Fire Sale is coming for the Boston Red Sox to avoid luxury tax penalties

The team needs to trade Mookie Betts and let J.D. Martinez walk

By on October 2, 2019

Boston Red Sox star right fielder Mookie Betts is a free agent after the 2020 season, while DH J.D. Martinez has an opt-out clause in his contract after the 2019 season. The Red Sox need to move on from both of these players because they have to get under the luxury tax.

The Red Sox will likely have to at least move on from Betts and Martinez because of the moves former President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski made this past offseason, according to Alex Spier of the Boston Globe.

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“In re-signing [Nathan] Eovaldi and then reaching a long-term deal with Chris Sale, Dombrowski put the Red Sox in position where based on their payroll projections and a significant desire to get under the luxury tax threshold sometime in the next two years to reset the penalty structure, they’ll likely end up parting with J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, or possibly even this winter,” Spier said.

This past season, the Red Sox spent more than $240 million, according to NBCSports.com writer John Tomase. I think the Red Sox need to make major changes to their roster because it will trigger heavy penalties.

“The Red Sox spent more than $240 million last year and will be in the range again this year,” Tomase said. “If they spend beyond the tax threshold again in 2020, they’ll trigger the most onerous penalties, with a tax of 50 percent on every dollar spent over $208 million, 95 percent on every dollar over the $248 million, and a sliding scale between. They could end up making a tax payment of more than $20 million.”

The team’s base tax rate would increase from 30 to 50 percent if they exceed $208 million this year because it would be their third time going over that threshold, according to FoxBusiness.com Jason Schott.

That is why I see Red Sox owner John Henry trading Betts and letting Martinez walk because he said this week the team needs to be under the competitive balance threshold, according to Schott.

“In 2020, we need to be under the competitive balance threshold and that was something we’ve known for more than a year now,” Henry said in his first comments since the firing of Dave Dombrowski on Sept. 9. “If you don’t reset, there are penalties, so we’ve known for some time we needed to reset as other clubs have done.

If the Red Sox trade Betts and let Martinez walk, they will be at $175 million, according to Tomase. This would give the team the ability to sign third baseman Rafael Devers, as Rob Bradford report this weekend the Red Sox are planning to offer him a contract extension in the offseason.

Dombroski is to blame for them being over the budget because he created luxury problems as he decided to extend Chris Sale to a five-year contract, worth $145 million. This was a terrible decision because Sale has had elbow issues the past two years before this extension where he had to get shut down in the second half of each year.  I would have waited to see if he could go a whole year without dealing with elbow issues before giving him a massive deal. Sale had to get shut down again this year because of inflammation in his left elbow.

Dombrowski also made the same mistake to starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. He signed him to a four-year contract, worth $67.5 million. I did not like this even with how he performed in the playoffs because Eovaldi had undergone Tommy John surgery two times prior to this contract, according to the Boston Globe. He dealt with another injury this year, where he was placed on the 60-day injured list last year for two loose bodies in his right elbow.

Dombrowski should have never signed two injury-prone players to two large contracts. He should have signed Eovaldi to a one-year deal and let Sale’s current contract playout to give the team flexibility heading into free agency in 2020 so they would not have luxury tax issues. This would have given them the ability to offer Betts a contract over $300 million and pay Martinez $25 million annually.

They can not do that now because Xander Bogaerts’ six-year contract worth $120 million and Sale’s deal start towards the luxury tax next year. The team can’t afford to pay Betts and Martinez the money they deserve to stay under the luxury tax with contracts the two starting pitchers inked this offseason.

The Red Sox roster will look very different from next year to avoid luxury tax penalties. 

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