Last offseason, the Red Sox made a concerted effort to bolster their offense by signing Mark Teixeira. There were also several rumors of them attempting to trade for various offensive stars. They also seemed determined to upgrade their captain Jason Varitek with a younger, more offensively oriented catcher.
They pretty much failed in every effort.
However, the team projected as stacked, and there were few public concerns.
Then David Ortiz, the heart of the Sox lineup began the season with a horrendous months-long slump. The Red Sox were still scoring runs but after every loss, fingers were pointed at the offense and the lack thereof from the designated hitter.
Eventually Ortiz did pull out of his slump and had a strong second half, but the doubts remain as he heads into the last guaranteed year of his contract (the club holds a $12.5 million option for 2011).
As David Ortiz slumped, Jason Varitek was as inconsistent as expected from an offensive viewpoint. Lauded as a great leader and fair defensive catcher, Varitek added many intangibles to help the team win.
Nevertheless, the Red Sox wanted offense from the catcher position and got it when they sent several prospects to the Cleveland Indians for Victor Martinez, who will be the starting catcher in 2010.
Varitek will return by virtue of utilizing his player option for $3 million and incentives after the Red Sox passed on using theirs.
The Red Sox run the risk of losing slugging left fielder Jason Bay to free agency—a loss that will be difficult for the Red Sox faithful (a non saber metric inclined crowd to say the least, despite the clear beliefs of the teams management) to understand.
Most analysts believe that signing Bay to the rumored deals that include several years and over $100 million would be a colossal mistake.
Granted, it is a mistake the Red Sox can afford to make. Unlike the rival New York Yankees, the Red Sox have avoided including extra years into contracts as incentives to sign.
But Bay is an aging player (who some describe as a Three True Outcomes type), who is mediocre at best defensively and a perhaps a future designated hitter. Paying full price for Bay seems like something the Theo Epstein Red Sox would never do, but then you hear things.
Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports on the Extra Bases Blog this series of events:
So we're talking to Theo Epstein Monday afternoon and he mentions that restructuring Tim Wakefield's deal will save the Sox $1.5 million on the CBT, which is GM-speak for the payroll luxury tax, or collective bargaining tax.
"That's important because there's some things we want to do this winter and we don't have a ton of room under the CBT," Epstein said.
The tax threshold for 2010 will be $170 million. Are the Red Sox actually planning to approach that? I mean, zowie. They were around $125 million this season. Keeping in mind that is an extremely rough estimate, I have the Red Sox committed to approximately $109 million for next season. That's figuring arbitration raises for Jonathan Papelbon, Jeremy Hermida, Hideki Okajima and Ramon Ramirez and $500,000 each for the assorted 0-3 service-time players.
Let's say they sign Jason Bay for $18 million. So now they're at $127 million. Where is that extra $43 million coming from that Theo seemed concerned about? Are the Red Sox leaving room for Roy Halladay and some other superstar? This is total conjecture, of course, and perhaps Epstein was just musing out loud. But perhaps that was a clue that the Sox are, if nothing else, giving themselves the option to make a huge splash.
It seems impossible that the Red Sox could worry about approaching the tax threshold without planning to devote a substantial amount to re-signing Jason Bay. Maybe they plan to sign Bay and Holliday, then put Bay at designated hitter. That would be out Yankee-ing the Yankees, no doubt.