Red Sox

Sox aren't villains in arbitration loss to Betts

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Sox aren't villains in arbitration loss to Betts

Red Sox star right fielder Mookie Betts on Wednesday was ruled the winner of his arbitration case, pulling in $10.5 million, a near-record salary for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility.

An arbitration panel heard Betts’ case on Tuesday. The Red Sox filed for a $7.5 million salary in 2018. The panel chooses between the two figures rather than settling on a midpoint, which the parties attempted to do but could not, leading to the hearing.

It’s a big win for not only Betts, 25, and his reps at the Legacy Agency, but for all first-year eligible players and the Players Association. Teams thus far have stayed away from older free agents this winter, leading to some thought that the system needs to be changed so that younger players are better compensated. This decision doesn’t overhaul the system, but does set a new precedent in the arbitration process. 

The runner-up to Mike Trout for American League MVP in 2016, Betts made $950,000 in 2017. 

Kris Bryant and the Cubs settled at $10.85 million earlier this month, setting the record salary for any first-year arbitration-eligible player. Betts’ salary is a record for a first-year eligible player who actually went to a hearing and did not settle beforehand.

An arbitration hearing is never desirable for either party. A player has to sit in a room and hear, from the team, why the club thinks he deserves less money than he wants. But fears that Betts' relationship with the Red Sox will be hurt long term are overstated. Betts is on track to make a ton of money via free agency (or via an extension), and whatever hard feelings may arise won't alter that overall picture: Betts is going to require a hug sum of money at some point as long as he stays healthy. 

The bottom line is the Sox someday must pay up or see Betts walk. They should not be looked at as villains simply because they went to a hearing with a star player.

Salary arbitration is a different valuation than the free-agent, open market. Betts, were he a free agent, is worth much more than $10.5 million -- easily. But within the framework of the system, Betts' ask was bold. The Red Sox have gone to two hearings in the last 16 years. Fernando Abad's case last year, which the Sox won, was the team's first since 2002. They're not ones to strong arm players in the arbitration process. The team's history and the filing numbers involved in this case made the hearing an understandable outcome.

Now that Betts is in the arbitration system, and he has his first seven-figure payday, any urgency to take a long term deal is likely lessened. But there was never a sense he felt urgency to do so previously.

Unlike Bryant, Betts neither won an MVP or Rookie of the Year award. It's possible that the arbitration panel valued Betts' defense (and, potentially, advanced defensive metrics) more highly than it would have in the past.

Players accumulate service time every year they’re in the majors. After three years of service time, you typically become arbitration-eligible for the first time. Players become free agents after six years of service time.


Delay in J.D. Martinez's introduction suggests complication in medical review

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Delay in J.D. Martinez's introduction suggests complication in medical review

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- They’re leaving us to speculate now.

Sox manager Alex Cora said essentially nothing Friday about J.D. Martinez’s unfinished contract, a five-year, $110 million pact that was in the medical-review process. 

“I’m not concerned. I’m not concerned. I’m just  -- the thing I can do is do my thing,” Cora said Friday. “My job here is to show up every day and get ‘em ready.”


Cora’s statement that he is not concerned appeared less an assessment of Martinez's direct situation and more a reinforcement of Cora’s larger point: He is not going to publicly engage the topic as the field manager.

Cora said he was unsure if Martinez was still in Fort Myers. Here's guessing Cora really does know. But, this is traditionally a front-office matter. 

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and Martinez’s agent, Scott Boras, both have made comments about the process this week. Not on Friday, however. On Friday, they went silent. 

So let’s consider what we know, and what it could mean.

Multiple times this week, the media waited at JetBlue Park because there was a belief a press conference was imminent. Terms were agreed to Monday. We’re about to enter Saturday without a press conference. We know for a fact the Sox and Martinez were still going through the medical process as of Thursday.

Added up, everything is highly suggestive of some sort of complication during J.D. Martinez’s medical review. What is impossible to know is the impact of any potential complication. 

The original agreement could go through completely and totally untouched. A contract could be revised in a slight way or a larger way. Other doctor visits could be arranged, and indeed, probably have been. 


A complication does not mean a contract will fall apart. That would be a wildly unexpected scenario. 

Rather, it could mean the sides once again dig in. The Red Sox have doctors, and so too does Boras. Sometimes, there are differing medical opinions.

And it would be strange if there wasn't some medical concern.


Scheduling or a similar matter may have contributed in slowing down this process. But by now, with a nine-figure investment at stake -- plus the involvement of top doctors and a major league baseball team -- it’s hard to imagine what logistical issue could exist. They have email for records, they have planes for visits.

Everyone else has little in the way of answers.


Marco Hernandez returns to Boston after setback with shoulder

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Marco Hernandez returns to Boston after setback with shoulder

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox’ infield depth was tested mightily in 2017. The group is already seeing some attrition in 2018.

Marco Hernandez, who appeared in the mix at second base (at least up until the recent signing of Eduardo Nunez), returned to Boston because his surgically repaired left shoulder, his non-throwing shoulder, was bothering him. 

On May 26, Hernandez's season was cut short when he had an open stabilization (Latarjet) procedure, which is intended to prevent the shoulder from dislocating. Part of the procedure included the insertion of foreign materials — hardware, as Cora referred to it on Friday — and at least some of that has now been removed.

“He was feeling discomfort in his shoulder,” manager Alex Cora said Friday morning. "Flew him to Boston, at the end, they took out the hardware off of it. It seems like… it was creating the discomfort. Obviously, everything went well. Can’t give you a time when he’s coming back.”

Hernandez’s recovery will be dependent on how he’s feeling. 

“There’s guys that come out right away and they can go and there’s people who will still feel it and it’s a longer process,” Cora said. “Hopefully he can come back sooner rather than later. He was feeling it and at the end, they checked everything and it was the hardware that they have there. He’ll be fine.”

Hernandez, 25, is entering his third major league season. In 116 plate appearances, he has a .284 average. He's a left-handed hitter and looked particularly impressive last spring training.