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Red Sox have yet to engage Mookie Betts on contract talks

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Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy said today that the team has not yet engaged in extension talks with Mookie Betts, saying, “I’m sure we’ll have conversations at the appropriate time.”

The time matters based on everything Kennedy and other Red Sox officials have said about the team’s payroll plans this winter.

The Red Sox have said that they want to cut payroll in order to get the team below the Competitive Balance Tax threshold and said that doing so while keeping both J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts would be “difficult.” Martinez just declined to exercise an opt-out clause on his contract, so he’s not going anywhere. Betts is entering his last year of arbitration where he’ll likely get a substantial raise over and above the $20 million he made in 2019, which would make their payroll plans pretty difficult.

The only real alternative that would keep the club’s payroll wishes in order would be a long-term deal that is at least somewhat backloaded, thereby reining in 2020 payroll somewhat. To get Betts to agree to such a thing, one would assume, would take some doing which, in turn, would take some time, and as Kennedy said, they haven’t begun discussions yet.

I suppose another alternative is to simply trade Betts — many are speculating that the Sox will at least entertain the idea — but the team would certainly take a massive P.R. hit if they were to trade the best position player they’ve developed in, oh, 50 or 60 years. But hey, if one of the richest sports franchises on Planet Earth is determined to get under the CBT for its own sake, P.R. is obviously not high on their list of priorities.

In other news:

The upcoming state-of-the-art performing arts center from Fenway Sports Group Real Estate (a subsidiary of Fenway Sports Group) previously known as “Fenway Theater” will now be called MGM Music Hall at Fenway, thanks to MGM Resorts International joining the project as a naming rights partner . . . In a press release, MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO Jim Murren said that with Red Sox games inside the park and performances next door at MGM Music Hall, visitors to Lansdowne Street would be able to enjoy “unforgettable experiences on both sides of the world-famous Green Monster.”

Thankfully, Red Sox owners concentrating more on musical theater than on young superstar sluggers has never once come back to bite them.

Rays’ Erik Neander named Executive of the Year

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At the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona on Monday, Rays GM Erik Neander was named the recipient of Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year Award for the 2019 season. The Yankees’ Brian Cashman was the runner-up while the Athletics’ Billy Beane and the Twins’ Derek Falvey tied for third place.

Neander has worked for the Rays since 2017 but has operated in his current role since November 2016, taking over for Matthew Silverman who was promoted to president of the Rays alongside Brian Auld.

The Rays had, by far, the lowest payroll in baseball at $53.5 million, according to USA TODAY. Neander’s peers voting him Executive of the Year on the same today the league had to curtail its awarding of a prize belt to the team that suppressed salaries the most in arbitration is… certainly interesting timing.

At any rate, Neander’s Rays went 96-66 in 2019, finishing in second place in the AL East behind the 103-59 Yankees. The Rays claimed the second AL Wild Card and defeated the A’s to earn entry into the ALDS where they lost in five games to the Astros. It was the Rays’ first playoff appearance since 2013 and their regular season win total was second-most in franchise history behind the 2008 team (97).