The Red Sox are willing to add payroll to improve the pitching staff

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We’re only one game into the season and there are already many questions about the Red Sox pitching staff. Andrew Bailey’s recent thumb surgery has unexpectedly pushed Alfredo Aceves into the closer role while Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront are holding down the final two spots in the starting rotation.

It’s much too soon make any judgements about whether these moves will be successful, but Red Sox president Larry Lucchino told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe that he’s willing to increase the payroll to improve the pitching staff.

One obvious target is Roy Oswalt, who the Red Sox courted during the offseason. He’s currently aiming for a midseason return with a contender. His possible addition would potentially allow Bard or Doubront to move to the bullpen. The Red Sox have also had their eye on free agent reliever Mike Gonzalez, though he may eventually be redundant with Rich Hill on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery. Of course, they could also increase payroll via a trade before the deadline.

The Red Sox began the season with a payroll of approximately $173 million and Lucchino said during an appearance on MLB Network Radio that he expects the team to be over the luxury tax threshold regardless.

“Our goal is to field a team with more homegrown players, fewer free agents, and to have a more manageable payroll down the road. But if you’re asking about this year, we understand that each year has to be taken on its own and this year our payroll is going to be, I’d hate to make a guess, but it’ll be well over the $178 million dollar threshold.’’

Similar to the Yankees, the Red Sox are tightening their belts with the new collective bargaining agreement in mind. With taxes shooting sky high, they can get a rebate on some luxury tax payments if they get under the threshold just once and will only be taxed as a first-time offender if they go back over in a future season.

Report: Red Sox expected to hire Alex Cora after World Series

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Red Sox have offered a contract to Astros’ bench coach Alex Cora, though the deal won’t be officially announced until the conclusion of the World Series later this month. Cora has long been a favorite for the Sox’ managerial vacancy, and despite reports that he was being pursued by the Tigers, Mets, Phillies and Nationals, he’s expected to land in Boston after all. The team has yet to verify the report.

The deal is for three years, per the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Cora is coming off of a one-year gig with the Astros and has no prior managerial experience. More importantly, however, he stands out for his familiarity with the Red Sox’ organization, strong connection with players and analytics-driven approach.

The Red Sox are the second team to replace their manager this offseason after the Tigers snatched up Ron Gardenhire on Friday. The Mets, Phillies and Nationals are still hunting for replacements.