Red Sox future without Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez is approaching
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox potential departure of Mookie Betts and/or J.D. Martinez is becoming a fait accompli. A contractual perfect storm.
Budgets are an excruciating process when a mandate is delivered to cut costs and costs usually translate to your most expensive item – labor. This means hard decisions that are the dreary day-to-day world impacts people and their families. In the world of sport, it usually translates to another team making a player wealthy.
If the Red Sox management is believable the road has been chosen between fiscal responsibility and fiscal insanity with the former now being the pathway to follow. For Boston fans, it will be a weaning process that is only magnified with management’s pronouncement to expect another ticket increase. I guess the bright bulbs in management failed to understand such a ludicrous pronouncement on the heels of belt-tightening.
The Red Sox payroll is sumo like to me – I have no chance of moving a Sumo wrestler and the Red Sox have little chance to move contracts that are simply unmovable without significant financial concessions. The issue with contracts is time and David Price typifies this conundrum.
Price has three years remaining at $32 Million a season – last season Price checked in with a 7-5 record and if the Red Sox offered Price to any and all takers the phone would be silent. Too much money for too little performance and too much risk. A 2018 type season (16-7, 3.58) in 2020 could reverse that – especially at the trading deadline. At this point Price being shipped elsewhere would have to be accompanied with a yacht full of owner Henry’s money.
We could easily extrapolate this to Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi. Toss in Dustin Pedroia and the downside of long-term deals is well pronounced. Hopefully, Xander Bogaerts does not suddenly tank. But the reality is with damaged goods you have to give a discount to any buyer and that invariably means “cash considerations.” The pitching rotation is loaded with question marks.
Let’s say the staff or at least Sale, Price, and Eovaldi have a performance epiphany in 2020 that makes unloading them far more feasible and cost-effective. If such an epiphany happens then the Red Sox should be in the playoff hunt or even division leadership. Then you dump and you sink.
In the perplexing drama of payroll reduction, the most fortuitous avenue is the most bitter and that means looking elsewhere on the roster. A small change contract can happen by letting Brock Holt test the market and trading Jackie Bradley Jr.and his potential $10 Million contract. Nice, but the two big strikes to payroll remain.
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The here and now is where the issue rests and that makes the two most vulnerable players Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. Betts is quite tradable to any team that has the ability to cough up the $30 Million Betts may receive in arbitration. The problem is a return and that is depreciated unless Betts is shipped off with a probable extension waiting in his new landing zone. Still the Betts return in payroll reduction and prospects should be a lessen the pain move.
Martinez may opt-out or he may not. Undecided seems to be the keyword for the exceptional run producer. Can he get another cushy contract elsewhere? If not the Red Sox can simply start taking input on what they can get in a trade and how much they may have to contribute.
The Red Sox have pronounced a magical formula is somewhere within the creative talents of the financial operations to keep both Betts and Martinez with, of course – difficulties. No Sophie’s Choice. If that is practical and maintaining the team under the luxury tax the MVP for 2020 belongs to an unknown accountant. A skeptic be I over that possibility.
With $50 Million coming off the books that will be negated by expected raises via arbitration or attempting to buy out arbitration years and possibly free agents years from Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi. So the Red Sox will still be in luxury tax territory. Maybe that Sophie’s Choice would work? The old half a loaf.
The best solution is Betts and Martinez, which is also the worst solution to the team, fans, potential future. If the Red Sox are serious about jettisoning payroll it would be the way to go and with it may go the 2020 season, advertising dollars, and fans avoiding Fenway Park. A painful extraction that would allow a $50 Million cushion to toss at the next arm that will suddenly turn to gristle.