FORT MYERS, Fla. — David Ortiz thinks the Red Sox can win without Mookie Betts.
“They won without me,” said Ortiz with a smile Thursday in Sox camp. “So I’m not saying that Mookie isn’t a big piece of what we are here. But once that happened, you’ve got to move on.
“I was part of this ball club in 2016. And in 2018, we won. And I wasn’t playing. Yes, as a player, we are a big part of a team, but we also are replaceable.”
This offseason, however, has been particularly tough for the Sox. They not only traded Betts and David Price to the Dodgers, they also parted ways with manager Alex Cora.
Major League Baseball has taken its bumps and bruises, too, once it determined that the Houston Astros were involved in an illegal sign-stealing scheme during the 2017 season and part of 2018. It cost a general manager and three managers their jobs, including Cora, who was the bench coach for the Astros in 2017.
Dan Shaughnessy: In these dark days for baseball, commissioner Rob Manfred hasn’t handled it well
The Betts trade has had a negative impact on the Sox fan base, but Ortiz sees it differently. He believes they made a shrewd decision by adding Alex Verdugo, along with prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong. He described the move as just business.
“In Mookie’s situation, it’s hard to get rid of someone like him,” Ortiz said. “But on the business side, we also know that, specifically, Mookie is going to get a deal close to what Mike Trout has. I guess that’s the difference between having him here and having him go to LA.
“I know fans are hurting a little bit because you let a franchise player go somewhere else, but that’s the tricky part about baseball — you fall in love with players and sometimes the business side of it doesn’t allow the team to keep them.”
Chad Finn: We don’t expect sentimentality from the Red Sox, but we could use more clarity
Trout finalized a 12-year, $430 million deal just before the start of last season. Ortiz noted that if there weren’t a Trout, you could argue that Betts was the best player in baseball.
“Mookie has earned every single dollar that he’s going to get,” Ortiz said. “If I’m him, I’m not going to leave $50, $60, $70 million on the table just because. We had a good offer for him, but from what I understand, somewhere else he’s going to get more.”
Ortiz said free agency can’t be taken for granted, that a lot of people might view squeezing every penny out of a club as greedy, but free agency, he said, only comes around once.
The Sox also remain under investigation for allegations of electronic sign-stealing in 2018. But the focus, for now, has been on the Astros and commissioner Rob Manfred granting players immunity in exchange for testimony.
“I don’t agree with him getting all the heat,” Ortiz said. “The reality is that not one player has come through and said, ‘Hey, it was me who started this up.’ Everybody is passing the ball. All the commissioner can do is have a team investigate what’s going on. Commissioner Manfred has been legit from Day 1.”
Ortiz added that the Astros, even without the sign-stealing scheme, have great players. What he didn’t like, though, was Mike Fiers outing his former teammates.
“I’m mad at him,” said Ortiz. “After you make your money and you get your ring, you decide to talk about it? Why didn’t you talk about it during the season when it was going on? Why didn’t you say, ‘I don’t want no part of this.’ Now, you look like a snitch.”
Julian McWilliams can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @byjulianmack.