Red Sox have big decisions to make for 2011 payroll

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Red Sox have big decisions to make for 2011 payroll

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

CHICAGO -- The bad news for the Red Sox? They have lots of improvements to make for next year and risk losing two key players to free agency.

The good news? They should have room in their budget -- assuming they spend close to their payroll figure of this year -- to spend toward making the team a playoff contender again.

For now, the Red Sox are committed to approximately 100.5 million to 12 players for 2011, plus assorted payments on existing buyout clauses and the like.

The team will be rid of deals for Mike Lowell (12 million), Jason Varitek (3 million) and shortstop Julio Lugo (9 million). (Lugo hasn't played for the team since July of 2009, but the Sox were responsible for his contract this season).

In addition, several key players -- including closer Jonathan Papelbon and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury -- are due significant raises through the salary arbitration process. Papelbon will likely get somewhere between 11-12 million, with Ellsbury expected to get somewhere just under 1 million.

Furthermore, if the Sox elect to pick up the 12.5 option for slugger David Ortiz, that would bring the projected payroll to approximately 125 million for 15 players.

That would leave approximately 40 million or so to spend on players acquired from outside the organization, either through trade or free agency -- if, that is, the Sox intend to spend roughly to the level they spent this year.

The budget has not yet been set for 2011, and even when it is, the team is loathe to release details about its spending limits, arguing that making such information public puts the team at a competitive disadvantage.

Until the parameters are known, it's uncertain exactly how many impact free agents the Red Sox might be able to sign.

Re-signing both third baseman Adrian Beltre and catcher Victor Martinez will likely cost the Sox a combined 25 million. If they kept both, would there still be money in the budget to add an impact free-agent outfielder such as Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth?

Both Werth and Crawford are expected to sign long-term deals with an average annual value in excess of 15 million.

Signing Beltre, Martinez and either Crawford or Werth would cost more than 40 million and would cover just 18 roster spots. Factor in another seven players -- even young players without arbitration rights or inexpensive free agents -- would mean another 5-10 million, and carrying the payroll well past 170 million for the first time.

One positive for the Sox -- their starting rotation, though expensive, is a fixed cost for 2011, with all five starters under control.

"When you have to go out and sign starting pitching,'' said one rival executive, ''that's where it really gets costly. They have some holes, but at least they don't have to go out on the free agent pitching market.''

To save payroll, it's possible that the Sox could deal Daisuke Matsuzaka -- due 8 million next season and 10 million in 2012 -- for outfield help, while giving the fifth spot in the rotation to a younger (and far less expensive) option such as Felix Doubront.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.