Rick Porcello

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Red Sox President: It will be ‘difficult’ to keep both Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez

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In case you left the office a tad early on Friday you may have missed the Boston Red Sox’ news dump in which owner John Henry said that the goal for the 2020 Red Sox was to get the payroll below the lowest Competitive Balance Tax threshold, which will be $208 million.

As we wrote on Friday, that’s not going to be impossible given that a lot of money is coming off the ledger as of today (bye-bye Pablo Sandoval‘s contract), but given that the team just finished the 2019 season with a $242 million payroll it’ll certainly be difficult.

There will something else that will be difficult in all of that too: keeping both Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. Team president and CEO Sam Kennedy:

Martinez has the ability to opt-out of his current contract. If he does not, he’ll make $23.75 million in 2020. If he does he becomes a free agent and he’d almost certainly cost the Red Sox more than $23.75 million to keep him from signing elsewhere. Betts made $20 million this past season. He’ll either get a raise in his final year of arbitration — likely a hefty one — or he’ll negotiate an extension with Boston that’ll have a higher average annual value than $20 million.

Just doing some back of the envelope figuring, if Martinez declines to opt-out and if Betts makes, say, $29 million in 2020, that’d put the payroll commitments at nearly $190 million. And that’s before finding a starting pitcher to replace the departing Rick Porcello and, of course, filling out the rest of the roster. So, no, not impossible, but yes, difficult. They could also try to get Betts to agree to a long term deal that pays him relatively little in 2020 but then goes up over time as other payroll commitments fall off. As the MLBPA will no doubt frown on Betts actually taking a pay cut for 2020, though, it’s not like there is a MASSIVE amount of money to be gained by such a gambit, assuming that Betts is even amenable.

So, yeah, difficult is right.

If, a year ago, you had told Red Sox fans that upon the conclusion of the 2019 season the team (a) would not be in the postseason; and (b) the biggest topic of conversation was which superstars it could afford to keep and which it had to let go in an effort to slash payroll, I suspect they’d laugh their butts off at you.

Guessing they’re not really laughing today. Especially when they see stuff like this: