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.

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Red Sox vs. Rays highlights: J.D. Martinez homers, but Sox pitching struggles in 8-7 loss

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USA TODAY Sports photo

Red Sox vs. Rays highlights: J.D. Martinez homers, but Sox pitching struggles in 8-7 loss

FINAL SCORE: Tampa Bay Rays 8, Boston Red Sox 7

IN BRIEF: J.D. Martinez's first home run of the season was a bright spot, but the Red Sox pitching staff was not as they dropped Game 1 of their series vs. the Rays on Monday night. Boston used six different pitchers in the loss and none of them had an answer for Tampa Bay as they allowed a combined 16 hits and eight walks.

Backup catcher Kevin Plawecki had a nice night for the Red Sox with three hits and two RBI, and Jonathan Arauz collected his first three MLB hits and two RBI.

BOX SCORE

RED SOX RECORD: 6-10

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HIGHLIGHTS

J.D. snaps the slump

Kiermaier robs Arauz

Arauz notches first MLB hit

Rays rally

Choi puts Rays ahead

Rays pile it on

UP NEXT
vs. Rays, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., NESN
vs. Rays, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., NESN

Michael Chavis lets slip hilariously off-color reaction to Jonathan Arauz being robbed of first hit

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File photo

Michael Chavis lets slip hilariously off-color reaction to Jonathan Arauz being robbed of first hit

Michael Chavis was really pulling for rookie rule 5 pick Jonathan Arauz to record his first hit on Monday night. So when the infielder ripped a Ryan Yarbrough offering to deep center field, Chavis thrust both arms over his head in celebration.

Just one problem: Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier.

Kiermaier raced onto the warning track and appeared to mistime his leap, but managed to hang in the air just long enough to corral the drive before tumbling to the dirt in front of the center field fence. Instead of his first big-league knock, the 22-year-old Panamanian simply had his first loud out, and Chavis couldn't hide his frustration on his teammate's behalf.

When he realized the ball had landed in Kiermaier's glove, Chavis dropped his hands and raised his middle finger in Kiermaier's direction before simply covering his face.

Not the first time the three-time Gold Glover has elicited that reaction, and undoubtedly not the last.