Red Sox Update: Two Days Until Opening Day

With two days until Opening Day in Seattle and with ample activity occurring in the past week, here is a quick Red Sox update. Chris Sale signed a 5-yr/$145 million contract on Saturday to remain with the team through 2024. Also on Saturday, the Red Sox made the final cuts to their bullpen. Darwinzon Hernandez was sent to Double-A Portland, while Bobby Poyner and Marcus Walden were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. Manager Alex Cora stated that Jenrry Mejia would not make the Opening Day roster as well.

Bullpen is set…for now

The Sox bullpen will consist of Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Colten Brewer, Heath Hembree,Red Sox Update Brian Johnson, Tyler Thornburg, Hector Velazquez and Brandon Workman to begin 2019.

On Monday, Sandy Leon, who had been with the Red Sox since 2015, was placed on waivers. Later that day, Rick Porcello was hit in the head with a ‘comebacker’ by Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. He “laughed” it off and stayed in the game. What?!?

Arguably the most substantial news happened last Wednesday. In an interview with reporters, reigning AL MVP Mookie Betts was asked about Angels outfielder Mike Trout’s new record breaking contract. “I love it here in Boston. It’s a great spot. I’ve definitely grown to love going up north in the cold. That doesn’t mean I want to sell myself short of my value.”

Also in this Red Sox Update

It was announced very early this morning that reigning World Series MVP Steve Pearce will begin 2019 on the Injured List (IL) due to a left calf injury. Sam Travis will serve as Boston’s backup first baseman in Seattle.

Just over a week ago on March 18, Cora announced that second baseman Dustin Pedroia will also begin the season on the Injured List. Pedroia could make his debut on April 9th on Boston’s first home game of the season versus Toronto.

Mookie Betts Contract Extension: What Will it Take?

The last two off-seasons have been sour for many free agents, but a change appears to be on the horizon. Players have been outspoken about the level of talent left on the market well into March, including Mookie Betts. Are fears of failing to find mega deals in free agency causing players to sign extensions? Is a Mookie Betts contract extension next on the docket?

Elite players around the league are starting a trend

In recent weeks some of the top stars in the game such as Mike Trout and Nolan Betts Contract ExtensionArenado have signed massive contract extensions that eliminate them from their impending free agencies. Eloy Jimenez of the Chicago White Sox has not registered a single day of service time, yet just agreed to a six-year, $43 million deal.

Jimenez joins a list of names that also includes Ryan Pressly, Alex Bregman, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Nola, Whit Merrifield, and Carlos Carrasco. Studs like Bregman, Nola, and the aforementioned Severino are signing away arbitration and free agency years to make better money now.

Despite Bryce Harper and Manny Machado eventually getting the mega deals they so desired, many quality players have been left behind on the free market well into March and beyond. Would a move to get extended before the murky waters of free agency make sense for Betts, too? He does not seem to think so.

Where does a Mookie Betts contract extension come into play?

When asked in a media scrum about his openness to an extension, Betts had this to say: “Why not? You should definitely keep your ears open and see what is said. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to agree on or take whatever is given. Like I said, I love (Boston). I think this is great place to be to spend your career here. But that doesn’t mean you should sell yourself short.”

While Betts certainly does not close the door on a future deal, his stance has never wavered. As questions mount, with contract totals and AAV records being shattered, many believe the Red Sox outfielder is next in line for a huge pay day.

In terms of trying to set a price, the Red Sox already set the baseline. Betts confirmed a report by the New York Post’s Joel Sherman that he was offered an extension last offseason. He turned it down. The verdict? An eight-year, $200 million beast of a deal. But given what has transpired in recent weeks, Mookie Betts seems to be one step ahead.

Trout’s colossal deal of $360 million over 10 years might be a good measuring stick for Betts. In 2018, Betts won the AL MVP award, the AL batting title, a gold glove, silver slugger, and made his third consecutive All-Star team. If Trout can command a deal of that size, then Betts surely can. Betts might even be able to land more.

What might a Mookie Betts contract extension cost?

If Betts continues to level himself with Trout for the rights to be baseball’s alpha dog, he might hit it big. Let’s say Betts puts up comparable numbers to his 2018 MVP season, with some expected drop off. The native Tennessean led the league in average (346), slugging (.640), runs (129) and WAR (10.9). With that in mind, it is not farfetched to think Betts could be MLB’s first $400 million man. It seems likely the Betts will seek a 10-year deal in the neighborhood of Trout’s $360 million. If he continues to produce at this pace, Betts might blow us all out of the water.

Betts Versus Trout: Who’s Better?

Mookie Betts versus Mike Trout as baseball’s best player? That seems to be one of the top questions heading into this season. Let’s start with what the two have in common.

Both were born in the early-90s, play the outfield, and are right-handed. They have been named to the All-Star Game in each of the past three years and both hit the free agent market in 2021.

How do they differ, generally speaking? Trout was a first round pick, has a much larger frame (6’2″, 235 lb.). He has played seven full major league seasons.

Betts was drafted slightly later, in the fifth round, is sized similarly to the average Joe (5’9″, 180 lb.). He has played four full major league seasons.

While speaking from a statistical stance, the question of favoring Mookie Betts versus Mike Trout is where this conversation really heats up.

The next great one?

Trout has been regarded as the ‘Mickey Mantle’ of this generation of ball players. He spent just one full season in the minors before being promoted to the majors for his major league debut in July 2011. He started 2012 at Triple-A and was called up to the majors in late April for good. As a rookie, he plated 639 appearances and led the American League in stolen bases (49) and runs scored (129). He was named an All-Star, honored with AL Rookie of the Year and finished second in MVP voting.

In the six seasons since, he has started 6 All-Star Games, won 2 MVPs, and averaged 107 runs, 34 homers, 91 RBIs, 22 steals, and a 1.011 OPS.

From unknown to stardom

Tough to decide without knowing how far Betts has come in four years. After an unimpressive first season in the minors (292 plate appearances, 0 home runs, 20 steals, .658 OPS), he responded mightily while playing for two of the Red Sox’s Single-A affiliates in 2013, posting 15 home runs, 38 steals, and .923 OPS in 551 plate appearances. In 2014, he split time between Double-A and Triple-A (464 plate appearances, 11 home runs, 33 steals, .960 OPS) before being promoted to the big leagues in late June. Betts has been the Red Sox’s leadoff hitter ever since.

From 2015-2018, he has started 3 All-Star Games, won 3 Gold Gloves and 1 MVP. His averages look like this: 111 runs, 26 homers, 93 RBIs, 25 steals, and a .899 OPS.

It may seem as if Trout’s track record is more attractive. Do not discount Betts, however, as number 50 is the more durable player at this stage of his career (35 more starts than Trout in past two seasons). Betts also owns outclasses Trout in the most important department: World Series rings. Betts 1, Trout 0.

The MVP Race In the American League

It is mid August, usually around now we are talking about the division races. However, this season it looks like in the American League, the Red Sox, Indians and Astros will win their respected divisions easily. With the second wild card the only A.L. race. The big question this season, the historic competition of the potential American League MVP battle.

We have a potential triple-crown winner in J.D. Martinez and he isn’t even the favoriteMVP on his own team. Most experts alike would say that the Red Sox favorite is Mookie Betts. Betts leads the league in average, hovering around that .350 mark, while playing gold-glove defense in the outfield. Cleveland Indians Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor, can easily make a viable case for the award as well. As they have anchored the juggernaut Indians infield with their gloves and bat. Those two dynamic tandems could actually cancel out votes and give way to the perennial MVP favorite Mike Trout. There is a stigma around Trout that suggests he shouldn’t be MVP because the Angels never truly become a playoff threat. However, his statistics with the modern day WAR stat, wins-above-replacement, have him again a potential choice.

The MVP Case For Red Sox’

As of August 12th, the Red Sox record is an absolute absurd 50 games over .500. This could very well be the greatest Red Sox team in history, as it could contend to break the 116 win mark last held by the Seattle Mariners in 2001. The leaders of this Red Sox team are certainly Betts and free-agent acquisition J.D. Martinez. Martinez now stands at .333, 37 home-runs, and 104 RBI. And again, it is August 12th! Meanwhile, Betts, the everyday center/right-fielder, who even has played a game at second base, is setting the tone atop the A.L., with a .350 average, 26 home-runs and 99 runs scored. Betts leads the A.L. in overall WAR at 8.1, due to his five-tool play. He also just recently hit for the cycle against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The MVP Case For Indians’

There is not a better left-side of the infield in baseball than Cleveland’s Ramirez and Lindor. They have been staples on Terry Francona’s team now for the last four seasons. The Indians have been dominant in the central for three years now and lead the division by 12 games. Along with a tremendous pitching staff led by Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, it is Lindor and Ramirez who set the pace for the offense and defense. Lindor is hitting .292, 29, 74, while Ramirez’ line sits at an impressive .298, 34, 84. Ramirez also is fourth in the league in WAR. Their sub .300 averages, could hinder the Indian’s chances.

The MVP Case For Trout

Ahh the wonderful stat of wins-above-replacement. This should be considered the “Mike Trout statistic” as it always seems to help his MVP case. The Angels made headlines early in the season, as this looked like their year to cause havoc in the West, especially with the two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani. Well that has since faltered, as it looks like another season where LA will miss the playoffs. Trout usually gets consideration, even when the team does not make playoffs, when other playoff team’s players aren’t having incredible statistical years.  That’s not the case this season. However, Trout still has a league leading offensive WAR of 7.2, while hitting .309, 30, 60.

The baseball purists usually tend to the best overall player on the best team. While the modern statistic experts tend to favor the wins-above-replacement stat. Right now, you have to like Betts’ chances.

These Baseball Records Will Never Be Broken

Baseball records fall almost every season. Most of them are obscure and don’t get much attention. Former Atlanta Braves second baseman Mark Lemke holds the record for most plate appearances (3664) without being hit by a pitch. Hall of Famer Hughie Jennings holds the record for most hit-by-pitches (287). While these records are interesting, they’re not the kind that players set out to break. There are some baseball records, however, that will never be broken. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Cal Ripken Jr.’s Consecutive Game Streak

Cal Ripken Jr. made history on September 6, 1995 when he passed Lou Gehrig’sbaseball records consecutive games-played streak of 2130. That’s 2130 straight games that Ripken didn’t miss despite broken bones and sprains. With the clauses and stipulations in contracts nowadays, you’ll never see another player come close to breaking this record.

Cy Young’s Record of 511 Wins

Cy Young holds the record for most wins, and losses, for a pitcher at 511-316. Young played for 21 years during a time when relief pitching was rare and a pitcher threw all nine innings. Nowadays it’s a monumental feat if a pitcher wins 300 games in his career.

Joe DiMaggio’s 56-Game Hitting Streak

This is a record historians and Yankee fans stubbornly defend as one that’ll never fall. In 1941, DiMaggio hit safely in 56 games. Since then, Pete Rose is the only player to come close to breaking that record with a 44-game streak in 1978. Many players have reached the 20 and 30 game plateau. With modern technology utilized by almost every pitcher to analyze opposing batting stances, it’s likely no player will ever surpass DiMaggio.

Ty Cobb’s .366 Lifetime Batting Average

The best players today can barely reach this average in a season. So the idea of a player coming anywhere close to breaking Cobb’s lifetime batting average record is nonexistent. Cobb batted over .400 three times and won nine consecutive batting titles. He’s also only one of two players with more than 4,000 hits in his career. Like a pitcher winning 300 games, getting 3,000 hits is hard enough. To accumulate enough hits to pass Cobb’s .366 average will never happen. This is one of those baseball records that players will find difficult to come within 50 points of reaching.

Batting Records Aren’t What They Used To Be

Technological advancements are putting a dent in the pursuit of records. Pitchers and hitters now have hundreds of different types of media they can analyze to gain an advantage over their opponents. Medical advances are prolonging baseball careers, but they’re also revealing flaws in practices that pitchers and hitters have relied on for years. Whereas it was once common for pitchers to throw all nine innings and go past 150 pitches, it is now proving detrimental to their arms.

Better designed base gloves also play a role in setting and breaking baseball records. For example, Ty Cobb holds the American League record with the most errors by an outfielder with 271. Those errors account for a lot of base hits. But baseball has seen a huge drop in errors by outfielders now that gloves are better designed with a wider net and stronger grip.

While the records listed above will likely remain standing for years to come, baseball could use a shot in the arm in the form of their pursuit. Ripken’s pursuit of Gehrig’s record excited baseball fans in the wake of the 1994 strike. It brought fans back to the ballpark. While attendance isn’t an issue right now, seeing someone like Mike Trout pursue Barry Bonds’ single season HR record would make the game even more exciting to watch.

Mookie Betts Was Robbed of MVP

Most of the baseball world saw the AL Cy Young decision Wednesday as a real head-scratcher. In fact, it’s been a while since America has been content with any kind of election results. On Thursday, Major League Baseball gave them something to be very mad about. For the second time in his career, Mike Trout was named AL MVP, but did he deserve it?

This news really floored me. This surprised me because for the first time that I remember, MVP an MVP was decided because of a reputation, not by statistics or value. Mookie Betts took the baseball world by storm in 2016, but his remarkable season was not enough. Mike Trout clearly won this award based on his reputation, because his numbers certainly did not.

Betts’ MVP Pedigree

As we look at the major offensive categories, Betts stands above Trout in all of them. Trout hit a formidable .315 on the season but Betts’ was .318, with 41 more hits. Trout, however, is seen as more of a power hitter. He had 29 homers this season with 100 RBI. Surely, voters must’ve valued his power over Betts’, right? How? Betts hit 31 homers with 113 RBI, with half the season batting in the leadoff spot. Betts also had the edge in doubles, 42-32. Even in the best part of Trout’s game he was not as good as Betts.

Clearly, Betts was more valuable at the plate. That being said, let’s look at the other facets of the game. Trout had the slight edge in stolen bases, but Betts had 57 more total bases and led the league with 359. Also, Betts not only won the Gold Glove for right field, but was voted the best defender in the American League. Trout, on the other hand, did not win a Gold Glove this year. So while Betts was the best defensive player in the entire league, Trout wasn’t even top three.

So I ask, where is Trout more valuable? All-Star votes? Endorsements? Whatever it is, it’s not on the field clearly. Say all you want about WAR (wins above replacement), but regular wins have to pull some weight too. The Red Sox won 19 more games than the dismal Angels this season. On top of that, Betts did all this in playing in one less game than Trout, playing in the best division in baseball, and winning that division. Mike Trout may be your American League MVP, but to that I ask: how do you measure value?