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Inbox: How likely is Betts' return to Boston?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers questions from Red Sox fans
@IanMBrowne
October 7, 2019

Do you really think they are thinking about trading Mookie? -- @nemo_99 I know this has been talked about a lot, but I still don’t see trading Mookie Betts with a year left on his contract unless you completely commit to taking a step back as a team in 2020.

Do you really think they are thinking about trading Mookie?
-- @nemo_99

I know this has been talked about a lot, but I still don’t see trading Mookie Betts with a year left on his contract unless you completely commit to taking a step back as a team in 2020. I don’t see the Sox getting close to equal value for Betts with just a year left on his contract. If the Sox fail to meet expectations in the first four months of the ’20 season, perhaps Betts will be traded at that point if they can secure more value than the draft pick they would get should Mookie leave as a free agent.

How can a team this wealthy justify letting extraordinary talent slip away?
-- @DorvidGoldy

Every team has a spending limit. You have even seen this with the Yankees and Dodgers in recent years, and they play in bigger markets than Boston. The reason it could happen is because there was mismanagement with the roster, and too much money was invested in the starting rotation.

Since it seems the only way to keep Mookie and J.D. Martinez is to free up salary in the rotation, could you envision them moving Chris Sale or David Price, and taking a huge hit on the return in order to move salary? Seems unless Mookie commits long term, even that would be foolish.
-- @tom_nevin

Sure, it could happen. The Red Sox will look for creative solutions to keep as many of their best players as possible. But J.D. Martinez could take his situation out of their hands by exercising his opt-out clause. If that winds up being the case, I don’t see the Sox as strong suitors to keep him given what the price will be.

What is the right side of the infield going to look like next year? Is it between Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec and Marco Hernandez to fight it out or will they bring in someone else, assuming no Dustin Pedroia miracle?
-- @SteveMorge

Look for Michael Chavis to be a factor at both first and second base. It wouldn’t shock me if Mitch Moreland is re-signed to a one-year deal to give them a left-handed bat as part of the equation at first. Dalbec will definitely get a chance to earn a roster spot in Spring Training. Obviously we don’t know if Brock Holt is coming back. Marco Hernandez will definitely be in the mix for playing time at second.

How likely is it that Andrew Benintendi makes a leap forward next season?
-- @ReallySeamus

I think there’s a really good chance that Andrew Benintendi leaps forward -- right back to where he was in 2018. Benintendi did himself a disservice by trying to bulk up last offseason so he could hit more home runs. The Red Sox are at their best when Benintendi is an athlete, and I expect he will get back to that in 2020. Benintendi is 25 years old, so there’s no reason to think his career going to start taking a downturn. I think he learned from his mistakes in ’19.

Do you think a .220 hitting CF survives MLB without hitting 40 HR and knocking in 100 runs per year? JBJ lifetime stats suggest he is an expensive, late inning, defensive replacement? Thoughts?
-- @belfast2la

My top thought is that the Red Sox won the World Series in convincing fashion with Jackie Bradley Jr. hitting .234 in 2018. His OPS was actually lower that year than it was this season. Bradley is an elite defender and you can get by with him in the lineup when the rest of the order is producing. Also, it isn’t as if Bradley doesn’t do anything offensively. He is always good for at least one hot streak a year, and did hit 21 homers this season.

With the future of Betts and JBJ unclear and the improvement of Rafael Devers at the hot corner, is there any chance Dalbec will be used in left field?
-- @seannybboi

The only way Bobby Dalbec plays left on a full-time basis is if Bradley or Betts is traded, in which case Benintendi could move to center field. If those players stay, I suppose Dalbec could be an option if left against lefties, much like Martinez was the last two seasons.

What’s the prognosis for Sale? Elbows are fixable but take time. A shoulder worries me, because that is not fixable for a pitcher.
-- @RickAmidon

The Red Sox are taking a conservative path for Chris Sale to make sure he is healthy. He will soon visit with Dr. James Andrews to determine if the PRP shot he had in August had the desired effect. If so, Sale will do some throwing and see how his elbow feels. While the left shoulder bothered Sale in 2018, that was not said to be a problem this past year.

Odds that the Sox sign Brock Holt?
-- @bradyszn_

I think it depends on if some team on the open market can blow Holt away with an offer. If not, I expect he will be back in Boston. It is no secret how much Holt loves the Boston community, and also no secret how much manager Alex Cora values Holt’s versatility.

Is Steve Pearce retiring?
-- @matthewrallen1

Steve Pearce mentioned during the final weekend of the season that he is contemplating retirement. However, he hasn’t made a decision yet. Players often feel a lot of emotions at the end of a frustrating year. I’m sure Pearce will have a better idea of where he is at in the coming weeks. Either way, it is certain he’s played his last game with the Red Sox.

With right-handed hitters Chavis and Dalbec pushing for playing time at first base, there is no role for Pearce in Boston. He is a free agent. Pearce will hold a special place in Red Sox lore for his performance in the 2018 World Series.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.