Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Saturday, July 12, 2014

With a Deep Pool of Prospects and Lots of Payroll Flexibility, Red Sox Well Positioned to Rebuild for 2015 and Beyond

When the Red Sox made their blockbuster trade with the Dodgers in August of 2012, they shed hundreds of millions of dollars in payroll obligations, as well as three All Star players.

At that moment, the Sox were entering a rebuilding phase and planned on using the immense talent in their farm system as a "bridge" to the future.

The Sox suddenly had ample money to spend as they saw fit. The future looked bright. But building a World Series winner appeared to be a process that would require at least a few years.

So, when the Red Sox instead won the World Series the very next season, they shocked the baseball world. Everything that needed to go right for the team did. Virtually every player performed at the top of his abilities and had a career year.

As amazing and improbable as last year's team was, this year's is just as confounding.

Even after winning three straight games — just their third winning streak at least that long this season — the Sox still find themselves nine games below .500 and 9/12 games out of first place.

The good news is that the Sox have 2 1/2 months to see what a roster full of rookies can do. This will provide time for players such as Mookie Betts, Christian Vazquez, and Rubby De La Rosa, for example, to adjust to the majors and prove their worth. They'll get over the rookie jitters and get used to the greater amount of travel, press and the higher level of competition.

Boston still has a number of highly valued prospects in the minors, and lots of payroll flexibility for next season. This will make building the next Red Sox World Series contender a fascinating process.

The contracts of Jon Lester, Jake Peavy, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Koji Uehara, David Ross, Craig Breslow, Burke Badenhop and Andrew Miller all come off the books after this season.

That leaves the Sox with less than $75 million in payroll obligations next year.

Mike Napoli and David Ortiz are each due $16 million. Shane Victorino will make $13 million, with Dustin Pedroia paid $12.6 million and Clay Buchholz $12.25 million. Edward Mujica is on the books for $4.75 million.

That's a total of just $74.6 million in commitments.

The rest of the roster will include five arbitration-eligible players — Junichi Tazawa, Daniel Nava, Felix Doubront, Mike Carp and Jonathan Herrera — none of whom are due large raises.

Another half-dozen players — Jackie Bradley Jr, Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vazquez, and, as a result of smart negotiating, John Lackey — will make the minimum salary or slightly more.

Even if the Sox re-sign Lester to a long term deal with an average annual value of $20 million per season, that would still leave the team an enormous amount of flexibility. The luxury tax threshold will remain $189 million in 2015.

So, while the 2014 season appears to be a loss, and perhaps a great disappointment, the Red Sox are well positioned for the years ahead.

By November, if not by the July 31 trade deadline, Ben Cherington and Co, will set about building the next World Champion team.

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