Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said today in an appearance on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan (via WEEI.com’s Jerry Spar) that his club is prepared to spend a significant amount of money on the upcoming free agent market. “[W]e are determined to get back to being in first next year,” said Werner.
Citing the “extreme flexibility” that the club was able to achieve in the famous 2012 August blockbuster with the Dodgers, Werner said that the organization is prepared to open the pocketbook this winter. “I wouldn’t say that we have limitless money, but we’ve got a lot of money to spend and we’re determined to go into the free agent market and improve the team.”
Indeed, after entering this year with about $156MM in MLB payroll, about $20MM off of the team’s 2012 high water mark, Boston has just under $106MM committed for 2015 and does not have any high-dollar arbitration cases to account for. But the team’s true flexibility is all the more evident looking further into the future: it has annual guarantees of no more than about $37MM on the books past next year.
So how will the team look to allocate its future resources? In part, it seems, the organization may have added motivation to invest in established players to ensure a quality product. (Werner called this season “a nightmare,” and noted that late-season games are “just not a good experience for the fans.”) Boston went into this season hoping to make another World Series run on the back of repeat performances from veterans and steps forward for younger players. “I know it’s always difficult to break a few rookies into your lineup,” acknowledged Werner. “… But I think we probably put too much stock in the replacements that we expected to come out and perform.” Nevertheless, Werner said that he and the rest of the organization remains confident that youthful contributors like Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts will play an important role in the immediate future.
Immediate priorities will, of course, be dictated in part by the team’s recent actions. Dealing away free agent-to-be Jon Lester, rather than extending him, created space at the top of the rotation but also brought in Yoenis Cespedes for at least one full season at Fenway. Likewise, Allen Craig provides a veteran bounceback candidate in the outfield. And the recent signing of Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo also adds to the crowded mix of outfield options.
That leaves the obvious area of immediate focus on pitching. “We know we have to add some front-line talent,” said Werner. “We spent some time over the last few weeks talking about exactly what we can do to improve. I think that our trades at the end of July attacked the fact that we had a lack of offense. … But we know we need some front-line pitching talent.” It is worth noting that, in addition to parting with veteran starters Lester and John Lackey, the club will also need to replace (or bring back) key relievers such as Koji Uehara and Andrew Miller (among others).