Red Sox

In battle of MLB owners vs. players, best choice feels like 'none of the above'

In battle of MLB owners vs. players, best choice feels like 'none of the above'

I hate them all.

MLB's owners, with their bad-faith labor proposals designed to make the players look greedy so they'll have someone to blame if the season can't be salvaged. The players, who are too stupid and undisciplined to decline the bait.

The billionaire owners, for crying poor and refusing to pay their minor leaguers. The millionaire players, for treating every offer like an insult to be doused in urine.

The owners, for using a pandemic to ram through a series of long-sought changes to the draft, the minor leagues, and maybe even a salary cap. The players, for failing to recognize the need to stop swinging the gold-plated Boras Corp. hammer of public messaging they typically wield like Thor.

I hate it, hate it, hate it. All of it.

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As we seek a return to normalcy, at least there's baseball to ground us in all of its infinite stupidity. While the NBA quietly negotiates a 16-team tournament with surprisingly little rancor, and the NHL announces that it will conduct a 24-team playoffs as soon as it is safe to do so, baseball and its players take turns poleaxing the sport in the face.

The owners started with a 50-50 revenue sharing model they were so certain was a nonstarter, they never even officially offered it to the players. They did leak it far and wide, however, which led to inevitable pushback from union boss Tony Clark, who sniffed that it was a blatant attempt to install a salary cap, which the players will never accept, certainly not with CBA negotiations looming next year.

Cue the predictable bemoaning of baseball's out-of-touch millionaire class, which is exactly what the owners wanted. They're skillfully waging asymmetrical warfare, since they need to shut only 30 mouths to close ranks. There are 900 players, though, and it only takes one of them swallowing his leg above the knee to sway public opinion.

Enter Rays lefty Blake Snell, a Twitch streamer depressingly short on brain matter who announced to his followers that, "I gotta get my money," in a tone-deaf rant last week that immediately overshadowed more nuanced discussions of health and safety from the likes of Andrew Miller, Chris Iannetta, and even Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo. Snell apologized, but damage done.

It should come as little surprise that he then fired his agent and hired Boras.

Ahhh, Boras. In normal times, he's unfairly maligned for securing monster deals. No one forced the Padres to fork over $300 million to Manny Machado, for instance. Boras is the best in the business and someone we'd all want on our side in a negotiation.

In normal times, anyway. But now?

If there's anyone who needs to stand down in the midst of a messaging battle, it's the man many fans consider the sport's avatar of avarice. "You don't privatize the gains and socialize the losses," might be an accurate appraisal of MLB's initial proposal, but it's not a sentiment anyone wants to hear from the man who just negotiated over $1 billion worth of contracts this winter.

Spending all this time focusing on Boras and the MLBPA, however, plays right into the hands of the owners. Their latest proposal, which calls for a sliding scale of pay cuts that would leave the lowest earners making most of their prorated salaries and the highest earners staring at cuts of $30 million (sorry, Mike Trout), feels designed to provoke another round of public whining.

That means they're still more concerned with PR than actually saving their game, and once you view their actions solely through the lens of assigning blame, it becomes clear how cynical their attempts at resuming play really are. It wouldn't surprise me if there's a faction willing to blow up the season to gain massive leverage when the CBA expires in 2021. These guys didn't become billionaires by playing nice.

We're already hearing about furloughs and pay cuts in the front offices of even storied franchises like the Cubs, and the A's just eliminated a $400/month stipend to their minor leaguers that ESPN's Jeff Passan estimated would've cost them only $1 million to maintain through August. The move feels as distasteful as whatever bubbles up through the drains in the Coliseum.

Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick. If the sides really want baseball to return by July 4, they'll need to reach an agreement sometime in the next 10 days in order to leave time to conduct a three-week spring training.

It's entirely possible the two sides are withholding their best offers until the 11th hour, and all of this posturing is just so much saber rattling before everyone finally acts in the game's best interests.

If that's the case, may I politely suggest they all go to hell? We've got our own problems at the moment, and picking a side in this loser battle ain't one of them.

MLB Rumors: Yasiel Puig to sign with 2020 Red Sox opponent Braves

MLB Rumors: Yasiel Puig to sign with 2020 Red Sox opponent Braves

The Boston Red Sox aren't acquiring Yasiel Puig, but they'll still see him in 2020.

The free-agent outfielder is signing with the Atlanta Braves, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported Tuesday. Puig's deal with the Braves is still tentative pending a physical, per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.

The Red Sox reportedly were among a few teams interested in signing Puig, who split the 2019 season between the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians.

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The Baltimore Orioles reportedly made Puig a contract offer, but it appears the 29-year-old is headed to Atlanta, where he'll play two three-game series -- from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 and from Sept. 25 to 27 -- against the Red Sox during the shortened 2020 MLB season.

While Puig's career with the Los Angeles Dodgers got off to a promising start, the Cuba native has struggled to sustain that success, hitting no better than .267 over the last five seasons. Puig hit .297 with 23 RBIs in 49 games with Cleveland, though, and perhaps he'll benefit from another change in scenery.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, are rolling with an outfield of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Alex Verdugo and platoon man Kevin Pillar after trading star right fielder Mookie Betts this offseason.

2020 MLB Season: Five newcomers who could make an impact for Red Sox

2020 MLB Season: Five newcomers who could make an impact for Red Sox

The Red Sox weren't good enough in 2019 to make the playoffs, so it stands to reason that if they're going to find a way over the hump in this dine-and-dash 2020 campaign, some new faces will have to deliver.

Because chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was only able to spend what he could scrounge from Dave Dombrowski's old couch this winter, the Red Sox did most of their tinkering on the fringes of the roster.

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They added one potential impact piece in outfielder Alex Verdugo, albeit at the steep cost of former MVP Mookie Betts. Otherwise, they're seeking contributions from a host of under-the-radar sources.

Perhaps we'll be pleasantly surprised. Here are five newcomers to watch.

1. Alex Verdugo

We wrote about the new right fielder on Monday, and he's the closest thing to an All-Star the Red Sox added. Verdugo does a little bit of everything from the left side, hitting for average, developing power, and not fearing the moment. He owns one of the strongest arms in the game and could be a plus defender as well.

Andrew Benintendi has already been penciled into the leadoff spot, which leaves Verdugo batting fifth in all likelihood. But if Benintendi falters, as he did last year, Verdugo could easily end up hitting in front of No. 2 man Rafael Devers and trying to make the offense go.

2. Jose Peraza

There's a reason Peraza was one of Bloom's first moves, signed back on Dec. 13. The 26-year-old Venezuelan is a former top prospect who was non-tendered by the Reds after hitting .239 in 141 games last year.

He once ranked as high as 54th in Baseball America's list of the game's top 100 prospects, however, and he's only two years removed from hitting .288 with a career-high 14 homers. Peraza is in a battle with Michael Chavis for the starting second base job, and if Peraza has an edge, it's his glove. While Chavis was drafted as a third baseman and profiles as more of a corner infielder, Peraza has spent his entire career at second and short.

He's considered an above-average defender at second, and his speed plays as well, with three straight 20-steal seasons before sliding back to seven thefts last year.

3. Martin Perez

This one could go either way. Perez's ceiling is as a league-average left-hander, which certainly has value. The problem is, he hasn't reached that ceiling in three years. He's the best candidate to replace what Rick Porcello gave the Red Sox last year, which is 175 innings (prorated, of course) of a 5.00 ERA.

That may not sound like much, but on a team desperate for pitching, there's a value in taking the ball every five days and lasting six innings.

The Red Sox hope they can tinker with Perez by rediscovering the cutter that made him so effective last spring before abandoning him for most of the summer. In a perfect world, he wouldn't be the team's third starter, but these are far from perfect times.

4. Jonathan Lucroy

Red Sox history is littered with veteran reclamation projects who never really went anywhere after some early promise, from Ramon Martinez to John Smoltz to Grady Sizemore. Lucroy represents the latest attempt at reclaiming some past magic.

A two-time All-Star who finished fourth in the 2014 MVP voting after blasting a league-leading 53 doubles with the Brewers, Lucroy has been savaged by neck issues over the last three years. He underwent surgery to repair a ruptured disc this winter, however, and claims to have restored his former bat speed.

If that's true, then the 34-year-old could still have something to give, whether it's at catcher, first base, or DH. It also doesn't hurt that he's a favorite of manager Ron Roenicke from their days together in Milwaukee, where they led the Brewers to the playoffs in 2011 for just the second time in 30 years.

5. Collin McHugh

Speaking of reclamation projects, McHugh might have the highest upside of any newcomer, provided he can actually make it back to action. A former 19-game winner and Cy Young contender with the Astros, McHugh is only two years removed from posting a 1.99 ERA in 58 relief appearances.

He returned to the Houston rotation last season and won three of his first four starts with a 1.96 ERA before elbow soreness took its toll. He was bounced from the rotation in May and shut it down for good at the end of August with a flexor strain.

It seems unlikely that McHugh will be ready for Opening Day as he continues throwing bullpens and side sessions, but the hope is that he's available before the end of the season.