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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Joe Kelly still has major bone to pick with sign-stealing Astros players

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USA TODAY Sports

Joe Kelly still has major bone to pick with sign-stealing Astros players

Joe Kelly isn't done taking aim at the Houston Astros.

The Los Angeles Dodgers reliever recently earned an eight-game suspension (reportedly reduced to five games upon appeal) for throwing at multiple Houston Astros players during the teams' late-July matchup.

And in case you were unclear how Kelly feels about Houston's players stealing signs back in 2017, the former Boston Red Sox pitcher left little doubt during an appearance on teammate Ross Stripling's "Big Swing" podcast.

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"The people who took the fall for what happened is nonsense," Kelly told Stripling. "Yes, everyone is involved. But the way that [sign-stealing system] was run over there was not from coaching staff. ... They're not the head boss in charge of that thing. It's the players.

"So now the players get the immunity, and all they do is go snitch like a little b----, and they don't have to get fined, they don't have to lose games."

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, manager A.J. Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora all lost their jobs as a result of Major League Baseball's investigation, while the players were granted immunity and weren't punished.

Kelly believes the players played a central role in the sign-stealing operation, though, and left their bosses out to dry by refusing to take responsibility for their actions.

"When you take someone's livelihood ... to save your own ass, that's what I don't like," Kelly said. "Cheating? They cheated. Everyone knows they're cheaters. They know they're cheaters. It's over. That's been there, done that. But now they mess it up by ruining other people's lives, so they f---ed it up twice.

" ... When you taint someone's name to save your own name, this is one of the worst things that you could probably do. ... That really friggin' bugs me. I think I'll be irritated forever."

Kelly earned a 2018 World Series ring under Cora in Boston and seemed particularly irked by Cora getting punished while his Astros players skated free.

"Maybe they have called [Cora] and said, 'Hey, I'm sorry,' " Kelly said. "... If they had said, 'Hey, I'm super-scared, I didn't know what to do, I didn't want to lose money, I had to rat.' ... Grow a pair of balls and say that."

The Dodgers host the Astros for two more games on Sept. 12 and 13. If Kelly's comments are any indication, it sounds like he won't be over this by then.

Watch Brusdar Graterol blow away Manny Machado while becoming an L.A. folk hero

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File photo

Watch Brusdar Graterol blow away Manny Machado while becoming an L.A. folk hero

They call him the Bazooka. And he's taking Los Angeles by storm.

As if trading Mookie Betts didn't open the Red Sox to enough buyer's remorse, the emergence of flame-throwing Brusdar Graterol in Los Angeles means they could also end up suffering from decliner's remorse.

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On Wednesday night, Graterol continued to amaze Dodgers fans with a three-pitch strikeout of Padres All-Star Manny Machado that wasn't remotely fair.

Machado took fastballs of 99 and 100 mph before flailing at a 91-mph slider that had his catcher practically diving into the left-handed batter's box. Watch for yourself:

Graterol, of course, is the reliever the Red Sox had originally accepted from the Twins to complete the Betts deal before balking at his medicals. Los Angeles took Graterol instead and sent prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong to Boston.

Graterol is 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA and seven strikeouts in 7.2 innings as part of a dominating Dodgers bullpen. He was nicknamed the Buffalo during his minor league days, a nod to his 6-1, 265-pound frame, but Dodgers fans have taken to calling him the Bazooka for his 100-mph sinkers.

The 21-year-old could've been pitching in Boston this year, but the Red Sox went another route. The coming years will tell us if they made the right choice.