Red Sox

Dave Dombrowski is leaving behind a mess for his Red Sox replacement

Dave Dombrowski is leaving behind a mess for his Red Sox replacement

Dave Dombrowski built a champion, but he's leaving behind a bit of a mess. Whomever the Red Sox hire to replace him will be staring at the organization's most consequential winter in a decade.

You want a challenge? Try being in charge of the following:

* Mookie Betts will probably be extended or traded this winter, and the latter option no longer feels so far-fetched.

* The starting rotation is anchored by three pitchers Dombrowski signed for more than $400 million, and not one of them is guaranteed to be healthy next season, whether it's Chris Sale, David Price, or Nathan Eovaldi.

* Slugging DH J.D. Martinez could opt out of his contract and force the Red Sox to step up or watch him walk away, though the qualifying offer gives the team some leverage.

* With a payroll pushing $240 million and dead money in the form of Dustin Pedroia's extension, Pablo Sandoval's buyout, and the final year of Rusney Castillo's $72.5 million contract (which doesn't technically count against the luxury tax since he's not on the 40-man roster, but try telling John Henry that $14 million isn't real), the Red Sox will be financially squeezed to address needs in the starting rotation and bullpen, especially if they hope to reset their luxury tax clock and avoid another round of penalties.

* Rafael Devers looks like a superstar in the making, and the Red Sox must decide if they can lock him up to a long-term extension, even though he won't be arbitration eligible for another year.

* Can the team live with Jackie Bradley's inconsistent offense now that he's looking at an eight-figure contract arbitration award? Might outfielder Andrew Benintendi be dangled to acquire young pitching? Is Brandon Workman really a closer, or do the Red Sox need one of those, too?

These complicated issues must be addressed in Dombrowski's wake, and the clock is already ticking.

Because the Red Sox have committed so many resources to an iffy rotation, for instance, there is almost certainly no longer money for both Martinez and Betts. The former will be more affordable because of his age (32), position (DH), and skillset (slugging), but the latter is a younger and more dynamic player.

If Betts is dealt — and that feels increasingly likely, since retaining him will cost at least $300 million — it won't necessarily be because the Red Sox fear losing him, but because they realize they can't afford him. And if that's the case, then you will have lost the defending MVP because of payroll mismanagement.

The rotation serves as ground zero in that regard, since that's where Dombrowski lavished huge deals on Price (7 years, $217 million), Sale (5 years, $145 million), and Eovaldi (4 years, $68 million). Sale has already been shut down, Price will probably soon join him, and Eovaldi just threw five innings for the first time since April elbow surgery.

Because all three are signed through at least 2022 (and Sale through 2024), the problems they pose aren't going away anytime soon, unless Magic Johnson decides to buy another baseball team. That's a massive expenditure for such distressing levels of uncertainty.

Fixing one of baseball's statistically worst rotations won't be accomplished atop the free agent market, where Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole is expected to receive $200 million. There's no way the Red Sox throw such money after yet another 30-something starter.

Acquiring arms behind left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will require trades, then. Betts is one candidate to be moved, with Benintendi another. The problem is, the Red Sox are so thin in the outfield, dealing any of the current starters will require a parallel move.

Plug one leak, watch another spring.

Likewise, they should prepare to open their checkbooks for Devers, a transcendent talent who is already the best overall hitter on the team, even though he doesn't turn 23 until October. The Braves recently locked up NL MVP candidate Ronald Acuna Jr. for eight years and $100 million, with options that could keep the 21-year-old in Atlanta through age 30. Let the Devers bidding start there.

With Mitch Moreland and Brock Holt on expiring contracts and Michael Chavis limited for now by the hole atop his swing, the Red Sox will need infield help, too, at first and second base. That's a lot of pieces to acquire in one offseason on a limited budget. Bobby Dalbec, anyone?

That's what Dombrowski is leaving behind. His brute-force approach produced a World Series champion, but it also broke a lot of china, and his successor's first order of business will be grabbing a broom.

Dombrowski's worst moves since winning World Series>>>>>

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J.D. Martinez is unsurprisingly a big fan of MLB's universal DH rule

J.D. Martinez is unsurprisingly a big fan of MLB's universal DH rule

There will be a universal DH in baseball for the first time in 2020. J.D. Martinez can only hope it's not the last.

The Red Sox slugger would benefit more than any other player in baseball by the full-time adoption of the position in the National League, and he makes no secret of his wish to see it happen. Because the players and owners could not agree on a proposal to play the 2020 season, the universal DH will only be used this year out of safety concerns, before reverting back to an AL-only position in 2021.

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"You're kind of asking a biased person here," Martinez said. "I'm all for it. I'm a DH. I think you could speak to a lot of pitchers who are for it, too. A lot of pitchers like it and a lot of pitchers in the AL like it because they feel the pitchers in the NL have an advantage. It's one less hitter they have to face and one less elite hitter they have to face, really, because of it."

Martinez can opt out of his contract after this season, which is an iffy proposition in the midst of a pandemic. But the only way it happens is if the NL market suddenly opens up, creating 15 potential new landing spots for the best DH in the game.

Martinez will otherwise make $19.75 million in each of the next two seasons as part of a five-year, $110 million contract. When he addressed the DH issue via a Zoom call on Sunday, he focused on the competitive implications.

"I like it to even the playing field across the board," he said. "I understand the history of it and stuff like that, so I see the other side of it, too, but I'm in favor of it. I think it keeps everybody safe. It keeps our pitchers safe, it keeps the game fun, it's more offense, which is what fans like to see. And I think you don't have the whole, 'Oh he had 2.00 ERA in the NL so in the AL that's really going to be a 3.00.' Now it makes it easy and makes it even across the board for everybody."

J.D. Martinez has sobering outlook on 2020 MLB season amid coronavirus pandemic

J.D. Martinez has sobering outlook on 2020 MLB season amid coronavirus pandemic

Which teams will benefit from Major League Baseball's shortened 60-game schedule?

J.D. Martinez thinks there's a pretty straightforward answer.

"It’s crazy to say it but I have a feeling that this season is going to come down to what team can stay healthiest and what team can stay corona-free," the Boston Red Sox designated hitter told reporters in a video conference Sunday, via MassLive.com.

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Martinez is among many players aware of how the coronavirus pandemic could impact the season. A handful of players and team staffers already have tested positive for COVID-19 while returning to their facilities for training camp, and players who test positive during the season won't be able to return to their teams until they pass several health tests.

"One blow to a team with corona and you knock out two or three of the star players," Martinez said. "I mean, anything can happen in this league. You never know.

" ... I think the Red Sox have done a good job of keeping us aware of that and keeping us safe, giving us the best opportunity to not get corona. And everybody on our team is on board with it.”

Two Red Sox players -- pitchers Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor -- tested positive for COVID-19 last week and are quarantining, while left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez is awaiting the results of his test.

Martinez, who has asthma, admitted he's fearful of contracting the virus and has avoided group hitting sessions with his teammates.

"It definitely changes it. I’ve already had a couple guys ask me, ‘When can you come to the cage?' I’m like, ‘I can’t. They won’t let me,' " Martinez said. "I’m asthmatic. I’m very scared of everything. But it definitely changes the role. I try to do my best."

Martinez said his "love for the game" will outweigh that fear once he starts playing games. But the 32-year-old is right in that the 2020 MLB season -- which is set to begin July 23 and 24 despite COVID-19 cases spiking in a number of states -- could turn into a war of attrition.

"I want to say I’m confident (in MLB making it through the whole season)," Martinez said. “But the way 2020 has been, you never know what’s going to happen anymore.

"It’s crazy to think that way but we’re all definitely going to do our best to stay as healthy as we can and keep this going. I think this is big for the country, for our fans, for everyone who lives here."