Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez will not be opting out of final two years of contract

As had been expected, Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez will not opt out of his contract with the Red Sox this offseason, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

Martinez, who just completed his third season with Boston, will instead opt in to the remaining two years and $38.75 million remaining on the five-year, $110 million deal he signed with the Red Sox prior to the start of the 2018 campaign.

Of course, the 33-year-old also has the option to test the free agency waters again if he so chooses next winter, otherwise he would earn $19.375 million in the fifth and final year of his current contract.

Like so many across the game, Martinez endured great struggles at the plate this past season, posting a dismal, overly-uncharacteristic .213/.291/.389 slash line to go along with seven home runs and 27 RBI over 54 games.

One reason the three-time Silver Slugger Award winner had such a tough time of things in 2020 was due to a lack of in-game video and video room access that came as a result of the Astros’ and Red Sox’ sign-stealing scandals as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Guys are struggling and trying to work. It’s tough when you don’t know what to work on or what to do so everyone is feeling for stuff and it’s a tough situation,” he said of the video-related restrictions back in August. “We’re only allowed to be here five hours before game time, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for guys to go in the cage and grind it out and figure it out with the hitting coach. It’s tough. I mean it’s a tough hand. We’ve got to find a way to make it work though. I told my guys anytime they know they have anything they know they can come up to me and ask me questions and stuff like that. It’s just different. I don’t have that time to go in and break down guys’ swings and look at guys’ stuff and really dive into it.”

As underwhelming as Martinez may have been this year, the South Florida native, a lifetime .290/.354/.530 hitter, is certainly a prime candidate to bounce back in 2021 as he prepares to embark on his 11th big-league season while inching closer to accruing 10 years of major-league service time.

Lack of News Surrounding Red Sox’ Managerial Search Suggests Alex Cora Is Favorite To Return To Boston

With the World Series between the Dodgers and Rays set to begin Tuesday night, we now know the 2020 Major League Baseball season will end within the next 5-9 days. And by the time this year’s Fall Classic comes to a close, former Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s one-year suspension will be over.

Cora, who turned 45 on Sunday, was handed down a one-year ban by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred back in April for the role he played in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal while serving as the club’s bench coach under A.J. Hinch. That punishment did not have to do with his actions as Red Sox manager in 2018.

That being said, Cora could be the top candidate to return to his old post by the end of this month or the beginning of November.

Think about it like this: The Red Sox announced on September 27 that Ron Roenicke would not return as manager for the 2021 season. Since that time, there have been no real legitimate rumors; no real legitimate leaks to go off of in the club’s search for a new manager.

Plenty of candidates have been thrown out there, some who even interviewed for the job earlier this year like Athletics quality control coach Mark Kotsay or Diamondbacks bench coach Luis Urueta, but none have been closely linked to the opening.

When Boston parted ways with Roenicke last month, the club released a statement that read in part: “A search for a new manager will begin immediately.”

It’s been just over four weeks since the Sox’ search for a new manager began, and we have yet to really hear how said search is going. This could potentially mean one of two things. First, it could mean the Red Sox are putting forth their best effort to prevent any leaks and keep everything in-house, which would be commendable if it were the case. Second, it could mean that they are waiting until the World Series ends, when they can officially speak with Cora.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo and Christopher Smith touched upon this in the most recent installment of the Fenway Rundown podcast earlier this month, and among the bevy of quality points that were made, one that stuck out pertained to the lack of leaks.

“It’s been nothing. There’s not even a ‘The Red Sox are assembling a list,'” Cotillo said. “In contrast, you look up at Detroit and Al Avila, their GM, said ‘Alex Cora and A.J. Hinch are on my list’, which means they aren’t going to make their hires until they can talk to these guys.

“If the Red Sox managerial search was heating up at this point, it would point to Alex Cora not being the guy,” Cotillo added. “There’s zero indication through 10 days that they’ve really done any groundwork. Every day that passes with little news, you can give [chief baseball officer] Chaim [Bloom] and his crew, as Ron Roenicke liked to say, a lot of credit for keeping it close to the vest. And maybe they’re making progress, but to me, it says they’re not going to really dive into this thing until they can talk to Cora.”

This was also mentioned on the podcast, which I highly suggest listening to, but it carries a lot of weight in that Cora is the perfect candidate for this job for one simple reason: He’s already done it.

“There are plenty of guys who aren’t even being talked about that could be similar to Alex Cora’s personality,” Smith said.

“But, if you’re going to bring in someone similar, why not bring in the guy that everybody knows and everybody wants, is familiar with and knows how to win in this market, and knows how to deal with the media and all the scrutiny?,” asked Cotillo in response to that.

It’s true. Because of what he has already accomplished as the manager of the Red Sox, Cora should be the favorite to return to Boston just months after his dismissal.

The decision to bring Cora back might not be the most popular around the sport given his past actions, but considering how he seemingly gets the most out of his players, like Rafael Devers and Eduardo Rodriguez, while also having established a solid relationship with Bloom already, it might just be the best one to make from the Red Sox’ point of view.

Whether Bloom and the rest of the Sox brass agree with that notion will presumably depend on how things unfold in the days following the Rays’ or Dodgers’ World Series victory.

Former Red Sox Manager Alex Cora Speaks on Fallout of Astros’ Sign-Stealing Fiasco

For one of the first times since he was relieved of his duties back in January, former Red Sox manager Alex Cora spoke publicly about the fallout of Major League Baseball’s recent investigation into the Houston Astros.

Cora, who served as Houston’s bench coach under A.J. Hinch during the 2017 season, was handed down a one-year ban in April from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred for the role he played in the club’s illegal stealing of signs, not for what he did in his first year as Red Sox manager in 2018.

From the time he and the Sox parted ways, Cora has kept relatively quiet up until now, and he has a solid reason for that.

“Out of respect for the investigation, I decided to stay out of the spotlight. Talking about it wasn’t going to change anything,” Cora told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. “I deserve my suspension and I’m paying the price for my actions. And I am not proud of what happened. We made a mistake as a group, the entire [Astros] team. What happened was something that, if you ask anyone involved, no one is proud of it. We’re all at fault. Everybody. We’re all responsible. Everyone who was part of the team from around mid-May until the end of the season, we are all responsible.”

One thing Cora takes issue with though, is the notion that he and ex-Mets manager Carlos Beltran, who played for Houston in 2017, were the only two individuals behind the Astros’ misdoings, as has been thrown out there by former ‘Stros general manager Jeff Lunhow.

“There has been a narrative out there of what happened. Ever since mid-November until the commissioner announced the results of the Red Sox investigation, I have read many things that are true and many others that are not,” Cora stated. “Out of this whole process, if there is one thing that I completely reject and disagree with is people within the Astros’ organization singling me out, particularly Jeff Luhnow, as if I were the sole mastermind. The commissioner’s report sort of explained, in its own way, what happened.

“”If there is one thing I am absolutely sure of, it is that it was not a two-man show. We all did it. And let me be very clear that I am not denying my responsibility, because we were all responsible.”

Cora will be eligible to return to baseball in 2021. And with rumors of a potential reunion with the Red Sox ever prevalent, his thought’s on the club’s punishments, which included video replay room coordinator J.T. Watkins also getting suspended, are something I think many would like to hear about.

However, the only thing he really said about the commissioner’s report into Boston’s illegal use of the video replay room in 2018 is that it “speaks for itself.”

Current Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke, who was officially named manager by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom back in February, is under contract with Boston through the end of 2020.

As already mentioned, there has been plenty of speculation that Cora will return to his old post next year, but for the time being, the 2018 World Series-winning manager says “all I care about is my personal life and my family,” and he “absolutely” wants to return to the game in the future.

J.D. Martinez Says MLB ‘Had to Do Something’ When Punishing Red Sox Even Though ‘They Really Didn’t Find Anything’

Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez has had a few weeks to think about the punishment his team received from Major League Baseball for what they did during the 2018 regular season, and quite frankly, he’s still not happy about it.

On April 22nd, MLB released its findings into the 2018 Red Sox, resulting in the club losing their second-round pick in this year’s amateur draft while video replay coordinator J.T. Watkins was suspended without pay for the 2020 season.

Some may think that Boston got off light in this case given their previous offenses, but Martinez was having none of it while talking to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham on Wednesday.

“If they went to court with that, it would get thrown out,” Martinez said. “There was nothing there. The judge would laugh.”

The 32-year-old was one of the first Sox players to defend his team’s actions and proclaim innocence back in January. Now that the results have since been released, and the league found that any advantage the Red Sox had was “limited in scope and impact,” Martinez could feel some sense of vindication here.

He could have gone the “See, I told you so” route while speaking with Abraham, but he instead decided to defend Watkins.

“That pissed me off. It wasn’t right,” Martinez said of the former Red Sox farmhand’s punishment handed down by commissioner Rob Manfred. “They just ruined this guy’s career with no evidence.”

What could be the reason behind this? Well, Martinez believes that since this was not the Sox’ first rodeo in terms of dealing with discipline from MLB, Manfred felt inclined “to do something” even though “they really didn’t find anything.”

There is a distinct possibility that Watkins was used as a scapegoat in this case to prevent the league from looking worse than it has in the months since the 2019 season came to a close last October. However, it seems unlikely that we will ever know the full story if there is another version to be told, at least not for a while, anyway.

Red Sox Sign-Stealing Penalties Revealed: Second-Round Draft Pick Stripped, Alex Cora Handed Down One-Year Ban, and Replay Operator Deemed ‘Rogue Employee’

At long last, the results of the MLB-led investigation into the 2018 Red Sox have finally been revealed, and according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the penalties are light.

As mentioned in the tweet above, the Sox were docked just a second-round pick in this year’s draft, while team replay operator J.T. Watkins was handed down a ban through the 2020 postseason in addition to not being able to return to the same position in 2021, and perhaps most importantly, Alex Cora was also handed down a one-year ban through the 2020 playoffs, but only for his conduct with the Astros, not for what he did as manager of the Red Sox in 2018.

Per Rosenthal, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred “found that Watkins, on at least some occasions during the 2018 regular season, illegally utilized game feeds in the replay room to help players during games” and “acted as a rogue employee” in doing so. In other words, what the Red Sox did was not as egregious as what Houston did in 2017.

Despite illegally utilizing the video replay room throughout the 2018 regular season, “The league did not find that Boston’s impermissible conduct continued during the 2018 postseason or 2019 regular season.”

In a formal statement, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy addressed the results of the investigation Wednesday, saying that “As an organization, we strive for 100% compliance with the rules. MLB’s investigation concluded that in isolated instances during the 2018 regular season, sign sequences were decoded through the use of live game video rather than through permissible means.

“MLB acknowledged the front office’s extensive efforts to communicate and enforce the rules and concluded that Alex Cora, the coaching staff, and most of the players did not engage in, nor were they aware of, any violations. Regardless, these rule violations are unacceptable. We apologize to our fans and Major League Baseball, and accept the Commissioner’s ruling.”

The Red Sox and Cora agreed to mutually part ways back in January shortly after Manfred handed down his punishment to the Astros, which included the docking of first and second-round picks in this year’s draft, as well as a $5 million fine and one-year suspensions for then-general manager Jeff Lunhow and then-manager A.J. Hinch.

Compared to what the Astros got, what just got handed down to the Red Sox does not seem all that bad. In fact, it does not seem out of the realm of possibilities that Cora could return to manage the Sox once again in 2021.

For now, it will be interesting to see how long it takes Boston to remove the ‘interim’ tag from interim manager Ron Roenicke’s title.

UPDATE: Well I guess that answers that.

Red Sox Used Video Room Illegally in 2018, per Report

The Red Sox reportedly used their video replay room illegally during the 2018 season, according to The Athletic’s Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal.

According to one source who was with the Red Sox during the 2018 season, the club, under new manager Alex Cora, employed a system where, “A staff member in the Red Sox’s video replay room would tell a player the current sign sequence. The player would return to the dugout, delivering the message on foot, rather than through a wearable device or a phone.” Then, “Someone in the [Red Sox’] dugout would relay the information to the baserunner, leaving the runner with two easy steps: Watch the catcher’s signs and, with body movements, tell the hitter what’s coming.”

The baserunner, either on first or second base in this case, would step off the bag with either his left or right foot to let the hitter at the plate know what type of pitch was coming.

If the opposition managed to change up their signs in the middle of a game, the Red Sox would send a player from the dugout to the video replay room to decipher the new signals. A process that surely did not take all that long, as Boston’s video room is just a few feet away from the dugout entrance.

Rosenthal does note that Major League Baseball began to implement in-game, in-person video security at the start of the 2018 postseason play, and club sources did say that, “this system did not appear to be effective or even viable,” that October, when the Red Sox went on to win the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games.

Despite that though, one Red Sox source did tell The Athletic that the team had video monitors in their “back pocket,” meaning they could still act if they could still turn to the video if they felt inclined to do so.

This news comes nearly two months after Drellich and Rosenthal reported that three major-league managers, including Cora, were a part of the league’s investigation into the Astros stealing signs in 2017.

At that time, Cora served as Houston’s bench coach under AJ Hinch, and the third-year manager did not comment about the ongoing investigation at the Winter Meetings in San Diego last month.

As things stand right now, it seems as though this drama could drag out for quite some time. Stay tuned if more information becomes available in the meantime.

Red Sox Manager Alex Cora Reportedly Played ‘Key Role’ in Astros’ Sign Stealing Fiasco in 2017

Red Sox manager Alex Cora will be interviewed by Major League Baseball as part of the league’s investigation into the Houston Astros stealing signs throughout the 2017 season, per The Athletic’s Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal.

According to the report, Cora, “played a key role in devising the sign-stealing system the team used that season.”

Cora served as bench coach under manager A.J. Hinch during the Astros’ World Series-winning campaign in 2017. New Mets manager Carlos Beltran, who played his final season with Houston as the team’s designated hitter, will also be interviewed.

In case you missed this news from Tuesday, the basic premise is that the Astros had a system at Minute Maid Park where a camera was set up in the outfield so that it could capture what the opposing team’s catcher was laying down to his pitcher. With that information coming through on a monitor and some decoding of said signs, someone in the Astros dugout could signal to the hitter at the plate what kind of pitch was on the way, which was done through making, “a loud noise — specifically, banging on a trash can, which sat in the tunnel,” behind Houston’s dugout.

This much was confirmed by former Astros right-hander Mike Fiers, who was with the club from July 2015 until the end of the 2017 season.

What does this have to do with Cora and the Red Sox? Well, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the league spoke with Sox bullpen coach Craig Bjornson, who came over from Houston with Cora back in 2017, on Wednesday.

Cora appeared on WEEI’s Dale & Keefe show on Thursday, and was asked about his involvement in what is currently transpiring.

“I appreciate the question,” Cora said. “…I have talked to MLB and I’ll leave it at that.”

As for what is in store for Cora and the Sox, more is sure to come as the league’s investigation progresses, so stay tuned for that.