|11.13.13 at 12:45 pm ET|
In the aftermath of this look at the Red Sox’ current payroll commitments for 2014, there has been widespread curiosity on one front: Why is John Lackey listed as a $16.5 million salary for luxury tax purposes?
The right-hander is entering the final season of his five-year, $82.5 million contract. But because he missed all of 2012 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, a vesting team option at the major league minimum ($500,000 plus a cost of living adjustment from 2014 to 2015) for 2014 was triggered. So, with that option in place, does it alter the way that Lackey’s 2014 average annual value is calculated for luxury tax purposes?
Simple answer: No.
Even if the Sox exercised Lackey’s 2015 option today, it wouldn’t impact how his AAV is determined in any year of the contract prior to the option. He’d still represent a $16.5 million player for the purposes of 2014 payroll, and he’d still represent approximately a $500,000 player for the purposes of 2015 payroll.
The implications are twofold: First, Lackey represents, at least as of now, the most expensive player on the Sox’ roster in the coming year, and secondly, he represents a potentially game-changing member of the roster for 2015 if he remains healthy and effective while pitching at the major league minimum. If, for instance, the Sox wanted to sign Jon Lester to a long-term deal that would take effect starting in 2015 (something that the team is expected to explore this spring), the payroll flexibility afforded by Lackey could play a significant role in giving the Sox the flexibility to do so while staying well within the luxury tax threshold.
|11.13.13 at 11:42 am ET|
Asuka Brown of the Japanese wire service Jiji Press, one of two members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who did not include Red Sox manager John Farrell on her ballot for American League Manager of the Year, joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to explain her thought process.
Brown tabbed Athletics manager Bob Melvin first, followed by Rays skipper Joe Maddon and Orioles manager Buck Showalter. Brown’s vote for Showalter, last year’s runner-up, was his only top-three vote this year. Melvin, last year’s winner, finished third this year, behind winner Terry Francona and Farrell.
The Seattle-based Brown, who said she has been covering Major League Baseball since 2002 and joined the BBWAA in 2011, indicated Farrell had a stronger lineup and a higher payroll.
“I think Boston had so many premium players like [David] Ortiz, [Dustin] Pedroia. They have enough leadership to manage itself pretty well,” she said. “There’s no doubt Farrell is an outstanding manager in a competitive division. However, my first vote went to Bob Melvin. I highly respect those teams that [succeeded] on very limited budgets. So, my first two votes went to those managers — Melvin and Maddon.”
Added Brown: “Also the payroll was the reason I didn’t choose Boston. I always highly respect those teams with limited budgets. Boston and maybe the New York Yankees, they have I think big payrolls. Probably managers have, if they correctly manage, they have resources, always. That’s why.”
As for the absence of Francona, who won the award, Brown said his team’s record against weaker teams played too big a role in Cleveland’s success.
“My first two votes went to those managers from limited-budget teams. Then I thought that third vote should come from the division which is the toughest division in Major League Baseball,” she said. “The reason why I didn’t vote for Francona was that a number of their wins came from easier teams to beat, or struggling teams. So, that’s why my third vote went to Showalter, who maintained the same level as last season.”
Brown said she does not regret her choices despite the criticism she has been receiving.
“That’s what I thought,” she said. “They should be honored. My heart says my votes are correct.”
The other writer to leave Farrell off her ballot was Christina Kahrl of ESPN.com, who chose Francona first, Melvin second and Maddon third. She explained her vote in an article for the website, using the Red Sox’ big budget as the main reason for the exclusion of Farrell.
|11.12.13 at 8:14 pm ET|
ORLANDO — Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told reporters Tuesday at the general managers meetings that he was hoping to add some bullpen help during this offseason.
But according to a major league source, the Sox’ targets aren’t likely to be any free agents who might be currently considered closers or of the late-inning variety. Instead, the Red Sox are expected to go after less costly relievers, the likes of which might be currently considered sixth- or seventh-inning options.
Cherington is hoping, however, that some of the potential acquisitions can evolve into high-leverage options, as was the case with current closer Koji Uehara. (Uehara began the 2013 season pitching in the sixth inning.)
“We want as many guys as possible that we think have the potential and the stuff to pitch in high-leverage situations,” Cherington said. “However the roles get played out, the bullpen almost never looks the same at the end of the year as it does in the beginning of the year. The more guys we have that capability, even if they don’t have the resume or the track record, the better. Now, easier said than done. Those guys who have proven they can do that obviously cost a lot more than guys that haven’t. It’s up to me to do a better job of figuring that part out.”
Some of the free agent relievers who are expected to entertain late-inning-reliever-type of money are Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Joe Nathan, Fernando Rodney, Edward Mujica and Jesse Crain.
The Red Sox currently have Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Brandon Workman setting up Uehara, with Andrew Miller ready to re-enter the mix after recovering from a foot injury. Andrew Bailey doesn’t figure to be ready for the season’s first few months, recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Drake Britton, Alex Wilson, Brayan Villareal, Franklin Morales and Rubby De La Rosa are all currently on the 40-man roster and will be considered for relief roles, as well.
One pitcher who may eventually help in a relief role but will be viewed as a starter heading into the season is newly-signed Cuban right-hander Dalier Hinojosa. (For a scouting report on Hinojosa, click here.)
“He’s been a starter this Cuba. He’ll likely come to camp as a starter,” said Cherington of the 27 year old. “If he’s not on the team, he’ll likely be a starter at the minor league level. We’ll take a look at him in big league camp.
“Our scouts like his stuff, think it’s an opportunity to acquire someone without a big league contract. A talented pitcher we can control who we think is close to major league ready. If he is what our scouts think he is, then he’s an affordable pitching option over the next several years.”
|11.12.13 at 7:46 pm ET|
ORLANDO — According to a team source, the Red Sox have not started talking about a contract extension for Jon Lester. The Sox are expected, however, to open negotiations with the starter around spring training.
Lester is in the final year of his current deal, with the Red Sox having picked up his $13 million option earlier in the offseason.
With Lester’s AAV counting for just more than $9 million (see an explanation of the pitcher’s luxury tax hit by clicking here), it would make sense for the red Sox to wait until after Opening Day for any agreement to be put in place.
Other members of the Red Sox’ starting rotation who are in the final years of their contract are Ryan Dempster and Jake Peavy. John Lackey’s team option for 2015 will most certainly be exercised considering it will be for the major league minimum due to a clause in his deal that protected the team against any serious arm injuries.
Clay Buchholz is under the Red Sox’ control through the ’17 season, with a $13 million club option for ’16 and one for $13.5 the following season.
Because of their current commitments in the rotation, the Red Sox don’t figure to be in on such high-priced starting options as Japanese hurler Masahiro Tanaka. The righty is slated to be posted by his current team, Tohoku Rakuten, whom he went 24-0 with during this past season.
“I don’t want to rule anything out. It’s November,” said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington. “But we have a lot invested in that area already and feel pretty good. Relative to other areas of the team, that’s an area we have a little more depth already.”
|11.12.13 at 7:02 pm ET|
Red Sox manager John Farrell came in second in American League Manager of the Year balloting, finishing just behind the man responsible for his introduction to Boston in voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who led the Indians to a surprising 92-70 mark, edged Farrell, claiming 16 first-place votes compared to Farrell’s 12, resulting in 112 points for Francona compared to 96 for Farrell. Bob Melvin of the Athletics finished in third with two first-place votes and 36 points.
Voting on the award took place at the end of the regular season, before Farrell steered the Sox to a World Series in his first year as their skipper. He led the Red Sox to a 97-65 regular season record — tied for the best mark in the majors, and the top record in the American League, thus giving the Sox home field advantage throughout the postseason.
The Red Sox acquired Farrell in a trade with the Blue Jays after the 2012 season, parting with shortstop Mike Aviles in order to bring a familiar presence back to Boston. Though Farrell had gone 154-170 in two years with Toronto, finishing in fourth place in back-to-back seasons, his presence immediately had a calming effect on a Red Sox organization that had seemed fractured at times in 2012. His familiarity with members of the front office (including GM Ben Cherington) and the team owners as a result of his four years as the team’s pitching coach allowed for an immediate sense of comfort and vision for the organization, resulting in an efficient process in assembling a coaching staff as well as a consistent, well-defined process in rounding out the roster via free agency.
“I think ultimately we recognize that we’re betting on people rather than just a skill set, and that’s where a lot of agreement was had about the selections that went on last winter,” Farrell said late in the season of his kinship with Cherington. “There is a lot of continuity and a lot of similarity. That alignment allows us to face a lot of the challenges we have with the same interest, the same goal. We have a similar view of how we’re going to get to the end result.”
The end result, of course, was a startling one-year turnaround, the first worst-to-first about-face in franchise history. Farrell was credited time after time as a key contributor to the team’s run, and for the creation of a clubhouse atmosphere that positioned the Sox to be exceptional in their preparation for games and aggressiveness in them, restoring the focus to funnel towards the first pitch on a nightly basis, in a considerable departure from some of the melodrama that accompanied the hours before games in 2012.
“Our manager, he’s the reason why we are where we are,” Red Sox DH David Ortiz said when the team clinched the AL East title, a notion he would repeat as the team advanced throughout October.
Just two Sox managers have won the Manager of the Year award since the Baseball Writers Association of America became responsible for voting on the award’s winner in each league in 1983. Previously, John McNamara (1986) and Jimy Williams (1999) were recognized as the best managers in the American League. Francona, surprisingly, never received even a single first-place vote in Manager of the Year balloting in his eight years as Red Sox manager, a span that included five postseason berths and two titles. On that count, at least, Farrell can claim to have bested him in his first year in Boston.
|11.12.13 at 10:02 am ET|
ORLANDO — Everybody is waiting.
The conversation heading into the general managers’ meetings centered on how the influx of television money into Major League Baseball might push the offseason. Would the cash be thrown around immediately, making for a spicier-than-normal November? Doesn’t look that way.
After one day at the GM meetings, the conversation tilted to how with so much money available, free agents are content in sitting back and waiting for the absolute best offer to come down the pike. In other words, they don’t want to be the ones taking less and then watching the next guy reap the rewards of this cash-heavy offseason.
And, according to multiple baseball executives, the one position that is perhaps most reliant on a shoe to drop is at catcher.
This is where we are at:
Brian McCann is the big-ticket item, reportedly looking for as much as a five-year deal. He will, however, require draft pick compensation.
The Red Sox like McCann, but are hesitant to extend to the kind of years another team might offer. When asked about the 29-year-old late Monday night, one general manager flat-out said, “He’s going to end up with the Yankees.” And there you have the prevailing opinion around baseball. New York needs that type of player, they have plenty of money to spend and they likely will get at least one draft pick back (from Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano or Hiroki Kuroda) to off-set the pick potentially lost when inking McCann.
That leads us to the next-best catcher on the free agent market, Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
The Red Sox had serious conversations about extending Saltalamacchia the one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer, but in the end felt the annual average was simply too much of an overpay when considering how they valued the catcher. (There was a prevailing thought in the organization that he would accept the offer.)
The Red Sox also understand fully, after making the decision, that because of some teams’ need for the kind of skill-set the 28-year-old can deliver (power bat), it is a very real possibility the Sox have said “see you later” to the best chance of bringing back Saltalamacchia.
Yes, the Red Sox are aware that a short-term bridge to Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart can be a viable strategy (although asking young catchers to jump right into the major leagues can be a dicey proposition, no matter the talent level). It’s just that the cost of having Saltamacchia be the guy at the qualifying offer price was deemed to much.
Saltalmacchia is still one of the buzzed-about names at the GM meetings thus far, with the White Sox and Twins (and some mention of the Yankees) being mentioned.
While the Red Sox might not be valuing the catcher as much as some other teams — at a time when, it’s worth noting, their long-term outlook at the position is better than that of most other clubs — Saltalamacchia doesn’t figure to be a tough sell. He is fairly young, seemingly improving defensively, had the third-most extra-base hits of any backstop in baseball and finished as one of six catchers with a better-than-.800 OPS. And there are plenty of teams who have some sort of opening at their catching position.
In short, despite the stated interest in Saltalmacchia, the Red Sox are preparing to move on. Hence, the continued surfacing of names such as Carlos Ruiz, Dioner Navarro and A.J. Pierzynski.
“There’s a bunch of teams that seemingly have a need or a potential need, and there are a bunch of guys out there,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. “I think it will be one of the more interesting positions to watch, because there’s likely to be activity there, and potentially some trades, too, not just free agency. We’ll see. It’s obviously a position that we may want to look to do something with. We’re going to keep talking [to] all the available options and see what comes our way.”
|11.12.13 at 7:17 am ET|
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington was named Sporting News Executive of the Year on Monday night for his role in turning around the team.
“Definitely unexpected,” Cherington told reporters at the GM meetings in Orlando. “I consider this to be an award for the organization, not for me. Coming off the year we had in 2012, I also sort of see it as usually an award that goes to an organization that does work over a period of time and not necessarily in one year.”
The award was based on a vote of 31 major league executives prior to the postseason.
Cherington received 15 votes to beat out Pittsburgh’s Neal Huntington (9), Kansas City’s Dayton Moore (4) and Atlanta’s Frank Wren (3).
The Red Sox finished last in the American League East in 2012 but rebounded to win the World Series this year after Cherington replaced Bobby Valentine with John Farrell and made some key free agent acquisitions last offseason.
Now he faces another challenge, with Jacoby Ellsbury heading the list of Red Sox free agents he either needs to re-sign or replace.
“I think by now everyone has forgotten the World Series,” Cherington said, “and it’s on to the offseason work.”
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