Red Sox

The case for packaging Mookie Betts and David Price in a straight salary dump

The case for packaging Mookie Betts and David Price in a straight salary dump

The idea sounds positively repellant on first blush -- package David Price and Mookie Betts to the Dodgers (because let's be realistic, it can only be the Dodgers) in a salary dump.

No top-tier prospects. No impact players to give the Red Sox a chance in 2020. Just money coming off the books, and not all of it bad. How can a big-market team justify such a defeatist move when it negates the massive financial advantage the franchise holds over its rivals?

But the more I think about it, the more I believe that not only is the concept of a package deal acceptable, but it's the best course of action the Red Sox can take.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

The reality is that trading Price alone, while making long-term financial sense, severely decreases the likelihood that the Red Sox will contend in 2020. He probably represents the safest bet among the trio of overpaid wild cards in the Red Sox rotation, and removing him means either adding another starter on par with the recently signed Martin Perez -- his next ERA below 5.00 will be his first in three years -- or turning to an opener. 

And if that's the case, the Red Sox need to be sensible about the wisdom of retaining Betts for a lost season that ends with the former MVP walking in free agency.

As much as a win-now fan base might not want to hear it, the moves the Red Sox make this winter won't be about 2020, but whatever comes next as they address the organizational bloat that has left the franchise with the worst of both worlds -- an overpaid, underperforming roster.

Betts isn't part of that problem. If Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, and Anthony Rendon are worth over $30 million annually, then Betts definitely is. Were the roster better-constructed, paying him his roughly $27 million in arbitration would be an easy decision, even at the risk that he simply plays out his contract and leaves.

But let's be clear-eyed about the 2020 Red Sox. They're coming off an 84-win season and will be betting heavily on the column marked "chance" if they expect Price, Chris Sale, and Nathan Eovaldi to pitch effectively after watching the three combine for barely 300 innings while battling an assortment of injuries that required two surgeries to fix.

I'm sympathetic to ownership's desire to drop the payroll below $208 million not because I care about John Henry's luxury tax payments -- he can afford them -- but because building a team under those constraints forces the implementation of a long-term plan that isn't simply, "Pay everyone."

Since the Yankees started shedding payroll in 2016, they've won 91, 100, and 103 games. That put them in a position to address their biggest area of need -- ace -- with a record $324 million contract for free agent Gerrit Cole this winter. 

Given the well-documented unreliability of pitchers in their 30s, the Yankees may come to regret this deal as much as the one the Red Sox gave Price, but at least it fit a long-term vision.

Between 2015 and 2018, the Dodgers lopped nearly $100 million of payroll. Since then, they've averaged 98 wins per season and reached a pair of World Series. They're now in a position to take on Betts and Price, should the Red Sox decide to sell. 

The merits of such a move are open to debate -- Price turns 35 in August and is still owed $96 million over the next three years -- but both moves once again fit a plan.

Then there are the Red Sox. They committed over $400 million to three pitchers with varying degrees of reliability issues that have only worsened with time. They're paying All-Stars Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez more than $20 million each (they're both worth it, by the way). They'd love to extend superstar-in-making Rafael Devers, but that can't happen unless they pare some serious payroll.

The players knew where this was headed all season.

"I think everyone knows we don't think they're going to be able to afford Mookie," Martinez told NBC Sports Boston on the last day of the season. "It's one of those things. It's kind of hard to have three guys making $30 million on your team. He deserves it. He's earned it."

A case can be made that no player is worth a 10- or 12-year contract, because too much can go wrong. For all his obvious greatness, Betts stands only 5-9 and relies on lightning-quick wrists to generate power. Red Sox fans need no reminder of what can happen to a hitter when his wrists or hands go, as they learned with both Nomar Garciaparra, and to a lesser extent, Dustin Pedroia. Betts would be right to demand a 12-year, $400 million contract. The Red Sox would be equally justified in declining such a massive commitment.

And so that brings us back to the dreaded salary dump. How can the Red Sox justify using Betts to force a team to take more of Price's salary? Easy: if including Betts means the Dodgers eat all $96 million of Price, the $16-$20 million in annual savings is more valuable than any mid-level prospect the Dodgers could realistically send in return (the Red Sox aren't getting top prospect Gavin Lux, for instance). Build a package around right-hander Tony Gonsolin and lesser prospects and make the Dodgers pay Price.

Add the $27 million Betts would've made this year, and now you're positioned to extend Devers at an age (23) when he's much more likely to deliver value through every season of an eight-year deal.

It would take guts on the part of chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom to make his first major move a straight salary dump, because if he deals Betts without receiving considerable talent in return, he's going to hear about it from irate fans.

But let's call this what it is: an organizational rebuild. Those inevitably start with some painful decisions, and the Red Sox might as well not so much dive into that pool as cannonball.

Why J.D. Martinez would have major issue with an MLB video crackdown

Why J.D. Martinez would have major issue with an MLB video crackdown

Major League Baseball is considering significant changes to prevent teams from replicating the 2017 Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal.

One of those changes may significantly affect J.D. Martinez.

The Boston Red Sox slugger admitted Monday he heard that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is considering restricting players' access to live video replay during games.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

"I don't deny video can help you perform if you have access to it during the game, but a golfer can't come off the sixth and take a look at his swing," Manfred told ESPN's Karl Ravech over the weekend. " ... We're going to have to live with less access to live video in and around the dugout and clubhouse."

Martinez relies heavily on in-game video to dissect his swing. So, it's safe to say he wouldn't be a fan of these developments.

"To go out there and take all video out and you're not allowed to look at at-bats I think is a little ridiculous," Martinez told reporters Monday in Fort Myers.

"When I was in the minor leagues, Double-A, Triple-A, we had video systems. It's something you grew up with. You go back and check something in your swing and it helps you throughout the game. ... All of a sudden, you take that away? It's a little extreme."

Martinez, who has proclaimed the Red Sox innocent in MLB's investigation into their 2018 club for sign-stealing, also insisted in-game video doesn't help batters steal signs.

"It's kind like you're watching the game live on NESN," Martinez said. "You're watching the game on NESN. Can you steal the signs? It's too hard. It's cutting in and out. There's a guy eating a sausage and they're talking about a guy eating his hot dog, and all of a sudden (there's) the pitch."

Martinez acknowledged why the league would have to take some action based on the extent of the Astros' cheating. But the 32-year-old designated hitter believes in a less drastic solution, like delaying access to video replay by an inning.

Just as long as baseball doesn't take away the tool that's helped him become one of the game's best hitters.

"If you have to delay it, delay it," Martinez said. "Whatever you have to do. But to sit there and take that away? I mean, it's what makes me me.

"I'm a very analytical guy. I like to study my swing. I like to study what my back foot is doing, my elbow, whatever it might be. And there's a lot of guys nowadays that are like that. That's the trend of the game."

J.D. Martinez details why Ron Roenicke is 'perfect fit' as Red Sox manager

J.D. Martinez details why Ron Roenicke is 'perfect fit' as Red Sox manager

The Boston Red Sox replaced Alex Cora with Ron Roenicke, and one of the team's best players believes it will be a smooth transition for the new manager.

Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez was asked Monday about Roenicke's new role, and he explained why the team's next manager is a really good fit for the job.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

"Ron managed before, he understands it," Martinez told reporters. "He was a big piece of Alex's decisions. He understood Alex. Alex always used him, always leaned on him. He knows us, and we trust him. He's a familiar face. He knows the personalities in the clubhouse, and he knows how to handle everyone. I think it's like the perfect fit." 

Roenicke was hired as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers before the 2011 season. The Brewers lost to the rival St. Louis Cardinals in the 2011 National League Championship Series but didn't reach the postseason for the rest of Roenicke's tenure in Milwaukee. He was fired after a poor start in 2015.

The Red Sox hired him in 2017 to be the team's bench coach after Cora was brought in as manager. Roenicke served as a veteran voice for Cora to lean on, and the partnership helped the Red Sox win a franchise record 108 regular season games and the World Series in 2018. 

Boston was wise to promote Roenicke to manager following Cora's sudden departure in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal involving the Houston Astros. He has relationships with the players, he knows the pressures of the job, and the players clearly respect him.

Tomase: Red Sox are facing an enthusiasm deficit