The Omni Resort in Scottsdale features nearly 300 rooms spread across a series of villas at the foot of Camelback Mountain.
When the Red Sox contingent of Chaim Bloom, Brian O'Halloran, Raquel Ferreira, Eddie Romero, and Zack Scott arrived for the GM Meetings last week, they checked into Building 19, which caught the attention of an executive with New England ties.
"You know what that is, right?" he asked.
Of course, came the reply. It's where they're going to be shopping this winter.
For those who aren't local, Building 19 was a chain of discount department stores founded in Hingham with a motto of, "Good stuff cheap." They operated for nearly 50 years before declaring bankruptcy in 2013, and they specialized in the flotsam of everyone else's damaged, discontinued, or flawed remainders.
If there's a more apt description of how the Red Sox will fill their roster while cutting costs and maybe dropping the payroll below the $208 million luxury tax threshold, it's not springing to mind. Whether or not they trade Mookie Betts, they'll dumpster dive this winter, flipping through piles of irregular area rugs, stacks of Nikes with swooshes slightly askew, and reams of unicorn calendars that have gifted September a 31st day.
As monster free agents like Astros ace Gerrit Cole, Nationals counterpart Stephen Strasburg, or postseason star Anthony Rendon prepare to hit free agency, the Red Sox will be wandering the consignment bins, hoping to unearth a dusty dinged-up treasure.
That's a far cry from 2016, when the Red Sox and White Sox met at the very same resort to begin the discussions that ended with All-Star left-hander Chris Sale being shipped to Boston for stud prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech a month later.
"This is where we started our rebuild in earnest," noted White Sox GM Rick Hahn. "We were excited to get this process started, where we got the Bostons and the Nationals and the teams talking about acquiring premium talent and using premium prospects to get it."
The Red Sox aren't rebuilding so much as retooling, and while we've debated whether cutting salary is a suggestion or a mandate, there's no question that ownership won't endure a straight rebuild, not with a payroll north of $200 million and premium talents like Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez still on the roster.
Some aren't entirely convinced the Red Sox will cut payroll at all. Chief among them is super-agent Scott Boras, who obviously has a vested interest in the Red Sox continuing to spend prolifically.
"I don't know that that's true, by the way, because I have not heard that from ownership," he said last week when asked about the team slashing payroll. "Until John (Henry) or Tom (Werner) tell me that that's their objective. . . . Again, I have spoken to them and until they tell me that publicly, I would not in any way think anything other than that they're always winning owners who are trying to win again and again and again.
"If your goal is 'threshold,' then I believe you have to say that if that is a priority, a principal priority, rather than winning, I think it's something you say to your fans. I think you need to tell them that our goal is to operate to limits, and in no circumstance does winning get in the way to our primary goal. You know what? I've yet to hear an owner say that to his fanbase."
It's possible to have it both ways, though, as Bloom proved in Tampa, Derek Falvey is proving in Minnesota, and even Andrew Friedman has done in Los Angeles, where the big-market Dodgers have hacked nearly $100 million from their once-bloated payroll to create a much leaner contender.
That's going to require creativity of the type we laid out in the dissection of Tampa's three-way deal with the Rangers and A's that brought hard-throwing reliever Emilio Pagan to the Trop last winter. Bloom's Rays proved over and over that they could unearth winning players in unexpected places, and he'll need to bring that magic to a Red Sox club that will be looking to fill holes at first, second, starter, reliever, and almost certainly outfield when Betts and/or Jackie Bradley is inevitably moved this winter.
Plugging all of those needs won't be easy, unless you know where to look. Bloom's track record suggests he won't be embarrassed to bargain hunt. Maybe he'll even find some good stuff, cheap.
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