Red Sox GM Ben Cherington went on WEEI today and had some scary interesting things to say.
First, he admitted to talking to Miami about some players, but then implied that any deal wouldn't fit the team's approach. Which is something good for once. Taking a slow & steady approach. Jose Reyes & Josh Johnson would've been nice additions for 2013 but with Boegarts almost ready & Johnson slowly morphing into Josh Beckett 2.0, it wouldn't help the team long term. Sounds smart.
Then he started talking about 2013.
First he talked about the payroll:
"I know that we'll have a very strong payroll, a large payroll," he said. "I know that we're going to add to it this winter. I'm confident in saying that it will be amongst the larger payrolls in the game. … It depends on what we do. We're not going to shoot for an arbitrary payroll number just to say that we're going to get to this. We just have to look at each opportunity as it comes and figure out, is this the right thing for the Red Sox?"
So the key thing is we need to define: what exactly would a "large payroll" entail? Looking at the payroll committments thus far: Three teams are already commited in paying $120 million (the Dodgers are already committed to $193 million! We really can't thank them enough.) Five more teams are a few more signings away from hitting the nine figure range. The Sox are in the middle of the pack, having only committed $45.6 million.
So let's figure that estimate that in order to be one of the higher payrolls in the league, around top five where they have been for nearly a decade, the Sox would have a $150 million payroll. That's nearly $105 million they have available to them. What in the hell happened to slow and steady?
The only gaps they have on the roster are at first, the outfield, and a back of the rotation starter. The Mike Napoli rumors are swirling in the air so even if they overpay and give him a long term contract, he'll only make $10-$15 million this season. Add that in we're still talking upwards of ninety million dollars to burn.
It could very well lead to the two scariest things that could happen to the Red Sox.
The first is giving Jacoby Ellsbury a major deal. Yes he's in the midst of his prime but he's only has one good season in his career. Granted it was one of the greatest single season efforts put in by a Sox player not named "Ramirez" or "Ortiz" in the past 20 years, it's not worth giving him a eight year deal for $160 million. He still needs to prove that his 2011 season wasn't a fluke and that despite all of the accidental injuries, he can stay healthy.
Speaking of staying healthy, this leads me to the second and much more scarier option for the Sox that could happen: Signing Josh Hamilton. Cherington admitted to having some talks with Hamilton's agent, Mike Moye.
"We have already [had a discussion]," Cherington said. "By this time in the offseason we've talked to most teams, we've talked to just about every agent and just about every prominent free agent. That's just part of our job, is to do that due diligence and meet with guys. That doesn't mean anything, other than we've met with several agents of all the higher-profile or prominent [free agents], and some lesser, lower-profile free agents.
Doesn't mean anything? No it means something. It means that the Sox haven't really ditched the notion that they have to make a big splash in free agency.
Hamilton is a supreme talent but he's also looking for a long term deal at about $25 million per year. No thank you. He's been a perennial MVP candidate but he's turning 32 in June and if he did sign here, we could very well be regretting it two years down the road. But my biggest fear isn't his on the field issues, it's off the field.
We all know his story and how he's a recovering addict. It's not so much a concern about him going on a bender, it's more about how the media will follow his every move. I really don't want to see a story about Hamilton at a bar on the Inside Track. I don't want to see Felger or Shaughnessy bring this up on a regular basis. It just bad news altogether.
In fact this whole notion of having a big payroll doesn't make sense. Everyone knows the Sox are in rebuilding mode and after the Toronto/Miami trade, it's a sure bet that the Sox are the worst team in the AL East. The roster we have now is still talented and if they're healthy, could emerge as a dark horse contender but even the most optimistic Sox fan realizes that's an outside shot. This free agent market isn't that strong and there are going to be some really bad deals coming out of it. Let's just hope that the Sox don't have two or more of them.