Red Sox

Red Sox talking contract extension with one of their core players

Red Sox talking contract extension with one of their core players

BOSTON — While free agency creeps along and the Red Sox continue their pursuit of relief pitching, the team too has actively tried to lock up at least one member of its core.

The Sox have recently had extension talks with one of their current players, talks that may pick up again soon, sources told NBC Sports Boston. It’s unclear which player the Sox engaged, but indications are it is a player who would require a large commitment — hence, a possible reason the team is engaging one player, rather than a bevy all at once.

Regardless of the outcome of these particular negotiations, the fact the Sox are pursuing them is notable validation of the club's stated intent to look toward the future with an already high payroll by attempting to lock up their beloved stars after a 2018 World Series title.

Speculation among industry sources pegged Andrew Benintendi as a likely candidate the Sox have been engaged with. Sources said the team does not appear to have anything brewing at present with Chris Sale, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts or J.D. Martinez — other high-profile players who would need a large commitment.

Now, a lack of current or recent engagement with Sale, Betts and co., does not necessarily mean the Sox lack interest in locking them up. But Benintendi naturally has more incentive to work out a long-term deal, because he has just two years of service time and therefore remains a year away from becoming arbitration-eligible. He's four years away from free agency, and a deal for him would inevitably require some concession of potential earnings — a trade-off of security for him in exchange for cost certainty and likely some savings for the Sox.

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Sale, meanwhile, is a year from free agency and could command a huge haul, and the Sox already have starting pitchers David Price and Nate Eovaldi under contract. 

Betts, the reigning MVP, likely still wants to see what Manny Machado and Bryce Harper pull in, as their markets will impact his two years from now. Bogaerts and Martinez, meanwhile, are Scott Boras clients who are likely to command big bucks just a year from now. 

Benintendi, entering his age-24 season, slashed .290/.366/.465/.830 in 2018 with 16 home runs. If indeed he is the recent target, there are a lot of comps for the sides to look at.

Extensions for players with two years of service time have ranged widely, and there have been many, per MLBTradeRumors.com's Extension Tracker. Buster Posey of the Giants and Mike Trout of the Angels both agreed to nine-figure deals with two-plus years of service time.

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Recently, Rougned Odor of the Rangers received $49.5 million for six years in 2017. Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays got $53.5 million over six seasons in 2017 as well. Ender Inciarte of the Braves and Odubel Herrera of the Phillies both got five years and about $30.5 million in 2016.

Jason Kipnis of the Indians got six years and $52.5 million from the Indians in 2014, while Andrew McCutchen got six years and $51.5 million from the Pirates in 2012.

Carlos Gonzalez signed for seven years and $80 million with the Rockies in 2011. Hanley Ramirez signed for six years and $70 million with the Marlins in 2008.

The Red Sox gave Jon Lester a five-year, $30 million extension in 2009 with two years of service time. Clay Buchholz got a four-year, $29.25 million deal in 2011. 

On the position player side, Dustin Pedroia in 2008 signed with the Sox for six years and $40.5 million.

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2019 MLB win totals: Red Sox aren't projected as top team in AL

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USA TODAY Sports

2019 MLB win totals: Red Sox aren't projected as top team in AL

The Boston Red Sox won a franchise-record 108 games in 2018, and manager Alex Cora believes they'll have just as much success in 2019.

The oddsmakers aren't so sure, however.

The sports gambling website BetOnline.ag recently released its projected win totals for all 30 Major League Baseball teams in the 2019 regular season. And surprisingly, the defending World Series champion Red Sox aren't leading the pack.

Boston is pegged at 95 1/2 wins in 2019, tied with the rival New York Yankees and behind the Houston Astros, who are projected to win an MLB-best 96 1/2 games.

The Los Angeles Dodgers lead the way in the National League at 94 1/2 wins after falling to the Red Sox in the 2018 World Series.

So, why are the sportsbooks projecting a 12 1/2-win drop-off for Boston in 2019?

For one, it's nearly impossible to win 108 games in one season, let alone in back-to-back campaigns. And while the Sox have most of their core intact, there are concerns about the bullpen, as Joe Kelly already is gone and free agent closer Craig Kimbrel isn't likely to return, either.

Houston essentially returns the same squad that won 103 games last season while New York has made significant moves this offseason, so both are legitimate threats to knock off the defending champs in 2019.

Here's a look at the projected win totals for every MLB team, courtesy of BetOnline.ag:

Projected MLB Win Totals (From Highest to Lowest)
Houston Astros: 96½ 
Boston Red Sox: 95½ 
New York Yankees: 95½ 
Los Angeles Dodgers: 94½ 
Cleveland Indians: 90½ 
Chicago Cubs: 88½ 
St. Louis Cardinals: 88½ 
Washington Nationals: 87½ 
Milwaukee Brewers: 84½ 
Minnesota Twins: 84½ 
New York Mets: 84½
Philadelphia Phillies: 84½ 
Tampa Bay Rays: 84½ 
Atlanta Braves: 83½ 
Los Angeles Angels: 83½ 
Oakland Athletics: 83½ 
Colorado Rockies: 82½  
San Diego Padres: 78½ 
Arizona Diamondbacks: 77½ 
Cincinnati Reds: 77½ 
Pittsburgh Pirates: 77½  
Toronto Blue Jays: 77½  
Chicago White Sox: 75½  
Seattle Mariners: 74½ 
San Francisco Giants: 73½ 
Texas Rangers: 70½ 
Kansas City Royals: 69½ 
Detroit Tigers: 67½ 
Miami Marlins: 65½ 
Baltimore Orioles: 60½

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MLB Rumors: Yankees, Reds finalizing Sonny Gray trade

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MLB Rumors: Yankees, Reds finalizing Sonny Gray trade

The New York Yankees continue to stay active as the 2019 season approaches.

The Yankees are finalizing a trade with the Cincinnati Reds involving starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Fancred's Jon Heyman reported Saturday. The Reds reportedly will send 23-year-old infield prospect Shed Long to New York in a return package.

Gray had an uninspiring tenure in New York, posting an 11-9 record and a 4.90 ERA last season as a back-end starter. The 29-year-old likely would have been the Yankees sixth starter in 2019, so it appears they're trying to get value for him now rather than let him walk in free agency.

The Boston Red Sox will be sad to see Gray leave the American League East; they lit up the right-hander for 12 runs on 15 hits over just 7 1/3 innings in 2018.

New York reportedly also has its eye on Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, but Heyman doesn't see a blockbuster trade happening anytime soon.

It's been a busy week for the Yankees, who bolstered their bullpen Thursday by reportedly adding free-agent reliever Adam Ottavino. The Boston Red Sox had targeted Ottavino, as well, but New York clearly has serious plans to upgrade its roster its nemesis ended its 100-win season in the 2018 American League Division Series.

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