Red Sox

The other guy: Punto surprised, disappointed by trade


The other guy: Punto surprised, disappointed by trade

DENVER -- When the nine-player deal between the Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers took place Friday, it was though Nick Punto was collateral damage.

In an effort to achieve financial flexibility and re-set their Clubhouse culture, the Red Sox shipped off high-salaried, big-name stars: Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez.

And Punto.

Punto wasn't an issue the clubhouse; to the contrary, the Red Sox loved his attitude. And his contract -- two years for 3 million -- certainly wasn't crippling. But he was part of the deal anyway, filling the Dodgers' need for an experienced utility player in the infield.

So there was Punto, literally along for the ride when the Dodgers sent a private plane to Boston to transport the ex-Red Sox players to their new home in L.A.

"I was caught off guard," said Punto as the Dodgers began a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. "My name somehow got attached."

Punto wasn't nearly as high profile as the other Sox players sent west and he had been a member of the Red Sox for only 4 12 months. Still, the disappointment was palpable.

"I always envisioned playing in Boston and winning a world championship in Boston," he said. "That's the part that stinks -- you get to play there for a year, not even a year, and it just didn't work out."

It's been like that almost from the beginning. Punto signed with the Sox in part because of the urging of Kevin Youkilis, a close friend. But Youkilis clashed with Bobby Valentine in April, was injured in May and traded by June.

Two months later, Punto followed him out of town, his stay brief and unsuccessful.

"It was just one of those years where it didn't work out," said Punto, shaking his head. "We had the talent to do it, but we just didn't perform. Which is tough. That's the city you want to win a world championship in. I heard that from many people."

Punto has heard speculation that the Sox failed this season because of a bad mix of personalities or a lack of focus, but he says the issue was more basic.

"It definitely wasn't what everybody thought it was," said Punto, "because that group of guys was awesome. We jelled, we got along. It's almost like the media wanted to portray that clubhouse as toxic, or not working out. But the 25 guys were always together. We just underperformed; that's the bottom line.

"Everybody has injuries. That's part of the game. But the people who were healthy, we all underperformed. That's it. There's not more to it than that. It was just one of those years. We had the talent to do it and it just didn't work out."

Punto described the last few days as "crazy...chaotic. I'm kind of meeting new faces and names and trying to put them all together.''

Disappointed though he may be, Punto also realizes that, given his game, he might be better suited for the National League, where double-switches and pinch-hitting are far more prevalent than in the A.L.

"Unless you're an everyday player or a DH, obviously, I think the National League fits everybody a little better," he said. "It's fun. You have to be ready to be in the game every day. I definitely enjoy National League baseball."

Report: Ex-Red Sox reliever Reed gets deal with Twins


Report: Ex-Red Sox reliever Reed gets deal with Twins

He was dubbed "Closer B" by Red Sox manager John Farrell when acquired at the trade deadline last summer, now Addison Reed is "Closer B Gone" the Twins.

The right-handed reliever, 29, has agreed to a two-year, $16.75 million free-agent deal with Minnesota, pending a physical, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and reports. 

Reed began last season with the Mets and had 19 saves and a 2.57 ERA before being traded to the Red Sox, where he had a 3.33 ERA in 29 games (27 innings) without a save as a setup man for Craig Kimbrell.  

Red Sox, Mookie Betts far apart on salary and heading toward arbitration


Red Sox, Mookie Betts far apart on salary and heading toward arbitration

The Red Sox and star right fielder Mookie Betts intend to go to an arbitration hearing in February, and there were signs this was coming even a year ago.

Betts was the only arbitration-eligible player on the Red Sox who did not settle on a contract with the team on Friday, when a deadline arrived for all teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange 2018 salary figures. Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Drew Pomeranz were the biggest names to avoid hearings.

Betts filed for a $10.5 million salary and the Red Sox filed at $7.5 million.  Betts and the Red Sox agreed previously that if no figure could be settled on by the Friday deadline, they would proceed to a hearing, assistant general manager Brian O'Halloran said. 

A three-person panel of arbitrators therefore is set to determine what Betts makes in 2018: either the $7.5 million figure the Sox filed or the $10.5 million figure Betts' camp submitted. The arbitrators won't settle on a midpoint for the parties. 

O'Halloran noted to the Globe there are no hard feelings involved.

Nonetheless, such a large gap would seem to provide incentive to settle. The parties technically could still decide to do so, but that would take a change of course from the present plan. The idea was to settle any time before Friday, and they did not. 

Betts is asking for near-record money for a first-year arbitration eligible player. Kris Bryant set the record Friday with a $10.85 million settlement.

The hearings can be difficult for player-team relations because teams have to make the case in front of the player that he is worth less money than he wants.

Betts, 25, hit .264, with 24 homers, 102 RBI, 25 stolen bases and a .803 OPS in 2017, numbers that fell from his American League MVP runner-up performance in 2016, but were nonetheless very strong and coupled with first-rate defense.

This offseason is Betts' first of arbitration eligibility. In the first three years of service time in a players' career, there's no recourse if you don't like the salary a team is offering. Teams can pay players anything at league minimum or above. 

The only option a player has in those first three years is to make a stand on principle: you can force the team to technically "renew" your salary, which notes to everyone that you did not agree to the salary. Betts and his agents did that in 2017 when the Sox paid him $950,000, a very high amount relative to most contract renewals.

Some of the standard thinking behind forcing a team to renew a contract is that if an arbitration case comes up down the road — and one now looms for Betts — it's supposed to show the arbitrators that the player felt even in seasons past, he was underpaid.

Still, the Sox may have effectively combatted that perception by paying Betts almost $1 million on a renewal. Per USA Today, that $950,000 agreement in 2017 was "the second-highest one-year deal ever for a non-arbitration-eligible player with two-plus years of big league service." Mike Trout got $1 million in 2014.