Red Sox Owner M.O.: Staying Competitive > Falling Below CBT

This whole off-season, the ongoing narrative for the Red Sox has been to fall below the $208 million competitive balance tax threshold. Unloading David Price‘s three-year deal at $96 million and/or take advantage of a sizable return for Mookie Betts‘ walk year with the general assumption of the unlikeliness that Boston re-signs him next off-season has been the buzz across the baseball world. This belief came from a statement Red Sox owner John Henry made in September, where he revealed the team’s intentions to fall below the CBT threshold. But yesterday, Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe disclosed an email from Henry in his column on Sunday. It mentioned that this past week he “reminded baseball ops” that they focus “on competitiveness over the next five years over and above resetting.” 

On the surface, this looks like the Red Sox want to contend this year, putting a snag in the Betts to Dodgers trade talks that have been in progress for the last couple of months. It could also be the owner playing it smarter in not showing his cards to interested teams. The last thing any front office wants is to divulge what their true intents are, leaving them with little to no leverage and essentially sabotaging their efforts to accomplish any pre-determined goals in shaping the roster.

Glancing through Boston’s payroll, Henry’s recent comments don’t jive. According to Roster Resource, Boston is looking at a roughly $237 million luxury tax payroll for 2020. Doing so would put them passed the threshold for the third straight season, which means they’ll be facing a 50% tax for every dollar they’re over. Tack on the 12% surtax for being above the soft cap regardless of how many seasons a team’s over, and that’s a near $18 million penalty by seasons end. In 2021, Boston will have $139 million owed in guaranteed (AAV) contracts. That’s not taking into account nine arbitration-eligible players. In 2022, they’ll have $120 million in guaranteed contracts. Again, that figure doesn’t include arb-eligible players on the team, which at the moment, will be seven. They’re going into the 2020 season with $145 million in guaranteed contracts, so if they don’t reset now (fall below $208MM) they may not do so until 2022. I understand the owners are filthy rich but dishing out over $15 million in avoidable penalties on a yearly basis has to have them squirming.

Shedding salary, regardless of John Henry’s about-face, still seems like the team’s modus operandi. Considering the moves by the Rays and Yankees this off-season, Boston’s chances of making any run for 2020 look fleeting. It doesn’t mean they can’t fall below the CBT and remain competitive in the foreseeable future. But maybe making those moves at this point of the year will be less advantageous than at the trade deadline when the team’s outlook for 2020 becomes evident to the fans reducing any PR backlash.

Regardless of what Boston plans to do, the Dodgers won’t and shouldn’t act desperate. They can sit back, assess their needs, and watch the market develop then pounce at the most opportune moment. And that moment appears to be around the trade deadline with every passing day.

Oskar is a writer/editor for Dodgers-Lowdown. Follow him on Twitter @2rawsko94. Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports