Red Sox: When bad contracts leave others may arrive
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox may have to exchange one problem for another in reducing payroll. Trades may mean taking another team’s problems – a baseball quid pro quo.
Bad decisions are a fact of life and regrettably many of those decisions are repeated. The Red Sox have possibly cornered the market on pitching bad decisions with questionable contracts. The necessity to get an ace after losing Jon Lester brought David Price to Boston for seven years and $217M. A tumultuous stay so far with confrontations with the media, fans, and less than spectacular results.
Price is not the only adventure management had in the world of questionable contracts. Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale were signed to lengthy and expensive contracts despite arm issues that would frighten away many others. It doesn’t stop there. Even trades seem to turn sour with results that melt like a snow cone on a summer day.
Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith were supposed to stabilize a bullpen that had rough edges. Both appeared to be just what was needed, but, alas, they both fell asunder to injury. Even moves that appeared judicious such as plucking Andrew Cashner – the ace of a dismal Orioles staff – collapsed. Bad luck? Bad scouting?
The imminent departure of Price and his hefty paycheck is symptomatic of what Boston management faces attempting to extricate themselves from his ponderous handout. As recently noted on BSI Price has suitors but the suitors want a wee bit more to absorb the remaining three years and $96M owed. Just what will finally transpire will certainly be known by spring training time.
"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe! – Unknown"
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The other part of the Price scenario – and you can apply it to Sale and Eovaldi – is an exchange. Simply stated it boils down to I’ll take your mistake if you take our mistake. This is why the Padres may be welcoming Price with open arms – if they can dump the contract of Wil Myers ($68M) onto the Boston payroll sheet. We save a few bucks for a “hitter” capable of easily leading the American League in whiffs.
Gone are the proverbial good old days when exchanges became exchanges of the disenchanted who had worn out the welcome mat. Rogers Hornsby for Frankie Frisch – a problem for problem and star for a star. Now it is a dollar matchup.
With Price and others mentioned the best possible course is to simply pay up or as baseball terms it “cash considerations.” The Red Sox have a mastery of dead money capabilities with Pablo Sandoval, Allen Craig, and Rusney Castillo. Boston may just have to funnel snippets of payments elsewhere to nullify past mistakes.
"“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein"
The issue with partial payment is the luxury tax. Price may go elsewhere but the Red Sox part of the ransom remains on their books as long as the contract exists. That, however, is somewhat mitigated by not carrying the full load and allowing a bit more wiggle room regarding the now ominous luxury tax. Just send the money and have the mistakes of others stay tethered at their home base.
The fact is the Red Sox are quite capable of repeating past mistakes – the old Einstein definition of insanity – and that may just happen again and again. A baseball Groundhog Day? The Red Sox do have a potential cure to that ailment in chief of baseball operations Chaim Bloom.
Bloom’s history is one of minimizing errors in judgment as much as possible. Those nasty errors in scouting, evaluation, development, free agency, and trades. With Tampa mistakes reverberated since the finances were rather lean compared to Boston. Dead money in Tampa was a curse that even an exorcism by the Pope would ease. Humans do have a way of disappointing and that is certainly apropos to baseball.
Are the Red Sox serious about payroll? I will hand out the benefit of the doubt card and agree that they are, but what is the long game? Will they pare payroll in anticipation of signing Mookie Betts? Is this just a reboot before returning to the old extravagant ways? Somehow I have difficulty with the management practicing baseball ten-step program for fiscal sanity. Back to Einstein on that one.