The overachievement of the 2021 Red Sox season should not go overlooked. The season, as a whole, should be looked upon as a success. The Red Sox organization is ahead of schedule, and the 2021 season is a snapshot of better things to come moving forward.
Money. Money. Money. Money.
Okay, let’s chat a bit about money and the luxury tax. The 2021 luxury tax threshold was set at $210M. The penalty of going beyond the $210M is a 20% tax up through spending $230M. The percentage increases to 32% up to $250M, and 62.5% for anything above $250M. The CBA is up for renewal for 2022, so any number of things could be happening, but for the sake of this article, let’s pretend the tax is set at $212M, as the trend since 2017 has been an increase of $2M per season.
The Red Sox front office declined Garrett Richards‘ $10M club option, picked up Christian Vázquez‘s $7M, and declined Martín Pérez‘s $6M option. Declining Richards’ and Pérez’s options saved the ballclub $16M, allowing them to now allocate the money on the free-agent market. Christan Vazquez’s option was trickier, $7M, while not much in the grand scheme of things, is still a lot for a catcher whose offense declined greatly after the 2019 and 2020 seasons of juiced baseballs. Vázquez’s defensive WAR has also decreased from 20.8 in 2019, to 8.3 in 2020 to 7.2 in 2021. Vázquez’s career is trending downward, yet Bloom and company decided Vázquez was the best catching option for the 2022 Red Sox.
Right now, according to spotrac.com, with a $212M threshold, the Red Sox front office has $35,925,000 to spend. Spotrac has factored in estimates of how much particular players will make in arbitration, and the $35,925,000 factors in all options being picked up. Looking deeper, J.D. Martinez opted in, Vázquez’s option was picked up, and the addition of Tim Locastro makes the luxury tax hit at an estimated $149,000,000. The Red Sox should have somewhere around $63M to spend in free agency, before hitting the luxury tax.
Where Should All the Money Go?
If you spend much time on Twitter, the big talk is about Carlos Correa to the Boston Red Sox. Xander Bogaerts has stated he is willing to switch positions for the betterment of the team. Imagine a lineup of…
JD Martinez DH
Alex Verdugo LF
Bobby Dalbec 1B
That’s a pretty deep lineup, but it really all comes down to money, and how much Chaim Bloom is willing to spend. That lineup alone would run the Red Sox around $100M.
The potential rotation for the 2022 season is…
$46,750,000 would be estimated to be spent on the rotation against the luxury tax. It is highly doubtful the Red Sox enter the 2022 season with this rotation. Houck and Whitlock are not proven starters, and the Red Sox, after losing Eduardo Rodriguez to the Tigers need to replace him with either a free agent starter or via trade.
Between the rotation, and lineup, with the potential addition of Correa, the total would be around $182-$180M, leaving room for about $30-$28M on the rest of the roster. It is very possible the Red Sox could add a player the caliber of Correa and still stick under the luxury tax. Heck, with $28M, they could add Correa, bring back Schwarber, add cheaper pen pieces and a reliable starter, and still most likely be under the tax.
Some Realistic Options
The Red Sox have the ability to sign a player of the caliber of Carlos Correa, they’re the Boston Red Sox, and money isn’t truly a problem. The issue is whether or not to put so much money into one player, and money is less the issue than years. Correa and his camp will most likely be looking at 8-10 years, at probably no less than $330M. Correa is still young, he will be entering his age 27 season beginning in 2022, turning 28 in September of 2022. A ten-year contract will take him through to age 37. Correa might even be looking for a 12-year commitment from teams. The other factor to Carlos Correra is whether he can stay healthy. The healthiest shortstop option on the market is Trevor Story.
Trevor Story will cost less than Correa and he is two years older, so therefore fewer years will need to be invested in Story. If Xander Bogaerts really is committed to moving off shortstop, Trevor Story might just be the most realistic replacement until Marcelo Mayer is ready to be the shortstop of the Red Sox. Trevor Story might cost the Red Sox around 5/$125M, much more reasonable than Correa, and frees up more money to be allocated to other needs.
If the Red Sox add Trevor Story to the lineup, the last bit of need the team has would be to bolster the bullpen and rotation. Hypothetically speaking, the Red Sox sign Story to an AAV of $25M, and add Steven Matz, Alex Cobb, or even both, for let’s say, between $12-$14M AAV, there will be around $10M left to spend on the bullpen.
The Best Guess 26-Man
Pitchers: Chris Sale, Nate Eovaldi, Alex Cobb, Steven Matz, Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck, Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Garrett Whitlock, Hirokazu Sawamura, Darwinzon Hernandez, Josh Taylor, Ryan Brasier (13)
The additions of Cobb, Matz, Kelly, Story, and adding back Schwarber would most likely put the Red Sox around $12M over the luxury tax, and it really comes down to whether, or not it is a risk the organization is willing to take.
The Red Sox have any number of options to improve on the 2021 roster, and they have the roster flexibility and money to spend to really make a splash. It is Chaim Bloom’s world, we’re just living in it. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
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main image credit: Embed from Getty Images