We are approaching the time of year when fans are eagerly anticipating their team splurging on flashy free agent names, but first we must consider the team’s current salary commitments to determine how much they can reasonably spend. For the Boston Red Sox this will take a bit of guess work, considering only 11 players are currently locked into a contract for 2016.
The good news is that MLBTradeRumors.com is here to help with an accurate model they developed for projecting arbitration salaries. The Red Sox have seven players that are eligible to receive arbitration this offseason, totaling $13.1 million according to MLB Trade Rumors’ estimation.
- Junichi Tazawa – $3.3 million
- Joe Kelly – $3.2 million
- Alexi Ogando – $2.4 million
- Ryan Cook – $1.4 million
- Robbie Ross – $1.1 million
- Jean Machi – $900K
- Anthony Varvaro – $700K
The Red Sox currently have about $141 million committed to their 2016 payroll, if we assume that they will pick up the $13 million option for Clay Buchholz. If they retain all seven of their arbitration eligible players at these projected rates, the payroll inflates to around $154 million.
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Can we assume that all seven will be retained? Tazawa and Kelly would presumably be locks to return, with Ogando and Ross likely to join them. Machi was initially entrusted in high-leverage situations when he first arrived mid-season, but didn’t take long to remind us why the San Francisco Giants designated him for assignment. Varvaro ended up returning after the Red Sox DFA’d him in April, but he made little impact and ended the season on the 60-day disabled list. Both have potential to be retained only because they should come cheap, but the Red Sox will presumably look to upgrade their spots in the bullpen. Cook was a disaster this season, so there is little reason to expect he’ll be back.
Let’s be optimistic and say that the Red Sox will find a way to dump Allen Craig and the $9 million he’s owed next season. Even if they can’t find another team willing to take him off their hands, there’s no way he ends up on the 25-man roster to begin the season. If they also decline to offer arbitration to Cook, Machi and Varvaro, that leaves us with approximately $142 million committed to 14 players.
Those 11 spots available on the active roster could be filled with young players under team control making close to the league minimum. We’ll project the average salary of those players to be $530K, which is what Brock Holt made in 2015 and around the mid-point of the differential between Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts‘ salaries. This would add another $5.83 million, leaving the Red Sox with an Opening Day payroll of just under $148 million for players on the active roster.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has indicated that 2015’s payroll would act as a barometer for estimating next year’s projection. The Red Sox topped the luxury tax this season with a payroll that pushed $200 million, which means there should be plenty of room in the budget to make some significant moves to upgrade the roster.
Projecting payrolls is an inexact science, especially since we still don’t know the official service time data, “Super Two” cutoff or MLB minimum salaries for next year yet. There are several factors that go into crunching the payroll numbers, but the estimates provided by MLB Trade Rumors’ model at least helps us get in the right ballpark.