Red Sox

Teammates prepare for life without Betts: 'We don't think they're going to be able to afford Mookie'

Teammates prepare for life without Betts: 'We don't think they're going to be able to afford Mookie'

BOSTON -- Mookie Betts gave the Red Sox every last ounce of his considerable talents right to the bitter end, and Sunday afternoon sure felt like the end.

Let the record show that if this is it, Betts' final act in a Red Sox uniform was quintessentially, electrifyingly Mookie. He scored from first on a single to walk off the Orioles, exploiting a lazy relay and diving in safely before popping to his feet and letting out a scream while pounding his chest.

You can count on one hand the number of players who possess the instincts, athleticism, and explosiveness to make that kind of daring read and then actually engage the afterburners. It's the kind of play you'd expect to see out of a five-tool MVP, and Betts is one of those.

He also happens to be worthy of a monster contract at exactly the moment the Red Sox hope to slash payroll. With just one year of arbitration eligibility remaining, Betts has reached a crossroads. The Red Sox speak gamely of negotiating an extension, but with David Price and Chris Sale already on the books for more than $30 million apiece next season, let's just say Betts' teammates know which way the wind is blowing.

"I think everyone knows we don't think they're going to be able to afford Mookie," DH and potential free agent J.D. Martinez told NBC Sports Boston. "It's one of those things. It's kind of hard to have three guys making $30 million on your team. He deserves it. He's earned it."

A Red Sox team without Mookie Betts? After they drafted and developed him and watched him blossom into a superstar? How can that happen?

Martinez shrugged.

"I've been on too many teams where people come and go," he said. "For you guys (it's hard), because you've seen him grow. I came into this situation. To me, everyone is expendable. That's the business of it. I've seen it in Houston. I saw in Detroit. I saw it in Arizona. It's the business of it. That's why people want to blame the players, that they just want money. You've got to look at the big picture."

When owner John Henry spoke on Friday about his philosophical differences with deposed president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, it's clear he was talking about money. Dombrowski assumed the Red Sox would spend their way to continued contention. Henry would like to see some restraint in order to reset the team's luxury tax penalties by dropping the payroll from $240 million to $208 million.

That leaves Betts in no-man's land. He's worth a $300 million extension and more than $30 million annually. The Red Sox aren't in a position to offer it without either blowing up their roster or blasting their payroll into the stratosphere and paying luxury tax penalties that could easily top $20 million, effectively turning Betts into a $50 million player.

A case can be made that they can afford it, but Henry is entitled to decide his payroll isn't limitless.

"It goes back to the whole CBA and the whole agreement," Martinez said. "The competitive balance tax or whatever the hell they call it. That's something the Players Association is trying to get rid of. Some owners are trying to keep it. The way I look at it now, Tampa's got $60 mil. There are other ways to win. (Commissioner Rob) Manfred went on record by saying he doesn't think salary affects teams trying to win or not. It's kind of how (Justin) Verlander tweeted -- Perfect, then get rid of the luxury tax. Then everyone is happy. You've got teams that want to pay $300 million salaries, they'll pay it."

For his part, Betts accepted as many well-wishes from teammates as anyone as he packed his bags for the winter, signing bats with a silver Sharpie and leaving the clubhouse with what felt like his first smile of a trying season.

He saluted the fans and deflected questions about his future.

"It's been amazing," he said. "I can't thank the fans and teammates and front office enough for everything. I'm still here. It's not like I'm gone until whatever. I'm not going to focus on that now."

Unfortunately for those who treasure their No. 50 jerseys, Sunday felt like more than just a season finale. It felt like a sendoff for the defending MVP, and his teammates know it.

Report: Sox plan to offer Devers an extension>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Joe Kelly admits Mookie Betts' speech to Dodgers was 'cringey' at times

Joe Kelly admits Mookie Betts' speech to Dodgers was 'cringey' at times

You've probably heard about Mookie Betts' speech by now.

Shortly after the Boston Red Sox traded Betts to Los Angeles, the publicly soft-spoken outfielder stood up in the Dodgers' clubhouse and "essentially call(ed) everyone out," according to third baseman Justin Turner.

By all accounts, the content of Betts' speech was well-received. But Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Kelly -- who was teammates with Betts in Boston before joining L.A. in 2019 -- offered some interesting insight on his delivery.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

"Me and DP (David Price) were looking at each other like -- it was good," Kelly told WEEI's Rob Bradford on "The Bradfo Show" podcast. "It was meant to go the right way, honestly. He's not very -- I don't know how to put it. He speaks well, but then when he has to plan something and speak in front of people he wasn’t too comfortable with, I think he was getting ahead of himself.

"The meaning behind what he was saying was very I think spot on, but I think the way he was saying it was kind of tough."

Betts never was a vocal leader in Boston -- he didn't need to be with David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia in the clubhouse -- and Kelly suggested that showed in the 27-year-old's speech, which perhaps was a little blunt for some.

"It was very well accepted. If he would have said it a little bit nicer or articulated it a little bit better, it would have come off stronger," Kelly said.

"It was kind of, once in a while, cringey. But then we all knew that his meaning behind it was accurate."

Cringey in what way, you ask?

"Some people need to have their hand held the whole time and some people need the, 'eff you;' some people need the, 'You are so good, just believe in yourself' kind of statement," Kelly explained. "And Mookie went the direct path, the direct route in front of 40 people."

Kelly reiterated that Betts got his point across loud and clear: That the Dodgers are the most talented team in baseball and shouldn't squander that talent.

The former American League MVP still is finding his footing as a leader, though, and according to Kelly, that manifested itself on one of his first days as a Dodger.

Report: MLB doesn't want notes from Red Sox investigation used in court

Report: MLB doesn't want notes from Red Sox investigation used in court

As we await Major League Baseball's report on the Red Sox alleged sign-stealing from their 2018 championship season, MLB revealed in court documents that it does not want the notes from its interviews with Red Sox and Houston Astros personnel used in a current trial involving those allegations.

MLB investigator Bryan Seeley argued in a court filing this week that future investigations could be jeopardized if the league reveals details of those interviews, Evan Drellich of The Athletic reports. MLB is being sued by daily fantasy game contestants who argue that the Red Sox' and Astros' schemes corrupted the games.

A decision on the case is expected by April 15. MLB has already disciplined the Astros and it led to the firing of their manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. The Red Sox parted ways with manager Alex Cora for what ownership said was his role in the Astros transgressions.  

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred gave Astros players who cooperated with MLB investigators immunity from his discipline. It's uncertain if the same holds true for Red Sox players. Manfred said last week a report on the Red Sox allegations - delayed by the coronavirus outbreak - would be released before the now-delayed baseball season begins.