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.

Revisiting Christian Vazquez’s Contract Extension and Looking Ahead to J.T. Realmuto’s Upcoming Free Agency

Two years ago last month, the Red Sox and catcher Christian Vazquez reached agreement on a three-year, $13.35 million contract extension that included a club option for 2022.

Since that time, Vazquez, now 29 years old, has had the worst and best seasons of his major-league career in several categories, including OPS, wRC+, and fWAR.

In an injury-riddled 2018 campaign, Vazquez slashed a measly .207/.257/.283 with three home runs and 24 runs driven in in just 80 games played. He missed most of July and all of August due to a right pinky fracture.

That led many skeptics to believe that giving the Puerto Rican backstop an extension may have been a mistake, but he rebounded in a tremendous way in 2019.

Emerging as the everyday catcher, Vazquez posted a .276/.320/.477 slash line to go along with a career-high 23 home runs and career-high 72 RBI over 138 games played.

Among the 14 major-league catchers who accrued at least 400 plate appearances last year, Vazquez ranked third in fWAR (3.5). Defensively, he also ranked third among qualified catchers in FanGraphs’ Defense metric (22.2) while throwing out 38% of the 58 base runners who tried to steal against him. That effort behind the plate was good enough for Vazquez to be named a Gold Glove Award finalist, although Indians backstop Roberto Perez was the won that received the honor in the end.

Still, a three-win season in the official first year of that aforementioned three-year extension is nothing to hang your head on.

Vazquez is set to earn approximately $4.2 million this year headed into his age-29 season. Although he’ll likely make less than that in the event of a shortened or cancelled season, that amount currently ranks 16th among salaried catchers, per Spotrac. In other words, if Vazquez continues to make strides offensively and stays consistent as a defender, that could be a bargain.

However, in the event that Vazquez takes a step back if baseball is played in 2020, would it be out of the realm of possibilities for the Red Sox to look to upgrade at catcher this winter?

The 2020-2021 free agency class includes names such as Mookie Betts, George Springer, Marcus Semien, Marcus Stroman, Trevor Bauer, and maybe most importantly in this scenario, All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Realmuto is set to become a free agent for the first time this winter after spending the 2019 and 2020 seasons with the Phillies.

Coming off a year in which he finished 14th in National League MVP voting while picking up his first Gold Glove and second Silver Slugger Awards, Realmuto is without a doubt one of, if not the best backstop in baseball at the moment.

A client of CAA Sports, Realmuto, who is a little more than five months younger than Vazquez, is likely to demand a lucrative contract if he does indeed hit the open market later this year.

The Phillies, led by general manager and Medfield native Matt Klentak, are probably going to be intent on retaining his services. But, if the Red Sox, led by another Ivy League graduate in the form of Chaim Bloom, want to make a splash this winter, which they should have the ability to do now that they got under the luxury tax threshold, Realmuto could be an appealing option.

As noted great Twitter follow @RedSoxStats points out, Realmuto “forms a great long-term catcher situation with [prospect] Connor Wong. You get the best catcher in the game [who] won’t be a contract monstrosity, [and you] can auction off two years of Vazquez.”

If another club views the remaining two years on Vazquez’s deal after 2020 as a relative bargain for a quality starting catcher, the plan for the Sox could then pertain to “bringing in an elite player and limiting the spread of mediocrity across the team” in a potential trade for Vazquez.

As unlikely as it looks now, the idea of Bloom and Co. pursuing Realmuto and shopping Vazquez this winter is certainly something to think about. If he performs in 2020 as he did in 2019, Vazquez may just be the safe way to go thanks to his relatively cheap salary, but if you have the chance to acquire the services of one of the best players at their respective positions, you at least have to do your due diligence, right?

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!

Red Sox Deal Mookie Betts, David Price to Dodgers in Blockbuster Trade

The Red Sox have reportedly agreed to trade star outfielder Mookie Betts and left-handed pitcher David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

In return, Boston would receive outfielder Alex Verdugo and right-handed pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol from Los Angeles.

Graterol was acquired by the Dodgers from the Twins in an earlier trade that sent right-hander Kenta Maeda to Minnesota. In total, five players were involved in this three-team blockbuster.

For the past week or so, it seemed as though a deal involving Betts going to a National League West club was inevitable, with the Dodgers eventually winning the sweepstakes and the Padres presumably finishing as the runner-up.

The 27-year-old is set to earn $27 million in 2020 before becoming a free agent for the first time next winter.

As for Price, the 34-year-old is still owed $96 million over the final three years of the seven-year, $217 million pact he inked with the Sox back in December 2015. It looks like Boston will be responsible for about half of that financial commitment going forward with Los Angeles picking up the rest.

In Verdugo and Graterol, the Red Sox now have two controllable pieces who have both seen time in the majors recently.

Starting with Verdugo, the 23-year-old out of Tuscon, Arizona appeared in 106 games for the Dodgers last season, slashing .294/.342/.475 with 12 home runs and 44 RBI.

Back in August, Verdugo was placed on the injured list due to a right oblique strain and did not appear in a major league game for the remainder of the year after suffering a setback while on a minor-league rehab assignment. He also dealt with lower back soreness.

With Graterol, the Sox get Baseball America’s 60th-ranked prospect headed into the new season.

The 21-year-old Venezuelan made his major-league debut for Minnesota last September and allowed a total of five earned runs on 10 hits and two walks to go along with 10 strikeouts over 10 relief appearances spanning 9 2/3 innings of work.

Graterol projects to be either a middle-of-the-rotation starter or high-leverage reliever, depending on how well he can manage his arsenal, which includes a high-velocity sinker.

Of course, parting ways with both Betts and Price stings mightily. The pair played key roles in one of the most successful runs in franchise history that included three straight American League East titles and a historic World Series-winning campaign in 2018.

Originally drafted out of high school in the fifth round of the 2011 amateur draft, Betts rose to become the best homegrown player the Red Sox have developed in quite some time.

Because Betts will be a free agent for the first time come November, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to believe that the two sides could entertain a potential reunion when the time comes.

Betts’ strategy seems to be to go to the highest bidder once he does hit the open market, so if the Red Sox are willing to meet his demands, which seems unlikely at this point, why not? A man can dream.

This blockbuster may not have been Chaim Bloom’s first move since being named the Sox’ chief baseball officer last October, but it sure is the most impactful one.

Since medical information still needs to be reviewed, this trade has yet to be finalized.

Red Sox Bring Back Mitch Moreland on One-Year Deal

The Red Sox have brought back free-agent first baseman Mitch Moreland on a one-year, $3 million deal for the 2020 season. In a corresponding move, right-handed pitching prospect Denyi Reyes was designated for assignment in order to make room for Moreland on the 40-man roster. The club made the transactions official earlier Tuesday.

According to The Athletics’ Ken Rosenthal, Moreland’s new contract will net him $2.5 million in 2020 and also includes a $3 million club option or $500,000 buyout for 2021.

The 34-year-old veteran had spent the previous three seasons with Boston after agreeing to a one-year, $5.5 million deal in December 2016 and a two-year, $13 million deal in December 2017.

Most recently, Moreland slashed .252/.328/.507 with 19 home runs and 58 RBI over 91 games in an injury-riddled campaign this past season.

Since free agency began at the beginning of November, bringing back Moreland always seemed like an appealing option even with the influx of infielders the Red Sox have.

With Moreland returning, the Sox get a familiar veteran presence back at a time when it will more than likely be needed under a new manager. They now also have the ability to platoon the Mississippi native, a left-handed bat, with either of Michael Chavis or Bobby Dalbec, both right-handed bats, at first base.

Dalbec, the Sox’ No. 2 prospect, might need more time at Triple-A Pawtucket at the start of the season for development or service time purposes, so there will be no need to rush the 24-year-old up now.

Chavis, meanwhile, has the opportunity to hover around the field now without committing to a single position, as noted by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

As for the other side of this move, Denyi Reyes was ranked as Boston’s No. 26 prospect on MLB.com

The 23-year-old right-hander was a surprising addition to the 40-man roster in November 2018 given how he had yet to pitch past the High-A level.

Making 26 starts for Double-A Portland last year, Reyes posted a 4.16 ERA and .243 batting average against over 151 1/3 innings pitched.

Presumably, the Red Sox would like Reyes to sneak through waivers so that he can remain with the club in a non-40-man roster spot capacity.

Red Sox Have ‘Expressed Interest’ in Padres Catching Prospect Luis Campusano in Mookie Betts Trade Talks, per Report

In discussions with the San Diego Padres revolving around the idea of trading star outfielder Mookie Betts, the Red Sox have reportedly ‘expressed interest’ in acquiring Padres catching prospect Luis Campusano in any potential deal, per The Athletic’s Dennis Lin.

Campusano, who turned 21 last September, was listed as the fifth-best prospect in San Diego’s farm system and the seventh-best catching prospect in baseball at the end of the 2019 season, according to MLB.com.

The former 2017 second-round pick out of Cross Creek High School in Georgia put together an impressive campaign in his second full professional season last year, slashing .325/.396/.509 with 15 home runs and 81 RBI over 110 games played for the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm. He was named co-MVP of the California League for his efforts back in August.

In the Arizona Fall League, Campusano, along with other Padres prospects, played for the Peoria Javelinas, the same team the Red Sox were affiliated with.

In an organization that is full of quality prospects, Campusano might not garner the same attention that others such as MacKensie Gore or Luis Patino do, but he is an exciting player nonetheless.

“He’s really special,” Lake Elsinore hitting coach Doug Banks said of Campusano in an interview with Baseball America last June. “He does some special things. There’s things he can do because he’s just so talented. For him to do what he’s doing at his position, catching, being as young as he is, it really is incredible.”

Any deal that involves Betts heading to San Diego would most likely involve the Red Sox getting multiple pieces, prospects and major-league players alike, in return, such as 29-year-old outfielder Wil Myers, who is owed $61 million over the next three seasons.

Because Betts is set to become a free agent for the first time next winter, it is safe to say that Padres general manager AJ Preller would be unwilling to move a prized prospect like Gore for what could turn out to be just a one-year rental.

That’s where players like Campusano come in. The 79th-ranked prospect on Baseball America’s Top 100 list would easily become one of the three best prospects in the Sox’ system.

San Diego may value the young backstop highly, but with veteran catcher Austin Hedges and former top catching prospect Francisco Mejia already on the active roster, Campusano could be expandable. Especially for a player of Betts’ caliber.

On Thursday, Lin reported that an agreement between the Red Sox and Padres was viewed as ‘unlikely’ so there is still a possibility that nothing comes from all this speculation. We’ll have to wait and see on that.

 

Red Sox Have Not Asked for Permission to Speak to Mets Bench Coach Hensley Meulens About Managerial Opening

The Red Sox have yet to seek permission from the New York Mets to speak with bench coach Hensley Meulens about their managerial opening, per Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.

Van Waganen made this news clear after formally announcing that Luis Rojas, the club’s quality control coach, would be named manager less than a week after Carlos Beltran stepped down from the role due to being a key figure in the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal going back to the 2017 season.

According to multiple reports, the Mets interviewed three internal candidates in Rojas (quality control coach), Meulens (bench coach), and Tony DeFrancesco (first base coach), to replace Beltran before ultimately reaching a final decision on Wednesday.

Going back to this past Sunday, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported that the Sox had ‘shown interest’ in Meulens while he was still a candidate for the Mets job.

Now that that hole has been filled by Rojas, there are only two open managerial positions remaining in Boston and Houston.

In regard to the Astros job, owner Jim Crane has interviewed six candidates in Buck Showalter, John Gibbons, Will Venable, Dusty Baker, Eduardo Pérez and Joe Espada, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome.

There have been no links between Houston and Meulens, so perhaps now would be a good time for the Red Sox to reach out to the Mets bench coach about their managerial opening.

Of course, that all depends on the direction chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom wants to take here in either hiring a stopgap for one year before opening up a more extensive search next winter or hiring the ideal long-term guy right now.

Looking at his resume, Meulens, 52, has plenty of major-league coaching experience under his belt, as he served as Bruce Bochy’s hitting coach in San Francisco from 2010 until 2019. He was one of several candidates interviewed for the Yankees’ managerial opening prior to the start of the 2018 season and was named Mets bench coach last month.

The Curacao native also fits the mold of former major-league veterans who have gone onto become major-league managers, such as former Sox skipper Alex Cora.

When asked about the qualities he would like in Boston’s next manager at the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner last Thursday, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said that he would want “someone like Cora.”

This is not to say that Meulens is comparable to Cora, because I really do not know if he is. What I do know is that Meulens does have a relationship with Bogaerts thanks to him managing Team Netherlands in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He also speaks five languages, two of which being English and Spanish.

Since the Red Sox have yet to be seriously linked to any other external managerial candidates, there could still be a long way to go in this search. Either that, or the club decides to go with an internal candidate, like current bench coach Ron Roenicke, instead. Plenty more to come for sure.

Red Sox Trade Travis Lakins to Cubs, Outright Bobby Poyner to Triple-A Pawtucket

In a series of roster moves made Tuesday, the Red Sox have essentially moved on from two bullpen pieces, as right-handed reliever Travis Lakins was traded to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later or cash considerations and left-handed reliever Bobby Poyner was outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket, per WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

The move to deal Lakins comes four days after the 25-year-old hurler was somewhat surprisingly designated for assignment last Friday in order to make room on the Sox’ 40-man roster for the newly-acquired Matt Hall.

In 16 appearances (three starts) in 2019, Lakins posted an ERA of 3.86 and FIP of 3.64 over 23 1/3 innings of work during his rookie year.

The Ohio State product, taken in the sixth round of the 2015 amateur draft, opened some eyes while serving as the opener on three separate occasions for Boston in September, which made the decision to take him off the 40-man roster on Friday all the more puzzling.

Now, Lakins will have the chance to start fresh with a new organization, all while having two minor-league options remaining on his current contract.

As for Poyner, the 27-year-old was designated for assignment by the Red Sox last Wednesday after the club had acquired fellow southpaw Jeffrey Springs from the Texas Rangers in exchange for first baseman/outfielder Sam Travis.

In his second year in the majors, Poyner surrendered nine earned runs on 10 hits and five walks over 13 outings (one start) and 11 2/3 innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 6.94 and WHIP of 1.29. He’ll look to provide left-handed depth for Boston while with Pawtucket, where he fared much better in 2019 (3.77 ERA, 1.29 WHIP).

Red Sox Designate Travis Lakins for Assignment

After acquiring left-handed reliever Matt Hall from the Detroit Tigers earlier Friday, the Red Sox have designated right-handed reliever Travis Lakins for assignment in order to make room for Hall on the club’s 40-man roster.

Lakins, 25, made his big-league debut last April and went on to post a 3.86 ERA and 5.22 xFIP over 16 appearances (three starts) and 23 1/3 innings pitched spanning five different stints with the Sox.

Once ranked as highly as the No. 8 prospect in Boston’s system by MLB.com back in 2016, the former 2015 sixth-round pick out of Ohio State opened some eyes towards the latter part of the 2019 season.

There, serving as an “opener” for the Sox in September, Lakins combined to allow a total of two hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings of work in his first three career major-league starts.

That impressive showing made it seem as though the righty may be on his way tovying for an expanding role in the Red Sox’ bullpen come the spring, but that does not appear to be the case now.

Instead, if Lakins is not traded or released within the next seven days, he will more than likely be outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket and still get an invitation to major-league camp in February.

As things currently stand, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster stands at 40 players with more moves likely to come.

Red Sox Outright Marco Hernandez to Triple-A Pawtucket After He Clears Waivers

Less than a week after designating him for assignment in order to make room for reliever Austin Brice on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox outrighted utility infielder Marco Hernandez to Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday.

This roster move comes one day after the club dealt another utility piece in Sam Travis to the Texas Rangers in exchange for left-handed reliever Jeffrey Springs.

Like Hernandez, Travis was designated for assignment and outrighted to Triple-A earlier in the month, so it does not seem out of the realm of possibilities that the 27-year-old could also be traded in the coming weeks if there is any interest.

Returning from a two-year absence in 2019 due to multiple shoulder surgeries, Hernandez slashed .250/.279/.338 with two home runs and 11 RBI over 61 games for Boston last season.

Since Chaim Bloom took over as the Sox’ chief baseball officer last October, the Dominican Republic native has been non-tendered, brought back as a free agent, designated for assignment, and outrighted to the minors in the span of just over a month. Quite the eventful offseason.

Entering his sixth season with the Red Sox organization, Hernandez will look to compete for a spot back on Boston’s 40-man roster once spring training begins, if he is not already traded by then.