Ways for the Boston Red Sox to Cut Payroll in 2020
The Boston Red Sox ownership and the front office have made it very clear that cutting payroll is at the top of their to-do list this winter. Major League Baseball’s luxury tax threshold sits at about $208 million for the 2020 season; Boston is projected to have a payroll of nearly $225 million according to sportrac.com. While trading former-MVP Mookie Betts seems like the simplest way to make some room, there are plenty of avenues that Chaim Bloom could explore.
If Bloom doesn’t want to make too big of a splash in his first winter, there are plenty of ways to trim the fat at the bottom of the roster. One combination that likely wouldn’t have any repercussions would be dealing a package of players like Heath Hembree, Colten Brewer, Ryan Brasier, and Rusney Castillo.
Rebuild the Bullpen
Hembree is a player who was useful in his role last year and was one of the more reliable relievers on the team by the end of the season, but it really shouldn’t be hard to find a pre-arbitration player who can do the same thing.
Both Brewer and Brasier are pre-arbitration players so getting rid of those salaries won’t really do much. After the numbers they put up last year, it seems safe to say that the team is better off without them.
They were each apart of a bullpen that really only saw consistent production from Brandon Workman. Not to mention that they both spent time in the minor leagues. These are two players that are easy to get rid of.
Now, this is the tricky part. Castillo has spent nearly his entire American career with the Pawtucket Red Sox in Triple-A. The outfielder is set to make a career-high $14 million this season after picking up his option earlier this offseason. This is also the first season that he doesn’t have a no trade clause in his contract. While Castillo flamed out during his time in Boston, he has hit .304/.344/.457 with an average of 12 home runs and 55 RBI in his last three seasons in the minors.
This package could be a tough sell especially since the Castillo contract is so hefty. The Red Sox won’t be looking for anything massive in return though, this would purely be a salary dump.
Boston has already begun to clean up the bottom of the roster as Sandy Leon has been dealt to the Cleveland Indians. In return for the backstop, the Boston Red Sox are receiving minor-league RHP Adenys Bautista.
Leon proved to be more and more useless to this team as Christian Vazquez broke out in 2019. Sure, he’s an above-average defensive catcher, but most of them are. Vazquez has proven he can be an everyday catcher in MLB and there is no need to be paying a guy nearly $3,000,000 whose bat is as nonexistent as Leon’s.
If the team is looking for a slightly larger return on their trade package they are going to have to part with some bigger chips; those chips could be Nathan Eovaldi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Michael Chavis.
Those first two players are probably being overpaid, and each have their own shortcomings. Eovaldi has his injury history, and Bradley Jr. was historically bad at the plate last year. Where teams may be interested is if Chavis is being dangled as trade bait.
End of the Road for Eovaldi
It’s been well documented that Boston has tied up a lot of money in their starting rotation; almost $80 million next season amongst Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Eovaldi to be a little more precise.
Cutting ties with one of these contracts wouldn’t be the worst idea. Eovaldi is the worst of the four and frankly doesn’t seem worth the $17 million the team is going to have to pay him for three more seasons. This makes him the easiest to part ways with, but Boston will have to add a sweetener or two.
Time to Move on from JBJ
Bradley Jr. is another candidate to be sent out of town before next spring. He’s shown time and time again that he isn’t productive at the plate for more than a month of the season. It’s time to realize that his defense can’t mask the black hole in the lineup that he’s become. His defense likely won’t be missed too much as Andrew Benintendi came through the system playing centerfield and has been nominated for multiple Gold-Glove awards. Additionally, Betts is plenty capable of taking over the centerfield duties.
Chavis won’t be arbitration-eligible for two more seasons, and won’t be a free agent until 2025. He has proven his versatility defensively being able to play first, second, and third base. The young infielder also showcased one of the sweetest Fenway Park swings in recent memory. Chavis’ production fell off before he got hurt at the end of last season, but the team control and power potential should be enough to lure teams in.
Big Impact (Maybe)
One of the biggest storylines heading into this offseason is what would be done with the 2018 MVP. In his opening press conference, Bloom didn’t have much to say about the situation, but Tom Werner wasn’t as quiet.
“We think he’s one of the great players in baseball, and in a perfect world, we would like to figure out a way for him to continue to be a player for us for his entire career,” Werner said. “He has the right to test free agency. We’ve had conversations with him in the past, and Chaim and his group will lead conversations going forward.”
Trading Betts makes sense on the fact that Boston wants to cut salary, and they should restock their farm system. Trading Mookie accomplishes both of these. Bloom and the Tampa Bay Rays were phenomenal at identifying young pitching, which Boston has struggled with. This could be a way for the organization to capitalize on a strength of Bloom and extend their window.
Still Remaining Competitive
The team will also still have J.D. Martinez who was in the MVP race with Betts in 2018. There are three potential MVPs in this lineup without Betts, along with a likely bounce-back season from Benintendi.
If Betts is sent elsewhere this offseason the Boston Red Sox will likely still be in a position to compete for the division title. The offense should still be right at the top of the league as they were last season. Perhaps the biggest concern would be the pitching staff’s ability to hold up their end of the deal. By no means are the Red Sox in trouble if Betts is gone by spring training in 2020, but there are certainly other alternatives to trimming payroll.