It just so happens that when you set out to calculate a team's payroll for Opening Day, you can wind up at a dozen different results and still be correct.
Take Cots, for example, the three different figures produced by the Associated Press ($190 million), USA Today ($191 million), and Cot's Baseball Contracts ($198 million). All three are correct, they just count different things. You can include bonuses the year they are paid, or distribute them over the length of a player's contract. You can even cut whole players out of the equation depending on how you look at it, but more on that later.
Hell, those number can get even higher if you count average annual value. And higher still when you consider the total of said average annual values will put the Red Sox over the luxury tax limit. To make a long, complicated story short, though, the Red Sox are paying quite a bit of money in 2016, with $190 million a pretty reasonable floor to set given the intense arithmetic gymnastics it would take to get the figure below that total.
But that's just one number. It doesn't show us how we get to that point. So here's some fun and/or terrible facts to chew on:
The Red Sox are finally free of Carl Crawford
Yes, Carl Crawford has been out of Boston since late 2012, but with him (and Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto) went more than $11 million in payments split up over three seasons. Well, those seasons are finally at an end, with 2015 marking the last chunk of cash sent to Los Angeles for that particular bailout. Yes, you could say it counted against the other players sent to LA, but let's be brutally honest: that money was for the Dodgers to take Crawford.
After joining Los Angeles, Crawford did get some of his groove back, but not much, posting a total of 3.8 rWAR over the three ensuing seasons. This year, he's set to make some $21.6 million as a bench player, with next year looking much the same. Unfortunately, though, Red Sox fans aren't really ones to talk in that department
Asking so little for so much
When it comes to expensive benches, after all, we've got the market cornered, at least to start the season. Ideally, a team's funds will be concentrated in the starting lineup, the rotation, and the back-end of the bullpen. And the Red Sox certainly have a fair amount of money invested in those areas.
They also, unfortunately, are playing three players who don't fit into those categories right now more than $35 million, which is more than half the total payrolls of the Marlins, Rays, and Brewers.
I am, of course, referencing Pablo Sandoval, Rusney Castillo, and lest we forget he exist...sigh...Allen Craig. Two bench players who, frankly, don't fit those roles terribly well, and one guy outrighted to Pawtucket. Not a great look.
Of course, as Marc points out, those are just their roles to start the season. Things could always get better. But it does sort of feel like we'll be marking the years to come as our time free of contracts X, Y, and Z as we have with Crawford in 2016.
Getting so much from so little
There's still history left for David Ortiz to make
David Ortiz has cemented his place in Red Sox history. But that doesn't mean he can't take his legacy a step or two further.
So how do the Red Sox have a snowball's chance in hell this season? Well, for one thing, there's the other $150+ million they're shelling out. For another, they're filling a whole lot of those rotation, bullpen, and lineup spots with good players on the (very) cheap.
Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart, Xander Bogaerts, Eduardo Rodriguez, Jackie Bradley Jr., Travis Shaw, Brock Holt, and Carson Smith. If the Red Sox contend this year in spite of the three dead weights mentioned above, it will be because of this group. They are not all equal in quality or impact, and some of them might not be able to cut it at all--we'll find that out as the year progresses. But combined, they're making less than $5 million.
Frankly, with this level of production from so little money, you'd really hope the Red Sox would be world beaters right about now. This is the sort of group we were anticipating (give and take a few names) back in 2012 after the Punto trade when we were speculating on when the next great Red Sox team would emerge. A few missteps along the way have made it less certain that we have such a team here now, while one year of near-perfection meant that the next great Red Sox team was actually right around the corner, ready to win the World Series in 2013.
The good news is that players who are this cheap are also necessarily players who are around to stay. With none of them having reached arbitration, the Red Sox' window is wide open for years to come, though once arbitration hits it will be a little harder to stomach those big, unproductive contracts they have hanging around now. The Sox need the farm system to keep producing to keep things moving, but the good news is that it looks set to do just that in the near future.
Still, having this be the next great Red Sox team, warts and all, would make Dave Dombrowski's job in the coming seasons that much easier. A team certainly doesn't have to have the perfect payroll to have a great season. Just look at 2013 (Dempster, Hanrahan, Bailey at about $25 million). It would just make it a lot easier on the Red Sox if they can get something from the concerning quartet of Sandoval, Castillo, Porcello, and Ramirez.