By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Speaking publicly for the first time since firing president baseball of operations Dave Dombrowski earlier this month, Red Sox owner John Henry told the assembled Red Sox media that the team's immediate future includes getting their 2020 payroll under $208 million to avoid a competitive balance tax penalty.
John Henry says the Red Sox plan to get under $208 million in payroll next season to avoid CBT penalty.
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) September 27, 2019
Henry's desire to cut payroll is hardly shocking, especially when you consider that this year's team had the highest payroll in the baseball ($234 million) and struggled to truly compete in both the American League East and in the AL's wild card race.
But this would require some potential major changes for the Sox heading into 2020.
Now, the Red Sox do have some money coming off the books, with starter Rick Porcello ($20 million), first baseman Mitch Moreland ($6.5 million), and utility slugger Steve Pearce ($6.25 million) all expected to walk as free agents this winter.
But with extensions for shortstop Xander Bogaerts ($20 million per year) and left-handed ace Chris Sale ($30 million per year) that kick in for 2020, the Red Sox already have about $173 million committed to next year's roster. And that's without new deals (via arbitration) for Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts. It's worth noting that the 26-year-old Betts made $20 million on his last arbitration award, while Bradley Jr. made $8.55 million on his last deal. Both are due raises as team control fades. Relievers Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman are also arbitration-eligible, and will be due raises for 2020. Designated hitter J.D. Martinez also has a player option that could hit Boston's books for $23.7 million in 2020.
In other words, barring some massive moves (or making absolutely zero moves to improve the team that struggled to get to .500 this season), getting under $208 million is an almost impossible task for the Red Sox.
The cuts may have to start at the top of the roster, too, with Betts inching his way towards free agency and with the aforementioned arbitration award that could push the Sox over that $208 million threshold on one deal alone.
The Red Sox could try to get creative with some of them veteran pieces, perhaps eating some cash and trading David Price ($32 million) to the Cardinals, or moving Nathan Eovaldi's $17 million per year deal out of town, though that could come with some major (and potentially harmful) sweeteners given the financial burden they'd be pushing to another team.
But Henry and Werner, who bought Liverpool for almost $500 million less than a decade ago and whose baseball team is worth almost $3 billion dollars, aren't viewing their desired budget cuts as something that makes 2020 a bridge year.
This should make their general manager search a whole lot of fun.
If their candidates are into migraines, at least.