Before the Red Sox’ first full-team workout Saturday, Red Sox owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and team president Larry Lucchino addressed reporters and debunked the notions of thriftiness.
“How can you say [our spending days are] over when we have the second-largest payroll?” Henry said. “When did it end? If your pre-existing contracts get you to a certain point, it’s hard to go beyond a certain point. Every year we have a budget, and every year we go over our budget. Are we prepared to go over our budget? Yes, if the right situation presents itself.”
The Marco Scutaro trade triggered the discussion. The Red Sox traded their starting shortstop in January to Colorado in exchange for pitcher Clayton Mortensen and reportedly for more financial flexibility.
By shipping Scutaro, the Red Sox freed up roughly $6 million and used $3 million to sign Cody Ross to a one-year contract. As Lucchino reflected on the days before the swap, the team president said cost cutting was a factor — albeit slightly.
“Basically, it was a baseball move initiated by baseball operations because the suggestion was, as good a player as Marco was, the same level of production could be attained in a different manner and that the money could be redeployed successfully in other ways,” Lucchino said.
Since Henry also owns part of Liverpool FC — a professional soccer team in the English Premier League — there was the assumption that the owner prioritized soccer over baseball and wanted to trim payroll in Boston.
Henry countered with his own witty response.
“It’s difficult [to answer] because I’m not here today,” Henry said of answering the Liverpool questions. “I’m somewhere else. If I were here, I would say this is about baseball. With us, everyday is about baseball.”
Ownership shouldered a share of the blame. As a result of the September collapse and the organizational overhaul, Werner promised that ownership would be more visible and Henry said he has been involved more this offseason than in recent years.
“We’re very much looking to the future,” Henry said. “Other clubs are catching up in payroll. We have to have more. When we first came in, I think there was a fear that we had to have more of a small-market mentality.
“I think that was an advantage. It’s an advantage to have a big-market payroll and a small-market mentality. I think we have to be more careful about how we spend our money. There’s a lot to consider with baseball economics going forward in the next four years.”
The Red Sox are projected to have the second-highest payroll this season behind the New York Yankees.