How much money will they be willing to spend?
I assume they’ll pick up Anderson’s option and maybe Harrison’s, while letting Andrus and Pollock walk.
That would put them at an estimated $166 million after arbitration before signing any free agents, with the existing roster issues plus a new, Abreu-sized hole at first base. Are they going to be willing to go over the $180 million payroll they had this year?
One thing I observed with the Cubs is that a flaw in the tear it all down, grab a bunch of prospects, and then have them all come up together plan of rebuilding is that they all hit arbitration at the same time, and that, more than the free agent signings, is what pushes payroll up to the luxury tax level. Teams like the Cardinals and Dodgers who have that consistent churn of talent coming up don’t get whacked in arbitration as badly.
The Sox are going to start having this issue, with BR estimating arbitration costs at $75 million in 2024 and $100 million in 2025.
-TA is an absolute lock for picking up option.
-Toss up on Harrison (I believe he is on track for $6M 2023 with $1.5M buyout). If there is reasonable upgrade there, I think they may opt for buyout.
-Andrus is an absolute walk, as there is no buyout required.
-Pollock is likely gone. We need an upgrade in OF, but his buyout is $5M with an expected $12-13M 2023 salary if picked up. I largely expect a buyout in this case, as at worst, they can get equivalent output for less than the difference.
I think it is up to Abreu if he wants to come back on another team friendly contract (like Buehrle did a couple times). Otherwise, I can see Gavin Sheets sliding over into that position, with Eloy being DH (again assuming OF upgrade coming). Abreu is heart and soul of team in many ways, so I expect a major attempt to bring him back on team friendly terms but nothing more.
When it comes to the arbitration issue, it is what it is. The Sox required a full tear down due to years of malfeasance, and this downside is to be expected. Teams like Cardinals and Dodgers have had long-term stability, and it is something that becomes the goal. Dodgers also have no problem paying luxury tax...something that will NEVER happen unless Jerry sells the team. The Sox strategy has been to extend young players to team friendly deals to avoid this arbitration issue, but in this day and age, star young players are demanding way too much in extension talks for the Sox strategy to work. The Sox have struggled in the draft over the years, but excelled at the International signing market. Rebuilding the pipeline either through improved drafting or International market the next couple of years will be very important to long-term success of the rebuild.
Ultimately, many players in arbitration is still much cheaper than star veterans after they hit the six years of service...unless Jerry begins opening the checkbook, they will always opt for the arbitration route.