Red Sox: Arbitration salaries effect on 2017 payroll

The Boston Red Sox avoided arbitration with several eligible players by signing them to one-year deals. Does this change the outlook on the 2017 payroll?

We’re another step closer to figuring out what the 2017 payroll will look like for the Boston Red Sox.

The team announced on Friday that they have agreed to terms with seven players on one-year deals to avoid arbitration. Keep in mind that all of these players were already under team control, so this is merely a formality of determining their salary for the upcoming season.

Thanks to MLB Trade Rumors, we already had a pretty good idea of how much these players would count toward the payroll. Their projection model proved its brilliant accuracy once again, as they either nailed the target salary or came reasonably close on almost every Red Sox player.’s Ian Browne provided the rundown of what each of these seven players will earn this season.

The total combined salary of those players is $18.02 million, which comes in a bit lower than the $18.6 million projected for those same seven players by the MLB Trade Rumors model.

While this would appear to provide a bit more cushion beneath the luxury tax threshold, we have to account for the fact that Brandon Workman received a bit more than expected with his $635K deal. Boston also has yet to agree to deals with two other arbitration eligible players – Drew Pomeranz and Fernando Abad. If either ends up making more than their projected salaries then it could wipe out any savings created by the rest of the group collectively earning less than expected.

Jackie Bradley ends up with largest increase above these projections, as he was pegged for only $3.3 million. The extra $300K is pocket change to Red Sox ownership, while going above expectations should create some goodwill that could aid future negotiations with the All-Star outfielder.

Brock Holt gets a sizable raise from the $606K he earned last season. His salary is $250K higher than projected, which shows how the team values Holt’s versatility.

Joe Kelly was projected to make the same $2.6 million salary that he earned last season, which makes sense when you consider he’s moving from a potential fifth starter to a middle relief role. The $200K increase over the projection seems a bit generous given his lack of experience in the bullpen.

Meanwhile, Tyler Thornburg receives less than his projection and over half a million bucks less than Kelly, who remains more of a question mark entering the season. Kelly does have almost a year more of service time under his belt, but Thornburg is slated to fill a higher leverage role in the bullpen and comes with a superior track record.

The biggest surprise on the list is Xander Bogaerts. The star shortstop will earn more than any of the team’s other arbitration eligible players, yet his salary falls far short of the $5.7 million he was projected for. Did a second half slump cost him? Given that the Red Sox still have sky-high expectations for the 24-year old, you have to wonder if it was a mistake to shortchange him. Hopefully that doesn’t work against them later when they attempt to keep him from free agency within the next few years.

Reaching deals with most of their arbitration eligible players gives the Red Sox a bit more certainty. Their collective salaries amount to about the same as we expected, so they remain on target to enter the season with a payroll right around $180 million, as we outlined last month.

By staying comfortably below the tax line, the Red Sox have afforded themselves enough wiggle room to make any mid-season acquisitions without much risk of facing the dreaded third-time tax offender penalties.

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