Nate once helped fund an airplane to fly a banner to get the Miami Hurricanes head coach fired. He’s a football feen and loves all things Boston sports.
A year after winning their fourth world series of the 21st century; the Sox find themselves in an interesting position heading into the trading deadline. To buy or sell? To be clear, I am not advocating for being sellers right now, however there are a few positives that can come from doing so.
The luxury tax. As of this moment the Red Sox sit at a bit over $227 million per Sportrac. The “soft cap” is $206 million. The Red Sox would be hit with a 30% tax on the amount they are over, putting the luxury tax fee at roughly $6.4 million. I’m solid at math, just trust me. But the bigger issue is that these escalate and there are surcharges. So if the Red Sox are over again next year, they get a 50% tax. All this adds up to higher and higher ticket prices (which would happen anyway) and more money going down the pooper that can’t be re-invested in the team. Boo hoo, right? Well, all it takes is one year under that soft cap to reset your penalties and prevent loss of further draft picks and more money to teams that don’t spend like the Rays. With the state of the farm system what it is, this would be a smart move.
Are they contenders? Currently the Sox sit at 10 games behind the hated Yankees, and 3 out of a potential wild card spot battling Cleveland, Tampa, Oakland, Los Angeles Angels, and Texas Rangers. Those are a lot of teams for 2 spots. The wild card is certainly not an unattainable spot at this point—but how likely is it? With players like Mookie and J.D. having mere average seasons based on their careers, Sale (very uncharacteristically) and the bullpen (predictably) having bad seasons, you wonder if it can be turned around at this point. Is it better off to build for the future?
Back to the financial, this time roster focused. Fact: Mookie Betts will be an unrestricted FA after the 2020 season. Two players this past offseason with career WAR numbers worse than Mookie both received at least 30 million dollars/season. So even if the Sox want to bring Mookie back, they would be doing so, we’ll say at a MINIMUM 32 million a year. If you take that into account that and all the money committed already to X, Sale, Price, J.D. (has an option), Eovaldi, Pedroia, and Vazquez—that would put the Sox at $158 million ALREADY committed in 2021. That’s not factoring in that both Benintendi and Devers will be in arbitration getting far more than what they are currently getting. There’s not much room left.
If the Red Sox either decide A) they don’t want to pay Betts that money or B) he will not re-sign then they can either go for it all again next year, if it fails, sell him off and get some pieces or accept the draft compensation for him. They could also decide to do it a year early. If the mass of teams is too much and you don’t have confidence this is going to be a playoff team—you sell, NOW. At this point, despite a below average year for Mookie he would net you probably 3-4 team controlled quality MLB players or high ceiling prospects. You could also sell off Rick Porcello, who is unlikely to be back next year following the acquisition of Andrew Cashner; to a contender like the Twins who could really use someone with proven playoff pedigree. This would all cut payroll and bring an influx of talent into a minor-league system devoid of it at the moment.
Will they or won’t they? I imagine the public pressure would be too high to actually do this, but if the right decisions aren’t made, and soon, the Red Sox will be looking at an even longer rebuild, Mookie or no Mookie, playoff appearance or no playoff appearance in 2019. DD did this to the Tigers, will he do it again?