In a way, the question about the Red Sox working on long-term deals for their young core players like Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. is premature. The team’s efforts to get under the $195 million luxury tax threshold for 2017 work not only against aggressiveness in the free-agent market but also against the idea of a long-term deal with a young core player that would take effect in 2017.
If, for instance, the Red Sox were to sign Bogaerts to a six-year, $100 million deal, the 24-year-old would go from representing a $4.5 million hit against the luxury tax threshold to something like a $16.67 million mark. (It’s possible that, based on the contract structure and options, the deal would come with a luxury tax hit that was slightly more than that.)
That likely would push the Red Sox beyond a $195 million payroll for the coming year, meaning that the team would miss what might be its only opportunity in the next three years to get under the threshold and reset its tax rate for surpassing the threshold. Such a development would erode the savings that the Red Sox would hope to realize through an extension.
In other words, there’s no particular offseason urgency for the Red Sox to examine possible extensions. There can – and likely should – be a time when the team examines whether it can secure additional prime years from young core members. But those conversations almost surely will focus on 2018, rather than 2017, as a starting point.
It is worth noting that Bogaerts disputed the notion that his agent, Scott Boras, is opposed to working out long-term deals before his clients reach the open market.
“[Long-term, pre-free-agent deals are] obviously something [Boras has] done. It’s not like he’s never signed anyone to an extension or that he always waits for free agency,” said Bogaerts. “He’s done both. It all depends on if the number is the right number that both sides are happy with. If you’re happy – obviously I like being here – if that’s the case, we’ll see, but it’s not like he doesn’t do this or he doesn’t do that. He does both. It all depends on the right timing and the right amount, but right now, we’re just focusing on next year.”
That’s true of Bogaerts and Betts, and it appears to be true of the Red Sox as well. The real signal of the team’s approach to long-term deals under Dombrowski is likely to come prior to the start of 2018.
This offseason, the benefits of signing players to extensions is outweighed by the drawback of flying over the luxury tax threshold should the team do so. In coming years, the calculus shifts in favor of the team trying to keep its young core intact beyond 2019.
“It is important but it takes two,” Red Sox principal owner John Henry, who also owns the Globe, told reporters on Friday. “We’ll do everything we can.”
The Red Sox reached agreements with seven arbitration-eligible players, a group that most notably includes the first seven-figure salaries in the careers of Bogaerts ($4.5 million) and Bradley ($3.6 million).
Follow Alex Speier on Twitter at @alexspeier.