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>>>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

WATCH: Alex Verdugo notches first home run with Red Sox

WATCH: Alex Verdugo notches first home run with Red Sox

Alex Verdugo tallied his first home run with the Boston Red Sox during Wednesday night's game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Verdugo's homer was a two-run shot in the fourth inning off of Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough that gave Boston the lead.

Watch below:

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

Verdugo was, of course, acquired in the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 24-year-old hit .294 with 12 homers in 106 games with L.A. last year.

With home run No. 1 out of the way, Red Sox fans will hope to see many more where that came from during Verdugo's tenure in Boston.

Incredible stat shows how historically awful Red Sox starting pitching has been

Incredible stat shows how historically awful Red Sox starting pitching has been

When the 2019 MLB season started, the defending World Series champion Red Sox boasted an impressive rotation.

Perennial Cy Young contender Chris Sale. Former Cy Young winners David Price and Rick Porcello. World Series hero Nathan Eovaldi. Eduardo Rodriguez, who would go on to win 19 games.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

But the 2020 Sox rotation is a far cry from that collection of talent. 

Instead, with Sale sidelined with Tommy John surgery, Price and Porcello on different teams, and Rodriguez out for the season with myocarditis, the Sox have been forced to rely on a flotsam and jetsam rotation that has been exposed as not MLB-worthy.

Through 11 games, the Red Sox have already used seven starting pitchers, and they've combined to allow a whopping 32 earned runs in 42.2 innings pitched, often putting the Sox in early deficits they've been unable to overcome. It all adds up to a 6.75 ERA, which isn't just bad; it's actually on pace to be the worst starting rotation in the last 120 years, according to Boston Sports Info.

Only Nathan Eovaldi with a 3.94 ERA in three starts and Austin Brice, who pitched one scoreless inning in his only start of the season as an opener, have ERAs below 5.00, while Josh Osich, Ryan Weber, Matt Hall and Zack Godley all have ERAs of 9-plus.

Pitcher ERA as starter
Austin Brice 0.00
Nathan Eovaldi 3.94
Martin Perez 5.06
Josh Osich 9.00
Matt Hall 10.13
Ryan Weber 11.57
Zack Godley 13.50

And with the supposedly strong Boston offense underachieving through 11 games, it's no wonder the team is off to a horrific 3-8 start, the 28th best record out of 30 MLB teams. If that starting pitching doesn't turn around — and turn around quickly — the Red Sox are in danger of digging a hole that will be too deep to climb out of in a shortened 60-game season.