Even though David Price is now a member of the Dodgers, his decision to opt out of the 2020 season could have a major impact on the Red Sox’ finances this year.
As part of the February trade that sent Price and Mookie Betts to Los Angeles, the Red Sox agreed to pay Price half of his salary -- a total of $48 million -- over the final three years of his contract, taking on a $16 million per year hit against the competitive balance tax threshold through 2022. With the season shortened to just 60 games, the Red Sox were due to pay Price about $5.925 million (half of the roughly $11.85 million he is owed on a prorated basis this year) but now will likely save that amount with Price deciding to sit out the year due to concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
If a player is considered “high-risk” for complications stemming from COVID-19, he can opt out of the season and still receive his full prorated salary and service time. If a player who opts out is not considered “high-risk” -- and Price doesn’t appear to be -- he will forfeit his entire salary for that season. Price forfeiting his salary means that the two teams paying him (the Red Sox and Dodgers) get to keep the money he would have earned in 2020.
Calculating the effect of Price’s decision on the competitive balance tax threshold is a more complicated exercise, as the unprecedented nature of the shortened season has led to a number of issues related to details baseball’s collective bargaining agreement. Any changes to the CBT system require an agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association, and it appears the sides have not yet worked out whether or not players who opt out of the season will still count against clubs’ thresholds this summer.
For the Red Sox, the decision on that fine point could be particularly impactful. After trading Betts and Price and making some other moves in spring training, Boston’s CBT number is projected to be about $198 million -- roughly $10 million under the $208 million threshold the team desperately tried to get under this winter. If it’s determined that CBT hit for Price (and any other players who opt out throughout the league) is forgiven, then the Red Sox would be under the $208 million penalty mark by more than $25 million, giving them plenty of room to potentially add salary during the season.
Considering the safety risks relating to player movement in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s unclear if there will be an active trade market this summer. But having $26 million of room to work with instead of $10 million would mean the Sox could operate without any worry about going over the CBT threshold if they are in contention and want to augment their roster before the Aug. 31 trade deadline.
Having Price’s CBT hit come off the books would make it more likely for the Red Sox to pursue an available player like San Diego’s Wil Myers or free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig. Boston considered taking on Myers’ salary ($61 million remaining through 2022) and acquiring talented young pitching from San Diego in February and was loosely linked to Puig earlier in the week. Being comfortably under the $208 million threshold would make it much more feasible for the Red Sox to pursue one of those players or someone who becomes available over the summer.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed to a deal with the Boston Red Sox that would send star outfielder Mookie Betts and starter David Price to the Dodgers, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN.
The deal is pending medical reviews.
Outfielder Alex Verdugo will be the centerpiece of the package headed back to Boston, sources said. It wasn't immediately clear what additional players were involved nor how much money, if any, Boston was sending to Los Angeles to complete the deal.
With the bidding for Betts heating up between the Dodgers and National League West rival San Diego in recent days, Boston chose to deal with Los Angeles and improve the team that lost in the division series to the Washington Nationals, the eventual World Series champions.
The 27-year-old Betts is coming off a season in which he hit .295/.391/.524 and finished eighth in American League MVP voting. He won the 2018 MVP, hitting .346/.438/.640 during the Red Sox' championship-winning season.
Throughout the winter, Boston entertained offers for Betts, whose free-agent haul following the 2020 season could exceed $400 million. Betts will make $27 million this year, and as Boston tries to dip beneath the $208 million luxury-tax threshold, clearing its books of Betts and Price will go a long way toward reaching that goal. Price has three years and $96 million remaining on his contract.
Still, dealing Betts was far from a certainty for Boston, particularly after watching him develop from a fifth-round pick in 2001 and become one of the best players in baseball. In fewer than 5½ seasons with the Red Sox, Betts piled up 42.0 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
The Dodgers coveted him, even knowing he could leave via free agency after one season. The Dodgers' depth allowed them to stomach the potential value given away and take comfort in the knowledge that they'll add Betts to a lineup that already includes reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Max Muncy and top prospect Gavin Lux.
For most of the winter, the Dodgers had been quiet, watching top free agents Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg sign elsewhere. Los Angeles' lone free-agent signings this winter have been one-year deals for reliever Blake Treinen ($10 million) and starters Alex Wood ($4 million) and Jimmy Nelson ($1 million). San Diego looked to keep the Dodgers from making a big acquisition, hoping Boston would take one of its offers, which were centered around top catching prospect Luis Campusano and major-league players. Boston preferred Los Angeles, as Bloom made his first big trade with Dodgers president Andrew Friedman, with whom he worked while running the Tampa Bay Rays.
Los Angeles, which hasn't won a championship since 1988, lost in back-to-back World Series against the Houston Astros and Red Sox. The 2017 Astros, who beat Los Angeles in seven games, cheated during that season by stealing signs and warning hitters what pitchers were coming by banging on trash cans, according to a report from Major League Baseball. The 2018 Red Sox also are under investigation for using technology to steal signs.
Both the Astros and Red Sox fired their managers in the wake of the controversy, and Boston still has not named a manager with pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training on Feb. 11.
Verdugo, 23, hit .294/.342/.475 with a 2.2 WAR in 377 plate appearances for the Dodgers last season. He took over in center field when A.J. Pollock was out.
He didn't play after Aug. 4 because of a back injury that he re-aggravated while on a rehab assignment in September.
He's excellent aginst left-handed pitching. He's under team control through the 2024 season. He'll make the MLB minimum of $563,500 in 2020. He's a member of the Mexican National team.