Lies, Damn Lies and General Managers

Scott Candage investigates a very big lie that could be coming to Red Sox Nation

Dustin Pedroia (Photo: Samara Pearlstein)

I’ve been lied to a lot in my life. But what Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington pulled off this week may be a set up for one of the bigger lies I’ve ever heard.

At a sports management conference at UMass-Amherst this week, Cherington said that despite the (then) rumored Blue Jays-Marlins trade, he wanted to stick by his plan for the offseason. Now granted, none of us are privy to what Ben’s plan truly is. But one indicator of his plan was last year’s mega-trade. It would be hard to think that the Red Sox would shed a quarter of a billion dollars just to turn around and spend it all on a new set of free agents. That also doesn’t mean that we can expect to see the Red Sox have 25 minimum salaried players as if they were the Indians in Major League. Somewhere in the middle should be where it lands. But what happened later in the week made me question my own sanity, then question Ben’s.

When asked during a WEEI interview how close the Red Sox would get to a $190 million payroll, Cherington said, “ I know that we’ll have a very strong payroll, a large payroll. I know that we’re going to add to it this winter. I’m confident saying that we’ll be amongst the larger payrolls in the game. Exactly where it ends up, exactly where we rank, I just don’t know that. It depends on what we do.”

What?

Either this is a lie, or the post hoc justification against this will be the lie.

Let’s look at the numbers from Cot’s Baseball Contracts. As of November 12, the Red Sox have $60,137,500 in salary committed to six players (John Lackey, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Jose Iglesias). Add another $3 million to that for David Ross. The Sox have 11 arbitration eligible players. If, as Ben Nicholson-Smith suggests, the Red Sox non-tender Scott Atchison, Rich Hill, Alfredo Aceves and Ryan Sweeney, the Red Sox will spend approximately $22.5 million in arbitration. They’re pretty accurate at MLB Trade Rumors, but let’s round it up to be fair and call it $25 million. That makes $88 million for 14 players.

But Cherington said that the Red Sox will have amongst the highest payrolls in the game. And here’s where he can play with the numbers. What is Ben’s definition of “highest payrolls”? Fans shouldn’t expect the Red Sox to be in second place anymore, as the Dodgers may spend more than the Yankees this year, as they already have over $198 million in salary committed for 2013 and the Yankees have intimated that their 2013 payroll will come down to about $180 million. For argument’s sake, let’s say that 75% of whatever the Dodgers spend could be considered “one of the highest payrolls in the game.” This should be around $150 million, which would represent a $25 million reduction in salary from 2012 for the Red Sox. Still a lot of simoleons.

Either Ben Cherington is going to spend $62 million dollars ($150 million -$88 million) on 14 players for 2013 (many of which will be backups or back-of-the-bullpen types that won’t cost too much) or his statement is a lie. ‘But I didn’t lie,’ he’ll say, and he could be technically correct. But it won’t improve the Red Sox in 2013.

ESPN’s Joe McDonald reported that the Red Sox plan to offer a contract extensions to Pedroia, and could offer extensions to Lester and Will Middlebrooks. Add those raises to the payroll and it will be easier for the Red Sox to fill the 2013 roster without signing top-class free agents and still raise the payroll to $150 million.

Granted, long-term contracts for Pedroia, Lester and Middlebrooks aren’t bad in and of themselves. But unless Ben is worried that Pedroia and Lester would leave in free agency, and is sure that Middlebrooks is the real deal and deserves an Evan Longoria deal, the remainder of that $62 million should be spend on player acquisition, not player retention. Lester’s deal expires in 2013 but the club holds an option for 2014, and Pedroia’s deal expires in 2014 with a club option for 2015. There is time to work out these extensions.

Nobody is asking Cherington to spend money willy-nilly. I want him to find good players for next year and beyond. But what will be a lie is if he hands out extensions to Pedroia, Lester and Middlebrooks, fills the roster with AAAA players and journeymen, and tries to claim that the Red Sox have one of the highest payrolls in the game. It won’t be a lie by the numbers but it will be a lie. A big, fat stinking lie.

Categories: Alfredo Aceves Ben Cherington Boston Red Sox Clay Buchholz Cleveland Indians David Ortiz David Ross Dustin Pedroia Evan Longoria John Lackey Jon Lester Jose Iglesias Josh Beckett Los Angeles Dodgers Miami Marlins Rich Hill Ryan Sweeney Scott Atchison Toronto Blue Jays Will Middlebrooks

Scott Candage is a long-time Red Sox fan. He recently came in third in the 127th annual Upperclass Twit of the Year competition. His best friend is a tree and he is a stockbroker in his spare time.

5 Responses to “Lies, Damn Lies and General Managers” Subscribe

  1. JiminNC November 17, 2012 at 8:55 PM #

    "For argument’s sake, let’s say that 75% of whatever the Dodgers spend could be considered “one of the highest payrolls in the game.”"

    This is crazy. If you want to know whether someone is among the tallest players in MLB, you don't just take the tallest player and arbitrarily pull out of your ass the idea that players 75% of his height are among the tallest players in the game. You say who all the tallest players are, then see how your guy matches up to tem. So here you need to spend more 5 seconds on Cotts, and tell us which several teams have the highest payrolls, and then come back to us. Forget this lazy nonsense.

    • BoSoxBacker November 18, 2012 at 9:53 AM #

      Agreed, was going to post the same thing, but got distracted.

      I'll also point out that the quote isn't even right. Ben didn't even say "one of the highest payrolls in the game"; he said "amongst the larger payrolls in the game". I'd consider a top 10 payroll to be "amongst the larger payrolls." In 2012, $100M would have gotten you into the top ten. That will likely go up a bit this year, but it seems pretty likely that the Sox will easily end up in the top 10.

      • gerry November 19, 2012 at 12:04 PM #

        The Sox FO, according to numerous neutral sources, have been among the most active in talking with players and agents. Hunter wanted to go to the Tigers. The Fish wanted WMB, Doubront and Bogaerts for Johnson and Reyes. Ben passed on Melky and is unwilling to go 3 years for Cody at this point. So far so good, right? He has stated on several occasions the need for a 1B, OF and SP, despite already having reasonably viable options in Kalish, JCL, Sands, Gomez, Morales, DLR. Why would he not sign a Napoli, Victorino, Swisher, Choo, Sanchez, Kuroda, Jackson, etc.??? Why would we want him to sign a Hamilton or Grienke for huge multiple year contracts?? By this time last year heads were still rolling and we didn't have a manager, and now we have a GM with more power, a good manager and most of the coaching staff, revised medical and training staff and augmented scouting staff, Big Papi for 2 years, an exceptional backup and mentor in David Ross, good-move discussions of extending the core. Let's not forget about Bill James. That's a pretty terrific month's work. IMO a strong foundation is being built by a highly competent GM and staff, and a competitive team with a $150M payroll puts them on Santa's Nice List in terms of veracity and
        integrity. Words like liar don' t belong on a respected site like Firebrand. It will only come back and bite. IMO, be patient. The offseason has only just begun. IMO in Ben we trust.

        • Gerry November 19, 2012 at 12:47 PM #

          Let's add some #'s to this equation. It is likely Ben finds ways to hang onto Atchison, Hill and Acevas and arb brings payroll to $93M. Still plenty of room. Choo or Davis will cost acceptable prospects and less than $9 including medical. Let's say Choo AND Ross. Working on the high side we are up to $110M. Napoli for 1B/C/DH for $15M? 125M! Let' s go all out with a $1M Kuroda contract and $6M for a redundant closer totalling $23M, which comes to $148M for a team which will compet in 2013, has immense depth, and will have openings for DLR/ Webby, JBJ, Bogaerts and probably Brentz in 2014, at which point payroll is actually reduced by about $25M with plenty of flexibilty to keep improving. And that plan signs not 3 players but an over the top five.
          Despite all the 'big market' hype, Boston is a mid-market team with a metro population smaller than Jacksonville or SanFrancisco, a New England population smaller than NYC or LA. Even the media market advantage is less due to huge contracts throughout baseball. Red Sox have been able to act like a big market team because of the outrageous support of its rabid fanbase. To maintain that support, Ben has to put an interesting and contending team together. He isn't about to allow 2012 to happen again, and has the $$$ to insure the fans will continue to love, and support, their team.

  2. Carts13 November 22, 2012 at 4:14 AM #

    What a poor excuse for an article. This kind of rubbish belongs on the Boston.com message boards not on firebrand. This is usually the best sox site out there but you've let the side down today