. Boston needs to do a Houston.
Let me give you a few reasons why this should occur. The 2019 Boston Red Sox have 3 starting pitchers in Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello who combined to earn more money than the entire Tampa Bay Rays team. We all know which one of those two teams made the post season in 2019. Here is a second one, the Red Sox are paying Pablo Sandoval, who they released in the 2017 season. He is being paid more money than 7 other clubs in MLB are paying their highest paid player.
Five departing players will automatically reduce the 2020 payroll by $56.82MM. Rick Porcello ($20.6MM), Pablo Sandoval ($18.4MM), Mitch Moreland ($6.5MM), Steve Pearce (6.25MM), and Eduardo Nunez ($5MM).
Boston’s goal for the start of the 2020 season should be to have a total team payroll of under $75MM dollars. Have at least three young studs to build the team around. And a plethora of AAA and AA talent that they receive in trades by dealing their current superstars. I know, it is almost sacrilegious to say the first sentence of this paragraph out loud. If they don’t, they will make the same mistake the Yankees have made (we will get to that mistake later). Before you start throwing stuff at your computer and typing negative comments with multiple four letter words keep reading and be realistic.
The Pitching Staff
Only one of starters will be under 30 at the start of the 2020 season. Only one of them won more than 15 games. And only one pitched over 200 innings. Only one had an ERA under 4.00. The problem is, it is not only one, it is the same one. That’s right, the same pitcher had all the above accomplishments, and that was Eduardo Rodriguez. At 26 years of age he won 19 games, pitched 203.1 innings with a 3.81 ERA. He is the pitcher you keep and build your 2024 rotation around. He was paid a mere $4.3 million for the 2019 season and is not a free agent until 2022.
Boston still has Chris Sale. Even in a down year he still has trade value. Even though he is signed to a five year contract that is basically worth $30 million per year, he still has value. If you trade Sale, you are instantly under $200 million for 2020. That is a good start, but not good enough.
David Price is going to be a tougher trade. He is owed $32 million a year for the next 3 years. A short term contract, but almost $100 million. Price has been with Boston for 4 years with a record of 46-24. That is not terrible, just not what you would expect for a $32 million investment. Then there is Nathan Eovaldi who was signed to a $68 million dollar 4 year contract. Just to prove how much of a reach this contract was, Eovaldi has 7 years in the league and has earned a total of just under $31 million. With over half of that total, $17 million, paid by the Red Sox last season. Therefore, he has 3 years left at $17 million each. He will more than likely have to be packaged with a younger more attractive, less expensive piece.
Who’s In The Dirt?
Starting at the catcher position you have Christian Vazquez. He is signed to an affordable 2 year $10 million contract with a $7M million optional 3rd year with a low $250,000 buyout. He should be kept given his contract and talent at a position that is tough to fill. At first base you have young 23 year old up and coming first baseman Michael Chavis. He is not arbitration eligible until 2022 and not a free agent until 2025. Chavis was the Red Sox’s 2014 1st round pick and should be considered an affordable building block piece.
Second base is much more difficult, I am not a Boston fan, but I am a Dustin Pedroia fan. He is owed $25 million over the next 2 seasons his ages 36 and 37. The Red Sox need to work something out with him as an instructor or evaluator or scout. Sadly, he needs to walk away. Another useful and versatile fan favorite is Brock Holt. The #BrockStar is a valuable utility player who in 2019 was under an affordable contract of 1 year $3.58 million. He loves Boston, and should be a reasonable and affordable re-sign.
Xander Bogaerts is 28 years old, plays shortstop, and does it with a career average (7 years in the league) of 96/19/89 runs/home runs/RBIs. Adding 10 stolen bases, 181 hits, and 40 doubles plus a .975 fielding percentage. He is signed to a 6 year contract guaranteeing him $20 million each year with a vesting 7th year at the same price tag. The price of talent is steep.
Third baseman Rafael Devers, on the other hand, made $614,500 in 2019. He is arbitration eligible in 2021 and won’t be a free agent until 2024. Devers does need help defensively, as he has made 60 errors in 3 seasons. However, he gave you 129 runs, 201 hits, 115 RBI’s, 32 home runs and 54 doubles in 2019 alone. He is a building block.
Who’s In The Grass?
From left to right with ages in parenthesis, Andrew Benintendi, (24) Jackie Bradley Jr. (29) and Mookie Betts (26). Benintendi had a great 2018, and comparatively, fell off in 2019. He, at this point, is a complementary piece, which is not a knock on him. He is a prototypical #2 hitter and from that position he will hit about .265 with 150 hits, 15 bags and 40 doubles. Andrew is a complement to a good team, but should not be looked at to be a dominate force on rebuilding team.
JBJ, in a word is overrated. In 2019 he hit .225 and both his run and RBI totals were in the 60s. Even with his defense he is only a 2.0 WAR for $8.5 million. Meanwhile, Benintendi gave you his numbers for $717,500. Mookie gives you above average production, but at an extremely inflated price. Over the last 4 years he gave you over 100 runs, over 165 hits with 24 or more home runs and 42 or more doubles. The last 3 years he has struck out 271 times while walking 255 times giving you over a .300 batting average.
His salary in 2017 was $950,000 and in 2018 it skyrocketed to $10.5 million, then almost doubled again in 2019 to $20 million. He is arbitration eligible again this off-season for the final time. It is expected he will make $27.7MM and then will be a free agent. Betts will be the most difficult to trade at least in the off-season. It may be easier to off load his contract at the trade deadline.
The Yankee Mistake
I said we would look at this, and now is the time. The Red Sox have won 4 World Series in the last 16 years. However, it is important to note that they just hired their 4th General Manager in the last decade. Brian Cashman, the Yankees General Manager, has been in place for 21 seasons. For 21 years, he has been making the same mistake the Red Sox are about to make. Just throwing money at the team and assuming that money will produce a World Series Championship. Yet it has not over the last decade. Boston should learn from the Yankees decade of mistakes.
Who They Trade, And To Whom
Now, lets get down to below $75MM with a few trades. The first trade will be the hardest, because it is a 3 team trade. The 3 teams being the Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks and of-course the Red Sox.
Let’s look at each teams motivation. Texas wants to get better, challenge the Astros, and make a big splash moving into a new park. Arizona wants to get younger, improve defense, and with Greinke gone, has a little money to spend in the right deal. While Boston is unloading money and getting a couple nice pieces.
The First Trade
The Red Sox would trade Chris Sale to the Texas Rangers for OF/DH Shin Soo Choo, OF Willie Calhoun, RHP Emmanuel Clase and LHP Kolby Allard. Clase is only 21 years old and in 21 games for the Rangers gave them a 2.31 ERA with a K/BB ratio of 21/6. Allard, is also 21 and originally a 1st round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves. He started 9 games for the Rangers in 2019 going 9-9 with a K/BB ratio of 33/19. Both young high ceiling guys. For that they have a 1 year commitment to Choo for $21MM.
The Diamondbacks send Jake Lamb to play 1st base for the Rangers. He is arbitration eligible this year but not a free agent until 2021. They also send LF David Peralta, who like Lamb, has 2 more controllable years. The Diamondbacks also send OF Yasmany Tomas and the $17 million in his final year of his contract to Boston.
In turn, Boston sends Willie Calhoun, Nathan Eovaldi and his 4 years at $68 million. The exchange of Eovaldi and Tomas will be a wash for the 1st year and Arizona will then owe Eovaldi 2 additional years at $34 million. Along with that Boston’s #2 prospect, who also attended Arizona University, 1B/3B Bobby Dalbec would be sent to Arizona. Bobby was compared to Kris Bryant coming out of college. Then in 2018 ranked 2nd in the minors in hits (70) and RBI’s (109) and 4th in home runs (32). He finished 2019 in AAA Pawtucket and could be there 3rd baseman of the future.
The Second Trade
The St. Louis Cardinals need offensive outfield help, especially if Marcell Ozuna leaves via free agency. If the Cardinals are willing to part with a couple top prospects, they and the Red Sox could help each other with a trade swapping 5 players. The Cardinals could give the Sox Carlos Martinez who has two years at $11.7 million each and two club options with only $500,000 buyouts. Along with Martinez they would send two good looking, high ceiling, young affordable prospects in SS/2B/3B Edmundo Sosa and RHP Seth Elledge. Both 23 years old and both currently in AAA Memphis. In this scenario, the Cardinals would agree to take on Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. With that move the Sox would save roughly $5 million but would net another trade-able asset and two good prospects.
The Last Trade
It is no secret that the Cincinnati Reds are going to be more competitive in 2020. They have made it very public that they are willing to add payroll. The Reds would send SS/2B/OF Jose Peraza who has 3 more years of club control, 2B/3B Alex Blandino who won’t be a free agent until the 2024 season, and CF/1B Brian O’Grady. All 3 of which were with the big league club in 2019. They would receive pricey veterans, David Price and SS Xander Bogaerts. Price would be reuniting with Reds Pitching Coach and former Vanderbilt Pitching Coach Dereck Johnson to try and recreate some past results. The Reds would also receive LF Andrew Benintendi who went to Mederia High School in Cincinnati and was originally drafted by the Reds.
You Still Have A Competitive Team
Here is what the infield would look like: 1B Michael Chavis, 2B Alex Blandino, SS Jose Peraza, 3B Rafael Devers, and C Christian Vasquez. All under 28 years old, all with at least 3 years of club control. Plus, the whole starting infield for around $10MM for the 2020 season.
The outfield and DH will be Brian O’Grady, Brock Holt(if they resign him), Yasmany Tomas, and Shin-Soo Choo. This group will be more costly, at between $40-45MM. But $38MM will only be for 1 year in Tomas and Choo.
The pitching staff has Eduardo Rodriguez, Seth Elledge, Colby Allard, and Hector Velazquez. That would be a total cost under $10MM. The bullpen will feature young Emmanuel Clase, Brandon Workman, and Carlos Martinez. Even with adding a few other inexpensive arms, the bullpen should be a reasonable $15 million. Everyone in this paragraph should be at a total team payroll of $80 million or below. Then in 2021 $38 million more will come off of that number.
You Still Have A Strong Farm System
Not only were you able to keep Chavis, Devers, Vasquez and Rodriguez. You only gave up one of your top 30 prospects. Plus, adding 7 additional prospects all of them in AA or above would help out. This is where the Astros model comes into play. Correa, Altuve, Bregman and Springer all came by losing. They were able to gain more high draft picks. Then when the time was right, sign or trade for the right free agents to complete a Championship team.
I think I should be your new General Manager! Now Boston and baseball fans alike, let me know what you think.
Author Twitter: @TheCleatGeek
Come discuss this and much more at the Overtime Heroics forums!