SPRINGFIELD — The Red Sox are coming to Springfield.
Red Sox president Sam Kennedy announced Wednesday that the team will hold its annual Winter Weekend at the MGM Springfield and the neighboring MassMutual Center Jan. 17-18.
“We have fans all over New England, and we have lots of fans in the western part of the state,” Kennedy said at a press conference at the MGM Springfield. “It would be ideal for us to bring this event out here.”
The Sox have hosted their Winter Weekend at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut the last five years. Kennedy and MGM Springfield president Mike Mathis said they hope the switch brings economic growth and development to Springfield and its surrounding areas.
“This is an event that we hope creates lifetime memories for Red Sox fans here in Springfield and for people who will come from all over the region for this great event,” Kennedy said.
The Winter Weekend will include appearances by players and coaches, plus Red Sox alumni and the team mascots.
The Red Sox leadership team will hold a town hall-style event televised by NESN, and there will be round-table discussions, a baseball festival, and displays of the Red Sox’ World Series trophies and various player awards. Tickets are available through the team’s website.
It’s been a week of announcements for the Red Sox. On Monday, All-Star designated hitter J.D. Martinez officially opted into his 2020 $23.75 million contract.
“Any time you have J.D. Martinez in the middle of your lineup, you’re going to be a better team,” Kennedy said. “I’m glad he’s staying and is going to be a part of the Red Sox we hope for 2020 and beyond.”
Asked if he were surprised that Martinez opted in, Kennedy said he thought it could have gone either way.
“Really, it’s a decision that he and his representatives make based upon what they think of the market,” he said. “It was a hard one to read. We obviously didn’t find out until Monday, but it’s good to have it behind us, because now we have more information as you start to think about the planning for next year and beyond.”
Part of the plan, of course, will surround Mookie Betts. It’s a course that new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom will have to navigate.
Do they trade the 2018 American League MVP, who will become a free agent at the end of the 2020 season? Or do they let the season play out and hope they can agree to an extension or re-sign him in free agency?
Red Sox officials have said it would be tough to keep both Betts and Martinez as they try to shed payroll, and Kennedy acknowledged that once Martinez decided to stay, the thought of Betts’s future naturally came to mind.
“I’ve said it before and will continue to say it: We love Mookie Betts, and he’s such a special player and person,” Kennedy said. “We’ll continue to have conversations with him. He’s under club control. We’ll see what happens this offseason.”
Betts’s representatives and the Sox haven’t engaged in discussions this offseason, but at the appropriate time, Kennedy said, the sides will connect.
Bloom, though, has the final say in what happens. Kennedy and Bloom haven’t seen much of each other since Bloom’s hiring last week, as the new baseball boss is still getting settled in Boston. But they have been in touch via phone and e-mail.
“He’s done a remarkable job connecting with people in the front office,” Kennedy said. “But also connecting with the players and staff and with our alumni, which I thought is kind of touching. He’s had a number of conversations with Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice.”
Kennedy looks forward to the collaboration method Bloom brings to the organization.
“This will be my 19th year,” Kennedy said. “John Henry and Tom Werner [the team owners] have created an environment where they encourage debate and discussion. I think that’s how the best decisions ultimately get made.
“What we’ll see in Chaim’s leadership in the baseball operations department, I do think he’ll be very aggressive in soliciting opinions from his management team.”
Julian McWilliams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.