Red Sox

MLB Rumors: Former Red Sox OF Daniel Nava pitching comeback, trying to beat odds again

MLB Rumors: Former Red Sox OF Daniel Nava pitching comeback, trying to beat odds again

SAN DIEGO — Daniel Nava is no stranger to long odds.

The Red Sox famously bought the former college equipment manager, sight-unseen, for a dollar out of independent ball in 2008. The late bloomer then bashed his way to the big leagues two years later at age 27, launching a grand slam in the first pitch of his first at-bat before playing a key supporting role in the 2013 title.

Now closing in on his 37th birthday, Nava hasn't appeared in the majors since 2017 with the Phillies. He signed with the Pirates in 2018, but a back injury necessitated surgery, which led to an infection, and he ended up spending 18 months on the sidelines.

He made a comeback with the Kansas City T-Bones of the independent American Association last year, hitting .288 in 71 games. That was enough to convince him he's not done, and so this week he's wandering the halls of the Manchester Grand Hyatt at baseball's winter meetings like any other job seeker, albeit one with seven years of service time and a World Series ring.

"It's a funny turn of events to bring it almost full circle to where you're doing the same thing you did at the start," Nava told NBC Sports Boston. "I remember when I sat in (Mike) Hazen's office (in 2008) and he more or less said, 'Why should we keep you?' I had to sell myself on the spot. Fortunately, I don't think it mattered what I said, because they were going to give me a shot. That's what I'm hoping for right now, is just a shot again. It's not like I haven't been here before."

Nava carved out a solid career with the Red Sox, especially given where he started. The 5-10, 195-pound switch hitter spent parts of five seasons in Boston, delivering some memorable hits along the way. In addition to the grand slam off of Philly's Joe Blanton in his debut, he also blasted the game-winning homer vs. the Royals in the emotionally charged return to Fenway after the Marathon bombings in 2013.

"No one saw that team coming," Nava said. "We knew how good we were in that clubhouse, but I don't think anyone outside that clubhouse, especially after that previous season, saw it. We knew we had something special."

Nava said he's fully recovered from the discectomy that sidelined him for all of 2018 and half of 2019. He might have retired to his offseason home in Nashville, but those 71 games of independent ball convinced him otherwise.

"I wanted to see if A, I could still do it, and then B, would a team be interested in me?" Nava said. "A was possible, and now B is what I'm here to trying to see — if I can get one more final look, one more shot."

He's representing himself on this mission alongside fellow independent leaguer Shawn O'Malley, a Kansas City resident and 31-year-old former utilityman with the Angels and Mariners who hustled to San Diego directly from a wedding two hours outside Atlanta to pitch a comeback of his own.

"I do have an agent," Nava said. "But I need to do this in person, so teams can see that physically I'm not dead."

Nava said he has reached out via text to contacts in multiple organizations, including the Red Sox. As if on cue, a member of the team's video staff stopped Nava in the lobby to wish him well.

"More or less text communication, nothing face to face," he said. "Obviously a return back to where everything started would be meaningful, but I understand how this business works."

And to that end, he's willing to start all over in the minors, if that's what it takes, and bring this journey full circle.

"I want a shot," he said. "And I'll take whatever — and I mean whatever — I can get. I'm not going to be a veteran who says, 'How dare I go to the minor leagues?' Having been in a position like this so many years ago, it brings me back to that point of just having a hunger and a desire to want to play, and that's where I'm at right now."

MLB rumors: Latest Red Sox asking price for a Mookie Betts trade revealed

MLB rumors: Latest Red Sox asking price for a Mookie Betts trade revealed

Mookie Betts' future with the Boston Red Sox beyond 2020 remains uncertain, and if another team wants to make a trade for the former American League MVP, it's going to cost quite a bit.

The Red Sox are in an interesting spot with Betts. He's a five-tool player with incredible offensive talents and plays Gold Glove-level defense in the outfield. However, if it looks like he's going to test free agency after next season, exploring a trade makes sense. Allowing a player of Betts' caliber to leave as an unrestricted free agent and get nothing of value in return would be a huge setback for the Red Sox.

The asking price the Red Sox currently have for Betts doesn't just involve getting quality talent in return, it also includes a team taking starting pitcher David Price's contract, according to ESPN's Buster Olney (subscription required).

Boston has indicated to other teams, according to sources, that any team that lands Betts will also have to take David Price (or Nathan Eovaldi presumably), with either most or all of the money owed to Price, $96 million. 

Olney also added Boston is "asking for two high-end prospects to front the deal."

It makes sense for Boston to find a taker for Price's contract. Price is still a quality pitcher, but he's no longer a $30-plus million type of starter, and getting rid of his salary would allow the Sox to invest in younger talent. He's also started more than 22 games just once over the last three years, which isn't the most ideal trend for a 34-year-old pitcher who's played more than 10 major league seasons.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said in a press conference Wednesday that Betts being on the Opening Day roster has "really been my expectation all along.” Boston should do everything it can to extend Betts' contract and keep him in Boston for a long time. He's a top-five position player in baseball, and he's finished in the top eight of AL MVP voting each of the last four years. The 27-year-old superstar also owns four Gold Glove awards and three Silver Slugger awards.

Betts' future doesn't need to be decided right now, though. The trade deadline isn't until July 31. The priority for Boston is finding a new manager to replace Alex Cora. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in less than a month.

J.D. Martinez: Red Sox will be exonerated by MLB investigation

J.D. Martinez states without equivocation that Red Sox will be exonerated by MLB investigation

J.D. Martinez states without equivocation that Red Sox will be exonerated by MLB investigation

SPRINGFIELD -- For five hours on Saturday morning at Winter Weekend, Red Sox players and coaches delivered basically the same message in regards to the 2018 cheating scandal: We're not at liberty to say anything until the league finishes its investigation.

And then J.D. Martinez stepped in front of the cameras.

The slugging DH, who earlier this offseason chose to remain in Boston rather than exercise an opt-out in his contract, minced no words when asked if the Red Sox did anything wrong during their championship 2018 season.

"You know, it sucks, to be honest with you," he said of the investigation. "It does suck. But you know what? I know I'm excited for the investigation to be over with just so that they can see that there was nothing going on here."

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So he believes the team is innocent of the charges that it used the replay room to steal opposing signs in real time?

"I believe that, yes," Martinez said.

And what gives Martinez this confidence, despite a report to the contrary in The Athletic claiming that the Red Sox stole signs?

"Because I was in there," he said. "I saw what was. . . . Straight up, everyone seems to forget that in 2017 and '16 this team was a really good team. This team won 93 games those two years and then we just got better."

Martinez spoke without hesitation, and also saluted departed manager Alex Cora, while offering some insight into why Cora decided to leave the team.

"Kind of heartbroken about it," he said. "I talked to him before and I understood his side of it. He didn't want to be a distraction going into the season. I know it was wearing on him and his family, so I obviously feel for him and I wish him the best. But I know he played a big, big role for our team and he was one of my favorites, if not my favorite manager that I've had. It's going to be tough."