The three previous steps would combine to get the Red Sox barely under the tax line. It leaves them very little wiggle room to upgrade the pitching staff, which is a necessity if they truly want to contend.
One way to get further under the threshold is to remove Dustin Pedroia’s $13.75 million from the payroll.
The veteran second baseman has been limited to a total of nine games over the last two years while dealing with a career-threatening knee injury. A few months ago, Pedroia admitted that he was uncertain if he’ll ever return to playing baseball.
Pedroia isn’t going to forfeit the $25 million remaining on his contract by retiring. He’s earned that money even if his knee prevents him from taking the field again.
However, the Red Sox could outright Pedroia off the 40-man roster. He would easily clear waivers since no team is touching his contract without a guarantee he can still play, allowing him to stay in the organization. Pedroia would still get his money if he accepts a minor league assignment, where he’d be placed on the injured list.
The option to add him back at some point would still be available but removing him from the 40-man roster for next year means he won’t count toward the tax. The scenario is similar to when the Red Sox outrighted Allen Craig in 2015.
This is a bit of a sensitive topic for the Red Sox. We’re all rooting for a Pedroia comeback. He and the team need to be realistic though. He’s 36 years old and coming off consecutive seasons lost to injury. If he’s not ready to play by the time spring training rolls around, the Red Sox can’t afford to have his salary constraining their budget.
Taking Pedroia’s salary out of the equation would allow the Red Sox to duck the tax even if they aren’t able to complete all three of the previous steps. Maybe not all five of those arbitration-eligibles need to go. Martinez might not be willing to re-negotiate. Boston could keep Bradley.
Outrighting Pedroia is an uncomfortable move but it may be a necessary one. He’s the wild card who could put the payroll goals back on track if the team stumbles along any of the previous steps. Or the move could be combined with all three steps in order to give the Red Sox room to upgrade the pitching staff.
Regardless of Pedroia’s fate, there is a clear path to how the Red Sox can conceivably slash the payroll enough to get under the tax without significantly hindering their chances to contend next season.