Boston Red Sox Ownership Backtracks on Offseason Plans

Boston Red Sox
ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 21: A detail of The Boston Red Sox logo on a jersey during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on September 21, 2019 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Boston Red Sox Backtrack on Offseason Plans

While John Henry, the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, has explicitly stated that the team intends to lower payroll below the $208 million luxury tax threshold, and all signs have pointed in that direction, he claims this may not be the case.

John Henry’s Plan to Shed Salary

Just a few weeks after Boston parted ways with Dave Dombrowski, Sox ownership met with the media. During the availability, Henry was questioned on the team’s payroll heading into 2020.

“This year we need to be under the CBT (Competitive Balance Tax). That is something we’ve known for more than a year now,” answered Henry.

At Chaim Bloom’s introductory press conference, Henry doubled down on the team’s intentions. The Sox owner noted that Dombrowski — who is known for spending money — wasn’t going to fit the team’s approach moving forward. The team opted for Bloom, who is moving from a situation in Tampa with the lowest payroll in baseball.

“Dave was a tremendous General Manager and is Hall of Fame executive, we differed on how we should move forward, and we decided to make a change,” said Henry. “We were extremely desirous of bringing in someone who would augment and add as opposed to bringing in someone who might have a one-man show. That’s one of the reasons we were so impressed with Chaim; I know we keep using the word, ‘collaborative’, but that’s what it takes to run a successful organization.”

Cutting Costs

Bloom even seemed to have cosigned on Henry’s mission based on the moves he’s made to this point. The team let Rick Porcello walk as a free agent, and brought in Martin Perez. Sandy Leon was replaced with the cheaper Kevin Plawecki. Jose Peraza was brought in to fill Brock Holt‘s spot. Each of their moves to this point have seemingly been cost-saving measures. Not to mention that Bloom hasn’t brought in any help to one of the worst bullpens in baseball last season.

This cost-cutting narrative even made its way into the 2019 Winter Meetings. While no monumental moves were made, Bloom was certainly dangling some of his more expensive employees as trade bait. David Price was a hot topic at the meetings, with as many as five teams in discussions with the Sox at once for the lefty. It’s worth noting that Price is currently the highest-paid player on the roster.

The team’s most important chip has even been in play this winter. Mookie Betts, who will test the free-agent market next offseason, has been a part of trade talks as well. It’s tough to gauge how serious discussions got, but it is known that Betts was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ backup plan if they couldn’t land Francisco Lindor. Betts is also the team’s second-highest-paid player after his record $27 million arbitration deal.

The Sox hold an event annually each January called Red Sox Winter Weekend. This includes meet-and-greets with current and former players, along with other festivities throughout the weekend. Boston released the list of players who will be in attendance at this year’s event, and two key names seemed to be conveniently left off the list among 21 current players who will be attending — David Price, and Mookie Betts.

Henry Forced to Backtrack

The notion that the team wants to reset and get below the tax threshold isn’t an egregious idea; the issue here is that Boston has already shown their cards to all 29 franchises. There’s simply no way that Bloom could maximize his assets with every GM in baseball knowing his intentions. No team in their right mind would present their best offer to a club openly trying to shed salary.

Nearly four months after his initial claim, Henry seems to have realized his mistake. In an email exchange with Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe Henry addressed the team’s focus moving forward.

“This focus on CBT resides with the media far more than it does within the Sox. I think every team probably wants to reset at least once every three years — that’s sort of been the history — but just this week . . . I reminded baseball ops that we are focused on competitiveness over the next five years over and above resetting to which they said, ‘That’s exactly how we’ve been approaching it,’” noted Henry.

The team’s owner also made sure to note that Bloom wasn’t brought in to reduce payroll. “That has simply not been the way FSG (Fenway Sports Group) operates,” added Henry.

While this may seem like a good sign for Red Sox Nation, this is nothing but lip service from an ownership group that gives it better than anybody.

Front Office Backed Into a Corner

There’s no way Henry can expect anybody to believe that he hasn’t touched base with baseball ops in two and a half months since the World Series ended. What’s even less believable is the supposed response from the baseball ops department.

Apparently Chaim Bloom and the front office think that shopping David Price makes them more competitive. They also seem to believe that their bullpen, which ranked 20th in earned runs allowed last season, doesn’t need an upgrade; especially in an offseason with plenty of quality relievers on the market. Henry and Bloom better hope that the likes of Martin Perez, Jose Peraza, and Kevin Plawecki are the answers to their prayers in 2020 if they expect their fans to take them seriously.

Henry’s attempt to save face and regain leverage in discussions couldn’t have been handled worse. The team hasn’t given anybody an ounce of reason to believe that they want to improve upon last season. Nice try, John Henry.

New Englanders can likely expect both Price and Betts to be in a Boston Red Sox uniform on opening day; this won’t be by choice of Sox brass, however. The team likely won’t receive an offer tempting enough to part ways with their stars after John Henry punted away any leverage the team might have had.

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