Alex Speier of The Boston Globe reports that the Red Sox are unlikely to retain outfielder Mookie Betts and/or DH J.D. Martinez. One or both are likely to be traded this winter. The Red Sox purportedly do not have the payroll flexibility to afford both given the recent signings of pitchers Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi.
The Red Sox currently have a payroll over $236 million, exceeding the competitive balance tax threshold for a second straight year. Last year, the CBT threshold was $197 million, this year it’s $206 million. The Red Sox will pay a penalty on the $30 million overage, 30 percent ($9 million) plus a 12 percent penalty ($3.6 million) for exceeding the CBT threshold between $20-40 million. To a layperson, these are huge penalties. To a billionaire, they are drops in the ocean. Even to a team, it’s the cost of a free agent reliever.
John Henry, who is the principal owner of the Red Sox (and The Boston Globe), has a net worth of $2.7 billion, according to Forbes. Henry and the Red Sox could keep both Betts and Martinez if they really wanted to. The CBT, of course, was designed to give team owners a reason to limit their investments in their teams, so it’s working exactly as intended.
Betts, 26, is the reigning AL MVP Award winner. He hasn’t had quite as strong a 2019, though still quite good. He’s been worth 6.3 WAR behind superb defense and a balanced offensive approach. He’s hitting .291/.389/.525 with 40 doubles, 27 home runs, 77 RBI, 128 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 665 plate appearances.
Martinez, 32, is likewise having a terrific year though not quite as productive as his 2018. He’s hitting .308/.384/.577 with 35 home runs and 94 RBI in 592 PA.
Betts is earning $20 million this year and will enter his third and final year of arbitration eligibility after the season. Martinez inked a five-year, $110 million contract with the Red Sox in February 2018. The contract, however, allows him to opt out of his contract after both 2019 and 2020 with no buyout. It’s difficult to imagine Martinez will choose to opt out. What’s not difficult to imagine is the Red Sox drawing significant interest if they do indeed make either or both players available via trade.