FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox owner John Henry sees no deviation from the recent philosophy of shorter-term deals for free agents, even while other big-market teams, such as the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, continue to hand out long-term megadeals like the Red Sox used to.
“We did [long-term deals] for a certain period of time and I think we learned from it,” said Henry in his annual spring training pow-wow with the media at JetBlue Park on Wednesday. “I think a few other clubs learned from it. All you have to do is look at the results over the last 10 years of what that kind of approach had meant. Very risky thing to do. I don’t see us necessarily changing it.”
Of course, Henry’s baseball operations department hit 1.000 on their seven free agent signings last offseason. They propelled the Red Sox to their third World Series championship in 10 years.
“I see being able to sign a lot of players like that as pretty fortunate,” Henry said. “I do feel fortunate [to have made the megatrade with the Dodgers]. Last year we addressed a lot of the needs we had. A lot of that carries over into this year. I don’t see us going back to where we were. I feel we were fortunate to be able do those deals. That was fortunate.”
Henry acknowledged the team has tried to keep its payroll under the luxury-tax threshold ($189 million this season), but now questions the merit of doing so.
“It [luxury-tax threshold] has been [the ceiling],” Henry said. “There is some reason to believe it may not be as important as we thought a couple of years ago. But we feel at that level we’re at the top or near the top [of payroll]. There were certain incentives built into the season that at the time I doubted they would really carry the day.”
Most of the early questioning for Henry dealt with the contractual status of David Ortiz and Jon Lester. Henry deferred the questions to general manager Ben Cherington, but did express a desire to keep Ortiz in a Red Sox uniform for the remainder of his career.
Henry also spoke about Fenway Park, indicating that his ownership would not have to deal with new stadium talk. He estimates that Fenway is good for another 30 years.
“Structurally, there is an expiration date,” Henry said of the stadium. “Someone, at some point decades ahead, will have to address a new ballpark.
“We need to deal with the press box, right? It’s just not great. We’ve taken care of the fans. We’re doing smaller things up top. You won’t see major changes.”
Henry also said there have been upgrades to the visiting clubhouse, which always has been a sore point with teams who feel cramped in what is the smallest quarters in baseball.
Henry’s stewardship has produced three championships.
“I think there’s no doubt that I feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of this,” said Henry, who is also owner of the Boston Globe. “We’ve had 12 seasons here that are just incredible. I was thinking yesterday how fortunate I’ve been to be a part of it in whatever role I play — that we were able to come here [to Boston] in the first place. We have a certain philosophy, which is a valid philosophy. It doesn’t matter what resources we have, we still have to have 25 guys and 25 behind them, coaching, general manager, and manager. You have to be fortunate to have the right team in place.”
One of the popular questions in camp is about how difficult it is to repeat. Nobody, including Henry, has the answer.
“We do a lot of studying, certainly not all data and metrics,’’ he said. “I recently spoke at length somewhat to the Boston Chamber of Commerce and spoke about how hard it is to predict anything going into any season. No one picked either the Red Sox or Cardinals to get to the World Series last year. I think ESPN listed 46 [preseason predictions] and you would think somebody by accident would pick one of the World Series participants. That’s an indication of how difficult it is to see exactly why you win or lose. More than anything else, it’s what happens between the lines. You can do everything right — or do them quite a bit wrong and get a good result — depending what happens between those lines. “
Looking ahead, Henry spoke about challenges.
“It’s an ever-changing challenge,” he said. “It’s incredibly difficult. There are 30 teams who are doing everything they can every year on and off the field to try to win. For us to win a fourth championship would be the cornerstones of the careers of everyone involved.’’
Henry said he constantly sees pictures on the wall at the ballparks commemorating 2013.
“There’s already a sense that 2013 was 2013,” Henry said. “There are a lot pictures up of what happened in 2013. We’ve already turned the page. But winning a fourth one in our minds is going to be just as difficult as winning a first one.”
Henry also said he had ideas about how to replace Bud Selig, but wasn’t willing to share his thoughts at this time.
He did say about replacing Selig, “He will be extraordinarily difficult to replace. Extraordinarily. That process is underway but it’s extraordinarily difficult.”
Henry also spoke about the new challenges spending their non-payroll money. The Red Sox used to be successful spending money on draft picks to get the best players, but now with changing rules to the amateur draft and dollars devoted to international players, it’s become a challenge trying to allocate money in the right place.
“It’s a question we were talking about internally,’’ Henry said. “It’s getting hard to spend money the way we normally did it. We spent a lot of money in the amateur draft and got tremendous results from that. It’s an issue. It’s more difficult.”