MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- One of the precious few accomplishments that Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner have yet to see during their stewardship is a repeat World Series championship.But as the team's annual Winter Weekend kicked off on Friday night at Foxwoods Resort Casino, the two executives both
MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- One of the precious few accomplishments that Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner have yet to see during their stewardship is a repeat World Series championship.
But as the team's annual Winter Weekend kicked off on Friday night at Foxwoods Resort Casino, the two executives both displayed optimism that the team's 2019 edition is better positioned to pull this off than the unsuccessful quests of '05, '08 and '14.
The same stacked roster that went 119-57 last year (including the postseason) is largely back. And the core remains rich in star players in their prime led by a manager in Alex Cora who seems to push every right button.
"It was a terrific team last year, a fantastic team last year. To be able to bring them back, almost intact, it's difficult these days and rare," said Henry. "You know it's just so hard to repeat, as we've seen over the years, because 162 games is such an endurance. There's so much endurance required that it's difficult to do, and it's difficult to keep your focus.
"And we were very focused last year. I remember in '13 we were really focused. We weren't in '14 and it showed so I think this year is a real test. Because we know how talented this group is. It's a real test. And we saw in the playoffs, when you test these guys, this is a pretty good group. So it should be a lot of fun to watch this year."
In other words, it's a good time to be leading the Red Sox.
"This is a great time to think about how we're going to repeat next year," said Werner.
Cora, by the way, remains unabashedly enthused by what his team is capable of for an encore performance.
"If you guys thought last year was special, wait until this year!" Cora roared to the crowd at Thursday's Boston Baseball Writers Dinner.
"Let's do it again next year. Why not?" Cora said to the packed house at Friday's Town Hall event.
For that repeat to become possible, the Red Sox might have to find some upgrades for the back end of the bullpen, whether it is prior to the season or during the season. Joe Kelly went to the Dodgers as a free agent. Though perennial All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel hasn't signed with another team yet, it seems more likely than not that he will.
The Red Sox had the highest payroll in MLB last season and went over the highest luxury-tax threshold. They are currently just under that threshold with the 2019 payroll but they might go over it to add a key reliever.
"Would we get another reliever? Our budget is below that," said Henry. "But last year we exceeded our budget. But it's not necessarily the CBT that is your constraint. It's how much money are you willing to lose."
A year ago, the Sox signed J.D. Martinez during Spring Training -- adding a major piece of payroll. Though a reliever wouldn't cost that much, Henry's ownership group has typically been willing to spend to fill a last remaining need.
"Our goal has always been to field a competitive team," said Werner. "Some years we're under [the luxury-tax penalty]. Last year as everybody knows we had the highest payroll in baseball. Our intention is to fuel a very competitive team every year. I know there's been a lot of talk about the CBT being a salary cap but every team can decide what they want to do.
"We looked at our team last year and made the decision to go sign J.D. Martinez in Spring Training. That's six weeks from today. I think we signed him in the last week of February. Our intention is to field a competitive team."
Momentum with Mookie
American League Most Valuable Player Award winner Mookie Betts has two more seasons before free agency, and ownership was able to avoid an arbitration hearing with its star right fielder. Betts agreed to a one-year, $20 million deal a week ago, setting a record for a player in his second year of arbitration eligibility. Last year, Betts did go to arbitration with the Sox.
The next goal is for the Red Sox to sign Betts to a long-term extension before he hits free agency.
"He's one of the great players of our generation," said Werner. "Obviously if we have conversations, they will be private, but it's our hope that he'll be a Red Sox player for his whole baseball career."
Keeping an eye on government shutdown
Though Feb. 15 is still the target date for the Red Sox to go to the White House and to celebrate their most recent World Series championship, the current government shutdown is the reason the trip is still not set in stone.
"It's tough with the government shutdown. It's something we'll be watching," said Henry. "It would be tough [to go with a government shutdown]."
The shutdown started on Dec. 22, and there's yet to be any indication of when it will end. Henry and Werner both plan on making the trip, which is optional to the players.
"It's our intention to go. We went when President Bush honored the team, we went when President Obama honored the team, and we look at it as a way to celebrate what the team accomplished," said Werner. "But as John said, it's awkward if there's a shutdown."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.