Red Sox brass convened with fans and media at their annual Winter Weekend festivities. CEO Sam Kennedy chatted with reporters shortly before the event this evening.
Most notably, Kennedy said the club’s 2024 payroll “probably will be lower than it was in 2023” (link via Chris Cotillo of MassLive). While he indicated that wasn’t a guarantee, it’s the latest signal from Boston officials that they’re not anticipating another major strike this offseason. Chairman Tom Werner hinted similarly earlier in the week when he backtracked on his early-offseason proclamation the team would go “full throttle” this winter.
From a raw payroll perspective, Boston’s projected salary isn’t far off last year’s Opening Day mark. Roster Resource projects the club’s player spending around $178MM. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Sox started last year with a payroll narrowly above $181MM. However, there’s a notable gap between the team’s luxury tax numbers. Roster Resource forecasts the Sox for a CBT figure in the $198MM range this year; Cot’s had their tax number approaching $226MM a season ago.
That’s not a huge distinction, as both are below the base threshold. This year’s CBT markers begin at $237MM. Boston isn’t close to that mark and it doesn’t appear they’re particularly interested in approaching it, at least during the winter. The competitive balance tax number is finalized at year’s end, so in-season acquisitions count against it (albeit on prorated salaries at that point).
Boston narrowly exceeded the luxury tax in 2022. That backfired, as they finished in last place in the AL East. The actual tax payment (roughly $1.2MM) was minimal, but staying above the threshold reduced their draft compensation for the losses of Xander Bogaerts and Nathan Eovaldi in free agency. The Sox dipped below the line last year en route to another 78-84 finish and a second straight last place standing.
That disappointing run led ownership to dismiss Chaim Bloom. They tabbed Craig Breslow to lead baseball operations. The first-year chief baseball officer has played things cautiously thus far. Their only significant free agent signing was a two-year, $38.5MM rebound deal for Lucas Giolito. Boston took on a $5.85MM arbitration salary in the Tyler O’Neill trade. They offloaded part of Chris Sale’s salary in the trade sending him to Atlanta for Vaughn Grissom, though the $10.5MM they saved in that deal would have been deferred for more than 15 years anyhow.
With Sale leaving town not long after Giolito signed, the Sox have the same number of starting pitchers they did at the start of the winter. Breslow admitted earlier this week they’ve found it a “challenge” to bring in rotation help but noted they were still evaluating free agent and trade possibilities.
Rob Bradford of WEEI reports that Jordan Hicks was one of those rotation targets. The hard-throwing righty came off the board last week on a four-year, $44MM pact to the Giants. While Hicks has worked mostly in relief as a big leaguer, San Francisco will give him a shot in the rotation. According to Bradford, the Sox would also have let Hicks battle for a starting spot had he gone to Boston.