The Boston Red Sox have made it clear that they want to slash the payroll. Could they use some trade package magic to hit their budgetary goals?
We’ve all heard from the Red Sox top brass recently that they want to get as close to or under the $208M CBT threshold in order to reset their penalty marker for 2020. With a roster full of superstars and a handful more set for arbitration this winter, they’re already flirting with a hypothetical $218M on the books. As we get closer to the offseason could we see Boston creating trade packages to try and free up some payroll?
The biggest trade talk going into this winter has surrounded the name of Mookie Betts. Boston’s MVP is set on testing free agency in 2021 and it may have some in the organization worried about losing him for nothing. Though that’s a possibility, trading Mookie this year just to try and re-sign him will almost surely fail, see Lester, Jon. Despite him being the shiniest toy in the chest for the Red Sox I feel like Betts will be in Boston’s starting lineup come April.
My trade proposals are more focused on freeing up current money and not potential money in the future. For me, the goal is to free up money that I don’t see benefiting the Red Sox at the moment. To do so I’ll have to pair said “dead money” player up with someone that may actually draw the attention of suitors. Things may get a little weird as we go down this rabbit hole but buckle up and let’s have some fun!
As I look up and down the roster, some of the worst offenders salary-wise are in the pitching staff. The names that jump out to me are David Price and Nathan Eovaldi as far as arms that are costing more than their value at this stage of the game.
Price is no doubt a fantastic starter and can hopefully regain his ace status in 2020, but he’s set to make $96M over the next three seasons. He’s just turned 34-years-old and is coming off of a nightmare year. He in no way should be making that level of money which is also why he’s almost impossible to move on his own. This may be blasphemous to Red Sox Nation but if I want to shop Price’s contract, I’m attaching it to Andrew Benintendi.
When you finish throwing things at your screen give me a chance to explain. Benny has been a core member of one of the best outfields in the game, but he’s coming off of a terrible year. His market may be low right now but his potential is through the roof after last October. It’s going to take a miracle to get someone to take the load of Price’s deal, so by adding in Benintendi’s inexpensive (718K) contract that may be a sweet enough deal.
Benny is arbitration-eligible and will likely earn a nice raise but it won’t break the bank. He won’t be a free agent until 2023 which lines up perfectly with Price’s timeline. So the new team would be eating a hefty salary but also have the possibility of gaining the prime years from Benintendi. It would take some sweet-talking but it could be done if presented in the right way to the prospective team.
Nasty Nate is the other arm on the roster that’s soaking up the budget that could realistically be moved. Eovaldi was given a new contract through this past free agency window based on his postseason performance. Not only did he start games but he would make himself available in the bullpen if needed. His efforts were a key component to the Red Sox becoming World Series champions.
Re-signing Nate wasn’t the issue last offseason, it was for how much he was signed for. Dave Dombrowski gave him a 4-year/$68M contract that would see Eovaldi appear in just 23 games through the first year. As thankful as I am for what Nate did during the playoffs it seems clear that his body wasn’t a fan. He’s on the books for $17M for each of the next three seasons and that’s money the Red Sox can’t afford to part with.
Much like how I attached Benny to Price earlier, I’m going to partner Eovaldi up with another player and that man is Jackie Bradley Jr. It’s felt like there have been rumors around JBJ over the last few seasons about Boston trying to move him but never finding a deal worth making. Instead of trying to be on the offensive in the trade this one is all about preservation.
Though he’s not raking in as much as Price, Eovaldi sure isn’t worth the amount that Dombrowski gave him. Jackie is a fan favorite throughout Red Sox Nation but he’s also a major liability. His defensive work is off the charts. He’s easily one of the best defenders in the league. But as good as he is with the glove he’s equally as bad at the plate. JBJ has a .2.36 AVG in his seven years in Boston.
That doesn’t sound awful on the cover, but his strikeouts have increased every year over the last three and he set a career-high in 2019 with 155. He’s been able to rob plenty of teams from scoring runs but he’s also left far too many ducks on the pond with his whiffs. He hits free agency in 2021 so he’s more of a hired gun, but a team desperately seeking defense could bite on the bait.
I wanted to stay away from shipping off prospects as that’s one of the moves that’s gotten the Red Sox into this mess. Guys like Michael Chavis and Marco Hernandez could fetch a pretty penny on the trade block, but that would send the Red Sox multiple steps back. Losing players like JBJ and Benny would hurt at first but the Red Sox already have Sam Travis and Gorkys Hernandez that can play the outfield and they plan to test Chavis in the outfield his winter as well.
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It’s no secret that the Red Sox are in a financial pickle. They need to drastically trim the payroll while also remaining competitive with the rest of the league. Boston also needs to look towards the future and must begin building their offer to Betts so they can do what they can to outbid the competition. The Sox front office mentioned being creative with the budget to reach the CBT and retain Betts as well as J.D. Martinez, this could be one way to achieve that goal.