So, is Mookie Betts a none-and-done with the Los Angeles Dodgers? That could be the case, in light of the coronavirus outbreak and the recent agreement between Major League Baseball and its players.
For Red Sox fans, it means they may never see slugger J.D. Martinez in a Boston uniform again, or center field magician Jackie Bradley Jr., or closer Brandon Workman.
Just like Betts, Bradley and Workman will be free agents after the 2020 season – even if the season is never played.
Martinez, 31, has another opt-out clause in his contract, meaning he can leave after 2020. If he decides to stay in Boston, his contract runs through 2022, with a $4.4 million decrease in pay, to $19.4 million. Yes, I know that you and I could handle such a “decrease,” but Martinez may look elsewhere.
Like everything else these days, there is so much uncertainty regarding the sport. And while there are so many more important issues to discuss during the pandemic, allow me a few sentences to distract you, and talk baseball.
First of all, a light round of applause for MLB and the players’ union for coming to an agreement about salaries and service time. This way, when/if the season begins, there should be few obstacles in the way of getting things under way. If the all-clear announcement is made, soon we will hear the sound of balls popping into mitts; an angelic harmony, to be sure.
Locally, we yearn for Hadlock Field to be filled with the sights, sound and smells of baseball. It was always been a welcomed sight – a sign that winter is over – but now it will have much more meaning. For now, there is only talk of if and when.
“Right now, it is a waiting game,” said Geoff Iacuessa, the president and general manager of the Portland Sea Dogs. “There is no target date on when the season may start. We are all taking it day by day and are all committed to making sure public health comes first.
“There have been a lot of discussions league-wide about what the season could look like when we get going, but nothing concrete and nothing that isn’t confidential at this point. We need to wait for direction from MLB and MiLB and then can make decisions from there.
“There would need to be a spring training to get the players ramped back up … I’m not sure how long that would be, but it will be necessary given the long layoff.”
A resumption of spring training would bring all Red Sox major league and minor league players back to Fort Myers, Florida. After initial workouts, hopefully team rosters can be settled on and minor leaguers could head to their home cities for their final practices. Red Sox Director of Player Development Ben Crockett, understandably, said nothing has been decided.
The major league roster – which reportedly could number 29 players at the start – may take a little longer to figure out.
Should the season begin – in May? June? July? – Major League Baseball will need to decide on a schedule.
Players union leader Tony Clark has said, “we would do our best to play as many games as possible regardless of when we start.”
Laudable, within reason.
Previous abbreviated seasons, because of labor disputes, were shortened to 144 games (1995) and between 103 to 109 games (1981).
If possible, a schedule of 100 games would work; hopefully, avoiding winter-like weather (or neutral-site games) during the regular season. More doubleheaders would work – but hopefully without seven-inning games.
An expanded playoff format would generate excitement – and could be accepted by baseball purists, given these unprecedented circumstances. Neutral sites, in the comfort of southern weather or domed stadiums (or both), could be used for the playoffs.
But, please, baseball should not last into Thanksgiving week. By then, attention is on college football rivalries and the remaining weeks of the NFL; not to mention NHL and NBA.
The All-Star game could still take place. Some minor leagues take only a two-day break (one for travel, one for the game) for their All-Star contest. Major League Baseball could do the same.
Of course, everything depends on the season starting – if and when …
FREE AGENCY has already been clarified by MLB’s recent agreement with the players. Betts’ name is mentioned the most because the Dodgers’ deal for Betts may be a huge bust. The Red Sox received three players in the deal for Betts and pitcher David Price. So, Boston may have benefited more from this deal than originally thought – although it is hard to use the word “benefit” in times like these.
As already mentioned, the Red Sox could lose Martinez, Bradley and Workman after this season, even if no games are played. The same goes for recently-signed outfield Kevin Pillar, who was inked to a one-year deal.
When the Red Sox re-signed first baseman Mitch Moreland and signed pitcher Martin Perez, both contracts included team options for 2021.
THE JUNE DRAFT will likely be moved to July. Usually 40 rounds, the draft may be only five round this year. That may affect the Red Sox two ways. With new baseball head Chaim Bloom, Boston hoped to rebuild its farm system. A shortened draft will affect that effort. Also, will Boston have five draft picks this year? That depends on the penalty, if any, that Commissioner Rob Manfred hands out to the Red Sox for alleged sign-stealing in 2018. When the Astros were punished in their sign-stealing scandal, they lost their first- and second-round draft picks for 2020 and 2021.
The Red Sox are still waiting for Manfred’s decision.
But, in matters more important, we all are waiting, aren’t we?
Meanwhile, go have a catch in the backyard, and stay safe.