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Mookie Betts, Red Sox avoid arbitration with $20 million deal

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Thanks to the deadline we mentioned earlier, a lot of players are signing arbitration-avoiding deals with their clubs today. None will be bigger than this one, however: Mookie Betts and the Red Sox have agreed to a one-year deal for $20 million.

Betts, who is just in his second year of arbitration-eligibility, made $10.5 million last season, so he’ll nearly double his salary. He certainly earned it, after he hit .346/.438/.640 with 32 homers, 30 steals and 129 runs and won the AL MVP Award for the World Series champions.

Needless to say, this is record deal for a player in his second year of arbitration eligibility. Assuming he doesn’t fall off a cliff in 2019, he’ll shatter the third-year record too. Or, alternatively, he’ll agree to a very, very lucrative long-term extension to keep him in Boston and away from the free agent market for a very, very long time.

Report: Pirates to convert JB Shuck into two-way player

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Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.

Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.

Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.