Boston Red Sox – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-11-13T19:52:21Z WordPress Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Offseason Outlook: Boston Red Sox]]> 2018-11-13T03:50:42Z 2018-11-13T03:50:42Z MLBTR is publishing Offseason Outlooks for all 30 teams.  Click here to read the other entries in this series.

After celebrating their fourth World Series in 15 years, the Red Sox now have some significant holes to fill in the starting rotation and bullpen. They’ll also need to think about whether and how to keep their championship core together for the long term.

Guaranteed Contracts

Obligations To Former Players

  • Pablo Sandoval, 3B: $23MM through 2019 (includes $5MM buyout of 2020 club option), minus prorated MLB minimum salary earned by Sandoval next season

Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in brackets; projections via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)

Free Agents

[Boston Red Sox offseason page][Boston Red Sox payroll information]

The Red Sox won 108 regular season games and then lost just three postseason contests en route to the Commissioner’s Trophy. The good news doesn’t end there for Boston fans, as the window is still wide open for another title.  Potential AL MVP Mookie Betts and Hank Aaron Award-winning slugger J.D. Martinez are the cornerstones of a dynamic lineup that will also have Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley Jr. as Opening Day locks.  Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello sit atop the rotation, with bullpen workhorses Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Ryan Brasier, and Hector Velazquez all returning.

That’s an awfully strong nucleus to start from, particularly for a team that can still account for less-stable positions with players already on the roster, and isn’t shy about making big trades or signings if external help is required.  The Red Sox soared over the luxury tax threshold last season and are projected to be well over the line again in 2019, though they’ll get some help in that area by the fact that the luxury tax limit will rise from $197MM to $206MM.  Hanley Ramirez’s salary is also now completely off the books; the $22MM he had earned annually will be needed to cover projected arbitration raises.

So, what will president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski do for an encore?  His most immediate question is the bullpen, as closer Craig Kimbrel and setup man Joe Kelly are both headed for free agency.  The hard-throwing Kelly has had his ups and downs in Boston, with a 4.33 ERA over 359 1/3 innings for the team and persistent control issues.  When Kelly was on, however, he was hard to touch — over 11 1/3 IP during Boston’s World Series run, the right-hander allowed just one earned run while recording 13 strikeouts and no walks. It’s easy to see how a rival team could take a chance on Kelly as a closer or top setup option, and offer him a contract beyond what the Sox are willing to pay.  Then again, there’s still a fit on paper in Boston, so it’s possible he’ll return.

Meanwhile, Boston may only have limited interest in bringing Kimbrel back.After Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen raised the bar on contracts for top closers, it could be that the Red Sox simply aren’t keen on spending the big money it will likely take to retain Kimbrel (MLBTR projects him for a four-year, $70MM contract).  The Red Sox also stand to recoup a compensatory draft pick via the qualifying offer if Kimbrel signs elsewhere.  Kimbral had another strong regular season — 2.74 ERA, 3.10 K/BB rate, 13.9 K/9 over 62 1/3 innings — yet didn’t quite hit elite levels, and he struggled mightily throughout the postseason.

If Kimbrel does leave, the Sox don’t have an obvious in-house saves candidate ready to step up to the unique pressure of Fenway Park in the ninth inning.  Free agents like David Robertson, Zach Britton, or Andrew Miller could all be targets, or Boston could pursue trade options.  This is assuming, of course, that the Red Sox will take a traditional approach to the closer role, as the club could prefer to add a versatile multi-inning arm (like a Miller) or two and then give manager Alex Cora a chance to mix and match his late-game options based on matchups.

Beyond the top three in the rotation, the combination of Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson, swingman Velazquez, and (health permitting) Steven Wright should be capable of accounting for at least one of the other rotation spots.  This depth also comes in handy should Sale again run into any health issues, as Boston put a priority on keeping their ace as fit as possible for October.  The Red Sox will likely add to this mix with at least one more starting arm.  The team has the resources to check in on any of the top pitchers available on the free agent or trade markets, with a pursuit of Nathan Eovaldi standing out as a logical option.  Eovaldi will still just be 29 on Opening Day, and looked as good during his two-plus months with the Red Sox as he has at any point in his career, both results-wise and in terms of his 97.2mph average fastball speed.

If not Eovaldi, Boston could look at other pitchers that could be longer-term answers for the rotation since both Sale and Porcello are entering the last year of their contracts.  As good as the present looks for the Red Sox, Dombrowski will have to turn an eye to the future this offseason as several important players are approaching free agency.  Sale, Porcello, and Bogaerts are all only controlled through 2019; Betts and Bradley will reach the open market after 2020; and Martinez can opt out of his contract after any of the next three seasons.

There have already been indications that Bogaerts and Martinez will test free agency, though the team will likely at least consider broaching extension talks with all of these parties.  It will be interesting to see which players the Red Sox prioritize in negotiations, as it will provide significant information about their approach for the future.  Bogaerts, Martinez, and Bradley are all represented by Scott Boras, whose clients tend to reach the open market rather than sign extensions.  Sale has been nothing short of outstanding during his nine-year career, though with his lingering injury concerns, are the Red Sox prepared to make an expensive commitment to the southpaw as he enters his 30s?  Could Boston also look to a different type of extension, and lock up a controllable player like Benintendi (scheduled for free agency after 2022) to a even longer-term deal?

Betts has preferred to take a year-to-year approach rather than sign an extension, a gamble that has thus far handsomely paid off for the superstar outfielder.  Could his stance change if the Red Sox were to approach him with one of the biggest contracts in baseball history?  The argument can certainly be made that Betts is deserving of such a pact based on what he has done through his age-25 season, and the Sox could get some obvious contact comps this winter in whatever record-breaking deals Bryce Harper and Manny Machado (both of whom are 26 themselves) find in the free agent market this winter.

The Sox are set in the outfield, DH, and shortstop, and we can pretty safely pencil Rafael Devers at third base and Mitch Moreland for a timeshare at first base next season.  Despite below-average overall hitting numbers and a shaky glove in 2018, Devers is still only 22, and the former top prospect will certainly be given plenty of opportunity to break out.  Moreland will continue to provide his solid defense and bat from the left side of the plate, though the Sox will need to find another right-handed first base as a platoon partner.

World Series MVP Steve Pearce filled that role in spectacular fashion after coming to Boston in midseason, and while his price tag may go up, the free agent market has been unfriendly enough to veteran first basemen in recent years that a re-signing is certainly feasible from Boston’s end.  For Pearce, he may also welcome another crack at a ring rather than aim for a few extra dollars in free agency.

Could the Red Sox make a bigger splash at first base?  That’s what we thought could be in store last winter before the team re-signed Moreland to a two-year contract, so Boston seems content for now to just stick with a platoon situation rather than deal Moreland and then pursue a bigger name in free agency or on the trade market.  There’s also the possibility that the Sox might not want to block the position in the event that Devers needs to be moved to first base, as star prospect Michael Chavis is knocking on the door as a potential third baseman of the future.  (Chavis himself has also seen some time at first base, plus young first baseman Sam Travis is still in the picture, albeit in need of a rebound from a lackluster Triple-A season.) All that said, there are some intriguing potential options and a move can’t be ruled out.

Catcher is another position where the team could theoretically stand pat with in-house options, as the duo of Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon each posted outstanding framing numbers and were widely praised for their game-calling abilities.  The Sox have enough big bats in the lineup that they could afford to devote one position entirely to defense, yet the near-total lack of offense generated by both Vazquez (42 wRC+) and Leon (33 wRC+) begs to be addressed in some fashion.  Blake Swihart also contributed little at the plate while seeing some action at catcher as part of his super-utility duties.

The boldest move would be a trade for J.T. Realmuto, who will be targeted by every team in need of catching upgrades this winter.  Vazquez or Swihart could go back to the Marlins as part of a trade package, though obviously Boston would need much more to pry Realmuto out of Miami.  If the Red Sox aren’t willing or able to meet the Marlins’ price, they could aim lower by signing a free agent backstop like Kurt Suzuki or Robinson Chirinos or by taking over part of the contract of a pricey veteran such as Russell Martin.  This would allow Vazquez to stay in the mix. The Sox have committed to him to some extent as their catcher of the future via their three-year contract extension, and Vazquez did post decent hitting numbers just in 2017.  It remains to be seen exactly what the Sox will do with Swihart, who was kept despite a flurry of trade rumors last season, and whose stock has dropped even further after a forgettable 2018 season.

The experiment with Swihart as a utilityman led him to appear as one of the nine Red Sox players who played at least one game at second base last season, as the position became a revolving door thanks to Dustin Pedroia’s recurring knee problems.  The longtime face of the Boston franchise was limited to just three games last season, leading the Sox to rotate several players through the keystone before Ian Kinsler was acquired at the deadline to solidify the position, though Kinsler didn’t play particularly well.

It’s an open question as to how much Pedroia will be able to contribute next season, especially since Dombrowski isn’t yet certain if the veteran infielder will be ready for Spring Training.  Given Pedroia’s status within the organization (and the $40MM still owed to him through 2021), the Sox may have to hold off on any moves to address second base until they get more clarity on Pedroia’s health.  If Pedroia isn’t an option, another in-season trade is likely, unless incumbent options Eduardo Nunez, Brock Holt, or maybe even longer-shot candidates like Chavis or even Swihart can all combine to handle the position.

A reasonably healthy and productive Pedroia, a step forward from Devers, and Vazquez returning to even his 2017 form would go a long way towards firming up three positions that were rather glaringly weak links last season.  Even while receiving sub-replacement level production at second base, third base, and catcher all season, the 2018 Red Sox were still one of the best teams in recent baseball history.  It’s a tribute to Cora’s work in the dugout and Dombrowski’s roster-building that Boston achieved what it did even with some notable flaws, and with another winter to address these areas and others, the possibility exists that next year’s Red Sox could be even better.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Steven Wright Undergoes Knee Surgery]]> 2018-11-13T01:59:58Z 2018-11-13T01:59:58Z The Red Sox announced today that right-hander Steven Wright has undergone surgery on his left knee. Specifically, he received an arthroscopy and debridement on the joint.

At this point, a timeline isn’t known. The club says that Wright “will continue to rehab and prepare for a return to pitching in the 2019 season.”

It’s not particularly surprising to hear of the procedure, as Wright has long dealt with issues in that joint. A prior surgery knocked him out for almost all of the 2017 season. After making it back and becoming a productive member of the staff again in 2018, Wright hit the DL late in the season when he began dealing with pain and inflammation.

At the time that his recent issues arose, Wright indicated that the belief was he was suffering from “loose bodies” in the knee. If that’s all that was at issue, perhaps there’s reason to hope that there’ll be plenty of time for Wright to work back to full health before Spring Training.

The Boston organization will certainly hope the prognosis is promising. Wright projects to earn only $1.4MM in arbitration in 2019, with one more season of control still to come thereafter, making him an affordable asset. And he’s fresh off of a season in which he showed well in a multi-inning swingman role. Over four starts and 16 relief appearances, Wright worked to a 2.68 ERA with 42 strikeouts and 26 walks over 53 2/3 frames. Though his K/BB numbers fail to impress, the knuckler was seemingly legitimately tough to square up, as Statcast figures suggest (.288 wOBA, .306 xwOBA, 26.8 hard-hit rate).

Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Six Players Decline Qualifying Offers]]> 2018-11-12T23:22:20Z 2018-11-12T21:32:07Z The seven free agents who were issued qualifying offers by their former teams must decide by 4pm CT today whether or not to accept.  You can get the full rundown of how the qualifying offer system works here, but in brief — if a player takes the offer, they will return to their team on a one-year, $17.9MM contract for the 2019 season and can never again be issued a QO in any future trips to the free agent market.  If a player rejects the offer, their former team will receive a compensatory draft pick should another club sign the player.  (The signing team will also have to give up at least one draft pick and potentially some funds from their international signing bonus pool.)

Most free agents reject the QO in search of a richer, more long-term contract, and this is expected to be the case for most (though not all) of this year’s qualifying offer class.  The MLB Player’s Association has now announced all of these decisions, so they’re all official:

  • A.J. Pollock will enter free agency after turning down the Diamondbacks’ qualifying offer, tweets Jon Heyman of Fancred.  He’ll be the top center fielder available and should draw interest from a fair number of teams, though his market demand is not yet clear.
  • Bryce Harper declined the Nationals’ qualifying offer, per Mark Zuckerman of (via Twitter). That’s utterly unsurprising, as the superstar is lining up nine-figure offers as we speak.
  • Craig Kimbrel is heading to the market rather than taking the one-year pact to stay with the Red Sox, Chris Cotillo of was among those to tweet. The veteran closer is expected to command a much larger and lengthier contract in free agency.
  • Patrick Corbin won’t be accepting the Diamondbacks’ qualifying offer, as per Fancred Sports’ Jon Heyman (Twitter link).  No surprises with this decision, as Corbin is set to receive the biggest contract of any free agent pitcher this winter.
  • Yasmani Grandal won’t accept the Dodgers’ qualifying offer, ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez (via Twitter).  Even in the wake of another mediocre postseason performance, there was little doubt Grandal would turn down the QO, as he projects to earn a strong contract as the best catcher in the free agent market.
  • Dallas Keuchel has rejected the Astros’ qualifying offer,’s Mark Feinsand reports (Twitter link).  The ground-ball specialist and 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner will hit the open market, and it remains to be seen if a return to Houston could be in the cards.  The Astros could also lose Charlie Morton in free agency, and Lance McCullers Jr. will miss all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu has accepted the Dodgers’ qualifying offer, as we explored in detail earlier today.  Ryu becomes the sixth player to ever accept a QO, out of the 80 free agents who have been offered the deal over the last seven offseasons.
TC Zencka <![CDATA[Quintin Berry Retires, Joins Brewers Coaching Staff]]> 2018-11-10T16:08:42Z 2018-11-10T16:08:42Z After thirteen seasons in professional baseball, outfielder Quintin Berry has officially hung up his cleats. Berry announces his retirement via Twitter, but adds that he will be joining the Milwaukee Brewers for the 2019 season as an outfield and baserunning coordinating (Twitter links). The Brewers have not yet announced the hire.

Berry’s most significant playing time came with the 2012 Tigers when he made his ML debut. He played in 94 games as a 27-year-old rookie, hitting .258/.330/.354 and stealing 21 bases in 21 attempts. Since then, Berry has been one of baseball’s few speed specialists, seeing time as an occasional stolen base threat off the bench, a la Terrance Gore.

Berry, who turns 34 years-old on November 21st, was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 5th round of the 2006 draft. He spent time with 12 organizations in total, including major-league appearances for the Tigers, Red Sox, Orioles, Cubs and most-recently the 2017 Brewers, for whom he stole two bases in three attempts after rosters expanded in September. Notably, Berry stole three bases in three attempts for the Red Sox during their World Series run in 2013. After pinch-running for David Ortiz, he stole second base off Yadier Molina in the eighth inning of a Game 4 Boston victory.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Red Sox Rumors: JDM, Bogaerts, Kikuchi, Payroll, Farm]]> 2018-11-08T18:45:24Z 2018-11-08T18:45:24Z Both J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts are likely to test free agency a year from now, writes Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston. Martinez has an opt-out provision in his five-year, $110MM contract with the Red Sox, and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski gave no indication of interest in restructuring that deal, per Drellich. “He can choose to leave, it’s his opt out,” said Dombrowski. “But the reason we put ‘em in there were medically oriented as we went through at the time. That medical hasn’t changed.” Dombrowski is referring to medical provisions that were worked into the contract, allowing the Red Sox to convert the final two seasons of the deal into mutual options in the event that Martinez misses enough time due to a preexisting Lisfranc injury in his foot. As for Bogaerts, Dombrowski called his contract situation “important” for the team. Agent Scott Boras, meanwhile, told Drellich he’s “open to any thoughts [the Red Sox] have on the subject.” Asked about a recent extension for fellow client Jose Altuve, Boras pointed out that Bogaerts is two and a half years younger and also plays shortstop.

More from Boston…

  • Boston’s interest in Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, who is expected to be posted for MLB teams later this month, can be described as “lukewarm,” reports’s Rob Bradford. Dombrowski declined to comment on Kikuchi at the GM Meetings, beyond indicating that as one of Japan’s top arms, he’s a pitcher the Sox have scouted frequently in the past (as have many MLB clubs). “Yes, we have a pulse on him,” said Dombrowski. Boston could theoretically look to add some arms behind its top trio of Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello — especially considering Sale’s presence on next year’s free-agent market — but it doesn’t sound as though Kikuchi will be a prime target.
  • In a pair of columns for the Boston Globe, Alex Speier looks at Boston’s payroll/luxury tax situation as well as the team’s poorly regarded farm system. There’s virtually no scenario in which the Sox will avoid another season of luxury tax penalization, Speier observes, making the question not one of if they’ll incur penalty but rather one of how steep a penalty they’re willing to accept. Boston went into the highest luxury bracket this season and will be taxed at the maximum rate while also seeing its top draft pick dropped by 10 spots. Principal owner John Henry tells Speier, “You can’t do that all the time,” but Speier notes that it’s not clear if the organization is willing to do so once more in 2019. From a distance, it’s worth noting that this is the final season of club control over Sale, Martinez and Bogaerts, so there’s a good case to be made for maintaining aggression (though that’s just my own two cents). As for the farm system, Speier notes that a survey of rival evaluators left no real consensus as to the team’s top prospect — a fact that serves to highlight the general uncertainty that permeates the farm. But, the Sox surely have the pieces to once again be active on next summer’s rental market, Speier notes while highlighting a particular concentration of interesting third base prospects.
Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Red Sox Seem Unlikely To Re-Sign Craig Kimbrel]]> 2018-11-07T18:59:39Z 2018-11-07T17:20:58Z
  • If there are several starters on the menu for the Phillies, it seems they could also play at the upper reaches of the relief market. Morosi tweets that they are at least looking into top available closer Craig Kimbrel. Elsewhere, while a reunion between Kimbrel and the Red Sox can’t be counted out, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggests that it does not seem particularly likely, either. The vibe of the post is that the Boston organization is probably not preparing to out-bid the market on the veteran closer. Though Kimbrel would obviously still have appeal at a reasonable price, Cafardo seems to hint at relatively tepid interest. For instance, he writes, “Red Sox officials usually shrug their shoulders when asked about Kimbrel’s future.”
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Market Chatter: White Sox, Zunino, Kimbrel, Cards, Giants, Phils, Yanks]]> 2018-11-06T19:29:22Z 2018-11-06T19:29:22Z What role will the White Sox play in this free agent market? It’s an open question whether the club will come away with any significant players, but it also seems increasingly likely that it will be heavily involved at all levels of the market. MLBTR did not pick the South Siders to land any of the top fifty free agents, but as noted in that post, the club could pursue quite a few of the players listed.’s Jon Morosi even names the White Sox as potential pursuers of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic points out the case for the Sox to spend (subscription link), while Jon Heyman of Fancred tweets that the club is expressing an inclination to “take a step forward now.” Meanwhile, on the other side of town, indications remain that the Cubs will not spend a big chunk of change this winter, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post is the latest to report (Twitter link).

    Clearly, the White Sox are an interesting team to watch. Even if it’s arguably a bit premature for significant investments, it certainly doesn’t hurt that they play in the sport’s worst overall division. Elsewhere …

    • The competition in the AL West seems to be driving the Mariners to sell. It’s unclear as yet how deep the cuts will go, but talks are already opening up. The M’s are chatting with the Rays about catcher Mike Zunino, per Rosenthal (via Twitter). With two years of control remaining, the 27-year-old backstop presents an interesting alternative to the free agent market for catchers. He’s an inconsistent but high-powered offensive performer who is generally seen as a quality defender.
    • The Cardinals and incumbent Red Sox are among the suitors for veteran closer Craig Kimbrel, according to Jon Morosi of Kimbrel is among the players who appear to be candidates to land earlier-than-usual contracts, by Morosi’s reckoning. (He mentions a few possible landing spots for others on his list, though it’s not apparent that the connections are based upon more than his analysis.)
    • Certainly, it seems the motivation is there for the Cardinals to pursue significant players. As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes, the St. Louis front office is looking hard at ways to improve. GM Mike Girsch says the team has a competitive roster as things stand, but wants to exit the offseason with “a division-leading roster.” The piece is full of worthwhile reading for Cards fans, particularly those interested in gaining some perspective on the team’s market positioning in relation to Harper and Machado. All told, it seems reasonable not to rule the Cards out as a possible pursuer of any free agent.
    • Manny and Bryce are popular considerations for most teams, of course, even if they won’t realistically be pursued by all that many organizations. The Giants are perhaps a likelier suitor than may be evident from a passing glance, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. While the San Francisco organization struggled last year, has quite a few big contracts on the books, and doesn’t currently have a GM in place, Shea says that this kind of ownership-driven decision could still be pursued.
    • Lost in the hype for those popular young free agents is the never-ending search for pitching. While the rotation was and is a strong suit for the Phillies, that doesn’t mean they can’t improve. Indeed, as Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia writes, it could make sense for the organization to use some trade assets to add a starter — in addition, of course, to pursuing a superstar position player on the open market. Salisbury tabs southpaws Robbie Ray of the Diamondbacks and James Paxton of the Mariners as two particular names to watch.
    • Likewise, as they consider their pitching options, the Yankees will look at the still-developing trade market. Per Heyman, via Twitter, the Yanks have at least some level of interest in the top arms that have newly entered the sphere of trade candidates. New York’s brass will meet with their counterparts with the Indians, who are dangling Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. The Yankees are also said to have some interest in Paxton. Those three are among the game’s better starters, so it’s hardly surprising to hear the connections.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Red Sox, Nationals Only Two Teams To Exceed 2018 Luxury Tax Threshold]]> 2018-11-04T21:50:38Z 2018-11-04T19:50:32Z As was widely expected, the Red Sox and Nationals were the only two clubs who exceeded the $197MM luxury tax threshold this season, as’s Jon Morosi confirmed (Twitter link) earlier this week.  The exact figures aren’t known, though as per the luxury tax calculations on Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Boston surpassed the threshold by slightly beyond $40.85MM, while Washington was just under $6.3MM beyond the tax line.  As a reminder, a team’s normal payroll is just pure dollars spent on player salaries in a season, whereas the payroll as calculated for Competitive Balance Tax purposes consists of the average annual value of player contracts, bonuses, and other expenses.

    This is the second straight year that the Nats passed the luxury tax threshold, so their tax bill will consist of 30 percent of every dollar spent in overage (so around $1.89MM).  After exceeding the threshold in 2015 and 2016, the Red Sox ducked under the CBT line in the 2017-18 offseason to “reset their clock,” so they’ll be taxed at the first-timer rate of 20 percent of every dollar spent in overage.  By Cot’s numbers, however, the Red Sox surpassed the threshold by more than $40MM, so they’ll face a 62.5 percent surcharge on the overage.

    This would work out to roughly $25.53MM in luxury tax payments and, perhaps more importantly, Boston’s top pick in next year’s amateur draft (currently the 33rd overall selection) would drop by 10 spots.  Since the Sox are so close to that $40MM figure, it’s possible there could be some other calculation or unknown payroll factor that got the club under the $237MM mark — we won’t know for certain about the draft pick or the final Competitive Balance Tax bill until the league makes an official announcement.  Had Boston stayed within the $20MM-$40MM range for payroll overage, they would have faced only a 12 percent extra in tax on top of their 20 percent first-timer percentage, putting them on the hook for approximately $12.672MM in luxury tax payments.

    The Giants were right up against the $197MM line seemingly all season long, though by Cot’s calculations, they squeaked under the threshold by less than $1.6MM, thus avoiding their fourth straight year of tax payments.  San Francisco was very careful in trying to stay under the $197MM payroll line after a busy offseason, as the team made a pure salary dump of a trade with the Rangers in July to unload Austin Jackson and Cory Gearrin’s contracts, and also traded Andrew McCutchen to the Yankees on August 31 once they were fully out of contention.

    The Competitive Balance Tax was a major subplot of the 2017-18 offseason, as one of the reasons behind the unprecedented lack of free agent activity was the fact that big spenders like the Giants, Yankees, and Dodgers all kept their spending in check (at least by their standards) in an effort to stay under the threshold.  For New York, this marks the first time since the luxury tax system was instituted in 2003 that the team will avoid making payments — the Yankees paid a whopping $319.6MM in total luxury tax payments from 2003-17.  The Dodgers have exceeded the threshold every season since 2013, as the Guggenheim Baseball Management ownership group made an initial big spending splash to bring the club back into relevance, though the Dodgers always stressed that they would eventually take a more measured approach to payroll.

    The expectation was that, once these teams reset their spending clocks, it would open the floodgates for increased spending in a 2018-19 free agent market that has two players (Bryce Harper, Manny Machado) in line for record-setting contracts.  Those two superstars plus many other available big names like Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal, Craig Kimbrel, Josh Donaldson, Nathan Eovaldi, and many others makes this winter a particularly important time to have as much salary flexibility as possible.

    Any team who exceeds the luxury tax threshold in three or more consecutive years must pay a 50 percent tax on the overage, so getting under the line carries some noteworthy savings.  Plus, as per the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that came into play for the 2017 season, a team that surpasses the $40MM overage figure (as it appears Boston has done) faces as much as a 90 percent tax on the overage, plus that 10-slot drop for their top pick in the amateur draft.

    Those stiffer penalties surely also contributed to the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants’ decisions, though it should be noted that the actual dollars paid in tax penalties aren’t overly pricey for such wealthy franchises.  While big spending is certainly no guarantee of success on the field, it usually does provide some level of competitive advantage — for instance, nobody in Boston’s organization is sweating that tax payment in the wake of a World Series championship, no matter if the final bill ends up at $12.672MM or $25.53MM.  (Even dropping from the 33rd to the 43rd overall pick is a pretty light penalty.)  As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes has written in the past, some “large market teams are treating the CBT thresholds as lines they absolutely cannot cross,” perhaps as an overall excuse to curb spending.  Only eight teams total have ever made tax payments, with two of those clubs — the 2004 Angels and 2016 Cubs — doing so only once.  Teams will have even more room to spend in 2019, as the luxury tax threshold is jumping up to $206MM.

    In paying the tax in 2018, the Red Sox and Nationals will each face added penalties for pursuing free agents who were issued qualifying offers, and will receive limited compensation if their own QO free agent (Kimbrel for the Sox, Harper for the Nats) leaves.  If Boston or Washington signs a player who rejected the QO from his former team, the Sox/Nats would have to give up $1MM in international signing bonus pool money as well as their second-highest and fifth-highest picks in next year’s draft.  Should Kimbrel and Harper reject their qualifying offers and sign elsewhere, the Sox and Nationals would only receive a compensatory pick after the fourth round of the draft.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Red Sox Outright Carson Smith, Tony Renda, Justin Haley]]> 2018-11-01T20:30:37Z 2018-11-01T20:05:02Z The Red Sox have outrighted Carson Smith off of the 40-man roster, per a club announcement. He has elected free agency. Boston also announced that infielder Tony Renda and right-hander Justin Haley have been outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket. Meanwhile, Dustin Pedroia, Austin Maddox and Marco Hernandez were reinstated from the 60-day disabled list and added back to the 40-man roster.

    Smith’s time with the Sox was disappointing, to put things mildly. Acquired in the 2015-16 offseason in the trade that sent Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro to the Mariners, Smith was one of the first major acquisitions for president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. At the time, Boston looked to have secured a long-term, high-leverage weapon for the back of the ’pen. That, of course, was far from the case.

    It’s easy to forget just how dominant Smith was as a rookie in Seattle, given the three injury-ruined seasons that have since elapsed, but the righty was legitimately overpowering with the 2015 Mariners. In 70 innings of work, he pitched to a minuscule 2.31 ERA with 11.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 0.26 HR/9 and a whopping 64.8 percent ground-ball rate. That combination of whiffs, strong control and elite ground-ball tendencies is exceedingly rare, so it’s easy to see why Smith was viewed as an attractive option.

    Unfortunately for the Sox, Smith’s arm simply couldn’t hold up. He underwent Tommy John surgery early in the 2016 season and was only able to make it back to the field for 6 2/3 innings in 2017. The 2018 season brought an embarrassing end to his Red Sox tenure. Smith hit the disabled list with a subluxation in his right shoulder back in May — an injury which he appeared to incur after throwing his glove in the dugout out of frustration. After the fact, he told reporters that he believed fatigue from being overworked might’ve contributed to the status of his balky shoulder — a suggestion which manager Alex Cora characterized as “surprising” and with which he flatly stated he “[didn’t] agree.” Smith ultimately went under the knife in June and didn’t return to the field after the fact.

    Renda, 28 in January, appeared in one game as a pinch-runner for the Sox this season and split the remainder of the season between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. In a combined 292 minor league plate appearances, the former Reds and Nationals prospect posted a quality .318/.373/.453 slash — adding five homers, 19 doubles, a triple and 10 steals along the way.

    Haley, meanwhile, was Boston’s sixth-round pick back in 2012. The 27-year-old made his Red Sox debut this season, though it wasn’t his Major League debut, as Haley logged 18 innings as a Rule 5 pick of the Twins back in 2017. In four games and a total of 7 2/3 innings with Boston this season, he allowed four runs on 10 hits and three walks without a strikeout. Overall, he has a 5.61 ERA in 25 2/3 big league innings, though he’s worked to a considerably better 3.53 ERA with 7.6 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 in 260 1/3 innings at the Triple-A level in his career to date.

    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Dombrowski On Red Sox Offseason]]> 2018-11-05T23:32:07Z 2018-11-01T17:18:24Z The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey was one of many who tweeted out comments from Dave Dombrowski on the Red Sox offseason this morning. Among the notable tidbits, the Red Sox are apparently prepared to send out qualifying offers to some of their free agents, though Dombrowski couldn’t speak to the specifics until MLB releases the names on Friday.

    Presumably, this list includes only one name: closer Craig Kimbrel. Boston could look to replace him with in-house options, the top candidates being Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier (twitter links). If Kimbrel does depart, bolstering the bullpen could very well become a focus of the Boston offseason – especially if fellow free agent Joe Kelly follows Kimbrel out the door.

    One player who definitely won’t be receiving a qualifying offer is Nathan Eovaldi – he is ineligible after being acquired mid-season from the Rays. Competition for the right-hander is expected to be fierce after his gutsy playoff performance with the Red Sox. Fellow mid-season acquisitions Steve Pearce and Ian Kinsler are also ineligible to receive qualifying offers.

    On the health front,’s Ian Browne was among those to confirm that Chris Sale is not expected to undergo offseason surgery (via Twitter). The lanky left-hander needs only rest to be ready for Spring Training. Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald adds (via Twitter) that the team is hopeful that Dustin Pedroia will be ready in time for Spring Training, though that is far less certain.

    The catching situation in Boston remains a crowded, but capable field. It is unlikely that Boston will head into next season with all three of Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart on the active roster – but it’s not an impossibility (Twitter link). Boston experimented with using Swihart in a superutility role last season, but it’s unclear whether or not Boston believes that’s a sustainable solution moving forward.

    On the whole, Dombrowski is understandably pleased with the current state of the Red Sox and would be happy to bring back the entire squad as currently constituted for 2019, per the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. Thus far, the Red Sox have kept David Price in the fold after he forewent his opt-out clause, as well as Eduardo Nunez, who picked up his $5MM option for 2019. It will obviously be expensive to keep this core together long-term, but as of now, Boston ownership has not mentioned staying under the luxury tax as a priority for 2019.

    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Eduardo Nunez Exercises Player Option]]> 2018-11-02T16:29:47Z 2018-11-01T15:43:45Z As expected, Eduardo Nunez has exercised his $5MM player option to return to the Boston Red Sox for the 2019 season, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald was among those to confirm (via Twitter).

    Nunez certainly earned his keep with some big hits this postseason, but it was a rough year all-in-all for the infielder. Nunez hit only .256/.289/.388 during the regular season, his first full season with Boston.

    The Red Sox acquired Nunez in July of 2017 from the San Francisco Giants for a pair of minor leaguers and was re-signed last offseason for $4MM. Nunez stays with the team via a $5MM player option, selected over a $2MM buyout that would have returned the 31-year-old infielder to the free agent market.

    Next season, Nunez figures to serve as a bench option for Alex Cora. His ability to play all three infield positions makes him valuable over the course of a long 162-game season, when he can spell Rafael Devers against tough left-handers and serve as depth in the middle infield, specifically second, one of the Red Sox’ few question marks heading into the offseason.

    For his career, Nunez has played eight years in the big leagues with the Yankees, Twins, Giants and Red Sox. He split 2018 between second base and third base, but he came into the majors as a shortstop and has also spent limited time in the outfield corners. Nunez is a lifetime .279/.314/.410 hitter.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[David Price Announces He Will Not Opt Out Of Red Sox Contract]]> 2018-10-31T14:55:10Z 2018-10-31T14:35:54Z Red Sox lefty David Price announced today that he will not opt out of the remainder of his contract with the Red Sox, as Chris Cotillo of was among those to report on Twitter. The 33-year-old starter, who is fresh off of a redemptive run through the postseason for the World Series victors, will earn $31MM for the 2019 season and $32MM annually for the three campaigns that follow.

    It’s no surprise, certainly, that Price has elected to stay in the deal that he inked in advance of the 2016 season. Though he has certainly had plenty of success during his first three campaigns in Boston, there have also been plenty of low points along the way.

    At 33 years of age, it’s tough to imagine Price doing better than the four years and $127MM he already has in hand. That said, he would still have been a major part of the postseason picture had he elected to return to the open market.

    In the just-completed campaign, Price threw 176 innings of 3.58 ERA ball, registering just over a strikeout per nine while allowing 2.6 BB/9. That represented a bounceback from an injury-marred 2017 campaign and an improvement on his bottom-line results (3.99 ERA) from 2016.

    Of course, Price had also logged 230 frames in his first season with the Sox, a number he won’t likely approach again. And his peripherals have eroded since that time as well. Estimators valued his 2018 output well below his actual ERA, with FIP (4.02), xFIP (3.95), and SIERA (3.82) suggesting Price is now more a solid rotation presence than frontline starter.

    Price’s postseason performance — which featured four excellent starts in the ALCS and World Series after a rough divisional outing — certainly showed that he can still get the job done when needed … and that he can do it on the big stage. That reversed a long run of difficulties in the postseason though it won’t turn back father time. Over the course of the 2018 campaign, Price’s average fastball (of both the four and two-seam varieties) clocked in at a personal-low 93.1 mph, while his swinging-strike rate dipped to 9.6% after sitting over 11% for the prior three seasons.

    In any event, Price’s decision to opt in to the remainder of his deal at one point seemed likely to be met by widespread complaints from the Boston faithful. Instead, he’ll be lauded along with his teammates today in the club’s World Series parade. And while the expectations for the remainder of the contract will necessarily be tempered, the Red Sox have good cause to anticipate that Price will continue to be a worthwhile member of their rotation for some time to come.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Red Sox Exercise Club Option Over Chris Sale]]> 2018-10-30T18:18:12Z 2018-10-30T18:18:12Z In one of the easiest option decisions in baseball, the Red Sox announced today that they have picked up their option over lefty Chris Sale for the 2019 season.

    His contract originally called for a $13.5MM salary for the upcoming campaign, with a $1MM buyout. Owing to his prior Cy Young placement, though, it was boosted to a $15MM final value. When the deal wraps up after the 2019 campaign, Sale will have earned a total of $58MM over a seven-year term.

    Acquired from the White Sox before the start of the 2017 season, the 29-year-old Sale has continued to excel since swapping his pale hose for crimson stockings. He has thrown 372 1/3 regular-season innings of 2.56 ERA ball thus far in Boston.

    If there are any questions, they relate not to the quality of Sale’s work on the mound, but his ability to stay there. It would be unfair to make too much of five-start absence in 2018, as he has mostly been an exceptionally durable pitcher, but the shoulder woes that cropped up this year certainly represent something to watch moving forward. Hopefully, an offseason of rest will allow Sale to enter Spring Training at full speed.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Giants Exercise Options Over Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval]]> 2018-10-29T23:12:39Z 2018-10-29T23:12:39Z The Giants announced today that they have exercised club options over lefty Madison Bumgarner and third baseman Pablo Sandoval. With players returning from the 60-day DL, the club adds, it’ll have four open 40-man roster spots at the outset of the offseason.

    Needless to say, there was never any question that the San Francisco organization would hang on to Bumgarner. While he has certainly not been his usual, ironclad self in the past two seasons, Bumgarner is a clear bargain at $12MM (rather than a $1.5MM buyout).

    Bumgarner’s deal, which expires after the 2019 season, included a $35MM guarantee over five seasons. As it turns out, with both option years being exercised, he’ll have earned $56MM in a seven-season term. That has clearly been a big win for the Giants.

    As for Sandoval, his second stint with the organization will continue for the time being, though he’ll still need to earn a roster spot in camp. When he re-joined the club in the middle of the 2017 season, he inked a deal that included successive club options at the league-minimum salary. The Red Sox are still responsible for his $18MM salary in 2019, less the$555K minimum, along with a $5MM buyout for a 2020 club option.

    While the 32-year-old Sandoval has not exactly thrived of late, he was reasonably productive in 2018 before suffering a season-ending injury. Over 252 plate appearances, he posted a .248/.310/.417 slash. That’s a roughly league-average level of offensive output, which the veteran had not even approached since his original run with the Giants ended in 2014.

    TC Zencka <![CDATA[AL East Notes: Machado, Gardner, Nunez, Red Sox]]> 2018-10-30T04:14:00Z 2018-10-29T18:11:38Z The Yankees baseball operations and scouting departments are “lukewarm” on free agent Manny Machado, per Andy Martino of Brian Cashman has not been shy about his pursuit of Machado in the past, but the third-baseman-turned-shortstop’s antics during this postseason may have slowed what otherwise could have been a more aggressive pursuit of the infielder in free agency. This isn’t to say the Yankees won’t end up signing Machado, but the questioning of Machado’s hustle and baseball ethic certainly allow the Yankees, as well as other teams, to take a more understandably patient approach in regards to his free agency. Martino adds (via Twitter) that the biggest variable still in play is the Steinbrenner family and whether or not Boston’s World Series win will prompt an aggressive mandate in regards to either Machado or fellow free agent stud Bryce Harper.

    But that’s not all that’s happening in the AL East…

    • The Yankees have a $12.5MM option on Brett Gardner with a $2MM buyout for next season. Gardner, the longest-tenured Yankee, expressed an interest in coming back, but it remains to be seen if there will be a room in a crowded Yankee outfield that includes holdovers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks.’s Bryan Hoch writes that Brian Cashman and his lieutenants have held three days of scouting meetings to craft their strategy heading into the offseason, with  starting pitching figuring to be the priority. Regarding Gardner, the team could buyout his contract and look to bring him back at a discounted rate, but whether the 35-year-old outfielder would be amenable to such an arrangement is unclear. In 2018, Gardner appeared in 140 games, slashing .236/.322/.368 (2.8 rWAR).
    • Not that this would be a surprise, but Boston’s Eduardo Nunez is likely to pick up his $5MM option for next season, per Fancred’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter). Despite his occasional postseason heroics, it was a tough season for Nunez, who slashed only .256/.289/.388 during the regular season. The .321/.353/.539 Nunez hit in 38 games in 2017 after being acquired midseason feels like a distant memory, but he can still provide some value off the bench as a versatile infielder and right-handed compliment to young stud Rafael Devers.
    • As you ready yourself to dive into baseball’s transaction season, take a minute to read this piece from the Athletic’s Tim Britton about the Red Sox staffer charged with ushering the young players of Boston’s minor league system through each step of their development. Raquel Ferreira is one of the highest ranking women in Major League Baseball and one of the unsung heroes of Boston’s stellar development team. Her title is vice president of major-league and minor-league operations, but that hardly describes the impact she’s had in the twenty years since she joined the Red Sox as an administrative assistant. Ferreira handles everything from managing the logistics of player family travel to walking new players through the basics of minor-league orientation, as she did with Xander Bogaerts when he first signed out of Aruba and thought he had to spend an entire year at each minor-league level.