Ron from Massapequa, N.Y., asks: Thanks for the great coverage of the Red Sox. Yes, I am a NYer but I root for the Red Sox and follow them through Extra Bases and boston.com. I was wondering if you think the Red Sox might try to move Jonathan Papelbon. I know there bullpen is already weak, but he seems to be so less reliable than in the past. With Bard continuing to progress, it would seem that the Red Sox might not re-sign him when his he is eligible for free agency (when is that?) and by trading him now, they might get something in return. And I believe he has already said that he would be willing to go to the Yankees when he is eligible for free agency. What do you think?
Answer: New Yorkers are allowed here, I promise. I do think there's a chance that the Red Sox will make an attempt to move Papelbon in the offseason. He remains among the elite closers, but seems to be on a downslide, with his statistics worse (in some cases significantly) than his career numbers. His price tag is high, as he's on a $9.35 million one-year contract, with that price likely to go up in his final arbitration year. That makes him expensive, unnecessary (with Bard's improvement), and on the verge of leaving as a free agent (after 2011). You can bet that general manager Theo Epstein will be at least working the phones to try to see what's out there for Papelbon this offseason.
Of course, that also means that Epstein needs to shore up a bullpen that was very disappointing in 2010. Without Papelbon, it would be even more problematic, making bullpen his No. 1 priority this winter. By the way, Papelbon has said that he's willing to go anywhere, including the Yankees. A lot was made of that statement when he made it, but I continue to think of it as completely innocuous. Why would it benefit him to rule out a team, especially when that team has the biggest payroll in the league? There would be no reason to do that. It's not like he said that he's definitely, 100 percent going to play for the Yankees. That too would be foolish.
David from New York, N.Y., asks: Thanks for all your hard work this year. Now that most of us fans believe the postseason is not going to happen, what is next year looking like in terms of salary cap? How much money is committed in 2011? (including guys who don't play anymore, like Lugo?)
Answer: The Red Sox have more than $100 million committed to players in 2011, though that doesn't include other budget items that need to be figured into their 2011 competitive tax balance number. Also, the following numbers assume that the Red Sox will decline most of the 2011 club options (David Ortiz, Bill Hall). But if you're just asking about player salaries, the Red Sox have quite a few players under contract: Beckett ($15.75 million), Lackey ($15.25 million), J.D. Drew ($14 million), Kevin Youkilis ($12 million), Daisuke Matsuzaka ($10 million), Mike Cameron ($7.25 million), Lester ($5.75 million), Pedroia ($5.5 million), Scutaro ($5 million), Jose Iglesias ($2.063 million), Tim Wakefield ($1.5 million), Junichi Tazawa ($550,000), Scott Atchison (just over major league minimum). That's approximately $95 million.
Add in at least $10 million for Papelbon, who will get a raise on his $9.35 million deal in arbitration, and the team is north of $105 million. But that's not all. There are a lot more players under their control, both arbitration eligible and not. Ellsbury, Hideki Okajima, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are all arbitration eligible, and will certainly vary in the types of raises they get, including a possible non-tender for Okajima. Then there are guys like Bard, who can expect a raise, but one determined entirely by the Red Sox. So while it's not exact, that should give you an idea of the salary obligations that the Red Sox have in 2011.
Dick from Fredonia, N.Y., asks: Although it's clear that professional teams virtually always charter flights to get from one city to another, I'm curious about how the media covering a team gets from city to city. Does this vary by the sport being covered? Is an effort made to stay in the same hotel as the team? Do media members use the same transportation as the team to get to and from the game/match? When making travel plans, do teams offer the help of a traveling secretary (such as baseball has) or are the media members entirely on their own?
Answer: Ah, travel. In the five years that I've been covering the Red Sox, I've become about as skilled as your average travel agent. I would say that the travel is pretty standard for us media types, whether we're covering baseball or basketball or football or hockey. We all book our own travel, at least at the Globe, and fly on commercial flights, which those of you who've seen me at Logan in the early morning already know. Ball writers used to stay at the same hotel as the team -- in many cases they were required to do so by their editors. That's no longer the case. Most of us try our best to stay at a different hotel than the team, and almost all of us are very, very loyal to one particular hotel chain.
That means that we often stay at the same hotel as a bunch of the other writers. We're on our own for transportation to and from a game or match, unless it's a big event like the All-Star game. At those, MLB often provides media shuttles to and from the game. I love to be able to walk to the ballpark, so I always stay somewhere close by, if possible, like in Seattle. Otherwise, we rent our own cars or take our own taxis. (The players bus from their team hotel to the park.) No traveling secretary for us. We're on our own, which can be good and bad.