Appearing on The Big Show Wednesday afternoon, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said that there was no instruction from ownership to remain under the luxury tax threshold of $178 million.
"There is always a benefit of staying under because if you stay under you're not taxed," Cherington said. "But we have gone over in some previous years, not by much, but we have been over in some previous years. There's no mandate to be under this year, but we'll continue to look at our payroll and context of deals we may or may not make and just do what we feel put us in the best position to win this year and be flexible."
Cherington explained that while there is no instruction to stay under the luxury tax threshold, the team is operating under a self-imposed budget. It was a topic that was broached due to a question regarding the motivation behind training shortstop Marco Scutaro (and thereby relieving the team of $7.67 million against the collective bargaining tax).
"We had every intention of him being on the team. We got to the point in the offseason, it happened to be after [last Thursday's] Writers Dinner, where something was presented to us and we felt there was an opportunity to reallocate that money in a more efficient way for the team," the GM said. "We may not use all of that now, but over time, whether it's now or in spring training or in the season, given the options we have at shortstop, we feel like we can use that money. But there's a difference in saying we have gone over the luxury threshold and that there's no mandate not to do that this year, there's a different between that and saying we don't have a budget. We do have a budget. They are two different things. They aren't unrelated to each other, but they aren't the same thing."
When asked if money was the driving force behind trading Scutaro, Cherington admitted that it played a factor. But the general manager also said that the team was able to execute the move because of the presence of Nick Punto and Mike Aviles at shortstop.
"To some degree because when you have that kind of money opening up, in addition to whatever other resources you have, it allows you to do other things with the team," Cherington said when asked if money played a factor in the deal. "With that move we felt we had a couple of guys in Aviles and Punto who could help us get close to giving us what Marco did, and Marco was a good player here and I expect him to be a good player in Colorado. We felt like we had some options there and we could reallocate that money elsewhere. We did part of that with Cody Ross. As you guys know, we've wanted to add a right-handed bat this offseason. Particularly with Carl's injury we felt like protecting our outfield mix a little better was important. We'll see what happens from here. If there are opportunities to make the team better before we get to spring training then we'll consider those if we find the right value. If not we'll go into spring training or go into the season and know we have a little bit of flexibility and be able to be nimble and make moves as we feel they're appropriate and the ones we felt were the best values.
"Punto has been a very good utility player. He has played more than that at times in his career, but certainly when he has been out there he has done a good job. Aviles has been an everyday player. He came up and was an everyday player for Kansas City and did a really good job and got hurt. While he got hurt and was making his way back they acquired a shortstop in the Greinke deal and he was sort of supplanted to some degree and we picked him up in a trade last summer. We need to get him into spring training and watch him, but he's certainly capable of being an everyday player. We'll keep our eyes out if there is a way to further protect the shortstop position we'll consider that."
For more highlights from the interview, including Cherington's contention that the Sox need to decide whether adding a starter now is more valuable than preserving financial flexibility for in-season moves, visit the Full Count blog. To listen to the interview, visit The Big Show audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, go to the team page at weei.com/redsox.
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