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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In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

The transactions came in quick succession as the winter meetings wrapped on Thursday in San Diego. First, the Red Sox selected infielder Jonathan Arauz from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft. A couple of hours later, they inked infielder Jose Peraza to a one-year, $3 million deal.

Both are utility infielders, and their arrivals increase the likelihood that we'll be saying goodbye to Brock Holt this winter. 

From a bottom-line perspective, it's hard to argue. Holt turns 32 in June, has battled injuries the past four years and should make more than $3 million annually on a multi-year deal. The Red Sox need to get younger and cheaper, and that includes the bench.

If this is it, though, Holt deserves more of a sendoff than a line in the transaction wire, because his impact on the field, in the clubhouse, and especially in the community far outstripped his modest 5-foot-10 frame.

From high school (where he barely broke 100 pounds as a freshman) to junior college to Rice University to the major leagues, Holt beat long odds each step of the way. That a throw-in acquired with Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan before the 2013 season could earn Rookie of the Year votes and then make an All-Star team defied reason. That the same player would hit for the cycle not once, but twice -- including in the postseason -- while winning two World Series and becoming a gritty heart-and-soul fan favorite, let's just say guys hit that lottery maybe once in a generation.

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"I know and I've kind of gotten a taste of it coming here that certain players just really seem to bond with the fan base," said new baseball boss Chaim Bloom. "He's certainly been one of those. That's not something that's lost on any of us."

Holt brought a fun-loving energy to a clubhouse that needed it in good times and bad. Boston can be a meat grinder even when things are going well, and supporting players who take the edge off are essential. Kevin Millar mastered that role in 2004, while Jonny Gomes followed suit in 2013. That was Holt's job, too, whether he was serving as Andrew Benintendi's All-Star publicist, re-christening the 10th month on the calendar as Brocktober, or wearing a Cobra Kai-inspired headband around the locker room that others soon copied.

Holt had a knack for cracking up his teammates. After Mitch Moreland's three-run homer delivered the team its first win of 2019 in Seattle, Holt sauntered past Moreland in the clubhouse with an ice cream cone, gave it a lick, and said, "Hey Mitch, my mom says, 'Way to go,'" and then just walked out. (His mom later confirmed this account on Twitter).

He famously asked a shorts-wearing Bill Belichick if he was, "going to put some pants on," before facing the Packers on a cold October night in 2018 when the Red Sox were honored by the Patriots as World Series champions.

The night he completed the first cycle in postseason history with a ninth-inning home run to complete a rout of the Yankees, the megawatt smile on Holt's face as he rounded third and returned to the dugout could've powered the sun.

Holt's joyful persona extended to his toddler son, Griff, a glasses-clad Instagram star who developed a cult following for giggling while raiding a box of Life Cereal in the pantry, or pointing at a billboard of David Ortiz and exclaiming, "Big Papi!" or hitting what he called, "Big bomb!" with an oversized whiffle ball bat.

Holt's many viral moments with his son became all the more poignant when viewed through the lens of his tireless devotion to children's causes. He's a four-time Roberto Clemente Award nominee for community service, and he routinely leads the Red Sox in charitable appearances. He served as Jimmy Fund captain for the past five years, and his Brock Stars ticket program brought a Jimmy Fund patient to every Tuesday home game for batting practice. Director of community relations Sarah Narracci has long referred to Holt as her "go-to guy" who never says no.

"He has a great heart," manager Alex Cora said when Holt was nominated for this year's Clemente award, and if this is indeed the end of Holt's Red Sox career, he'll leave an outsized legacy that "5-10, 180" doesn't begin to capture.

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MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

Martin Perez is no Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. But the veteran left-hander reportedly drew a good amount of interest in free agency before the Boston Red Sox scooped him up.

A "handful" of MLB teams, including the American League East foe Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, pursued Perez before the Red Sox agreed to terms with him Thursday night, MassLive's Chris Cotillo reported.

Perez's surface-level stats aren't very inspiring: The 28-year-old posted a 5.12 ERA with the Minnesota Twins last season after the worst campaign of his career with the Texas Rangers in 2018 (6.22 ERA, 1.78 WHIP).

But what Perez does provide is durability: He's appeared in at least 32 games in three of the last four seasons, topping 165 innings in each of those campaigns.

Durable left-handers aren't a dime a dozen in MLB, which explains why Perez drew interest from several clubs looking to fill out their rotations entering 2020.

The Venezuela native should be a rotation-filler in Boston, projecting as Boston's fifth starter behind Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi with Rick Porcello leaving to join the New York Mets in free agency.

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