Sam Kennedy explains Red Sox' approach for 2020

Rob Bradford
September 30, 2019 - 1:39 pm
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Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy has found himself in the thick of a very complicated offseason even with the season coming to an end just a day ago.

Monday Kennedy met with the media to discuss a wide range of issues facing the Red Sox, including a search for the new leader of baseball operations, the team's goal to reduce its payroll below $208 million and the future of Mookie Betts.

Perhaps the most notable proclamation from Kennedy was that the organization does believe there is a path to keep both Betts -- who is in line to make around $30 million for 2020 -- and J.D. Martinez. Martinez has an opt-out, but if he doesn't take it his contract will pay him $23.75 million for next season.

"Yes, there’s a way. There is a way. But obviously, it will be difficult given the nature of the agreements and the contracts that we have in place," Kennedy explained regarding keeping both on the books for 2020. "So, look, we have a very targeted and strategic plan that we’re building right now. Some of the dates related to contract decisions come right after the World Series, so we’ve had some time in September to focus on the offseason given where we were in the standings. So, it is going to be a challenging offseason, but we’re ready to tackle it head-on and do everything we can to put a competitive team out there not just for next year but for 2021, 2022. ... It’s a difficult challenge to get to that stated goal, but that’s also why it’s not a mandate."

In terms of the revelation by principal owner John Henry that the Red Sox were targeting getting under the first Competitive Balance Threshold level ($208 million), Kennedy attempted to use Monday's press conference to clarify the organization's stance on the matter.

"The CBT is always a guidepost in our budgeting as we build our financial plans for the following season, we use CBT as one guidepost," he said. "It’s something we consider. John and Tom (Werner) have shown a willingness I believe in the last 17 years, we’ve been over that CBT threshold 10 times and we will continue to demonstrate a willingness to go over. That said, John made it clear that there is a goal to try to get under the CBT in 2020. But he also said, and Tom followed up and clarified, that that is a goal but not a mandate. In fact, we spent time over the weekend as a group talking with the baseball ops transition team about different scenarios where you could see the possibility if there are strategic decisions that cause us to go over, that that could be a possibility. We could be under. There are lots of decisions facing the Red Sox this offseason. It’s a goal but not a hard and fast mandate."

Here are some other topics touched on by Kennedy ...

HOW THE ORGANIZATION VIEWS THE HEAD OF BASEBALL OPERATIONS POSITION

"I think the best structure for a sports organization is to ensure that the president and CEO has a seat at the table, has a voice in baseball operations or hockey operations or football operations, and can work collaboratively with the general manager or president of baseball ops, that’s the way it’s worked here since 2002. Theo (Epstein) and Larry (Lucchino) worked closely together. Ben and Larry worked closely together. Dave and I worked closely together. I don’t think it’s appropriate for a president or CEO to make player personnel or evaluation or judgments. I have a very important voice in baseball operations because I’m accountable for the operations of the club and there’s a lot of financial decisions that go into the construction and operation of a baseball department. We work very, very closely together. I’m a member of the ownership group so john, tom and I ultimately empower the general manager to make those decisions. I see my role continuing as it has been over the last four years.

"They’ll likely report to ownership, to John and Tom so I see it as a partnership so we’ll see how that plays out in terms of the structure. We’re going into this with a very open mind in terms of how the role may be defined and what the ultimate final structure may be. Baseball has changed dramatically, as you guys know better than anybody, over the last five years, even. It’s just a huge job and there are so many aspects of running a baseball operations department. We’re studying different structures within different organizations. We’re looking at different people, but ultimately player recommendations and player evaluations will rise to the level of ownership. I have a seat at that ownership table, but I would anticipate a direct line of report to John and Tom to continue given that there’s such a huge financial impact and the magnitude of those decisions get up to the ownership level. John and Tom have been here for 18 years and we see our role collectively as providing the resources necessary to the baseball department and the other areas of the organization to operate effectively."

WHAT THE NEW HIRE'S TITLE MIGHT BE

"We could go in any number of directions. Teams have had, I believe in the past, multiple general managers, along with a president of baseball operations. There’s a chief baseball officer role out there in the big leagues today. Part of our job in ownership is to examine what fits best with us. The good news for Boston Red Sox fans is given Eddie (Romero) and Raquel (Ferreira) and Zack (Scott) and BOH (Brian O'Halloran) and their experience and their talents, which are many, we have the luxury of time to examine what will work best for us and be most strategic as we go forward."

TICKET PRICES WILL GO UP

"We’ve had a pretty consistent approach to ticket-pricing the last five years. Low single digits and cost of living inflationary increases. We haven’t made a decision for 2020 but I would anticipate another modest increase."

THE UNCERTAINTY OF BETTS

"We’ll have to see what the future brings. I don’t mean to be vague or evasive, but the truth is I don’t know where things are going to end up with Mookie."