Dodgers’ Mookie Betts Says He Has No Regrets About Turning Down $300 Million Contract Extension From Red Sox

Former Red Sox star and current Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts says he has no regrets about turning down a 10-year, $300 million contract extension from Boston during the 2019 offseason.

According to WEEI’s Lou Merloni, the Sox had made that offer to Betts in their third attempt to keep the 2018 American League MVP in Boston long-term.

Betts countered that offer with $420 million over 12 years, and things only fell apart from there as the four-time All-Star was dealt to Los Angeles in February.

At the time he was traded, Betts was gearing up to become one of this winter’s most coveted free agents and seemed locked in on signing a record-setting deal with whichever team would be willing to pay up.

Flash forward a little less than five months later, and the 27-year-old may have to settle for less of a payday than he was originally expecting due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has placed financial constraints on a many major-league ballclub.

Despite facing that potentially harsh reality, Betts still has no remorse about turning down that aforementioned extension from the Red Sox. He said as much at press conference at Dodger Stadium earlier Monday.

“I don’t regret turning down that [offer],” the Tennessee native told reporters. “Once I make a decision, I make a decision. I’m not going back and questioning myself. I don’t worry about that. The market will be what it is. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Added Betts: “Free agency is really on the back-burner. That’ll come. That’s nothing that I’m really thinking about right now. Right now, the main concern is (health and safety). There’s a lot going on, we haven’t gotten tests back and we don’t know who’s sick and not sick. There’s just a lot going on that needs to be addressed and free agency is not one of those things right now. That will come when it comes.”

It’s also worth mentioning that Betts is one of a number of players who don’t seem entirely confident that this truncated 2020 season will reach its conclusion even though Opening Day is less than three weeks away. He even said that he still has doubts about playing for the Dodgers in a real game.

How things continue in terms of adequate COVID-19 testing and protocols for teams will certainly be something to monitor moving forward.

What to Expect From Red Sox as MLB Roster Freeze Ends on Friday

Rosters across Major League Baseball have been frozen since late March. That freeze will end at noon eastern time on Friday.

Minor transactions have still taken place over the past few months, but beginning on Friday, clubs will have the chance to pick up where they left off earlier in the year in terms of roster construction ahead of a truncated 60-game season that begins in late July.

Prior to the roster freeze, the Red Sox were quite busy making some moves themselves with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom at the helm.

Officially speaking, major-league transactions across baseball ceased on March 27th. Right before that, Boston made a few somewhat notable moves, such as acquiring minor-league catcher Jhonny Perada from the Cubs, signing former Cardinals utilityman Yairo Munoz to a minor-league contract, and optioning relievers Jeffrey Springs and Josh Osich to Triple-A Pawtucket, Colten Brewer to Double-A Portland, and Chris Mazza to High-A Salem.

By the last week of July, Bloom and Co. will have to narrow a pool of 60 players down to 30 ahead of a modified version of Opening Day on July 23rd or 24th, so it’s likely that plenty of roster shuffling is to come beginning on Friday afternoon.

On top of that, the Sox were involved in a handful of trade rumors prior to the roster freeze as well.

More specifically, talks between the Red Sox and Padres surrounding outfielder Wil Myers seemed to be heat up after Boston dealt Mookie Betts to the Dodgers in February.

Per The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee, the Sox were interested in acquiring touted prospects like Cal Quantrill or Luis Campusano from the Padres in exchange for taking on a portion of the $61 million owed to the 29-year-old Myers over the next three seasons.

According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, though, “no trades involving the Red Sox were ‘imminent’ at the time MLB put a freeze on all transactions on March 27.”

March 27th was nearly three months ago, so it’s not out of the realm of possibilities to assume that some GMs might have some moves lined up for when the roster freeze does finally end.

That being said, when I “spoke” to Bloom via e-mail last week, he stated that during this long layoff, he has “continued to speak to counterparts and contacts throughout the game, but not to discuss trades or roster moves.”

Another aspect of the business side of the game that will return on Friday are contract extensions.

Prior to the pandemic-induced shutdown, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported in late February that “teams across baseball are trying to lock up pre-arbitration players to multi-year contracts that buy out free agent years.”

Outside of some rumors pertaining to Rafael Devers last fall, the Red Sox really weren’t linked to any other players on the roster who could be due for an extension before the shutdown.

Andrew Benintendi agreed to a two-year contract extension in early February, but that only buys out two of the 25-year-old’s three years of arbitration eligibility.

Other than Devers, Brandon Workman, who will become a free agent after the 2020 season, and Eduardo Rodriguez, who will become a free agent after the 2021 season, are certainly prime candidates.

Long story short, just about everything I mentioned above can be summarized in this one tweet from noted exceptional Twitter follow @RedSoxStats:

See you at 12 PM eastern time on Friday.

 

Red Sox’ Chris Sale on Handling Criticism: ‘I’ve Never Paid Attention to What People Say About Me, Because It Doesn’t Matter’

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale underwent successful Tommy John surgery seven weeks ago.

Before Tuesday, the 31-year-old had only spoken to the media once since undergoing the procedure in Los Angeles, but he spoke with ESPN’s Mary Rivera in an extensive one-on-one, presumably over-phone interview earlier this week.

Topics covered in said interview included Sale’s recovery from Tommy John, criticism from fans over his contract, the Red Sox trading Mookie Betts and David Price, thoughts on a disappointing 2019 season, the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in 2017, and Alex Cora’s departure from Boston.

You can read Rivera’s conversation with Sale in full here, but I wanted to hit on a few highlights, starting with the Florida native being asked if it’s “hard to handle the criticism” from people who believe he has not lived up to expectations under his new contract.

“When I got to Boston, my first year was really good,” Sale said. “My second season was decent but I ran into some shoulder issues. We ended up winning a World Series, so I’d even call that a relatively good season with a little hiccup. Then, 2019 was an absolute disaster. But in the end, I’ve never paid attention to what people say about me, because it doesn’t matter.”

Prior to the start of the 2019 season, Sale inked a five-year, $145 million contract extension with the Red Sox while Dave Dombrowski still served as the club’s president of baseball operations.

Dombrowski has since been removed from that post and was effectively replaced by former Rays executive and current chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, whose first major move at the helm in Boston was dealing Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers in February.

That sort of transaction, which significantly hindered the Red Sox’ chances of winning in 2020, could have upset a veteran like Sale, whose first priority is to win no matter who he plays for, but he did not seem to take too much offense to it.

“Very rarely in this day and age, you get to play with the same team for a long time,” Sale told Rivera. “We have to adapt and go with it. We don’t make decisions; we don’t trade players. We show up to spring training and we do our best to win with the players we have.”

At the time Betts and Price were dealt to Los Angeles, the 2020 MLB season really wasn’t in question. That has obviously changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though, and Sale isn’t too sure there will even be a season at all. Not like that matters much for him anyway since he is still recovering from Tommy John.

It still is a concerning matter for players who can play this year though, and Sale certainly feels for them while the MLBPA remains in active negotiations with the league.

“There’s too many moving parts with all this right now,” he said in regard to getting baseball back this year. “There’s obviously negotiations between the players and the owners, and that’s what I hope we can iron out sooner rather than later. On my end of it, I’m not missing any games that everyone else isn’t missing. Plus, I’m not getting paid, so no one can call me an overpaid asshole right now [laughs].”

For the time being, Sale will continue the process of coming back from Tommy John surgery. He’s been one of the few players to work out at Fenway South in Fort Myers since the complex opened back up earlier in the month.

“I’ve been doing a shoulder program and we’re doing soft-tissue stuff but I’m starting to get into some pushing stuff, some rows,” Sale said of the rehab process. “A lot of this actually is a lot of shoulder work too, which is good.

“We can kind of start, as they say, tearing it down to the studs. I can work from the ground up. I can completely tear my body down and build it back up. Right now, since I’m not really working out to achieve anything, I can really focus on the little fine details that sometimes might be overlooked getting ready for a big, bulky season. I love the guys I’m working with and I know I’m in good hands.”

If all goes according to plan, Sale should be able to return to a big league mound sometime in June or July 2021.

Former Red Sox Ace Jon Lester Open to Reunion With Organization He Began Career With

Former Red Sox ace and current Cubs left-hander Jon Lester is open to a potential reunion with Boston this winter, he said in a radio interview with WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

Lester, who turns 37 in January, is entering the final year of the six-year, $155 million deal he signed with Chicago back in December 14. That contract includes a $25 million vesting option for 2021 if Lester were to pitch 200 innings this year or 400 innings between the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Even if those numbers wind up getting prorated due to the coronavirus-induced shutdown, it seems unlikely that he would reach that mark, thus making him a free agent later in the year.

“We’ve got a lot of what-if’s going on right now,” Lester told Bradford. “For me, I don’t know what is going to happen next year. I know I have the team option, the player option, that sort of thing. We’ll figure that out one way or the other. I will either be here or be a free agent. Obviously everything is open. I’m open-minded to anything.”

Drafted by Boston in the second round of the 2002 amateur draft out of Bellarmine High School in Tacoma, Wa., Lester won two World Series titles and made two All-Star teams in his first go-around with the Red Sox.

As you may recall, Sox brass famously low-balled Lester in the spring of 2014 as he was nearing free agency and coming off a 2013 campaign in which he was an All-Star, helped Boston win another World Series, and finished fourth in American League Cy Young voting.

At that time, principal owner John Henry and Co. offered the lefty a four-year, $70 million extension, good for an average annual value of $15 million.

Even after publicly expressing that he’d be willing to take a discount to keep the Red Sox as competitive as possible, that offer was still downright disrespectful, to be blunt. Especially when Lester had just seen the Yankees sign international free agent Masahiro Tanaka, then 25, to a seven-year, $155 million contract that January.

So after botching those extension talks, the Red Sox wound up dealing Lester to the Oakland Athletics prior to the 2014 trade deadline, and the Washington native went on to sign that aforementioned six-year deal with the Cubs a few months later.

As productive as Lester has been since joining the North Siders, his 2019 campaign was not the most memorable.

Starting 31 games, Lester posted a 4.46 ERA and 4.35 xFIP over 171 2/3 innings of work. Not terrible numbers by any means, but it certainly would appear that the southpaw is on the decline at this stage in his career.

Preferably, Lester would like to prove that last year was just a blip and not the way things are trending for him, but his chances to do that are growing slimmer and slimmer as each day passes with no plan for a 2020 season in place.

“On a personal level, this hurts me,” he said of the shutdown. “I’m not getting any younger and coming off a year like I had last year, this isn’t going to help me.”

Because of that uncertainty, I’m sure Lester has had more time to think about different things while waiting this pandemic out from his Georgia home, and it certainly seems like returning to Boston has crossed his mind more than once.

“Absolutely it would be cool to go back and finish my career where it all started,” he said. “But, I’ve got a little time before I really have to sit down and weigh that decision, even if it’s something where they want me back. Hopefully, I’m still a good enough caliber pitcher that the want of my services will still be out there for people. We’ll see.”

We will have to wait and see. I mean, who knows what the market for a veteran 37-year-old left-hander with 2,500+ innings under his belt will look like come free agency? How much would Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom be willing to dish out for someone like that if he feels like Lester fits a team need? Both are unknowns at this point in time.

Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts Says It Would ‘Be Hard’ to Have All MLB Games Played in One City This Season If Baseball Does Return

With no baseball to be played for the time being while the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts has had more time on his hands recently, and he spent some of that time talking to GQ’s Alex Shultz last week.

Discussing a wide range of topics, the two-time All-Star went into depth on what he’s been doing in his native Aruba since Red Sox players and staff went back to their homes last month.

“I don’t wake up at 8 AM doing workouts no more because we don’t have a timetable for returning,” he said when describing what the average day has looked for him recently. “I usually wake up and go to my PlayStation right away, playing lots of FIFA and Fortnite. Then I have breakfast, maybe some eggs or cereal, and do a workout afterwards in the afternoon. I don’t have much to do. If it’s not a workout or PlayStation, I’m playing dominoes with my buddies. Here in Aruba, they want you to social distance, so no more than four people in a group.”

Bogaerts emphasized how he is just trying to maintain right now, telling Shultz that “This is a crazy time and we don’t know if we’re even going to have a season. I don’t want to be the one who’s not doing anything, and then they tell you the season is starting and I’m so far behind. It’s really tough mentally to try and stay in shape.”

To stay in shape, Bogaerts said that he tries to throw with his twin brother Jair everyday in addition to going to the beach, but “in Aruba, you can only go [to the beach] if it’s for workouts. No one can go to chill. Makes the beach a little more boring. But I do some running drills that strengthen your legs and lower body.”

The 27-year-old is coming off a breakout campaign in 2019 in which he finished fifth in American League MVP voting. He accredited that breakout to gaining more experience last season, and how in “the year prior, we had some coaching changes that helped unpack some stuff that I had hidden. It made me become a much better player. All of my hitting coaches have had good, different philosophies, but this one kind of took me to another level.”

In regards to holding out hope for there to be a baseball season in 2020, Bogaerts added that it can be hard to focus at times while working out because there is no set date for a return yet.

Said Bogaerts, “In the offseason, you work out and look forward to February reporting day. You know you have to be ready for that specific day. Now, you don’t have anything like that. We’ll have to wait and see when the experts say it’s the right time to play.”

Another factor in all that uncertainty also includes where games will be played in 2020 if baseball does indeed return.

Several proposals–such as playing games in Arizona, Florida, or even Texas–have been thrown out there, but nothing is definite nor agreed upon at this point in time.

As an international player signed out of Aruba in August 2009, Bogaerts has grown accustomed to being away from his family back home for months at a time. However, he understands that it would be more challenging for American-born players to make such a sacrifice if teams play all their games in one city in 2020.

“That’s going to be hard,” Bogaerts said of the proposed neutral location plan. “I don’t know how they would do that.”

Since signing a six-year, $120 million extension with Boston last April, Bogaerts has emerged as a veteran presence and a leader in the Red Sox clubhouse. It would be nice to see him build on a successful 2019 season sometime this year. We’ll have to wait and see on that, though.

To read Bogaerts’ full interview with GQ, click here.

To follow Bogaerts on Instagram, click here.

Red Sox Renew Rafael Devers’ Contract for 2020 Season After Both Sides Fail to Reach Agreement

The Red Sox and third baseman Rafael Devers were unable to reach an agreement on a figure for his 2020 salary, meaning the club instead renewed the 23-year-old’s contract for the coming season.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, Devers will earn approximately $692,5000 this year, about a 13% raise from the $614,500 he made in 2019.

The 2020 campaign will mark Devers’ final season before he becomes arbitration eligible next winter. From this point forward, the Dominican Republic native is under team control for four more years before he reaches free agency for the first time at the conclusion of the 2023 season.

Going back to late last September, it was reported by WEEI’s Rob Bradford that the Red Sox were planning on offering Devers a contract extension at some point during the offseason.

Since that time, as we know, the club had quite the winter, hiring Chaim Bloom as chief baseball officer in October, parting ways with Alex Cora in January, and trading Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers and naming Ron Roenicke interim manager in February.

Those factors, in addition to the mandate of getting under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, more than likely pushed extension talks with Devers further down the to-do list.

“If it comes, it comes,” Devers said, through translator Bryan Almonte, of a potential contract extension. “That would be great. But I’m just focused on right now. We haven’t had discussions about that yet. My agent hasn’t told me anything. As of now, I’m just focused on playing the game.”

Devers is coming off a season in which he finished 12th in American League Most Valuable Player voting after slashing .311/.361/.555 with 32 home runs and 115 RBI over 156 games played in 2019.

In addition to renewing Devers’ contract on Monday, the Red Sox also reached agreements with 19 other pre-arbitration players on one-year deals for the 2020 season.

Those 19 players are Jonathan Arauz, Yoan Aybar, Ryan Brasier, Colten Brewer, Austin Brice, C.J. Chatham, Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec, Matt Hall, Kyle Hart, Darwinzon Hernandez, Tzu-Wei Lin, Chris Mazza, Mike Shawaryn, Josh Taylor, Alex Verdugo, Marcus Walden, Ryan Weber, and Marcus Wilson.

Verdugo, the centerpiece in the Betts and Price trade, will earn $601,500 in 2020, per Speier.

 

Former Red Sox Top Prospect Yoan Moncada Signs Five-Year, $70 Million Extension With White Sox

Former Red Sox top prospect Yoan Moncada has reportedly signed a five-year, $70 million contract extension with the Chicago White Sox, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

The extension includes a $20 million club option for a sixth year, meaning the 24-year-old would not reach free agency until after his age-30 season.

Moncada enjoyed a great deal of success in a breakout 2019 campaign, slashing .315/.367/.548 with a career-best 25 home runs and 79 RBI over 132 games in his third season with Chicago.

The news of this extension comes on the same day that the Red Sox revealed that Chris Sale has a flexor tendon strain in his left elbow and will be shut down for at least the next week, which is pretty interesting when you consider that Moncada was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Sale to Boston a little more than three years ago.

We’re also coming up on the five-year anniversary of the Red Sox signing Moncada as an international free agent out of Cuba in March 2015 for a staggering $31.5 million.

Moncada quickly rose to become one of the top prospects in all of baseball while in the Red Sox organization, and after making his major-league debut and having a tough time of things during the final month of the 2016 season, he, along with prospects Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe, and Victor Diaz, was traded for Sale that December.

Since that time, it was no surefire thing that Moncada was going to be a big league success with the White Sox. OPS+’s of 103 and 96 in 2017 and 2018 led many to believe that he was over-hyped, but the Cuban national took the first steps towards proving those doubters wrong in 2019.

We already talked about his improved slash line last year, but it is also worth mentioning how much Moncada cut down on his strikeouts. For instance, in 650 plate appearances in 2018, he struck out a league-leading 217 times, or 33.4% of the time he stepped up to the plate.

A year later, he dropped that strikeout rate by nearly six points, instead whiffing in 27.5% of his 559 plate appearances this past season.

Durability remains somewhat of an issue as well, but as he enters his age-25 season, Moncada could really just be coming into his own as a star in the American League Central, both offensively and defensively speaking.

You also have to give credit to White Sox general manager Rick Hahn and the young core of talented players he has locked down on long-term, pre-arbitration extensions.

In addition to Moncada, outfielders Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert also signed lengthy contract extensions within the last calendar year. The three together are set to earn approximately $163 million over the next five to six years.

Add the lengths of all their contracts, a total of 17 years, and that’s less than $10 million in average annual value, if that makes any sense.

It hasn’t come with much team success to this point, but the White Sox do look like they could be legitimate contenders in the Central very soon.

Bringing this back to the Red Sox, it’s also probably worth mentioning that this Moncada extension could lay the groundwork for Boston to get one done with their own third baseman in Rafael Devers.

Coming into the 2020 season, the two infielders essentially have the same amount of service time, with Moncada having been in the majors 36 more days than Devers has to this point.

The two came through the Sox’ minor league system together and were both going to become arbitration eligible for the first time next year before Moncada signed his extension on Thursday.

I doubt the Red Sox would want to pay Devers more than the ≈ $800,000 he is owed this coming season, but if chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. could find a way to work something out long-term and buy out any number of the 23-year-old’s potential free agent years after 2023, that would be quite promising.

Anyway, I would just like to close by saying that I have always been a big Yoan Moncada guy. I’m not going to get into who won or lost the 2016 trade between the Red Sox and White Sox, but I have enjoyed watching Moncada come into his own at the big-league level. Hoping for more improvement from him this season.

Red Sox Win Arbitration Case With Eduardo Rodriguez

The Red Sox have won their arbitration case with left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. The club will pay Rodriguez $8.3 million this season, not the $8.975 million he filed for last month.

Rodriguez, who turns 27 in April, is coming off a breakout campaign last year after posting a 3.81 ERA and 3.86 FIP over a career-best 34 starts and career-best 203 1/3 innings pitched. That was solid enough to earn him a sixth-place finish in American League Cy Young voting.

The Venezuela native was one of only two Sox players who remained unsigned going back to the deadline to exchange arbitration figures last month.

The other player, Andrew Benintendi, agreed to a two-year, $10 million contract extension with Boston last week that essentially buys out his first two seasons of arbitration eligibility.

By earning $8.3 million in 2020, Rodriguez will become the third-highest paid pitcher on the club’s active roster. He is eligible to become a free agent for the first time following the 2021 season.

Red Sox, Andrew Benintendi Agree to Two-Year Extension to Avoid Arbitration

The Red Sox have signed outfielder Andrew Benintendi to a two-year, $10 million extension through the 2021 season, thus avoiding salary arbitration. The club made the signing official earlier Saturday.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, Benintendi’s new contract is worth $10 million, so the 25-year-old will presumably earn $5 million per season the next two years.

Benintendi had been one of the two Sox players who were eligible for salary arbitration before Saturday, with left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez being the other.

By essentially buying out his first two arbitration years, this move should create more payroll flexibility for Boston next year since they would not have to bump up Benintendi’s salary.

2019 was a bit of a disappointment for Benintendi, as he slashed .266/.343/.431 with 13 home runs and 72 RBI over 138 games while playing inconsistent defense in left field.

Still, the former 2015 first-round pick did show flashes reminiscent of his breakout form in 2018 and is a prime bounce-back candidate for this coming season.

It’s been a fascinating last few days for Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox to say the least, but at least they were able to get this done in the midst of everything else going on.

Red Sox and Mookie Betts Avoid Arbitration With Record-Breaking $27 Million Deal for 2020

The Red Sox and outfielder Mookie Betts have reportedly agreed to a one-year, $27 million deal for the 2020 season, thus avoiding salary arbitration, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

https://twitter.com/JeffPassan/status/1215694968137883648?s=20

Headed into his final year of salary arbitration before becoming a free agent for the first time next winter, the 27-year-old Betts was projected to earn around $27.7 million by MLB Trade Rumors and now comes away with a record-breaking $27 million.

Last year, the Colorado Rockies and All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado settled on a then-record-breaking $26 million for Arenado’s final year of arbitration eligibility before the two sides ultimately reached agreement on an eight-year, $260 million extension that February.

The news of Betts and the Sox coming to an agreement Friday comes on the same day that all 30 clubs and their eligible players had until 12 PM eastern time to exchange arbitration figures.

Just because Betts is now under contract for the 2020 season does not mean that the groundwork has been laid for a potential contract extension. But, it now gives opposing teams such as the Braves, Cardinals, or Dodgers, a more specific idea of what one year of the All-Star outfielder would cost in any trade conversations.

As we all know, Betts still appears locked in on hitting the open market come this November. If no extension between him and Boston is agreed upon by that time, the Tennessee native will have earned approximately $59.5 million in six full seasons with the Sox before reaching free agency.