LAS VEGAS — Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski downplayed reports that the team is looking to move payroll — potentially by trading Rick Porcello, Xander Bogaerts, or Jackie Bradley Jr. — in order to stay under the highest tier of the luxury-tax threshold.
“I’d say we’re not driven by that fact, that approach,” Dombrowski said. “You always listen to anything. You can always get better. I know long-term we’re not going to be able to sign all of our players. That brings up conversations and people calling you about various things but I would guarantee you our primary focus is to try to win a world championship in 2019, to try to repeat.
“We’re not looking to move anybody. I’m not closing the door on anything, that we’ll never do anything with our team, but we like the club that we have and that’s what our goal is.”
According to Boston Globe payroll calculations, the Red Sox currently have approximately $235 million in 2019 commitments as calculated for luxury-tax purposes — about $11 million shy of the third and highest luxury-tax threshold tier, at which point a team sees its top draft pick get bumped down by 10 spots. Given that the team typically tries to preserve roughly $5 million to $10 million for in-season moves (call-ups and trades), the team has little wiggle room to add bullpen help while also staying under the $246 million level that yields the harshest penalties.
Still, just as was the case in 2018, when the Sox spent beyond the third and highest luxury-tax threshold, the team has what Dombrowski described as a preference but not a mandate to keep its spending below that level. Dombrowski acknowledged that the team’s commitments have already taken it beyond the second luxury-tax tier ($226 million) for 2019.
Other takeaways from Dombrowski’s session:
■ The Red Sox aren’t particularly close to adding bullpen help. Dombrowski said that it’s more likely that the team does so via free agency than trade.
■ The team hasn’t had a ton of trade discussions given that it appears largely settled in terms of its positional group and its seemingly fully formed big league rotation.
■ If the Sox were to consider a trade of Porcello or another starter, they would have to replace him in the rotation. As such, it was noteworthy that Dombrowski said that the team has not reached out to agents about any free agent starters.
■ The team prefers to trade one of its three catchers (Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, or Blake Swihart) before spring training, but only if it can land what the Sox consider a suitable return. If necessary, the team is open to entering spring training with all three catchers and making a deal either during the spring or in the season.
■ Dombrowski acknowledged that there’s significant uncertainty surrounding Tyler Thornburg’s potential contributions, two years removed from his surgery to correct Thoracic outlet syndrome. “The basic reality is it doesn’t seem like anybody knows [what to expect] with the type of surgery he had. He showed flashes last year, which is a good indication that it’s still in there. We saw him hit 96 at times last year with a good breaking ball. Of course, he didn’t have the ability to bounce back or keep it,” Dombrowski said. “It’s not like Tommy John where they tell you in 18 months [he’ll be better]. We’re hopeful. Doctors are hopeful. He’s worked his tail off. But I don’t really know.”