FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Even as they let it be known that they had recently begun contract extension talks with starter Chris Sale, Red Sox principal owner John Henry and team chairman Tom Werner cautioned that it would be difficult -- if not outright impossible -- for the club to retain every homegrown star nearing free agency.
Sale, Xander Bogaerts and Rick Porcello are all eligible after the 2019 season, while J.D. Martinez has an opt-out clause in his deal as well. After the 2020 season, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. will be eligible for free agency.
"We'd love to be able to have long-term contracts with all of them,'' said Werner as ownership addressed the media. "These are great players and in a perfect world, we'd love them to be with us for the rest of their careers.''
"It's really hard to keep 25 players every year,'' said Henry. "We'll do everything we can to keep this team together and continue to rebuild and replenish. But free agency is what it is...We have a lot of young players mature into free agency at the same time. We won't be able to keep all of them. It's that simple. We have the largest payroll in baseball, but even then, you can't keep all your players from free agency.''
That would be extraordinarily expensive, however, costing hundreds of millions of dollars.
Beyond the pure dollars necessary, there are other obstacles in the way.