The Boston Red Sox did something we’re not used to seeing them do Tuesday: They made a trade with the primary objective of shedding salary.
The Red Sox are a big-market team with seemingly deep pockets, of which they’re often willing to dig into in order to pay high-end players. However, Major League Baseball is changing, and the new collective bargaining agreement will make it more difficult for teams to just spend, spend, spend — or at the very least, it will give them reason to pause before doing so.
So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Boston sent Clay Buchholz to the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday in exchange for Josh Tobias, who, according to at least one projection, probably won’t ever make a real impact in the major leagues. Giving up Buchholz — as fickle as his performance could be — for a player on which simply to dream isn’t necessarily the Red Sox way, but president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made it clear this deal centered on keeping Boston under the luxury tax threshold.
What followed for some Red Sox fans was an understandable question: Might the Red Sox consider going over the threshold (of $195 million in 2017) in order to sign a free-agent slugger, like Edwin Encarnacion, to replace David Ortiz? The answer, according to Dombrowski, is no.
“The move was not made to create the flexibility to go pursue other individuals that would be perceived as the big names out there,” Dombrowski said Tuesday on a conference call, per the Providence Journal. “If we started spring training right now, we would be content where we are.”
Dombrowski reiterated that notion with tapped-in national reporter Joel Sherman of the New York Post, too.
Of course, Dombrowski walked into the winter meetings saying his priority was an eighth-inning reliever and not much more. And while he left with that in the form of Tyler Thornburg, he also left Maryland with Chris Sale after making a franchise-altering trade with the Chicago White Sox.
Here’s why it makes sense to believe Dombrowski this time around, though: The Red Sox signed Mitch Moreland, and they appear comfortable with him in their lineup. More importantly, perhaps, is Boston has a surplus of young, controllable talent — players like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. At some point, they could (and should) look to extend those players, and they’re going to need the financial flexibility to do so, especially as the new CBA kicks into gear.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images