Ben Cherington needs to get the most bang for his buck this winter.
When Boston Red Sox general manager went on local Boston radio station WEEI.com recently and proclaimed that the Red Sox would have a "large" payroll 2013, I wanted to take a closer look at what that might look like.
According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, The Red Sox currently have $63.2 million in salary committed for to seven players in 2013: John Lackey, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jose Iglesias and David Ross.
With MLB Trade Rumors projecting Jacoby Ellsbury to make $8.1 million through arbitration in 2013, the Sox potentially have a group of players who would go through the arbitration process and combine for a total of roughly $29 million.
The combined total between salary commitments and projected arbitration rulings puts the Red Sox at roughly $92.2 million to 18 players.
So now the question becomes, what did general manager Ben Cherington mean by "large?"
The Red Sox started the 2012 season with a team payroll a little more than $175 million before trading their three highest paid players to the L.A. Dodgers during the summer. Five of the team's seven highest paid players will not be returning to the team in 2013, allowing for the dramatic drop in payroll.
Let's assume the Sox will start the 2013 season with a Opening Day payroll of around $130 million. That would give the Red Sox roughly $37.8 million to work with this offseason.
Will the Red Sox payroll exceed $130 million in 2013?
It would also allow the Sox to budget $10 to $12 million for a No. 3 starter like Edwin Jackson, and a first baseman like Mike Napoli or Adam LaRoche.
After addressing their two biggest needs, the Red Sox would then have left $13 to $17 million left on the table. They could add to that total if they were to go with a cheaper option at first base or trade off some of their arbitration eligible players like Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Logically, the Sox would need to address their gaping holes in left field and right field. They might be able to bring in Jason Bay on a low cost deal to see if he has anything left in the tank, or they could give Bryce Brentz an opportunity to come to camp and win a job with the team.
This would seem to rule out a big splash, like a run at Josh Hamilton, unless the team is able to trade for a young, cost-controlled starter and a first baseman. Thankfully for the Red Sox this winter, outside of Zack Greinke and Hamilton, there are no real $20 million players on the market.
With the next wave of minor league talent due in the next year or so, the front office will have to be creative as the team tries to undergo this transition while competing in the AL East.
Hopefully the Red Sox are up to the task this winter.