Red Sox

John Henry and Tom Werner make it official - Red Sox want to start cutting payroll

John Henry and Tom Werner make it official - Red Sox want to start cutting payroll

BOSTON -- Let the bloodletting begin.

It's hard to form any other takeaway after listening to Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner proclaim their desire to drop below the $208 million luxury-tax threshold for 2020.

Speaking to reporters for the first time since firing president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in early September, Henry made it clear that the team's bloated payroll must be trimmed.

"This year we need to be under the CBT [competitive balance tax] and that was something we've known for more than a year now," he said. "If you don't reset, there are penalties, so we've known for some time now we needed to reset as other clubs have done."

With the correlation between spending and winning no longer as one-to-one as it was 15 years ago, the Red Sox see an opportunity to get leaner. As it stands now, their hands are largely tied by the $80 million annually they've committed to unreliable starters Chris Sale, David Price, and Nathan Eovaldi. Meanwhile, the A's and Rays are headed to the postseason despite two of the bottom-six payrolls in baseball.

Though Henry and Werner left open the possibility of spending beyond the tax, their intentions sounded pretty clear.

"One of the things we observe and I think we all observe is, first of all, there are teams that make the postseason with half the payroll the Red Sox have," Werner said. "Look at the success Oakland has had this year and the Milwaukee Brewers. And we have resources. And I would just like to say that while we would like to get under the competitive balance tax threshold, we have had years we've been above it, we've had years where we were below it. There may be certain circumstances that we exceed it. Obviously, there are penalties to exceeding it, but it's not that we go into a room and say it has to be a certain dollar number."

Added Henry: "I want to answer by saying our real intention is to be competitive every year and we'll do whatever we have to do to do that. The solution to that isn't always having the highest payroll in baseball."

The task of dropping below $208 million is a daunting one. The Red Sox have about $220 million committed to 16 players, assuming they keep each of their arbitration-eligible players except catcher Sandy Leon and Steven Wright, extend or got to arbitration with Betts, and retain DH J.D. Martinez.

That includes second baseman Dustin Pedroia ($13.75 million), whose career is almost certainly over, and center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who is due more than $10 million in arbitration and could be jettisoned.

The Red Sox won't keep all 16 of those players, though. Betts could be traded, though Werner said the two sides have spoken and that the team is still holding out hope he can be extended. Martinez could also opt out of his deal and walk away for virtually nothing.

Even without their roughly $50 million on the books, the Red Sox would still have a hard time staying under $208 million. Their offseason wish list could include a starter to replace Rick Porcello, depth to support the top three starters in case of injury, a first baseman, a second baseman, multiple relievers, and maybe an outfielder if Betts is dealt.

As we wrote a couple of weeks ago, the Red Sox spent more than $240 million last year and will be in that range again this year. If they spend beyond the tax threshold again in 2020, they'll trigger the most onerous penalties, with a tax of 50 percent on every dollar spent over $208 million, 95 percent on every dollar over $248 million, and a sliding scale in between. They could end up making a tax payment of more than $20 million.

They want to reset all of those penalties, and there's only one way to do it -- start hacking off some limbs.

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Pedro Martinez hopes MLB owners, players can think about fans and compromise

Pedro Martinez hopes MLB owners, players can think about fans and compromise

The NHL has announced a return-to-play strategy. The NBA could announce its plan as soon as Thursday after a Board of Governors vote.

And then there's Major League Baseball.

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MLB's first proposal was quickly shot down by the Players' Association, which submitted its own plan over the weekend. That's also expected to be immediately dismissed. And as the days tick by, the hopes for a 2020 season get dimmer. While there's still time to salvage a season, the lack of productive dialogue between the league and the MLBPA is getting discouraging.

Speaking on NBC Sports Network's "Lunch Talk Live" on Monday afternoon, Pedro Martinez voiced his frustration with the stalemate.

"I'm hoping that both sides actually stop thinking about their own good and start thinking about the fans," Martinez said. "I think this is a perfect time to have their baseball teams out there and try to have the people forget a little bit about what's going on. It's not only the pandemic, it's everything that's going on. People need something to actually do and find a way to relax. I hope that the Players' Association and MLB realize how important it is to bring some sort of relief to people."

Martinez is spot-on with the sentiment that sports returning would be a welcome respite from the news right now. But getting players back on the field is proving to be complicated, especially as the sides navigate the financials of a shorter season without revenue from tickets.

"The economics is the dark part of baseball. The business part of baseball is dirty. It's dark," Martinez told Tirico. "And I hope that they take into consideration who pays our salaries, what the people do for us, how important the people are, and forget about or at least bend your arm a little bit to find a middle ground for the negotiations.

Let's not be selfish about it. Let's think about the fans, let's think about the families that are home that want to at least watch a baseball game and distract themselves from all the things that are going on.

Ongoing disputes over money are reflecting horribly on the sport, and cancelling the entire 2020 season could do irreperable harm to a sport that has seen its popularity ebb in recent years.

Fans can only hope that the sides take Pedro's advice, and find some common ground — and do it quickly. 

Relive Manny Ramirez's greatest moments on Red Sox legend's 48th birthday

Relive Manny Ramirez's greatest moments on Red Sox legend's 48th birthday

One of the most entertaining players ever to don a Boston Red Sox uniform was born 48 years ago today.

That would be Manny Ramirez, who celebrates his birthday on May 30. In honor of the special occasion, Major League Baseball tweeted an awesome video that includes some of Ramirez's greatest moments:

Watch below:

That cutoff of Johnny Damon's throw never gets old.

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Ramirez joined the Red Sox in 2001 after spending the first seven seasons of his career with the Cleveland Indians. From there, he became a key contributor to two World Series titles (2004 and 2007) and furthered his legacy as one of the best right-handed hitters of all time.

He isn't done yet, either. Ramirez announced just a couple of months ago he is hoping to find a roster spot in Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League. More "Manny Being Manny"? That sounds great to us.

We wish a very happy birthday to one of the greatest (and most interesting) players in Red Sox history.