Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Penny, Smoltz struggles open door for Wagner

The Red Sox might spend more money than the Marlins, but that doesn't mean they don't have a budget. Bringing Billy Wagner to Boston meant assuming about $3 million in salary for the rest of the season as well as the $1 million buyout they'll have to pay in lieu of his $8 million option for 2010.

(Fairness would dictate that Wagner decline the buyout if he's the one requiring that the Red Sox not pick up the option. Life is not fair.)

The Red Sox, however, have had some money freed up lately without which they might not have made the trade.

"We had a couple of starting pitchers who were due to make a lot of money in performance bonuses," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. "With some developments in recent days and recent weeks, it's clear now that there's going to be some savings in some of the money budgeted for performance bonuses that's not going to get paid out. Instead of just pocketing that money, we were allowed to look for ways to improve the club and improve our chances of getting into the postseason and winning a World Series. This was a redirection of those funds."

It doesn't take much detective work to figure out the starting pitchers to whom Epstein is referring.

The Red Sox had to eat the contract of John Smoltz when they released him, and a WEEI.com report today indicats that there's no way the Red Sox could trade Brad Penny and get out from under the money still owed to him.

But neither pitcher is going to earn all of the performance bonuses included in their contracts.

"The thought was that if they worked out, great," Epstein said. "If they worked out, our money would be well-spent. We won't necessarily need that many mid-season acquisitions. If they don't work out, there would be some savings and we could redirect that money. In a couple of cases, that seems to be the way it worked out."

Penny received a $5 million salary with the following incentives -- with a tip of the cap to Cot's Baseball Contracts:
* $500,000 for pitching 160, 170, 180 and 190 innings;
* $500,000 for appearing in 55, 65 or 75 games;
* $1 million for either 200 innings pitched for 50 games finished.

Penny, banished to the bullpen after a miserable start against the Yankees on Friday, has pitched 131 2/3 innings for the Red Sox this season. The appearances incentives never were a factor, but the Red Sox do save $3 million in the money they would have paid him had he been the 200-inning workhorse they'd hoped he would be.

Smoltz received a $5.5 million salary but stood to receive $35,000 per day he was on the major-league roster between June 1 and Oct. 3. He also stood to receive a $500,000 bonus if he was on the major-league roster on Oct. 4, the final day of the regular season.

The Red Sox designated him for assignment on Aug. 7, removing him from the major-league roster 57 days before the final day of the regular season. The total savings? Just shy of $2 million -- and that's not including the $500,000 he would have received on Oct. 4.

Overall, the struggles of Penny and Smoltz saved the Red Sox more than $5 million in incentive bonuses -- and that made it pretty easy to fit Wagner into the budget.

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