Boiled down to its essence, Dave Dombrowski’s offseason wish list entering his first offseason as Red Sox president of baseball operations is fairly straightforward: Add a “horse” for the front of the rotation and create a better bullpen with someone capable of complementing Koji Uehara for the closer role. But what means are at his disposal to accomplish that vision?
Within Peter Abraham’s story on Dombrowski’s offseason thoughts (which also included discussion of the Sox’ ongoing commitment to – and admitted uncertainty about – having Hanley Ramirez at first base), the Red Sox’ president of baseball operations also said that his team’s payroll isn’t going backward from where it was in 2015 – when the Red Sox were looking at a payroll (as calculated for luxury tax purposes) of about $200 million.
Given that outlook, what does that leave for the Red Sox to spend? The answer depends in part on how the team looks at payroll – for instance, if Allen Craig is removed from the 40-man roster, he doesn’t count toward the luxury tax payroll, but the Sox will still be paying his $9 million guaranteed salary. But, for the sake of simplicity, it’s worth examining the Sox’ payroll as calculated for luxury tax reasons.
As the 40-man roster currently stands, there are 20 players with seemingly clear-ish roles for 2016 (barring a trade of someone like Ramirez). Those players fall into four groups:
|2016 Salary||2016 AAV|
NOT INCLUDED: Allen Craig ($6.66 million)
Clay Buchholz ($13 million, $11.7 million AAV)
|2015 Salary||2016 projected*|
|Robbie Ross Jr.||0.567||1.1|
NOT INCLUDED: Alexi Ogando, Anthony Varvaro, Jean Machi, Ryan Cook.
|2015 Salary||2016 projected**|
|Jackie Bradley Jr.||0.528||0.5544|
NOT INCLUDED: Christian Vazquez, Henry Owens, Matt Barnes, Noe Ramirez, Brandon Workman, Deven Marrero, Josh Rutledge, Heath Hembree, Steven Wright, Sandy Leon, Jonathan Aro, Roman Mendez.
The players not included in each category, at least in theory, could end up on the big league roster (for instance, the team could well entrust a bullpen spot or two to options like Matt Barnes or Noe Ramirez or Heath Hembree), but their presence seems less than a certainty depending on the moves that the Sox make this offseason.
Between the likely financial commitments to those 21 players and the sundry other costs that are included in calculating luxury tax payroll (other players on the 40-man roster, midyear callups, some contingency wiggle room for adding players in midyear trades), the Sox currently – barring a trade of, say, Ramirez or Sandoval or Miley or Buchholz – have about $168 million in commitments for 2016 that will count toward the payroll as calculated for luxury tax purposes.
|Commitment||Players||2016 $ M|
|Major lg pre-arb||8||4.6|
|Minor league 40-man||1.2|
|TOTAL LIKELY COMMITMENTS ($M)||167.875|
That, in turn, suggests that the Sox could have about $32 million to play with – a number that could grow beyond $40 million if the team moves either Miley or Buchholz while clearing a rotation spot for the so-called “horse” that Dombrowski seeks.
Dombrowski faces a significant challenge in his pursuit of a substantial upgrade of the pitching staff. But a cursory look at the team’s payroll as it stands right now suggests that the Red Sox are positioned to move aggressively to address their deficiencies.
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