John Henry

John Henry isn't averse to blowing through luxury tax threshold, 'hopeful' about Jon Lester agreement

Rob Bradford
November 25, 2014 - 3:04 pm

John Henry offered some clarity Tuesday as to where the Red Sox might go from here when it comes to their offseason approach. Following the press conference to introduce new left fielder Hanley Ramirez, the Red Sox principal owner said that he was not averse to blowing through the $189 million luxury tax threshold this offseason. The comment was notable considering the Red Sox would need to reach such financial heights if they were to commit to signing a top-tier free agent pitcher, such as Jon Lester. The last time the team went past the threshold was 2011. (The team's payroll currently stands at approximately at $182 million.) "The way it's structured we can blow through one year," Henry said. "Again for next year we have tremendous flexibility so we could go could through for one year and not overly affect us." In regards to Lester, Henry made it clear that the pursuit of the free agent pitcher is a top priority for the Red Sox, responding to the question of whether or not he was optimistic about signing the lefty with, "I am. I'm hopeful." When asked about the email sent to by one of Lester's agents, Seth Levinson, saying that the Red Sox had shown "great respect" during the ownership group's visit to the pitcher, Henry said, "I don't know that it sends a signal. I guess the signal it sends is there's never been a problem between Jon and the organization either way. He's been a huge part of what we've accomplished here, and I think when we went to see him a large part of our presentation was finishing that legacy. We're hopeful he can do that." Henry did add regarding how the Lester market is unfolding, "I don't think we have any idea what the market is with regard to any other team." Other Henry items: On if the Red Sox need a proven, top-tier, front-of-the-rotation starting pitcher: "That's our strongest suit in the minor leagues. We have great strength in pitching coming up. But obviously we're doing everything we can to sign a top-tier pitcher, Jon Lester. And hopefully he'll come back." On the thought that the Red Sox have broken from a philosophy of shying away from long-term deals: "That was really overblown, because one comment quoting a study which says more about the structure of major league compensation. Players aren't compensated that well in their 20s. They have to get to free agency, so almost by definition you're going to get more bang for your buck when a player is in his 20s. That's just the way the structure is set up. That doesn't mean you're not going to go out and sign 30-year-old players. You can't win unless you engage in free agency. We always engage in free agency. After the '12 and '14 season, we had such a flexibility during the offeseason that we went into the free agency market both time for 30-year-olds. I don't see that as a departure. But I understand because so much was made as if we were never going to have a long-term contract. We were never going to sign a 30-year-old. I thought that was a little much to assume. ... We signed Dustin to a long-term deal." On if the signings of Sandoval and Ramirez will have an affect on their approach to expensive free agent pitching: "Will it affect it? No. It'll make it more competitive perhaps because we've taken a lot of the offense off the market. But I think that was going to happen whether we were successful or not." On the risk of signing Sandoval and Ramirez: "I think the risk of doing nothing was much larger. Again, Ben striking early in the process was key to the offseason. Now we can concentrate on pitching because we're so deep offensively and defensively. I think we'€™re in good shape at this point."