What had long been apparent became official Friday. The defending World Series champions would not earn a chance to defend their title in the postseason. With the Red Sox officially eliminated and many in Boston turning their attention to another team looking for a more successful title defense effort, the focus for the Sox is now on 2020 and beyond.
- Mookie Betts’ status as a free agent after 2020 will surely generate quite a few headlines in the coming months. The superstar outfielder discussed his situation with Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, noting that he doesn’t feel it critical to his legacy to spend his entire career in one city. That’s not to say Betts is definitely leaving Boston; Speier notes that player and organization have a strong relationship, with the Sox particularly respecting Betts’ dedication to returning to the field recently from a foot injury despite their place in the standings. Rather, Betts has a history of justifiably and successfully betting on himself, Speier chronicles, and there’s no reason to sell himself short in extension talks given his elite level of performance. Betts overcame something of a slow start in 2019 to hit .292/.388/.521, aided by work with an independent hitting instructor he met through teammate Christian Vázquez, documented by Chad Jennings of the Athletic.
- While free agency will no doubt prove lucrative to a superstar like Betts, the market has been decidedly less kind to players like Mitch Moreland, the first baseman lamented to Rob Bradford of WEEI. Moreland’s last foray into free agency landed him a 2-year, $13MM deal to return to Boston, but he’ll have a hard time finding that much this winter. The 34-year-old tells Bradford that finding the right fit, not maxing out financially, will be his priority in choosing a suitor this offseason, although he acknowledged he may not have too many offers to choose from. Moreland says he’d love to return to Boston for a fourth season, but the executive who brought Moreland back two years ago, Dave Dombrowski, is gone, putting Moreland’s status with the organization up in the air. Working in Moreland’s favor, perhaps, the free agent market for first baseman isn’t especially robust, as MLBTR’s Steve Adams examined recently. Despite a pedestrian .244/.322/.498 line (108 wRC+), Moreland still seems likely to find a guaranteed contract somewhere on the market.
- In more immediate news, the Sox plan to be cautious with their top arms over the season’s final week. Manager Alex Cora tells Chris Cotillo of Mass Live the team will be judicious with the workloads of its high-leverage relievers (Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernández, and others) in prep for next season. A player who should make at least one appearance is Heath Hembree, who Cora notes could be used either in traditional relief or as an opener. Hembree has been on the shelf since August 2 with elbow inflammation in his throwing arm.