OAKLAND — Both the A’s and Red Sox have enjoyed their share of success over the past decade, but the two franchises have done it very differently.
It’s not just the gap between the teams’ payrolls – and let’s be honest, it’s wider than the Grand Canyon – but it’s also the two clubs’ philosophies on pitching.
Take this season for example. Boston has loaded up on top-line starters, boasting a rotation that features Cy Young Award winners David Price and Rick Porcello, as well as perennial Cy Young contender Chris Sale.
The Red Sox agreed to long-term, big-money deals with Sale and right-hander Nathan Eovaldi this offseason, and are spending $88.425 million on their starting rotation this year, nearly 40 percent of their total payroll.
The A’s rotation, on the other hand, will earn a combined $12.62 million this season, less 14 percent of their payroll. Oakland really hasn’t had a true big-name starting pitcher since Jon Lester in 2014. They’ve chosen instead to load up on their bullpen and piece together a starting rotation.
The Red Sox certainly haven’t had bad bullpens, but they have put far less value on relievers. Just this past offseason, Boston allowed both Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly to walk as free agents.
The total cost of this year’s Red Sox bullpen is only $8.09 million, less than four percent of their payroll. Conversely, the A’s will spend $28.315 on their pen, more than 31 percent of their payroll.
Perhaps that’s Oakland’s way of trying to compete with big-money teams. Boston has the highest payroll in baseball at nearly $223 million. The A’s rank 25th, coming in at slightly over $92 million. But Oakland manager Bob Melvin doesn’t pay attention to those numbers.
“We don’t think much about payroll,” he said. “The guys who are here, basically when the game starts, don’t think about it at all. … I don’t think we handicap it and go out on the field and say we’re at a disadvantage because we don’t spend as much as they do. We’re just as eager to win as they are.”
Red Sox manager Alex Cora concurred: “When we played them in May last year, my words were like, ‘Yuck, get ’em out of here!’ They can play defense, they can pitch, they put good at-bats (together), and they have a great bullpen. It’s a complete team.”
Of course, the A’s starting rotation has been phenomenal to start the season, despite the low salary numbers. Oakland’s starters have combined to allow just one run in their last six games. Veteran Marco Estrada will try to keep it going Wednesday night, as the A’s try to make it three in a row against the defending champions.