For three straight years now I’ve timed my arrival at spring training to be the day after the Super Bowl. It made for nice symmetry, Red Sox coverage starting a day after the Patriots were done with their season.
It gave everybody something else to focus on along with the Bruins and Celtics.
The Patriots made a quick and inglorious exit from the playoffs on Saturday, weeks before the pace will pick up in Fort Myers. Outside of the handful of players who live in the area, JetBlue Park will be a ghost town for a while longer.
This isn’t good news for the Sox. They needed a few more appearances from Tom Brady to help cover up what a boring offseason it has been for them.
Since hiring Chaim Bloom as chief baseball officer on Oct. 28, the Sox have added five players from outside the organization to their 40-man roster: infielder Jonathan Arauz, righthander Chris Mazza, infielder Jose Peraza, lefthander Martin Perez, and catcher Kevin Plawecki.
Arauz was a Rule 5 draft pick from the Astros organization. Mazza was claimed off waivers from the Mets. Peraza was a free agent after being nontendered by the Reds. Perez had a 5.12 earned run average with the Twins last season, and Plawecki was a free agent after being nontendered by the Indians.
Add it up and the Red Sox have spent only $9 million on free agents this season. Most of that was the $6.5 million guaranteed to Perez.
It’s unlikely to get much more exciting, as any other additions will probably come from the same discount bin.
But as their roster stands today, the Red Sox have what would be a competitive team.
A rotation of Chris Sale with Eduardo Rodriguez, David Price, Nate Eovaldi, and Perez following in some order is certainly viable.
And a lineup featuring Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers, Christian Vazquez, Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley Jr. could score 850 to 900 runs.
If Sale and Price stay healthy, it’s a team that could fight the Yankees for first place in the American League East.
But nobody expects the roster to stay the same. There’s a painful deal coming at some point.
As calculated for luxury tax purposes, the Red Sox payroll is approximately $228 million at the moment. That includes the salary hikes due the seven players eligible for arbitration but does not include putting aside some reserve for in-season promotions or trades.
The Sox are roughly $20 million over the luxury tax threshold of $208 million. To achieve ownership’s goal of getting under the threshold and resetting the penalties, Bloom will have to start cutting.
That means finding a taker for Price and a healthy piece of the $96 million he has remaining over the final three years of his contract. Or the goal could be reached by trading Eovaldi and Bradley.
Trading Martinez and his $23.75 million deal would work. But he decided not to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract after assessing the free-agent market. So the trade market couldn’t be much better.
So far, every indication is that the Sox want to retain Betts and continue attempts to sign him to a long-term deal.
But Bloom has consistently said all options are open. The Dodgers, who haven’t won the World Series since 1988, have the young talent and payroll space to make a serious play for Betts.
It would be a terrible look for the Sox to trade one of the best players in franchise history before the start of the season. But Bloom was hired to make those kinds of unpopular decisions in the pursuit of long-term sustainability.
At this point, the 23-year-old Devers could well be the only untouchable player on the roster.
For Sox fans, it’s an uneasy wait and one that could last for months.
Major League Baseball determines luxury tax payrolls at the end of the season, not the beginning. So Bloom could make one move before spring training and another one or two during the season.
Hopefully he does what’s needed before the team assembles in Fort Myers. Otherwise every three-game losing streak is going to be viewed as a reason to start making deals. What a slog that would be for everybody involved.
This should be a time when we’re having fun speculating how many home runs Devers will hit or if Rodriguez can win 20 games. Instead everything is about the luxury tax number and waiting to see just how much the roster will be carved up.
It’s uncomfortable. Patriots-Chiefs would have been much better.