Red Sox

Red Sox willing to pay highest luxury tax, weighing need for starting pitcher

Red Sox willing to pay highest luxury tax, weighing need for starting pitcher

WASHINGTON — As Chris Sale gets ready for his third consecutive All-Star start, his bosses are contemplating the need to add to the rotation behind him.

With the best record in baseball (68-30) and 64 games remaining, the Red Sox have a willingness to cross baseball’s highest luxury tax threshold and take on a payroll above $237 million this year, team president and CEO Sam Kennedy said. 

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski prefers not to make the jump if avoidable, as most anyone would, but Dombrowski has never shut the door on climbing payroll further. Now, with two weeks until the non-waiver trade deadline, the Sox have to weigh a new wrinkle: the potential need for a starting pitcher, because of an ankle injury to Eduardo Rodriguez that involves serious ligament damage.

“There’s a willingness from our bosses,” Kennedy told NBC Sports Boston in Washington D.C., where he was on hand for an All-Star Game loaded with Sox. “John [Henry] and Tom [Werner] have made very clear to me and to Dave: Look, let’s see how the market develops, and we want to do what it takes to try and win a fourth World Series championship. I don’t know how the market’s going to play out, but we’re getting close here. 

“But there would be a willingness to do that if it meant, in our estimation, making a decision that could really help put us over the edge, over the top, this year and the postseason. You know, we had the taste of October the last two years. There’s no question, we’re hungry for October success.”

There is no such thing as an over-the-top postseason move, because of the uncertainty of a short-series format. The Sox already had interest in adding a reliever for their bullpen. But adding a rotation piece may be more relevant to the goal that has less randomness at play with about 40 percent of the season remaining: holding on to the division.

How much faith the Sox have in both Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright to return to health and effectiveness may be discernible based on the team’s actions, or non-actions, via trade.

“Right now, we will analyze our situation and see what happens,” Dombrowski wrote in an email when asked about his interest in a starter and the outlook for Pomeranz and Wright.

"Dave and I have had lots of discussions about it, and to me, from looking back to the years where we have gotten over the hump in the postseason, a lot of times it’s the obscure speed-on-the-bases [type] or you know, last guy out of the bullpen,” Kennedy said. “But when it comes to October, pitching, pitching, is probably — we’ll see. 

“It depends what happens with Steven Wright, Drew Pomeranz. We got a little bit of time to figure that out. I think if you held a gun to my head, I would always support more pitching. Pitching pitching pitching. Dave and Alex Cora, they’ll make their assessment. 

“I can tell you one thing, John [Henry] and Tom [Werner] and I will be there at the ready to support what they want to do. This obviously has the makings of a very special, special season.”

E-Rod may be out until September. Even if he returns quickly, how effective he is coming off an injury may be something of a wild card. The Sox have seen firsthand this year how players returning from injuries can experience complications. 

Rodriguez had a history of knee subluxations, and his confidence on the mound coming back from those subluxations was low. Still, that was likely in part because the chance of recurrence was particularly high. Rodriguez's history does not necessarily mean that every injury he faces will provide a confidence issue. 

Nonetheless, his ankle injury is to the same right leg that he had surgery on to prevent knee subluxations.

One gamble the Sox could take: if they believe E-Rod can return this year, he could be a decent bullpen addition because of his strikeout stuff. If the Sox believed E-Rod could mentally and physically handle that transition coming off an injury, they could prioritize adding a starting pitcher over a reliever, on the hopes that the bullpen will gain help from E-Rod, or perhaps from Pomeranz or Wright. But that would be a gamble, and adding both a starter and reliever would be safest.

“In regards to E-Rod pitching in relief, it is much too early to answer that question,” Dombrowski wrote.

Going over the $237 million threshold (as calculated for luxury tax purposes, which is slightly different than the actual dollar figure the Sox are paying players this season) would mean the Sox would pick 10 spots lower in next year’s amateur draft. As Alex Speier of the Boston Globe has noted, the difference between a pick near No. 30 (the best teams receive the lowest picks), as opposed to No. 40, historically has not been large. 

In the case of the Sox this year, they would pay a 62.5 percent tax on every dollar spent above $237 million. They are already paying a 20 percent tax on every dollar from $197 million up to $217 (so, $4 million), and 32 percent on every dollar above $217 million (roughly $6 million, depending on where exactly they stand today).

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MLB Power Rankings: The Red Sox are bad... but how bad?

MLB Power Rankings: The Red Sox are bad... but how bad?

We're now two weeks into the 2020 MLB season and well... the Boston Red Sox are who we thought they were.

The Red Sox have a 4-8 record as of Thursday's off day, putting them in last place in the American League East. They're coming off a surprising 5-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, which ended a four-game losing streak that spotlighted just how long this 60-game season is going to be. How's that for irony?

Without Chris Sale (Tommy John surgery) and Eduardo Rodriguez (myocarditis), the starting pitching staff has been anchored by Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez. After that, it's a bunch of guys who leave fans hoping the game isn't out of reach by the third inning.

So yeah, the Red Sox are bad, but just how bad are they? Let's see how they stack up with the rest of the league...

Dustin May blowing up for Dodgers, but here's why Red Sox passed on him in 2016 draft

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Dustin May blowing up for Dodgers, but here's why Red Sox passed on him in 2016 draft

The internet is losing its mind over lanky Dodgers right-hander Dustin May, who is unleashing 99-mph two-seam fastballs that look computer generated as they zip a foot and a half behind right-handed hitters.

The 6-foot-6, 180-pounder is 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA in three starts, with 15 strikeouts and only three walks in 13.2 innings. Just 22 years old, he looks like a future ace in an organization swimming in top-flight prospects.
 
https://twitter.com/PitchingNinja/status/1290822220567191554
 
May's stuff is so overwhelming, and his Dodgers pedigree so established as a consensus top-20 prospect, it's easy to assume he was selected high in the first round of the 2016 draft.

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That assumption would be false. May actually lasted until the third round, 101st overall, where the Dodgers convinced the Texas high schooler to forgo a commitment to Texas Tech with a signing bonus of $1 million, more than $400,000 above slot.

The Red Sox had the 11th pick in that round, 88th overall, and used it to select University of Florida right-hander Shaun Anderson, who signed for $700,000 before being traded a year later to the Giants in a deal for infielder Eduardo Nuñez. Anderson represented the Giants in the 2018 Futures Game and last year reached the big leagues as a swingman, starting 16 games and saving two. He owns a lifetime ERA of 5.42.

Anytime a third-rounder even reaches the majors, which only happens about 40 percent of the time, that's a worthwhile pick. So with all due respect to Anderson, May's breakout success leads to an obvious question: Did the Red Sox give serious thought to drafting him 88th in 2016?

Even though they liked him, the answer is not really. A standout at Northwest High School in Justin, Texas, May was a late bloomer. He threw in the low 80s as a sophomore, but with excellent command. His fastball jumped into the low-90s by his senior year, touching 95, but after a fast start, his velocity dipped. Most projections pegged him for the third or fourth round, where it would take an aggressive offer to buy out his commitment to Texas Tech.

The Red Sox weren't in position to make such an offer, because they had decided to use the 12th overall pick on a high-ceilinged high schooler of their own.

New Jersey left-hander Jay Groome began 2016 as Baseball America's No. 1 overall prospect, but he slipped after a transfer violation cost him half his senior year, and reneging on a commitment to Vanderbilt created character concerns. The Red Sox jumped at the chance to land the 6-foot-6, 220-pound horse with a mid-90s fastball and outstanding curveball, knowing they'd need to pay him above the slot recommendation of $3.2 million.

The problem is, they didn't know exactly how high they'd need to go, with rumors circulating that Groome sought $4 million. With each team allotted a bonus pool, the Red Sox couldn't risk paying Groome so much that there wasn't enough left for May. Groome ended up agreeing to a $3.65 million bonus, or roughly $430,000 above slot, which is about what it took for the Dodgers to sign May.

Groome underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018 and returned at the end of last season to throw four innings between rookie ball and short-season Lowell. He's currently working out in Pawtucket, where he impressed against Triple-A hitters in a recent live bullpen with an effortless 93-mph fastball that should add velocity as he builds back arm strength.

If Groome hits, then the Red Sox will have no complaints about a 2016 draft that has already produced four big leaguers and could add a couple more in first baseman Bobby Dalbec and shortstop C.J. Chatham, not to mention 19th-round left-hander Kyle Hart.

If they could do it all over again, though, they'd find a way to take May. They're not alone, because 30 teams combined to pass on the young star 100 times before the Dodgers struck gold.