Have you ever wondered, maybe after several pops of your favorite hallucinogenic substance, why don't the Red Sox just go out and get every good player on the free agent market copper shark fribble-flabble? Then, the next morning, you sober up and think, wow, that was a really stupid idea.
The thing is though, they really could do it. There's nothing stopping them. Baseball doesn't have a salary cap, so there is no maximum amount they can spend. The luxury tax hits teams who spend above a certain threshold, but a tax on what MLB considers an excessive payroll is different from a rule preventing at team from spending more than X number of dollars. What's more, John Henry is made of money. In his spare time he plays chicken with two remote control yachts and never chickens out. He's known to buy priceless pieces of art just to see how they smell when on fire.
So what if John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino decided to really blow up baseball's salary structure and buy up the very best players available?
I know I've framed this as a joke, and it totally is. But it's also a Friday morning, so humor me. I'm curious about two things. 1) How could the Red Sox integrate the best players on the market into their existing team, and 2) How much would this ridiculous venture cost?
This year's free agent market isn't deep, but it is top heavy with high end talent. Two first baseman in Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, and shortstop Jose Reyes are the headliners. The pitching depth is less, but C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson and Yu Darvish aren't exactly a puppy in a meat grinder. Well that just came out all wrong. In any case, those are the guys we'll focus on. Supposing the Red Sox decided to sign them all at roughly going rates, what would it take?
Here's my guess.
I'm sure the numbers can be quibbled with, but these are just guesses. If anything, I've tried to be on the high side. According to Cot's, the Red Sox total current payroll obligations for 2012 equal $131 million. That figure doesn't include any arbitration awards, so players like Matt Albers, Jarrod Saltalamaccia, and Daniel Bard are not included. Neither is Jacoby Ellsbury. So add another $15 million on for the arbitration eligibles and that brings you $146 million.
Throw $93 million on top of the current payroll and the number becomes $239 million. A $239 million payroll. Crazy, huh? Well, yes, completely crazy. But last season the Yankees payroll was $207 million, or just 13% less. The year before, 2010, the Yankees spent $213 million or just 11% less. This year, before any arbitration or free agent signings, the Yankees are at $173 million.
Yes, I'm trying to make it sound like peanuts, and yes, I know, that 13% sounds small but is actually $29 million, so it isn't. Still though, sometime in the relatively near future there will be a baseball team with a $240 million payroll. It won't be the Boston Red Sox next season, but it will happen, and it will probably happen sooner than we might think.
The sillier of the above-the-jump two questions was how would the Red Sox possibly fit all these guys onto their team? Reyes obviously slots in easily at his natural shortstop position. Wilson and Darvish are just what the doctor ordered* to fill out the five man rotation with Beckett, Lester, and Buchholz.
*Are doctors particularly skilled at ordering things?
That leaves both Fielder and Pujols. The Red Sox already have Adrian Gonzalez so first base is taken. Gonzalez is no faster than my three year old with a load in his pants and face to face with a cookie, so he can't move off the position. The temptation is to move Fielder because, even though he's the largest of the three in terms of straight girth, he's also the youngest.
We solve the crunch by sending Fielder to train during the off season with Lance Berkman and put him in left field. It's either that or we send Fielder to boot camp with Bartolo Colon and then turn his corpulent ass into an actual backstop. We'll try left and if that doesn't work, well, there's still six years left on the deal to change course. We then have to move Carl Crawford and his noodle arm to right field. Maybe we help Crawford out and glue a catapult onto his arm. I mean, it can't hurt his hitting, AMIRIGHT??
For $239 million, here's your Not Sox lineup:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2b
3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
4. Albert Pujols, DH
5. Prince Fielder, LF
6. Kevin Youkilis, 3b
7. Jose Reyes, SS
8. Carl Crawford, RF
9. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Hell of a team, huh? So, OTM, think you'll read anything stupider today? For your sake, I sure hope not.