Extreme Makeover, Boston Red Sox Edition

A few days ago I examined how the Toronto Blue Jays have remade their team this offseason without, as far as I can tell, completely destroying their pocket books or their farm system.

The Red Sox began a makeover just as extreme last August when they dumped their biggest salaries and then some (the “and then some” being Nick Punto) on the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the additions they’ve made so far this offseason, they have a very different roster — and payroll — than they did nine months ago.

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington
(Photo courtesy of Sears Roebucks & Co.)

Thanks to Cot’s, here’s what the Red Sox 40-man roster and payroll looked like on Opening Day 2012. Here’s their 40-man roster at the moment.

And, thanks to Cot’s and the arbitration estimates at MLB Trade Rumors, here’s a spreadsheet I put together of the Red Sox’s current major league payroll. My sheet includes the contracts for Stephen Drew and Mike Napoli. As neither of those two have been added to the 40-man roster yet, my spreadsheet includes 42 players. The asterisks indicate players whose arbitration salaries are estimated in the 2013 column, and the number of asterisks indicates which year of arbitration they are in.

When including the Drew and Napoli contracts, the Red Sox’s payroll for 2013 looks like it will be just $25M or so lower than 2012, rolling in at a still-extravagant ~$150M. This didn’t shock me. What did shock me — and I’m not sure why — was that the projected 2014 payroll from the original Cot’s spreadsheet is only $1M more that the projected 2013 payroll as reflected in my current sheet. Arbitration salaries for 2014 are not estimated on either sheet, so there’s no difference there. (Cot’s original sheet shows eight arbitration-eligible players for 2014, while my revised one shows seven, for whatever that might be worth.)

The differences between the pre-makeover and the post-makeover projected payrolls start to appear in 2015 and beyond. Presently, as opposed to pre-makeover, the Red Sox have no money committed for 2016 or beyond, outside of a $245,000 buy-out of Clay Buchholz‘s 2016 option. They replaced their two longest-term contracts (Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez), and  Josh Beckett with a number of contracts that have some things in common:

  • they’re all three-, two-, or one-year deals
  • there are no option years on any of the contracts
  • there are no no-trade clauses on any of the contracts
  • all the players they signed are players who were not given qualifying offers from their previous teams, meaning the Red Sox won’t have to sacrifice a draft pick for any of them
  • all the players signed will be aged 31 or older for the 2013 season, with the exception of Stephen Drew, who will be 30

First off, the Red Sox are really sticking to their guns about the short contract thing. This has limited them to older players (David Ortiz, Ryan Dempster, Koji Uehara, David Ross), or guys with injury concerns (Drew, Mike Napoli), or guys with other limitations (Jonny Gomes). While they didn’t necessarily get bargain prices on any of those guys, they did get above average players, on average: the seven guys above posted a combined ~16 WAR last year, and all of them have a very good shot to repeat or even improve for 2013.

The 2013-2014 Red Sox don’t look like a powerhouse, but they should field reasonably competitive teams for the life of these contracts. In the meantime, they’ve given up no draft picks to sign these free agents. Three years from now, when Will Middlebrooks and Ryan Lavarnway are hitting their primes and prospects like Jackie Bradley, Xander Bogaerts, and Matt Barnes are ready to contribute, they will have a lot of money to spend and a new stock of prospects to use as trade chips if they want to start something of a new dynasty.


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