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.