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Red Sox President: It will be ‘difficult’ to keep both Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez

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In case you left the office a tad early on Friday you may have missed the Boston Red Sox’ news dump in which owner John Henry said that the goal for the 2020 Red Sox was to get the payroll below the lowest Competitive Balance Tax threshold, which will be $208 million.

As we wrote on Friday, that’s not going to be impossible given that a lot of money is coming off the ledger as of today (bye-bye Pablo Sandoval‘s contract), but given that the team just finished the 2019 season with a $242 million payroll it’ll certainly be difficult.

There will something else that will be difficult in all of that too: keeping both Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. Team president and CEO Sam Kennedy:

Martinez has the ability to opt-out of his current contract. If he does not, he’ll make $23.75 million in 2020. If he does he becomes a free agent and he’d almost certainly cost the Red Sox more than $23.75 million to keep him from signing elsewhere. Betts made $20 million this past season. He’ll either get a raise in his final year of arbitration — likely a hefty one — or he’ll negotiate an extension with Boston that’ll have a higher average annual value than $20 million.

Just doing some back of the envelope figuring, if Martinez declines to opt-out and if Betts makes, say, $29 million in 2020, that’d put the payroll commitments at nearly $190 million. And that’s before finding a starting pitcher to replace the departing Rick Porcello and, of course, filling out the rest of the roster. So, no, not impossible, but yes, difficult. They could also try to get Betts to agree to a long term deal that pays him relatively little in 2020 but then goes up over time as other payroll commitments fall off. As the MLBPA will no doubt frown on Betts actually taking a pay cut for 2020, though, it’s not like there is a MASSIVE amount of money to be gained by such a gambit, assuming that Betts is even amenable.

So, yeah, difficult is right.

If, a year ago, you had told Red Sox fans that upon the conclusion of the 2019 season the team (a) would not be in the postseason; and (b) the biggest topic of conversation was which superstars it could afford to keep and which it had to let go in an effort to slash payroll, I suspect they’d laugh their butts off at you.

Guessing they’re not really laughing today. Especially when they see stuff like this:

Maddon: Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again for Angels this year

Shohei Ohtani
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Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again this season for the Los Angeles Angels after straining his right forearm in his second start, manager Joe Maddon says.

Ohtani likely will return to the Angels’ lineup as their designated hitter this week, Maddon said Tuesday night before the club opened a road series against the Seattle Mariners.

The Angels’ stance on Ohtani is unsurprising after the club announced he had strained the flexor pronator mass near the elbow of his pitching arm. The two-way star’s recovery from the strain requires him to abstain from throwing for four to six weeks, which covers most of the shortened 2020 season.

“I’m not anticipating him pitching at all this year,” Maddon said. “Any kind of throwing program is going to be very conservative.”

Ohtani was injured Sunday in the second inning of his second start since returning to the mound following Tommy John surgery in late 2018. Ohtani issued five walks during the 42-pitch inning against the Houston Astros, with his velocity dropping later in the frame.

The arm injury is another obstacle in Ohtani’s path to becoming the majors’ first true two-way player in decades. He made 10 mound starts as a rookie in 2018 before injuring his elbow, but he served as the Angels’ regular designated hitter last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Ohtani has pitched in only three games since June 2018, but the Angels still believe in Ohtani’s ability to be a two-way player, Maddon said.

“I’m seeing that he can,” Maddon said. “We’ve just got to get past the arm maladies and figure that out. But I’ve seen it. He’s just such a high-end arm, and we’ve seen what he can do in the batter’s box. Now maybe it might get to the point where he may choose to do one thing over the other and express that to us. I know he likes to hit. In my mind’s eye, he’s still going to be able to do this.”

The veteran manager believes Ohtani will benefit from a full spring training and a normal season. Ohtani wasn’t throwing at full strength for a starter when the coronavirus pandemic shut down spring training in March because he wasn’t expected to pitch until May as he returned from surgery.

“Going into a regular season with a normal number of starts and all the things that permit guys to be ready for a year, that’s what we need to see is some normalcy before you make that kind of determination,” Maddon said.

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