While members of the Red Sox acknowledge that the sight of Mookie Betts in another uniform remains a painful one, team chairman Tom Werner questioned the logic of the 12-year, $365 million extension the Dodgers made to the outfielder this week.
“It’s always difficult to trade a talented player of Mookie’s caliber, but let’s revisit this conversation in 12 years,” Werner said on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni, and Fauria” show. “That’s a very, very long-term deal for a team to swallow. You guys know as well as I do that the history of long-term deals is checkered at best. We made what we thought was a generous offer, but for us, it’s time to turn the page. . . . We think we made the right decision at the time.”
The Sox, according to multiple major league sources, made a 10-year, $300 million offer to Betts in the spring of 2019. While that number fell short of what both sides believed Betts might get on the open market at the time, the team typically extends players with remaining years of control only if it can get some degree of a discount. At the time, Betts preferred the open market.
The gap between that offer and what Betts sought was considered so significant that the Red Sox concluded that they wouldn’t be able to re-sign Betts before he reached free agency. That conclusion led the Sox to pursue extensions with both Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts, while opening the door to the possibility of a trade. While the Sox loosely explored the possibility of trading Betts last summer, it wasn’t until this offseason that the club pursued trading him in earnest, eventually dealing him and David Price to LA for outfielder Alex Verdugo and prospects Jeter Downs and Conner Wong.
Werner said that the Sox remain comfortable with their decision, and cast some water on those who might trumpet the deal as a sign of the Dodgers’ superior position to the Red Sox.
“When people are partying in Los Angeles, I just want to remind Los Angeles — because you know I come from Los Angeles and I spend the winters there — that in the last 20 years, Los Angeles has won zero World Series and the Red Sox have won four. So I’ve got nothing to be complaining about regarding our past.”
Second coming (up)
For the first time since June 2, 2016, J.D. Martinez occupied the second spot in a lineup. The Red Sox were confident he’d be unfazed by the responsibility.
“Pushing him up in the lineup, that’s more ABs he’s going to get. He’s happy if he’s going to get ABs,” said hitting coach Tim Hyers. “The more the merrier for him.”
The second slot has become increasingly popular for the best hitters in the game, as it increases the likelihood of an extra plate appearance while affording a substantial number of opportunities with runners on base. That formula held for Martinez on Opening Day, as he came to the plate six times, including twice with the bases loaded and one additional time with a runner in scoring position. Martinez went 3 for 5 with a walk and a pair of run-scoring doubles, driving in three.
“Not complaining. Came up twice with the bases loaded. So far, so good,” said Martinez. “But it’s definitely different. That’s for sure. Not used to it. I feel like I was always getting ready to hit. I feel like I was always on the verge of coming up. I’m not really used to getting six at-bats in a night.”
With lefty Tommy Milone on the mound for Baltimore, the Sox elected to have the lefthanded Andrew Benintendi bat leadoff and play left, fellow lefthanded hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. play center and hit eighth, and righthanded hitting Kevin Pillar bat fifth and play right.
That alignment left the lefthanded Verdugo, who hit .327 with an .843 OPS against lefties last year (compared with .281/.807 vs. righties), on the bench for the opener.
“I called him this morning and talked to him about it,” said manager Ron Roenicke. “He reassured me that he does hit lefthanders well, which I know. We have statistics on him and what he does.”
Though Benintendi and Bradley don’t have the same performance track record against lefties, Roenicke said he based his decision in large part on how well they’d swung during camp. Benintendi went 0 for 4 with a pair of walks on Friday, and Bradley went 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles and a walk.
Bogaerts makes his mark
Xander Bogaerts made his seventh straight Opening Day start at shortstop, the most by a Red Sox at the position since Joe Cronin in 1935–41, and one shy of Everett Scott’s team record of eight straight starts at short from 1914–21. “I’m blessed,” said Bogaerts. “I just try to do the best I can every day when I’m out there. These guys know that I’m a team player, I’ll do whatever for them and I know they’ll do the same for me. You’ve just got to earn your respect and give it right back to them” . . . Eduardo Rodriguez’s COVID-19-related shutdown is due to a heart condition, likely myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle), according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. The condition has been associated with numerous COVID-19 infections. On Thursday, Roenicke said that Rodriguez would be shut down for a week . . . Lefthander Martin Perez, who threw six shutout innings in his final camp game, expressed his hope to use that outing as a building block for his first regular season game with the Red Sox on Saturday. “I’m ready,” said Perez. “I feel 100 percent, and just going to go out there [Saturday], enjoy the game, and give a win to my team.”
On their toes in Pawtucket
MLB and the MLBPA announced the latest results of their COVID-19 testing. During the monitoring phase of testing over the last week, six individuals (four players, two staffers) tested positive, bringing the total number of positive tests in the monitoring phase to 22 players and seven staffers. Overall, including intake testing, there have been 84 players and 15 staffers who’ve tested positive.
Triple-A manager Billy McMillon, who’s overseeing the 30 players who are working out in Pawtucket, addressed the group on Friday afternoon to remind them that the uncertainty surrounding the virus could result in a rapid summons to the big leagues. He pointed out that Nationals star outfielder Juan Soto tested positive just before his team’s first game on Thursday.
“It can happen really quickly. The message has been do the right thing off the field, try to stay safe, but also, you’ve got to take these at-bats, even though there’s a spring training-type feel, you’ve got to take it seriously. You’ve got to grind because there are going to be decisions made on who is called up,” said McMillon. “If someone stays down here and is doggin’ it, going through the motions, it’s going to be hard to convince the guys in Boston to call this guy up. We had a long talk with the guys today about, it starts tonight. You’ve got to be ready. You’ve got to do the right thing and make the most out of your at-bats.”