McAdam: Clear that payroll drove Red Sox' decision to deal Buchholz

McAdam: Clear that payroll drove Red Sox' decision to deal Buchholz

In dealing from a position of strength when it came to moving one of their excess starting pitchers, the Red Sox made it clear what they were prioritizing: reducing payroll.

The Red Sox shipped veteran Clay Buchholz to the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday in exchange for minor league second baseman Josh Tobias.
      
Tobias, 24, has yet to play above Single A ball and is not considered among the Phillies' Top 30 prospects, as judged by Baseball America. He has hit .301 in his minor league career after being drafted out of the University of Florida in the 10th round in 2015.
      
But the main attraction to the deal for the Red Sox was the Phillies' willingness to take on all of Buchholz's $13.5 million salary for 2017.
      
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he saw no need to wait until later in the winter, or into spring training, before moving Buchholz.
      
“I think we have a pretty good pulse of what the market is like from clubs looking for pitchers,” he said, "as well as what pitchers are available and what clubs are willing to spend.

I thought that, at this point, it was a situation where if we canmake a deal now, it makes sense...Everything tied together where it made sense to do it now, rather than wait.”
      
Dombrowski said trying to move a sizeable contract during spring training, by which time most clubs have their budgets set, "has not been always successful. In this case, the timing fit.”

After obtaining Chris Sale earlier this month and signing free agent first baseman Mitch Moreland, the Red Sox have been searching for ways to reduce payroll in order to get under the $195 million luxury tax threshold.
      
"I can't even say for sure it was 100 percent the driving force,” said Dombrowski. "I think it always comes into play. For us, I think it's advantageous to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax), based on the basic agreement. So it's something we were hopeful of doing.
      
"It's also a situation where it creates some flexibility going forward, with some areas we want to address as the season progresses. It's always part of the equation, but for us, not a driving force.”

With the subtraction of Buchholz's salary, BaseballReference.com now estimates that the Red Sox payroll obligations for 2017 are at $194.8 million -- just under the $195 million threshold.
      
That estimate includes projected salary arbitration figures for about eight players, including Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.

Dombrowski took issue with that estimate, suggesting that the Red Sox are comfortably under the $195 million figure.

"I think we would be under (if the season started today),” he said, "and we do not have to do anything at all in that regard. In fact, it gives us flexibility to do some things if we want to add.”

Dombrowski said the Sox received inquires on a number of starters, but hinted that team control with the likes of Steven Wright, Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez made it less likely that the Sox would consider moving one of those.

"As we talked to clubs,” he said, "for us, the one that made most sense was dealing Clay. The others have some longer time (of control); (Buchholz) was in his last year (before free agency). But it was our choice to pursue this more so than some of the other guys.”

Buchholz's career in Boston was marked by inconsistency and frequent injury setbacks. After tossing a no-hitter in his second big league start, Buchholz experienced massive swings in performance.

Beginning in 2007, he compiled a 81-61 mark with a 3.96 ERA. An All-Star selection in both 2010 and 2013, he never managed to make 30 starts in a single season or reach 200 innings.
      
In 2016, he pitched himself out of the rotation in late May, before returning from an exile to the bullpen in the final two months, going 5-1 with a 2.80 ERA after July 27.      
      
He was longest tenured pitcher in the organization and only Dustin Pedroia had spent more time with the Red Sox.

"He was very understanding and thankful,” said Dombrowski, who spoke with Buchholz to inform him of the deal. "I thanked him for everything he did in the organization. He was understanding of the situation. He enjoyed his time here. He thought also maybe
it was a spot where a change of scenery, a fresh opportunity, isn't always a bad thing.”
      
The Phillies have stockpiled a number of veterans a year away from free agency (Jeremy Hellickson, Howie Kendrick, Pat Neshek and Buchholz), which could make them big players at the July trade deadline.
      
Dombrowski said what interested the Sox in Tobias was "basically, he's a good hitter. He recently took up switch-hitting. But we really like his bat. We think he has a chance to hit as he continues to  progress up the ladder. So that's his real plus.”

Dombrowski knows ‘winning the winter’ isn’t the ultimate goal

Dombrowski knows ‘winning the winter’ isn’t the ultimate goal

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md -- In the span on less than 12 hours earlier this week, the Red Sox injected some impact players onto their roster, moves that cost them a large chunk of their farm system but made them the prohibitive favorites in the American League.
    
By adding All-Star starter Chris Sale, power set-up man Tyler Thornburg and first baseman Mitch Moreland (though the Sox have not confirmed the latter yet), the team was remade and became the talk of the Winter Meetings.
     
But Dave Dombrowski knows that "winning the winter'' can be a hollow achievement. It's what happens when the games start that will truly matter.
     
"We feel good,'' said Dombrowski as he got ready to depart. "We feel like we have a better ballclub. We feel like we've helped ourselves. Our guys have done a good job here all week long. So, we feel good about it.
     
"In the winter time, winning doesn't really mean anything. We've had that situation before. It really comes down to how well you play. That's why when people ask me to made predictions, I never make them. I think we have a club that can compete. I like our ballclub. But you really have to go about it on a day-in, day-out basis and take care of your business and I think our club will do that.''
     
The Red Sox, of course, won the A.L. East, but were summarily dismissed in the Division Series by the Cleveland Indians, who swept them in three straight.
     
The Sox were the best offensive club in the majors, but the retirement of David Ortiz takes a huge weapon out of their lineup. It's doubtful they'll score as many runs as they did a year ago.
     
Correspondingly, the Sox vastly improved their rotation with Sale, giving them three front-line starters and, in theory, a chance to go further into the postseason in 2017.
     
So deep are the Sox, in fact, that they now have seven established starters, a surplus that has them positioned to move one arm.
    
It may take some time for the market to develop, as clubs explore what's available from other teams and in free agency.
     
"I don't know what that will be,'' Dombrowski said. "We'll just kind of wait and see what takes place. I think a lot is dependent on other things that need to shake out. So our depth in starting pitching is somewhat new to people. They need time to analyze that. I had a couple clubs approach me about that [inside the Rule 5 draft] this morning. Again, we're not jumping. We'll just wait and see what happens.''
     
Dombrowski could choose to move either Drew Pomeranz or Clay Buchholz, though it would seem dumping Buchholz's $13.5 million contract would be his preference.
     
That would enable Dombrowski to get closer to the $195 million luxury tax threshold, which he has said is a preference not a mandate.
     
"I have a preference [in choosing which starter to move],’’ he said with a smile. "I won't share that with you, but I have a preference.''

 

Red Sox re-acquire INF Rutledge in Rule 5 draft

Red Sox re-acquire INF Rutledge in Rule 5 draft

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- On Wednesday afternoon, Dave Dombrowski was asked what else he might be searching for to complete his roster.
     
Dombrowski, noting that Travis Shaw had been dealt away in the trade that brought the Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg, said the Red Sox could use another utility infielder to compete with left-handed-hitting Marco Hernandez.
     
On Thursday morning, Dombrowski found a familiar body in the unlikeliest of places.
     
The Sox selected Josh Rutledge from the Colorado Rockies in the Rule 5 draft. Rutledge, who was once obtained in exchange for outfielder Shane Victorino, spent parts of two seasons with the Red Sox, posting a slash line of .276/.338/.358 with a homer and 13 RBI in 67 games.
     
He missed most of last season with a knee injury and was outrighted by the Sox last month, becoming a free agent. He signed a minor league deal with the Rockies, but was unprotected by the Rockies and made available in Thursday's draft.
     
"We always liked him,'' said Dombrowski. "He thought his opportunity to play at the big league level was better [in Colorado]. But it was a situation for us, we looked at our club and we thought we might need a right-handed [hitting] utility infielder. We looked over the list and we like what he can do for our ballclub. So he was on obvious choice for us.''
     
Rutledge will compete against Marco Hernandez to become another bench player to team with Brock Holt on the Red Sox  roster.
     
Deven Marrero is also a righthand-hitting infielder, but his strength is defense and he's yet to prove he can hit major league pitching.
     
"I'd rather have someone [competing] who can swing the bat a little bit more,'' said Dombrowski. "I think [Rutledge] lines up to be on our club. We'll see what happens in spring training, but we know him, we like him. There looks like there's a path for him.''
     
Drafting Rutledge cost the Red Sox just $50,000 and he must  remain on the team's 25-man roster all season or, be offered back to the Rockies and placed on waivers.
     
The Sox also lost two players in the Rule 5 major league draft. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim chose right-handed pitcher Justin Haley, while the Baltimore Orioles chose outfielder Aneury Tavarez.