Red Sox

$208 million payroll is 'a goal, not a mandate' for Red Sox in 2020

$208 million payroll is 'a goal, not a mandate' for Red Sox in 2020

BOSTON — Takeaways from the season wrap-up at Fenway Park on Monday that included CEO Sam Kennedy, manager Alex Cora, and the Gang of Four running baseball operations . . .

— There was a fair amount of backtracking from John Henry's contention last week that the Red Sox would like to get under the $208 million luxury tax threshold and reset the team's penalty schedule. Kennedy and assistant GMs Eddie Romero and Brian O'Halloran each sounded the same theme.

"It's a goal, not a mandate," Kennedy said.

That said, with big-market powerhouses like the Dodgers and Yankees managing to find their way under the threshold in recent seasons — the Red Sox dropped below it themselves as recently as 2017 — the Red Sox see no reason why they can't get creative with their payroll and do the same.

— One player who wouldn't appear to fit under that plan is defending MVP Mookie Betts, who ended up putting together a pretty decent follow-up campaign, all things considered. Kennedy acknowledged the challenges of keeping him long-term, but made it clear the team will try.

The same goes for slugging DH J.D. Martinez. Kennedy was asked if there's a way to keep both of them and remain under $208 million.

"Yes, there's a way," he said. "There's a way. But obviously, it will be difficult."

— Cora has not made any decisions on his coaching staff yet, but after winning only 84 games, sounded like someone preparing to move in a different direction.

"I don't know what kind of changes we're going to make," he said, adding that all of the coaches will be in town for meetings before any decisions are made.

— Left-hander Chris Sale still isn't throwing, on advice of the medical staff, as the Red Sox take his recovery slowly. Originally scheduled for a six-week followup with Dr. James Andrews, the two sides haven't yet scheduled that visit.

"At this point we expect him to be healthy coming into spring training along with the rest of the rotation that we have under control," O'Halloran said.

As for neither Sale nor fellow left-hander David Price making themselves available to reporters over the final month of the season despite interest in their respective rehabs, Cora said he would've preferred that they talk.

But he also recognizes that "it gets to the point with them where they're so frustrated with what's going on."

Bogaerts' thoughts on losing teammates over upcoming offseason>>>>>

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MLB rumors: Yankees reportedly land Gerrit Cole with 9-year, $324 miillon deal

MLB rumors: Yankees reportedly land Gerrit Cole with 9-year, $324 miillon deal

The Red Sox will get to see plenty of Gerrit Cole this season - in pinstripes.

The Yankees have landed the pitching prize of the offseason, agreeing to terms with the free-agent right-hander on a nine-year, $324 million contract, according to Jon Heyman of the MLB Network.

Cole, 29, went 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA, 326 strikeouts and 0.86 WHIP in 2019 for the Houston Astros, who lost in Game 7 of the World Series to the Washington Nationals. 

It was thought that Cole, a Southern California native who pitched at UCLA was looking to go to the West Coast, but the Yankees offer was apparently enough to lure him to the Bronx. The addition of Cole fortifies a Yankee rotation that includes Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and Luis Severino and likely makes New York, who won 103 games but lost to Cole and the Astros in the 2019 ALCS, the World Series favorites. 

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Trading David Price would save Red Sox a ton of money, but not without meaningful risk

Trading David Price would save Red Sox a ton of money, but not without meaningful risk

SAN DIEGO -- The Red Sox could save a lot of money by moving on from David Price.

They could also blast a gaping hole in their rotation that precludes them from seriously contending in 2020.

Welcome to Chaim Bloom's nightmare.

Rumors have swirled for a week that the Red Sox would rather move the three years and $96 million remaining on Price's contract than trade former MVP Mookie Betts. Given Price's injury history -- he just started playing catch after September surgery to remove a cyst from his wrist -- it would be hard to blame them for attempting to get out from under as much of that salary as possible.

ESPN on Tuesday reported that multiple teams have targeted Price. The opinions of rival executives in the lobby at the Manchester Grand Hyatt for this week's winter meetings run the gamut. One believes the Red Sox could make taking Price a requirement in any deal for Betts, a la the 2012 mega-trade with the Dodgers that carved about $400 million off of Boston's books and allowed for the reset that led to a 2013 championship.

Another not in contact with the Red Sox believes they could move Price, keep Betts, and then entertain offers for the five-tool outfielder at the deadline in July if they're out of contention, noting that the Nationals missed an opportunity to make a similar move with Bryce Harper in 2018 before he walked in free agency.

And still another with a team interested in Betts and to a lesser extent Price expressed mild surprise that the Red Sox hadn't reached out as of Tuesday afternoon.

While trading Price seems like the right long-term move, it would come with considerable risk. There's a clear path to a World Series in 2020 if Betts stays, Price and Chris Sale regain their All-Star form, and Bloom makes some smart acquisitions for the right side of the infield. Jettisoning Price eliminates the possibility that he muddles through another injury-marred campaign, but it also removes a potential ace, and his spot would either be filled with a mid-level signing or (ugh) another opener.

For all his faults, particularly when it comes to clubhouse distractions like picking a fight with Dennis Eckersley, Price has been better than he gets credit for in Boston. He's 46-24 (.657) with a 3.84 ERA and in his 2016 debut, he led the AL with over 230 innings pitched. He was otherworldly in the 2018 postseason, shedding his reputation as a playoff choker once and for all.

Thus far it has been hard to read the direction of the front office under Bloom, who's still learning the organization and has remained tight-lipped in his dealings with the media. That said, after spending a couple of days around the team, it feels like the Red Sox have been forced into a reactive position where they're serving as Plan B for a number of clubs, particularly as it relates to Price.

Any team that misses out on one of the top-tier free agent starters could make a case that Price's upside outweighs concerns over his health. Premium starters, after all, remain a precious commodity. Zack Wheeler and Stephen Strasburg have already signed nine-figure deals, Gerrit Cole could soon earn $300 million, and Madison Bumgarner and Hyu-Jin Ryu will draw interest, too. Once they're gone, anyone shut out of that market could consider Price.

The Red Sox know this, which is why they signed Price to a $217 million deal in the first place. Though he has yet to make an All-Star team or earn a Cy Young vote in four seasons here, he has dominated a postseason run to a title, and ditching him in a salary dump has some serious come-back-and-bite-you potential.

That said, if they can find a taker without eating too much money, it's hard to imagine they wouldn't pull the trigger. This winter is all about saving money, and clearing Price's $32 million salary off the books is the most palatable way to do it.

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