J.D. Martinez’s Outlook on 2020 Red Sox: ‘If Guys Continue to Get Better, I Think We’re Going to Be Really Good’

By trading away one of the best players in baseball in Mookie Betts, the outlook for the Red Sox’ 2020 season may have changed in some people’s eyes, but not to JD Martinez.

When speaking with reporters earlier Monday, Martinez acknowledged that the Sox will ‘feel’ the loss of Betts, but that should not stop them from being competitive in 2020.

“I think we have a lot of really good players,” Martinez said. “I believe in the guys we have. If guys continue to get better, I think we’re going to be really good.”

Before Boston dealt Betts and left-hander David Price to the Dodgers last week, Martinez had the chance to opt out of his current contract and become a free agent back in November.

“You have to make decisions based on what’s in front of you,” the 32-year-old slugger said in regard to his decision to remain with the Red Sox. “That was the decision I made. That was the hand I had. Obviously, [Betts and Price] are gone, but I don’t think this team is a bad team because they left.”

Martinez pointed towards the pieces the Sox get back in the trade as a reason to be excited about the future.

“I know we got some good guys for them,” Martinez said of Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong.

When asked about the 2020 version of the Red Sox having a bit of a chip on their shoulders coming off an underwhelming 2019 campaign, Martinez seemed to agree with that notion, saying, “I definitely think a lot of guys are a little bit more hungry than last year. I’m not saying our team was complacent last year, but I think we were a little more relaxed coming in. Last year was kind of a slap in the face, a reality check for us. I think a lot of guys are coming in a lot more determined and ready to go. The team we put on the field last year wasn’t us.”

The 2019 Red Sox, despite finishing with a record of 84-78, still boasted one of the more lethal lineups in the American League. And even with the loss of Betts, the Boston bats should still do plenty offensively.

It’s the pitching that has been the main concern, especially with the starting rotation that has lost Rick Porcello to free agency and Price to a trade.

The three guys the Sox will presumably look to lean on the most this year — Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, and Eduardo Rodriguez — have all dealt with durability issues in the past, or more specifically, as recently as 2019, when both Eovaldi and Sale missed a significant amount of time with injuries.

“We’re hoping this year everyone stays healthy,” said Martinez. “And we go out there and play the way we know how to play.”

With all the negativity surrounding the Red Sox in the wake of trading a franchise cornerstone such as Betts, it could be easy to overlook a club that looks poised to be the third-best team in their division. However, if the Sox do adopt an “Us against the World” kind of mentality headed into the new season, they could go out looking to prove their doubters wrong in 2020.

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo Dealing With Stress Fracture in Lower Back

New Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo has a stress fracture in his lower back and his status for Opening Day is up in the air, according to interim manager Ron Roenicke.

“It takes a lot of time to heal,” Roenicke said of Verdugo’s injury earlier Saturday. “It’s an injury that’s fairly common in baseball because it’s a rotation issue. Our trainers are familiar with it. We’ll take him as the steps come — not only what the images show, but his response to things.”

One of three players acquired in the trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers earlier in the week, Verdugo missed the final two months of the 2019 season due to back and oblique issues and he himself believes it stemmed from playing on Tropicana Field’s artificial surface back in May.

The Red Sox knew of the 23-year-old’s medical history ahead of the trade’s completion, and it appears that a plan to take things slowly may already be in place.

Verdugo mentioned this plan in his first session with reporters at Fenway South on Saturday, saying that, “We have something we can draw out. The exact time frame of it, whether it’s to be ready for the start of the season or slightly after, we’re not really sure. We’re not trying to rush that. We don’t want to give people or give fans a false hope or just even a deadline we miss again.”

Because he is under team control through 2024, the Red Sox do not have any incentive to rush their new outfielder into things this year and potentially risk further injury.

“We’re going to take our time on this,” Verdugo said. “Make sure that I’m right so that way when I am playing and I’m able to be in Boston, it’s the whole year and it’s continuous that we don’t have any setbacks or anything like that.”

When healthy, the Arizona native could prove to be a tremendous asset to a new-look Red Sox outfield that also brought in ex-Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar on a one-year deal on Friday.

With that added bonus of having someone like Pillar available to potentially play all three outfield positions, that proves even further why the Sox should not rush things with Verdugo.

“To be honest, if everything goes right, (Verdugo) still may not be ready for Opening Day,” Roenicke added Saturday. “We need him to be healthy to see what kind of player we have and the kind of player he knows he is.”

Full-squad workouts for the Red Sox begin on Monday, while exhibition games begin on Friday. Verdugo will presumably not see much action as he continues to rehab from his stress fracture.

Red Sox Reportedly in Agreement With Kevin Pillar on One-Year Deal

The Red Sox are reportedly in agreement with free-agent outfielder Kevin Pillar on a one-year deal in the $4 million range, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. The completion of the deal is still pending a physical.

MLB Network’s Jon Heyman had reported that the two sides were close to a major-league deal on Tuesday.

After officially dealing Mookie Betts to the Dodgers earlier this week, the Red Sox found themselves in need of a right-handed hitting outfeilder, as the club’s projected everyday outfield — Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Alex Verdugo — are all left-handed hitters.

Pillar fills that need in addition to providing exceptional defense in center field.

In 161 total games between the Blue Jays and Giants last year, the 31-year-old slashed .259/.287/.432 with a career-best 21 home runs and 88 RBI to go along with 14 stolen bases. He was non-tendered by San Francisco in early December.

One thing Pillar did exceptionally well last year was produce against left-handed pitching, as he posted an .823 OPS in 174 plate appearances against southpaws.

Compare that to Jackie Bradley Jr.’s struggles against left-handed pitching in 2019 (.640 OPS in 188 PAs), and the two could create quite the platoon for Boston in center field.

A native of California, Pillar was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn approximately $9.7 million in his final year of salary arbitration heading into the 2020 season.

The former Blue Jay owns a lifetime slash line of .307/.339/.380 with one career home run and 22 RBI at Fenway Park.

Red Sox Reach New Agreement With Dodgers to Send Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles

It took five days longer than expected, but the Red Sox and Dodgers have reportedly agreed to a trade that would send outfielder Mookie Betts and left-hander David Price to Los Angeles, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Going back to Tuesday night, the original deal that would have shipped Betts and Price to southern California involved a third team in the Twins. In this three-team swap, Los Angeles would have received Betts, Price, and cash considerations, Minnesota would have received right-hander Kenta Maeda, and Boston would have received outfielder Alex Verdugo and right-handed pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol.

Upon reviewing Graterol’s medical information though, the Sox became worried over how the 21-year-old flamethrower projected to be more of a reliever than a starter, and thus sought out additional compensation from the Twins.

Since parting ways with another top prospect really would not have been to their benefit, Minnesota ultimately decided to back out of the three-team trade on Saturday and now have their own deal in place with the Dodgers that would net them Maeda and cash considerations in exchange for Graterol and the 67th pick in this year’s amateur draft, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

So, with the Twins out of the picture, the Red Sox and Dodgers were able to work things out themselves without needing another third team to step in.

In this now-agreed-upon trade, Boston will be receiving Verdugo as initially anticipated, as well as 21-year-old infield prospect Jeter Downs and 23-year-old catching prospect Connor Wong from the Dodgers.

As already mentioned, Los Angeles will be receiving Betts, Price, and $48 million from the Sox, which were all part of the original agreement.

Betts, 27, is set to earn $27 million this coming season before becoming a free agent for the first time in the winter. Price, meanwhile, has three years and $96 million remaining on the seven-year, $217 million deal he signed with Boston back in December 2015. The Red Sox will be paying half of that remaining amount.

Turning to the return Chaim Bloom got in his first blockbuster trade as Boston’s chief baseball officer, Verdugo is a former top prospect in his own right.

The 23-year-old out of Arizona slashed .294/.342/.475 with 12 home runs and 44 RBI over 106 games for the Dodgers last year. He did not play a major-league game after August 4th due to a plethora of issues involving his lower back, core, and right oblique.

As for Downs, the 21-year-old was not part of the original deal but he will be heading to the Red Sox this time around.

Ranked as the Dodgers’ No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Downs, a former Competitive Balance Round A pick out of Miami, played in 119 games between High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa last year.

In those contests, the native of Colombia slashed .276/.362/.526 with 24 home runs, 86 RBI, and 24 stolen bases while primarily playing shortstop.

Downs was named after former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, and he is the younger brother of current Red Sox minor-league outfielder Jerry Downs.

Finally, Wong was ranked as Los Angeles’ No. 28 prospect by MLB.com and, like Downs, was drafted by the Dodgers in 2017.

Playing in 111 games between High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa in 2019, the Houston native posted a .281/.336/.541 slash line to go along with 24 home runs and 82 RBI.

This five-player trade is no longer pending medical reviews but nothing has been made official quite yet. All that is left is approval from Major League Baseball on the transfer of the $48 million going to the Dodgers, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

At the end of the day, it still stinks that the Red Sox are trading a player like Mookie Betts, a homegrown superstar who should spend his entire career wearing one uniform.

I understand that you can’t force Betts to sign a contract extension and you don’t want him to leave for nothing outside of a compensatory draft pick in the winter, but still, this stings.

It also stinks, although to a lesser extent, to lose David Price, because without him another hole opens in an already questionable Red Sox starting rotation.

Pitchers and catchers are set to report to Fenway South in Fort Myers on Tuesday. Looking forward to it!

Twins Reportedly Pull out of Three-Team Trade That Would Send Mookie Betts and David Price to Dodgers and Brusdar Graterol to Red Sox

UPDATE: Apparently the Twins have not pulled out and are willing to “renegotiate” with the Red Sox and Dodgers, according to ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez.

The Minnesota Twins are pulling out of the three-team trade that would send Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers, according to the Star Tribune’s La Velle E. Neal III.

This means that Minnesota will be holding on to right-handed pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol, who was supposed to go to Boston in the original trade, and will not be getting right-hander Kenta Maeda from Los Angeles.

The original proposal that would have sent Betts, Price, and cash considerations to the Dodgers, Maeda to the Twins, and Graterol and outfielder Alex Verdugo to the Sox was reportedly agreed upon by all three clubs Tuesday night, but talks have since fallen off.

That is mainly the case because upon reviewing Graterol’s medical review, Boston felt that the 21-year-old flamethrower projected to be a reliever rather than a starter as originally thought, which led to the Sox seeking additional compensation in the form of another top-10 prospect from Minnesota.

If the Red Sox and Dodgers want to see this trade through, they will either have to find a different third team or work things out between themselves.

The Dodgers may be even more motivated to get this done, as they have another trade lined up where they would send outfielder Joc Pederson and right-hander Ross Stripling to the Angels in exchange for infielder Luis Rengifo.

It’s been a hellish last few days for all parties involved, and with pitchers and catchers due to report to Fenway South on Wednesday, there’s a real chance David Price and Mookie Betts are still members of the Red Sox by then.

MLBPA Calls for Red Sox, Dodgers, and Twins to Resolve Trade Issues ‘Without Further Delay’

In the midst of waiting for this reported three-team trade between the Red Sox, Dodgers, and Twins that would send Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles to become official, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark released a statement earlier Friday calling for all three clubs to resolve matters “without further delay.”

The reason for this delay that has lasted nearly three days is mainly due to the fact that the Sox have reportedly grown concerned over Twins right-handed pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol’s medical review, which has led them to project the 21-year-old as a future reliever, not a starter as initially anticipated.

Because of this, Boston is seeking additional compensation from Minnesota, hence the hold up of Betts and Price being shipped off to southern California.

Not only that, the Dodgers also have another deal in place where they would be sending outfielders Joc Pederson and Andy Pages and right-hander Ross Stripling in exchange for infielder Luis Rengifo among others.

So, at a minimum, at least eight players under contract for this season — Betts, Price, Pederson, Pages, Rengifo, Stripling, Graterol, and Alex Verdugo — are not entirely certain on where they will be playing with spring training set to begin next week.

“The events of this last week have unfairly put several Players’ lives in a state of limbo,” Clark said in the above statement. “The unethical leaking of medical information as well as the perversion of the salary arbitration process serve as continued reminders that too often Players are treated as commodities by those running the game.”

That last line may be tough to swallow for some, but in today’s game, it’s not entirely too far away from the truth.

Yes, players are human beings, but with the way attributes such as years of team control are attached to them, it’s hard not to view them as commodities, especially for executives who are trying to put their team, their place of employment, in the best spot they deem possible.

As has already been mentioned on here, I still think this trade will get done. It may involve more moving pieces than originally thought, but Mookie Betts and David Price are still going to wind up with the Dodgers.

Also, Major League Baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement expires at the conclusion of the 2021 season, so that’s something to think about.

Red Sox Reportedly Seeking Another Top Prospect From Twins in Blockbuster Trade That Would Send Mookie Betts and David Price to Dodgers

The Red Sox are reportedly still seeking a top prospect from the Minnesota Twins in addition to right-handed pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol in order to complete the three-team trade that would send Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

At this point in time, per Heyman, Minnesota has yet to budge from their original offer.

This news comes one day after it was reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal that the Red Sox, upon reviewing his medical information, viewed Graterol more as a reliever than a future starter, leading to the club seeking additional compensation for parting ways with two of its marquee players.

As a result of this, any official movement between Boston, Los Angeles, and Minnesota has been at an impasse.

In the original trade proposal, the Sox would be receiving Graterol and outfielder Alex Verdugo, the Dodgers would be receiving Betts, Price, and cash considerations, and the Twins would be receiving right-hander Kenta Maeda.

Compared to the Red Sox and Dodgers, the Twins’ return in this scenario is minimal, so it is understandable why they would not want to throw in an additional top-10 prospect when it would not really benefit them.

Because Boston and Los Angeles appear to and should be motivated to complete this deal before pitchers and catchers report next week, there are a plethora of directions they could go with this.

First off, the Twins could remain on as the third team while the Dodgers throw in another prospect to satisfy the Sox’ needs. On the other hand, the Sox and Dodgers could either try and work out a trade themselves or find a completely different third team that would fill the gap left by the Twins.

Either way, this trade is still going to happen, probably. It just may not go down the way it was initially set up to.