Red Sox conscious of new luxury-tax penalties this offseason
OXON HILL, Md. - The big-spending Boston Red Sox could be far more conservative this offseason because of baseball's new luxury tax rules.
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Monday that the new collective bargaining agreement's stricter penalties for spending above a certain payroll threshold could factor in to the team's plans. His top priority is to find an eighth-inning reliever and also add another bat, but don't expect him to throw money around to make it happen.
The Red Sox had $209 million committed to player salaries last season, fourth in the majors. Dombrowski didn't guarantee Boston would be under the $195 million mark for 2017 but would like to try to avoid the extra penalties in place moving forward for going over.
"There are definitely reasons why you don't want to go above," Dombrowski said. "Some of them involve now for the first time differences in draft choices and sacrifices of money to sign players and that type of the thing. ... I think we're going to have a good club either way."
Dombrowski, who announced that the club picked up the 2018 option on manager John Farrell's contract, was known for making big deals during his time running the Detroit Tigers. At the winter meetings he has heard a lot of names but less interest in young players like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. now after winning the AL East than a year ago when Boston finished in last place.
If the right trade came along, Dombrowski would listen, but he said he's not going to make a deal just for the sake of it. He hasn't "closed the door" on bringing back Brad Ziegler or Koji Uehara but would like to get a setup man "any way we could find one" - either through trade or free agency.
Mark Melancon agreeing to a $62 million, four-year deal with the San Francisco Giants set the market for closers like Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman. Dombrowski would like for his eighth-inning acquisition to have closing experienced but said it's not a necessity.
The first order of business was committing to Farrell, who helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2013 and led them back to the playoffs last season. Dombrowski inherited Farrell when he took the job in the summer of 2015, and this is a sign of confidence in the veteran manager.
"We had a conversation a little bit yesterday and it got a little bit personal where he walks in, he's inheriting a manager and a chemo plan," said Farrell, who was diagnosed with lymphoma more than a year ago.
AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello likes that Farrell exudes calm and consistency.
"Boston can be a tough city to play in and when you hit those lows throughout the course of a season, where you lose a couple of games, it gets frustrating and it gets emotional, and you need to have a leader that can provide that stability and allow you to go out there and just focus on performing and winning ballgames on a day-to-day basis," Porcello said. "John does a really good job of keeping us away from those distractions and just focusing on playing on the field."
While Dombrowski implied that he'd be surprised if the Red Sox didn't bring in another hitter this winter, Farrell pointed to the return of third baseman Pablo Sandoval as a major factor.
"As I look at the lineup for next year, one of the keys for us is going to be Panda," Farrell said. "And that's not to put it all on him, but here's a left-handed bat that is a proven guy and has every opportunity to make a major impact on our team next year."
Dombrowski described Sandoval's conditioning as "very good" and said the 30-year-old's shoulder was good to go. Boston wants Sandoval at third base because the club would like to rotate the designated hitter spot around after the retirement of David Ortiz.
That means the Red Sox aren't itching to spend big money on a player who is primarily a designated hitter.
"We're in a new era," Farrell said. "I love the fact that we've got the flexibility that we do with so much roster versatility. ... The more we can rotate guys through, get them off their feet on occasion would lend you to believe that we would keep guys a little bit more fresh deeper into the month of October."
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