Red Sox

Red Sox opponents fear Boston's about to get hot, and win over Dodgers was a good start

Red Sox opponents fear Boston's about to get hot, and win over Dodgers was a good start

BOSTON -- For three days, Alex Cora and his staff heard a consistent message from the best players in the American League: we know how good you are.

From Astros to Indians to Rangers to A's, they're aware that the Red Sox are capable of going on a serious run, and they didn't just make their feelings known to Cora.

"They're dangerous, man," said Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole. "They're dangerous."

On Friday, in the official start to the second half, the Red Sox took a first step towards proving it. Facing a loaded and motivated Dodgers team with not only the best record in baseball, but revenge on its mind over last fall's World Series, the Red Sox didn't just beat L.A., they pounded it.

The 8-1 victory featured an outstanding start from left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who elicited a Pedro-esque 18 swings and misses against the launch angle poster boys, who chased high fastballs and outstanding changeups like they were trying to capture the world's rarest butterflies.

Offensively, the Sox rode home runs from the three emerging pillars of their offense -- Rafael Devers (of course), Christian Vazquez (why not?), and Xander Bogaerts (it's his team now).

And just like that, they stayed on a roll after winning five of six to end the first half. For one game, anyway, it looked like those All-Stars knew what they were talking about.

"I think that was the coolest thing in the All-Star Game, how many people in that clubhouse still believe in us," Cora said. "I don't know if they really like it or not, but they let us know how good we are. If we forgot about that, the three guys that were there on the coaching staff, the players reminded us of that, so that was the cool thing about the All-Star Game.

"They were like, your run is coming," Cora added. "They know we're very talented, and for how positive it is, probably like hopefully it doesn't happen, but it was good to hear from other people."

A run wouldn't be unprecedented. The 2017 Cubs entered the break two games under .500 and were then the best team in baseball the rest of the way en route to 93 wins and a berth in the NLCS. Last year's Dodgers, meanwhile, followed their World Series loss by starting 16-26 before ripping off 43 wins in their next 63 games to take control of the NL West en route to their second consecutive NL pennant.

The Red Sox have the talent to mimic either of those teams, especially if they add another arm. Their offense has turned into one of the best in the game, and that's without Andrew Benintendi or Mookie Betts really hitting his stride yet.

It turns out it wasn't a night for making up ground, as every other American League wild-card contender either won or was in the process of winning when the Red Sox ended. Then again, the Red Sox don't need to concern themselves with the Rays, Indians, A's, and Rangers so much right now as simply pile up wins, at which point the playoff race will sort itself out.

The task in front of them won't be easy, though. They open the second half with the 60-win Dodgers shortly before embarking on a murderous 14-game stretch against only the Yankees and Rays that will carry them into August and should go a long way towards shaking out their playoff fate.

"Hopefully we get hot for those couple weeks," Bogaerts said. "I know it's a long time to be hot, but it's not impossible. 

"Starting off at home is a good way to get momentum. Throughout my years here, we've played good at home.

"We have to come out aggressive because we know these guys are one of the best in the game. Obviously, they're going to come here and try to beat us pretty bad for last year. I think it was a good way to start."

It certainly was. Maybe the All-Stars encouraging Cora all week were on to something.

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Is there time for Red Sox to trade Mookie Betts before spring training?

Is there time for Red Sox to trade Mookie Betts before spring training?

February arrives this weekend, spring training begins in two weeks, and Mookie Betts remains on the Red Sox roster.

This leads to an obvious question: with rumors swirling about interest from the Padres and Dodgers, is there still time for the Red Sox to swing a trade?

According to chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the answer is yes.

"Sometimes the action happens early, some years it happens late," Bloom said recently. "Obviously, closer to spring training there are practical hurdles. You want to feel like you have time for the impact of anything to settle. But I've been around deals that happened very late and there's certainly still time. But I don't say that to indicate anything one way or the other, just to answer your question."

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It turns out that history is with him, though blockbuster trades this late in the offseason certainly aren't common.

Examine 20 years' worth of transactions and you'll find a handful of impact deals that occurred between Jan. 27 and Opening Day. Most don't involve the kind of money — $27 million — the Red Sox are trying to move with Betts, but it's worth noting how tricky they are to consummate this close to the start of the season.

Since 2000, five deals generally fit Boston's current parameters: trading an All-Star caliber player this close to the season, when most clubs have settled their budgets and rosters. (For the sake of this exercise, we're not including the monster free agent deals Manny Machado and Bryce Harper signed last February/March with the Padres and Phillies, respectively).

Two of the five deals don't realistically compare to Betts, though. On this date in 2006, the Red Sox acquired center fielder Coco Crisp from the Indians for a package that included top prospect Andy Marte and catcher Kelly Shoppach. Crisp was good, but not great, and the Red Sox acquired him while he still had arbitration eligibility remaining.

Likewise, the everything-must-go Marlins shipped All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies last Feb. 7 for a pair of prospects, a fringe big leaguer, and international bonus money. Realmuto had two years of team control remaining when the Phillies acquired him.

That leaves three deals involving players the caliber of Betts — trades of former MVPs Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, as well as Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana.

Let's break down each to try gain some insight into what the Red Sox face.

Feb. 10, 2000: Mariners trade Ken Griffey Jr. to Reds

When owner John Henry told reporters in September that the team wanted to drop below the $208 million luxury tax threshold, he effectively put his next GM in a box, but it's nothing compared to the one Seattle's Pat Gillick found himself in during the winter of 1999-2000.

He entered that offseason knowing he needed to trade  the former MVP and all-around best player in baseball before his contract expired in a year, but Griffey's 10-5 rights meant he could dictate his destination, and he provided the M's with only four options: the Reds, Mets, Astros, and Braves.

Gillick negotiated all winter before finally striking the February deal that sent Griffey to his hometown Reds for a package that included future Gold Glover Mike Cameron and right-hander Brett Tomko.

Cameron ended up making as many All-Star games (1) as Griffey over the next four years, winning two Gold Gloves to Junior's zero. He also played an integral role in the 116-win behemoth of 2001, while Griffey never made the postseason over his nine years in Cincinnati.

Here's where the Betts comparison falters, though. Griffey arrived in Cincinnati at age 30, while Betts only just turned 27. Betts should be that much further from his decline, buying his next team some more leeway if it signs him to a long-term deal.

Feb. 16, 2004: Rangers trade Alex Rodriguez to Yankees

Red Sox fans need no reminder of how this deal went down.

Boston spent half of that offseason trying to acquire the defending MVP, striking a complicated deal involving Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra, Magglio Ordonez, and others. It would've pulled it off, too, except the MLBPA balked at Rodriguez reducing his salary.

So in swooped the Yankees at the 11th hour by dangling slugging infielder Alfonso Soriano, completing the trade that put Rodriguez in pinstripes and made him villain No. 1 in Boston for the next decade.

While Rodriguez imported more than his share of controversy to the Yankees clubhouse before retiring in disgrace, he also delivered, winning a pair of MVP awards and the only World Series title of his career in 2009.

If there's a tie to Betts, it's the idea that the Red Sox could move down the road with one club — let's say the Padres — before a division rival with massive resources springs into action, in this case the Dodgers.

Feb. 2, 2008: Twins trade Johan Santana to Mets

Sometimes, there are no right answers.

Take the 2008 trade that sent the two-time Cy Young Award winner to New York before he played out the final year and $13.25 million on his contract.

Minnesota's rookie GM, Bill Smith, knew he couldn't afford Santana long-term (sound familiar?), so he jettisoned him for a pile of prospects, virtually all of whom missed. The best player in the deal was outfielder Carlos Gomez, not that the Twins benefited; he didn't blossom into an All-Star and Gold Glover until 2013 with the Brewers.

Meanwhile, the Mets didn't receive an adequate return on their six-year, $137.5 million investment, either. Santana delivered three good-to-great seasons before injuries effectively ended his career in 2010.

The real what-if in this scenario is how different the deal would look if the Twins had traded Santana to a Red Sox team that boasted Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, and Jed Lowrie in a loaded farm system.

It's a cautionary tale for Bloom as he evaluates competing prospect packages from the Padres and Dodgers, because making the right deal for the wrong players accomplishes nothing.

MLB Rumors: Red Sox' Mookie Betts trade talks with Padres at this sticking point

MLB Rumors: Red Sox' Mookie Betts trade talks with Padres at this sticking point

The Boston Red Sox are at a franchise-altering fork in the road.

The Red Sox reportedly are in negotiations with the San Diego Padres regarding a trade for star outfielder Mookie Betts, who becomes a free agent in 2021.

According to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, though, those negotiations have hit a snag.

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The Padres are willing to send outfielder Wil Myers, "two young major leaguers and at least one prospect" to the Red Sox in exchange for Betts, Acee reported Monday.

Betts is set to earn $27 million on the final year of his contract, however, so in return for taking on his contract, San Diego wants Boston to take on more of Myers' hefty deal, per Acee:

Myers is owed $61 million over the next three seasons, and the Red Sox are offering to assume about half that. Sources said the Padres would prefer to eat only about a quarter of the money owed Myers in order to take on Betts’ salary.

Acee also listed several major league-level players the Padres are willing to send to Boston, per his sources: outfielders Manuel Margot (a former Red Sox prospect) and Josh Naylor as well as starting pitchers Cal Quantrill and Joey Lucchesi.

A haul of Myers, Margot or Naylor, Quantrill or Lucchessi and a prospect would be a solid return for Betts. If the Red Sox are serious about getting under the $208 luxury tax threshold, though, they may need to keep negotiating.

As The Boston Globe's Alex Speier points out, Chaim Bloom and Co. would be able to get under the luxury tax if they assume about $30 million (half) of Myers' salary but would need to make additional moves if they take on any more of his remaining deal.

Boston reportedly is also discussing a Betts deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, so it has some leverage. But whether Betts is on the roster this spring may come down to the money.