While retaining their star player will be a goal for the Red Sox, there’s no doubt they’ll be evaluating potential suitors.
The Red Sox have had a fast start to their offseason plans. They’ve moved on from a couple of familiar faces, hired Chaim Bloom as the Chief of Baseball Operations, and now know that J.D. Martinez will be in the middle of the lineup after choosing not to exercise the opt-out provision in his contract. As items begin to be marked off the checklist, the Sox must now look at filling holes in the infield at first base, where Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce are likely to depart via free agency, and at second base, where the position has been a revolving door since Dustin Pedroia went down with a major knee injury late in the 2017 season. Additionally, there’s a need to address the pending status of Brock Holt as well as a starting rotation that performed well-below expectation, despite large monetary commitments.
Perhaps the biggest issue to be addressed is the future of superstar right field, Mookie Betts. Due to become a free agent after the 2020 season, the organization must now look at the realistic possibility of have having to trade their franchise player and getting back some type of return beyond the compensation draft pick that they will be rewarded if he signs with another team. The reports have indicated that the Red Sox are looking for a package that includes a young, affordable outfielder that can slot into the 2020 lineup, a mid-rotation type starter, and two Top-100 overall prospects. That’s quite the haul for a player that’s only only got one year of team control left, and will command a salary of nearly $30M in his final year of arbitration. The market for Betts will be small because of the lack of team control and little assurance that he’s able to extended beyond the 2020 season, but with elite, 5-tool talent that is so rare in today’s game, he’s one the few players that can take a team on the edges of title contention to favorites to win it all.
Today, we’ll look at six teams that can realistically trade for Mookie Betts, and what a package to acquire him might look like, based on the the reports that have outlined what Boston is seeking in return…
6. Washington Nationals:
The Nationals are still celebrating their 2019 World Series victory, but will soon find out that staying atop the mountain is harder than getting there in the first place. They’ve got their own free agent issues, with World Series MVP, Stephen Strasburg opting out of his current deal, and 2019 NL MVP candidate, Anthony Rendon, hitting the open market for the first time. Reports indicate that Strasburg will likely restructure his current deal, and cash in on a larger payday with a few more years attached to the 4 he had remaining on his current deal, remaining in DC. Rendon is a different story. Projected to get 7 years and upward of $230M, the Nationals will likely be hesitant to to go that far with the soon to be 30 year old All Star. Despite the large monetary commitment, it doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to spend in the short term, and Mookie Betts would more than offset the production lost if Rendon departs. The price? Young outfielder, Juan Soto, is about as untouchable a player as there is in the game right now, but a package headlined by center fielder, Victor Robles, would certainly get the attention of the Red Sox. Adding starting pitcher, Joe Ross, and prospects Mason Denaburg (Starting Pitcher) and Luis Garcia (infield) would check all of the boxes the Sox are seeking in return.
5. San Francisco Giants:
The Giants aren’t likely to be found on any lists of teams expected to contend for a World Series in 2020. They chose to hold on to franchise icon, Madison Bumgarner, at the 2019 trade deadline, and after not getting anything for him in return, are likely to make a run at re-signing him now that’s he’s become a free agent. With Bumganrner back in the fold, ownership may look to make one last run at contention with an aging core of Buster Posey, Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt, and Brandon Crawford. Adding Mookie Betts to that mix could convince them that making one last World Series push is probable. What would they have to do to land him? Dangling surprisingly productive rookie outfielder, Mike Yastrzemski, a name that my help to soften the blow among the passionate Red Sox fan base, along with young pitcher, Tyler Beede, and a prospect package of Sean Hjelle (pitcher) and Sandro Fabian (outfield) might be just enough to get the Red Sox to consider shipping Betts to the Bay.
4. San Diego Padres:
The Padres are an interesting fit. They seem to have a long term plan for contention with dynamic young shortstop, Fernando Tatis Jr. and frontline starting pitcher, Chris Paddack, coming off outstanding rookie seasons, and the presence of one of MLB’s elite farm systems. Beyond the youth and potential, ownership has shelled out big bucks in the previous three off season to Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer, and Manny Machado, in an effort to vault the team into contention. The coming months should be no different, as team is said to be serious suitors for marquee free agents Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Zack Wheeler. Going all in with one year of Mookie Betts seems like the type of move the organization could get behind, especially with ownership publicly calling the 2019 season a failure. They would also seem to have plenty of ammunition to get a deal done. Offering the Red Sox one of their young outfielders – Franchy Cordero, Hunter Renfroe, or Manny Margot – along with young starter Cal Quantrill, and infield prospects Luis Urias, and Ty France, could be too enticing of a package for the Red Sox to pass up.
3. Philadelphia Phillies:
The Phillies entered 2019 with high expectations. They were crowned “winners of the offseason” after signing Bryce Harper, and trading for catcher, J.T. Realmuto, and productive infielder, Jean Segura. They finished the season looking up in the NL East standings to the Atlanta Braves, and the World Series-winning Washington Nationals. The organization is feeling the pressure to win immediately, and adding Mookie Betts would certainly put them in the conversation for best team in the National League. Could they do it? It’s certainly possible. They have several young outfielders that could benefit from a change of scenery, and could put either Nick Williams or Adam Haseley in a package going back to Boston. The rest of the return might get complicated. Starting pitcher, Vince Velasquez has shown flashes of frontline brilliance in his short career, but injury and inconsistency have dominated in recent years. Velasquez could also benefit from a change of scenery. The same can be said for 2016 #1 overall pick, Mickey Moniak, who could join pitching prospect, Adonis Medina, as part of the package headed back to Boston.
2. Atlanta Braves:
The Braves keep popping up as a front-runner to land Betts should the Red Sox make him available. After being demolished in Game 5 of the NLDS by the St Louis Cardinals, and watching division foe, Washington, win the World Series, the Braves find themselves in a position to accelerate their plan to dominate the National League and win a World Series of their own. No better to do that than to add a perennial MVP candidate to a lineup that features young superstar, Ronald Acuna Jr. and veteran All Star, Freddie Freeman. Atlanta doesn’t have much to offer in the way of young, controllable outfielders, but Gold Golve winner, Ender Inciarte, could could slot into the 2020 lineup, and at a salary of around $8M per season thru 2021, represents an affordable option. The Braves have a wealth of young pitching prospects on the cusp of the majors, and names like Bryse Wilson, Kyle Wright, and Patrick Weigel are intriguing to any team looking for low cost pitching with upside. The key to the deal, however, would be the blue chip prospects that the Braves may be willing to part with for a shot at winning a championship. Either of stud outfield prospects – Drew Waters and hristian Pache – and frontline starter, Ian Anderson, would likely present a package to Boston that would be too good to pass on.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers:
It’s the first call the Sox should make if they ultimately decide to trade Betts. If they play it right, it should be the only call. The Dodgers have made the post season in 7 straight season. In that span they’ve made it to the World Series twice. But after being upset by the Nationals in the 2019 NLDS, they still have no World Series ring to show for it. The Red Sox need to prey on the Dodgers desperation and the pressure from a large market fan base that’s starving for a championship. LA will no doubt be players in the free agent market, likely making a push the this season’s top two available players, Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon. With an aging ace in Clayton Kershaw, and a solid young nucleus headed by NL MVP front-runner, Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers will no doubt go all in to finally win the World Series that has eluded them for over three decades. Adding Mookie Betts, even for just one season, would make the Dodgers the clear cut front winner to take home the 2020 crown. With young assets at the MLB level, and a top rated farm system, the Dodgers have the talent and depth to acquire Betts without stunting the growth of the franchise beyond 2020.
They have a crowded outfield with young, productive players. And while LA will likely push to put Joc Pederson in the deal, but the Sox should insist on 23 year old outfielder, Alex Verdugo. Beyond that the Dodgers feature a wealth of young pitching and positional prospects. The addition of young pitcher, Julio Urias, and infield prospect, Jeter Downs, and pitching prospect Dennis Santana – but only after trying to get Gavin Lux (IF) and Dustin May (P) – would represent the type of package that would soften the blow that comes from losing a generational player like Mookie Betts.
Ultimately, letting a player like Betts put on another team’s uniform will be a crushing blow to a fan base that watched him developed into one of the very best players in the game. No matter the return, trading him away isn’t likely to make the Boston Red Sox a better team in 2020 than they’d be with him patrolling right field in Fenway Park. Expect Chaim Bloom to do everything in his power to retain the MVP-caliber Betts, but it’s possible that contract negotiations may head south in a hurry.