Red Sox 2014 Payroll and Roster: Hot Stove Begins!



So, the Red Sox won the World Series. That was pretty great, right? Look at that picture over there on the right. It makes me smile. Over the next couple months on RLRS, we’ll definitely spend some time looking back at the wonderful 2013 season, both just to remember and smile, and to try to figure out exactly how the magic happened. I watched the season perhaps uncomfortably closely and I’m still not 100% how it all worked out.

But we also want to cover the Red Sox hot stove. I don’t know if I’ve been more at a loss to plan a Red Sox offseason than I am right now. I usually have at least one idea that I’m closely wedded to. I had planned that idea to be Jose Abreu, but he went and signed for the White Sox before the World Series was even over. So this post is definitely going to have a “making it work” quality as I try to figure out what I think.

At the beginning of the offseason, I like to work out the precise Red Sox payroll and roster situation. I’ve got the spreadsheet, and I can tell you one thing to start. The Red Sox have huge piles of cash to work with. I’m guessing a net spending budget of about $45M for 2014. So this club will definitely be very active on the free agent and trade markets. For whom and to what end, that’s still be worked out. Here are the numbers. All salary data listed are luxury tax calculations, since the Red Sox budget is set much more by the luxury tax threshold. I get most of the data from the invaluable Cot’s contracts. Arbitration awards are my guesses.

Red Sox 2014 Payroll Breakdown

Starting Pitching: $67M for six players (Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront, Ryan Dempster)

The Sox will be picking up his $13M 2014 option. That is if they don't just extend him for five years. (RLRS photo)

The Sox will be picking up his $13M 2014 option. That is if they don’t just extend him for five years. (RLRS photo)

I used the term “net spending budget” above because I think it’s not unlikely that the Sox look to dump either Dempster or Peavy. Dempster showed nothing that suggested he should be more than a 7th starter next year, and he showed equally nothing pitching in relief down the stretch. If he has value to someone, and if the Red Sox have a plan to spend the money saved on 2014 wins, I’d be totally fine dumping him for an A-ball reliever. The Sox have crazy pitching depth at AAA next year, so keeping around an expensive 6th or 7th starter type for depth is less useful than it would usually be.

There are some good pitching free agents out there like Ervin Santana and Masahiro Tanaka, and the Rays are reportedly shopping David Price. I expect this is a market the Red Sox will stay out of. Barring a true top-5 pitcher coming available, the Sox are already stocked with average to above average starting pitching.

Read on for the full breakdown…


I hope whoever got that vesting option into his contract has received the praise they deserve. (RLRS Photo)

I hope whoever got that vesting option into his contract has received the praise they deserve. (RLRS Photo)

Bullpen: $12M for six players (Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Miller, Craig Breslow, Brandon Workman, Drake Britton)

Both Workman and Britton have options, Britton certainly hasn’t staked a claim to a job and Workman might be slated as starting pitching depth. I leave them in there because I expect that one or two spots in this bullpen will be claimed by somebody within the system. Whether my guys or Rubby De La Rosa or Alex Wilson, the Sox have enough arms to backstop a major league bullpen. I expect the Sox will be looking for one more right-handed reliever on the free agent market. Someone like Jason Frasor, Jesse Crain or Joe Smith would fit here. Possibly a veteran loogy in the Scott Downs mold. No need to spend big or, god forbid, trade major-league ready talent for a reliever.

Catcher: $3M for one player (David Ross)

The Sox need a regular 120-game catcher to be caddied by Ross. It could be Jarrod Saltalamacchia who found himself out of favor at the end of the season. It could be Brian McCann, probably the best LH bat on the free agent market, but also a 30-year-old catcher who will cost us a first-round pick. It could be a trade target. One day I would have asked for Ryan Lavarnway to get his shot, but he’s been buried so far he don’t remember the sun. If Lavarnway’s going to be a major league regular, and I’m less sure of that with every season that passes, it probably won’t be for Boston. So unless the club is going to do a total 180 on the Boor, there’s no reason for the cash-flush Red Sox not to spend here. I have no idea on what as yet.

Red Sox For Life (RLRS Photo)

Red Sox For Life (RLRS Photo)

Infield: $12M on three players (Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks)

The Sox will need a first baseman and we may need a third baseman or shortstop as well. I think that with Abreu off the market, Mike Napoli re-signing in Boston looks quite likely. I need to run some numbers on him to see what kind of salary I’d like. Given the weakness of the free agent market, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sox try to lock him up quickly in the World Series afterglow.

I’m much less confident in what the Sox should do at SS/3B. Obviously Bogaerts will be starting at one of those positions, and barring injury I expect to be repeating that sentence for the next decade and a half. The free agent market at these positions consists mostly of Stephen Drew. (Maybe Jhonny Peralta on a Melky Cabrera memorial short contract for a steroid guy?) Will Middlebrooks regressed badly last year, even seeming to slow down on defense. I think that Middlebrooks’ potential is still too great to give up on, and with our high minors 3B depth of Michael Almanzar and Garin Cecchini, the Red Sox are better prepared to handle a cratering at third base than most anywhere else on the diamond. But I don’t really know. C and 3B are two of my big question marks at this point.

Red Sox no more? (RLRS photo)

Red Sox no more? (RLRS photo)

Outfield: $19M on four players (Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley Jr)

Victorino, Bradley and a Gomes/Nava platoon are already a complete outfield. Why mess with that? Well, because the Sox have great gobs of money, because Shane Victorino is constantly on the verge of a complete physical breakdown, and because Jacoby Ellsbury is easily a five or six-win player when healthy and he’s highly unlikely to command a five-win player’s salary. If the Sox think Ellsbury is a reasonably good bet to stay healthy, and they would know better than anyone, then it’s really hard to pass this one up. Re-signing Ellsbury would basically mean burying Nava to Mike Carp‘s position, which is a pretty significant loss. Or the Sox might see it as building depth into the roster, as we’ll need an excellent 1B backup in case Mike Napoli‘s hip goes boom. Again, still up in the air for me.

Designated Hitter: $13M for the greatest hero in American history (David Ortiz)

This is our $^@&ing DH.

Total: $125M for 12 pitchers and 9 position players. We need one reliever and perhaps to dump a starter, and we need a starting 1B, C and DH. We may need another starting OF. I didn’t spend much time thinking about bench players, but both Alex Castellanos and Mike Carp look like capable contributors if they fit the needs of the still-to-be-determined roster. If the Sox go with Bogaerts at SS, they’ll need a new utility infielder who can play short.

The luxury tax threshold is $189M. That means the Sox have a likely salary cap around $177M. I expect the Sox will look for an opening day luxury tax payroll in the range of $170M so that they have flexibility to add a little talent in season. That means net spending of $45M. All I need to figure out now is on whom to actually spend that cash.

21 thoughts on “Red Sox 2014 Payroll and Roster: Hot Stove Begins!

  1. Jose

    As always you’ve broken this down beautifully. A few thoughts;

    1. I know there are people hot and heavy for McCann but I think he’s one of the most likely regretted contracts of this off season. He has a lot of mileage on him already and was quite poor in the second half. I think he’s getting a 4-5 year deal that I think will be a bust.

    For all his frustration I wouldn’t hate Salty on a Q.O. deal. One year closer to Vazquez/Swihart isn’t bad and if he doesn’t accept no harm no foul. Geovany Soto might be a nice inexpensive gamble though I don’t know a lot about his defense.

    2. Agreed on Napoli. I feel like re-offering last year’s deal (3/39) isn’t the worst option but more than that scares me. I wouldn’t hate Carp/??? as a platoon over there.

    3. I’d Q.O. Drew in a heartbeat. Figure 1200 PA between short and third and I think there is plenty to go around between X, WMB and Drew. I’d have WMB grab a 1st baseman’s glove and work out there just as insurance for next year and maybe long term. As good as X looks I think trusting rookies with no discernible fallback is a bit of a risk. I’d like him to get 400 PA next year but I think the Sox can do that with Drew in the fold.

    If Drew goes the Sox should be targeting a tweener like Mike Aviles (who is not an FA). Someone kind of good enough to start but not so good that he won’t be comfortable as a utility man. Maybe Clint Barmes if his glove is still legitimately as good as the numbers suggest?

    4. Why do you think Ellsbury won’t get a 5 Win contract? I think he’s going to get a big deal. For me 5 years is a no brainer at almost any price, 6 years is a bit wobbly and 7 is a stay away. In fairness I said precisely the same thing about Hamilton last year so do with that what you will.

  2. joel w

    1) Kill me if we get Brian McCann. Everything I’ve read suggests he’s a schmuck of giant proportions. Q.O. Salty. He’s fine, it’s short term, and we have catching talent coming up in the minors that I’d fear blocking.

    2) 2/26 for Nap? Does that get it done? The defense turned that into a very valuable deal. BTW, I recently read something about wins really costing more like $7/WAR rather than $5 mil. Dave Cameron got very defensive, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed clear it was at least $7/WAR. This should affect our thinking.

    3) Q.O. Drew, figure out playing time. Maybe get Middlebrooks at bats at 3rd/1st/DH wherever just to make sure he has at bats. Alternatively, maybe attach him to Dempster so that you get something real back?

    4) If you resign Ellsbury, somebody will give you real value for Nava, right? There are too many smart teams out there now to think his value will be lost. I know Bradley would lose value in Left, but honestly with the way Ellsbury and Victorino held up over the year, it would be nice to have a guy who could slide right into center/right and not miss a beat on D. Indeed, it would make resigning Jacoby less risky/more valuable because replacement level would be higher if he’s actually injury prone. Victorino also clearly needed more days off and could get it with a real fielder like Bradley up. I just talked myself into that outfield.

    5) WRT Dempster, if I learned anything this year, it’s not to sell low after a crappy year. He still eats innings, his deal only has one year left. I think he’s a solid guy to have on the team.

  3. jmurph

    Ellsbury’s floor has to be Bossman Junior’s contract, right? He’s very good at baseball (when healthy) and I think enough rich teams know that: Texas, Seattle, Philly, San Francisco? I don’t know. Maybe even the Yankees, who should probably let Granderson go.

    Related: I have no confidence yet that JBJ is a major league caliber hitter. He needs more time.

    I’ve already said I’m fine bringing Salty back for something like 4/36 or 40ish, give or take. He’s young enough, they seem to trust him, and holy god do I not want to cheer for Brian McCann. I hate that guy.

  4. MCoA Post author

    @joel w:

    BTW, I recently read something about wins really costing more like $7/WAR rather than $5 mil. Dave Cameron got very defensive, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed clear it was at least $7/WAR. This should affect our thinking.

    I’m going to write more on this, but the piece was by Lewie Pollis at Beyond the Box Score. As I understand it, Cameron’s study only treated the first season of contracts. Pollis treats all seasons of contracts equally.

    I think they’re both right. Tango has hypothesized that the non-linear value of wins is accounted for in the out-years of contracts rather than the first year,and this seems like confirmation of that hypothesis.

  5. MCoA Post author


    I’ve already said I’m fine bringing Salty back for something like 4/36 or 40ish, give or take. He’s young enough, they seem to trust him, and holy god do I not want to cheer for Brian McCann. I hate that guy.

    This seems like the determining issue. I have felt for a couple years that Salty’s defense was a larger liability than the Sox treated it as, and then with the championship on the line the Sox sat him, against RHP, facing a poor baserunning opponent. I think it’s definitely an open question right now how much the Sox do and should trust Saltalamacchia.

    MGL said during the playoffs that he rated Ross and Salty about equally based on Ross’ significant defensive superiority. So that’s one testimony, I’d need to look into the numbers more closely.

  6. jmurph


    Good point, MCoA. You know I think another point in the “don’t sign Salty OR McCann” column would be that Ross likely projects to more than 116 PAs next year. Not dramatically more, as he’s an old man, but that was his lowest total in several years.

  7. Matt

    FWIW, Speier and others are reporting Salty is unlikely to receive a QO from the Sox. That could mean they’re already negotiating an alternative deal, I guess, but it’s an interesting bit of news regardless.

    Same sources say Mike Napoli will get a QO.

  8. Nasty Nate

    I don’t think they should trade one of the SP just to clear space or dump salary. You always need pitching. But I wouldn’t be opposed to trading a SP (any of them except Lester) if it helped improve the team.

    According to WEEI, Napoli but not Salty will receive a QO

    The story doesn’t mention Drew.

  9. Clarence Thomas is Visiting RLRS (scott)

    SP: I said this during the playoffs and I’ll say it again. I’d love for the Sox to add an ace caliber pitcher. Clearly, they don’t need one to win a world series, but if one comes on the market the Sox should look to be in on the deal (I want Cliff Lee and a pony for Christmas). Tanaka intrigues me, especially as his luxury tax hit will be lower due to his posting price, but I don’t know if he’ll be another Darvish or another Matsuzaka. It also concerns me how much Japanese teams crush their pitchers, dude threw a 160 pitch CG in a losing effort before being brought back to save the final game of the Japan Series. His K rate has dropped from 9.6 two years ago to 7.8 this year. I also don’t see any real reason to trade Peavy or even Dempster. Dempster can start as a swingman behind a Lester/Buc/Lackey/Peavy/Doobs rotation, and step in when one of them inevitably gets hurt. Given that we’re unlikely to be able to get any sort of value for him there’s no reason to trade him when the best we can do is save a couple million dollars.

    RP: One thing that helped the Sox this year was the depth they had in the bullpen. They were able to handle injuries to Miller, Bailey, and Hanrahan without missing much of a step and still have a decent pen going into the playoffs. Of course, relief pitchers are the most volatile of commodities and big spending on multi year contracts for middle relief is sheer madness, so I don’t know quite what to do here.

    C: I do not want Brian McCann. He’s going to get a pretty big contract for a catcher, and it’s very likely to result in serious buyers remorse. Salty will also likely get too much for too long for me to feel comfortable re-signing. I just don’t see a good option for the Sox to spend money here.

    1B: I think bringing back Napoli both makes sense and is the most likely scenario. He’ll likely get something around his original contract from last winter, except with most of the cash coming via incentives and the final year a vesting option based upon health and production. I don’t see a team paying more than he got last season for a guy who is a year older and has a serious degenerative hip condition. Carp can caddy him if needed, and be the backup 1B/6th OF/Lefty PH.

    SS/3B: By all means make Drew a Q.O., but I wouldn’t go beyond that. Bogaerts and Middlebrooks to start the season, with the prospects waiting in the wings in case WMB crashes out. You’ll obviously want a good fielding utility man, I’d pick up Brendan Ryan if possible. His bat is horrible, but he could cover 2B/3B/SS as an exceptional defender.

    OF: The Sox have money to spend, and they should spend it on Ellsbury. No player on the market this winter except Robbie Cano comes close to Jacoby Ellsbury in talent. I’d expect him to get a deal somewhere in the Carl Crawford range (7/140), if that last year can be a vesting option it’s a good piece of business. Between Ellsbury/Victorino/Gomes/JBJ/Nava the Sox have a really good outfield, and enough depth to survive some injuries.

    I think that puts the Red Sox over when it comes to roster spots, though. 3 OF, 4 IF, 5 bench players, 6 SP, 6 RP, and Papi. That’s 25 players and I don’t have a starting catcher. So I screwed up somewhere.

  10. Clarence Thomas is Visiting RLRS (scott)

    @jmurph: I’d imagine Ellsbury’s floor is Torii Hunter’s Angels contract from 5-6 years ago. 5/90. The free agent market is crazy thin this postseason, and all that FA money has to go somewhere.

    What do people think of Carlos Ruiz as a short term solution at catcher?

  11. jmurph

    MCoA: off the top of your head, if they just roll out the exact same roster next year, what would you guess their win projection would be? 85-90, something like that?

    I guess my eternal pessimistic side says they do just that, Victorino comes back to earth a bit, Napoli spends more time injured, Nava/Drew/Salty aren’t quite as good, etc. I’d like to see some injection of new talent, just not sure where.

  12. Textbook Editor

    What do people think of Carlos Ruiz as a short term solution at catcher?

    Was just going to jump in and offer that option. There are the steroid questions, of course, and his bat cratered, but he’s always been seen by Philly pitchers as a decent receiver (no idea where he falls on the pitch-framing scale). A 1-year deal + option year (if available) I’d be OK with. I’d also be grudgingly accepting of a 2-year deal for Salty if it came to it, with the knowledge/hope that Ross caddies a bit more extensively than in 2013 (which was due to injury, I know).

    I don’t see why Nava doesn’t take up the 1B glove more readily in 2014 (perhaps displacing Carp) as a more aggressive platoon partner for Napoli. While they have the $ to spend, I don’t see them outbidding the crazy-$ market for Ellsbury.

    To me it’s more likely they make some crazy offer for Cliff Lee (figuring they have the $ to pay his salary, which while outrageous is now not that long-term a deal). An offer of Middlebrooks, Dempster/Peavy, one of their AAA pitchers from their depth, and maybe Lavarnway might get it done. The Phillies would get better at a bunch of positions (and cheaper, allowing them to go after Ellsbury + others)… The problem is I don’t think Amaro views the team via marginal win upgrades, so he may not see the benefit of the sort of players the Red Sox would be willing to offer compared to who he trotted out there in 2013.

    It’ll be an interesting off-season. Once we know who is/isn’t a QO FA, things should start shaking out a bit more clearly.

  13. Matt

    Looks like we can add Ellsbury (duh) and Drew (less obvious, but still a good move IMO) to the QO list along with Napoli. Salty still probably a no.

    I’m on the fence with Salty, but the others were no-brainers for me. I figured there are enough teams with a top ten protected draft pick that could use a catcher who’s demonstrated he can be an important cog in a championship club that the Sox should gamble on Salty turning down the QO, but I guess they don’t think it’s worth the risk. My guess is they see Salty’s productive 2013 as a BABIP-driven fluke (.372) and didn’t want to be on the hook for $14M if that comes back to earth next year.

  14. chris_p

    +1 for carlos ruiz. that said, surprised about the lack of a QO for salty. i would figure he would be looking for a long term deal and that the red sox could swallow a year to year thing with him.

    obvioiusly they should give a qo to drew, ells, and napoli.

    my thoughts on napoli is that they pretty much have to try to extend him given the way he has endeared himself to boston fans ( i’m only sort of joking.

    the QO for drew is just cuz it’s the obvious move. he’ll get a long term contract somewhere and xander boegaerts will start at ss next spring. somebody like brendan ryan as a backup makes a ton of sense. the 3b situation is a little more murky, but with wmb as plan A, cecchini as plan B, and a trade as plan C, i’m comfortable.

    wrt ells, i think the red sox should be making a serious effort to extend him. he’s just so fucking good. jbj will get time somewhere between the 3 of spots if he’s ready.

  15. MCoA Post author


    MCoA: off the top of your head, if they just roll out the exact same roster next year, what would you guess their win projection would be? 85-90, something like that?

    Yeah, this is the other really important baseline calculation. 85-90 is roughly what I’m thinking. Getting to 94 or so will be a significant task, even given the money the Sox have. I really don’t want to punt the catcher’s spot, for instance, in this context.

  16. jmurph

    Offensively, it seems the only places for a significant upgrade are LF, 3b, and C. Are there obvious trade candidates at any of those spots?

  17. Matt


    Offensively, it seems the only places for a significant upgrade are LF, 3b, and C. Are there obvious trade candidates at any of those spots?

    I’ve been slowly formulating a series of position-by-position posts on this stuff, with the first one being catcher. Jonathan Lucroy is the guy I would go after. He’s good, he’s still in his late 20s, and he’s locked up through 2016 (plus team option for 2017) for an obscenely cheap price ($9M guaranteed, that’s total not AAV, and another $5M and change for the option with a $250k buyout). Given his skills and his contract, the Brewers aren’t going to let him go easily. I think the Sox have the resources to make it happen, though.

  18. Wounded Knee


    He’s not a trade candidate, but Eric Chavez seems like he’d make a ton of sense. He could be a part-time LH hitting caddy to ease Middlebrooks and Napoli through their slumps, and it’s possible he might be able to stand in LF in Fenway without hurting himself. Not likely, but possible.

    Youkilis would be a cool option if he didn’t come with all the baggage.

  19. IronchefChrisWok

    1. I am mildly upset at the lack of QO for Salty, i’d much rather have him at 14/1 rather than 36/4, and I don’t want to let him go without getting a draft pick. I agree wiht all other QOs though.

    2. I kind of like the staff the way it is now. I wouldn’t mind getting rid of Ryan Dempster’s salary, but it’s unlikely at this point.

    3. I don’t hate David ross, but Lavernway should be considered the backup C job if he outhits Ross.

    4. I don’t think Jacoby’s coming back, and I REALLY REALLY hope Drew accepts his QO.

    Here’s my ideal lineup for next year:

    C: Salty/Lavernway
    1B: Napoli/Carp/WMB
    2B: Pedroia
    SS: Drew/XB
    3B: XB/WMB
    LF: Nava/Gomes/Carp
    CF: Jacoby/Victorino
    RF: Victorino/Nava
    DH: Pap

    So 13players: Salty/Nap/Ped/Drew/XB/Nava/Jacoby/Victorino/Papi/Lavernway/Gomes/Carp/WMB

    Pitching Staff:
    Uehara/Tazawa/Breslow/Workman/Miller/ + 2 – I’d like to see Bailey and Britton or Hanrahan back

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