Red Sox

If Plan A was keeping Mookie Betts, it feels like Red Sox are moving to Plan B

If Plan A was keeping Mookie Betts, it feels like Red Sox are moving to Plan B

When Red Sox ownership finally addressed Dave Dombrowski's dismissal in late September, chairman Tom Werner made what remains the most honest and revealing assessment of the team's approach to superstar Mookie Betts.

"We've stated publicly that we would hope he would stay with us the rest of his career," Werner said. "We have made proposals to him in the past and he did want to test free agency, which is his right. And we'll have some conversations with him going forward. But obviously there'll be a point where hopefully we can make a deal or we'll decide at that point what is plan B or plan C, but we haven't gotten to that point and we're very open to continuing discussions with him."

Based on the recent reports out of San Diego, in particular, it sure feels momentum is building towards a plan B or C that end with Betts's departure.

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Multiple factors have led to this point.

The first is ownership's stated goal (NOT A MANDATE, STOP CALLING IT THAT!) to drop below the $208 million luxury tax threshold. The team's offseason of inactivity may have lulled us into thinking that John Henry and Co. had changed their minds, but all the reasons that desire made sense in September still apply now. Resetting their tax penalties will put the team in the best long-term position to build a winner, with or without Betts.

Then there's the shape of this offseason itself.

December hit us with a flurry of high-end activity, but virtually all of it was of the free agent variety, from Stephen Strasburg to Gerrit Cole to Anthony Rendon. Outside of former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber being dealt to the Rangers, most of December's 13 trades were relatively minor.

Monday's move of All-Star Starling Marte from Pittsburgh to Arizona suggests the start of a late trade season, since the recent signings of Nick Castellanos (Reds) and Josh Donaldson (Twins) means the free-agent market is pretty much dry. "The pace of this offseason has been unusual around the industry, in terms of when things evolved," allowed Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom recently.

Then there's the sign-stealing elephant in the room, which is the loss of manager Alex Cora and MLB's investigation into the 2018 champions, a dual catastrophe that leaves the Red Sox in danger of losing draft picks at precisely the moment when their thin farm system most needs them.

If Betts is their best avenue to acquiring young talent, and if the talks to extend him (Plan A) have convinced management that he's definitely hitting free agency, which means he's almost definitely gone, then it would be a dereliction of duty not to explore every possible avenue for maximizing his value.

After a quiet winter in that regard, rumors are suddenly percolating like steam-forced espresso. The Red Sox and Padres have reportedly progressed far enough to haggle over how much of Wil Myers' remaining $61 million the Red Sox will assume, with at least one young outfielder and pitcher joining him in return.

Meanwhile, San Diego's division rivals in Los Angeles loom with a potential second Boston bailout, especially if they're willing to take on both Betts ($27 million) and David Price ($32 million) and really clear the books for 2020, just as they did with Adrian Gonzalez and Co. in 2012.

That's two motivated buyers and one motivated seller potentially transitioning to Plan B. That sounds like a recipe for a deal, which means Red Sox fans should prepare to kiss their MVP right fielder goodbye.

Sometimes your primary plan just doesn't play out, so you move on to the next one.

Chris Sale's illness-related setback a 'gut punch' to Red Sox ace

Chris Sale's illness-related setback a 'gut punch' to Red Sox ace

The Boston Red Sox need a new Opening Day starter.

Chris Sale will begin the 2020 season on the injured list as he recovers from the pneumonia he contracted earlier this month, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke told reporters Thursday.

Sale had hoped to be ready for Opening Day as he works back from an elbow injury that shut him down last August. But the 30-year-old missed two weeks of rehab due to his pneumonia, which means his first start of 2020 will be pushed back two weeks.

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"We didn’t think four starts in Spring Training was fair to him to make him start the season," Roenicke told reporters, via WEEI's Rob Bradford. "He’ll open up on the DL. We can backdate it three days. We’ll try to figure out exactly where that puts him."

The good news is that Sale's elbow appears to be in a good place: He's set to throw to live batting practice Saturday, and if he follows Roenicke's timeline, his 2020 debut could come April 6 in Boston's home game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

But someone other than Sale will start for the Red Sox on Opening Day for the first time since 2017, which isn't sitting well with the veteran hurler.

"It was a gut punch," Sale said, per Bradford. " ... The only thing that hurts is my ego, and that doesn't matter."

" ... Do I like it? Absolutely not. Do I respect it? 100 percent."

Sale's setback also is an unfortunate development for a Red Sox rotation that already lost David Price and Rick Porcello this offseason.

Eduardo Rodriguez figures to make his first career Opening Day start in Sale's stead, while Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez are Boston's only other healthy starting pitchers.

The Red Sox still don't have a fifth starter, and Roenicke's club may have to operate with just three legitimate starters for the first two weeks of the season.

That's not exactly a promising scenario for a team that's already taken plenty of lumps this offseason.

Yankees' Giancarlo Stanton 'will be down for a bit' with calf injury

Yankees' Giancarlo Stanton 'will be down for a bit' with calf injury

Wednesday was another tough day on the injury front for the New York Yankees.

Manager Aaron Boone revealed slugger Giancarlo Stanton "will be down for a bit" due to a Grade 1 right calf strain. The news comes one day after it was announced right-hander Luis Severino will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the entire 2020 campaign.

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Injuries have been par for the course with Stanton ever since he first donned Yankee pinstripes in 2018. The former National League MVP has played in only 176 of 324 regular-season games with New York due to bicep, shoulder, and knee ailments.

The Yankees still boast a well-rounded roster that can survive Stanton's absence for a while, but his presence in the middle of the lineup is key to their success. If the 30-year-old indeed misses time, it could be Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, or Mike Tauchman taking his spot in the lineup.

New York's 2020 season begins March 26 vs. the Baltimore Orioles.