With Spring Training only a few weeks away now, every big-name player that may be “unsettled” in their current situation is actively being shopped. The names of superstars like Nolan Arenado and Mookie Betts have been floated around as potential trade candidates. For this article, I figured I’d touch on just what MIGHT happen if Boston is to trade Mookie Betts, and what — in turn — would happen for the Yankees.
Mookie Betts just recently broke the record for highest settlement to avoid arbitration, at $27,000,000. Many people think that Betts will warrant a contract somewhat close to that of Mike Trout, which was essentially a half-billion dollar deal. With that, Mookie shouldn’t be paid as much as the best player in the entire league, but he should be making more than both Harper and Machado. Harper’s contract that he signed last offseason makes him worth, on average, $25.4 mil per season (13 yr / 330 mil). The only reason as to why Mookie is even on the trade block to begin with is because Boston are seemingly unable to handle their finances.
Boston has made their own efforts to retain Mookie, as they’ve offered a contract for 10 years, worth $300,000,000. That’s an obvious low-ball offer, to which Betts countered with 12/420 mil. Boston don’t have the funds to make that deal happen, and even the offer they gave to Betts wouldn’t have been manageable. What that means is that IF Betts were to have agreed to that, Boston would likely be shipping off Price and others, in an attempt to free up space.
Potential landing spots for Mookie
In fact, there have been numerous trade propositions that people have been putting together that involve both Mookie and David Price. One of which, recently posted by ESPN, suggests both Price and Betts be sent to the Dodgers in exchange for Alex Verdugo, and one of the Dodgers’ top prospects, Dustin May. It would be a massive trade for both teams, and while Boston would definitely get the worse of the two deals, they would be far better off for the future. The one massive thing that I believe separates the Yankees and Red Sox is that New York has put a far greater emphasis on the future, and preparing down the road. While getting both Verdugo and May, hypothetically, wouldn’t immediately right all the wrongs Boston has made in years past, in regards to the direction they’re trying to go with their farm, it would show that Boston is willing to part ways with their team to better bolster their future.
I don’t believe that LAD would take on Price’s contract, but part of me thinks they’d be okay in parting with May. However, with that, one of the Dodgers’ weakest areas — or should I say most questionable areas — is their starting rotation. However, if a Betts deal is to get struck with either LA or the Padres, it would drastically change the shape of the MLB this upcoming season. Betts is a 10 WAR player at his best, and even at his worst is Nolan Arenado — from a value perspective. Across the last five seasons, Betts has accumulated 35.4 fWAR, including the 2018 MVP season that saw him post one of the best MLB seasons in recent memory. In ’18, Betts OPS’d 1.079, to pair with 32 HRs and 30 SB’s. That would attribute to a 10.4 fWAR season, with a wRC+ of 185. Betts is one of the best, if not the best, two-way player in all of baseball. His defense at RF is second to only Aaron Judge, and his offense is — realistically — the second most well put together toolset in the AL. Mookie is a generational talent, and any team would be lucky to have him.
I think that a trade to the Dodgers may be slightly unrealistic, in the sense that Boston may not be all about the idea of helping fuel the NL’s leading contender. The main contributing reason to why LAD is the main team in the race for Mookie is that they’re one of the few teams that are willing to trade a better prospect for him. I don’t see LAD shelling out May or Lux for Betts, but a deal that features even Keibert Ruiz or Jeter Downs — or both — could be in the cards. I’m a big fan of Downs’, as I think his skillset is very comparable to that of Gavin Lux. He shows a solid power and speed combination, and pairs that with a good average and glove as well. As for the Padres, I’d likely expect to see McKenzie Gore off the table, but likely would expect to see Manuel Margot and Josh Naylor amongst the names they’re prepared to ship off. If they are to take on Price’s contract as well, they’d likely include Wil Myers as their own “salary dump”.
What it’d mean for NYY and the rest of the MLB
Now, if Betts were to be traded, as mentioned earlier the entire state of the league would drastically change. If LAD were to get the former MVP, they would immediately jump to the top of the contenders list for the NL. If the Padres were to fenagle a deal and snag Betts, they would likely be a contender for the division — although their rotation & backend of the LU would still be up in the air. The point is, wherever Betts goes, would have a massive residual effect on the rest of the league. Boston would still be competitive, but they’d be accepting the fact that they need to start thinking about a rebuild. Having pieces like Bogaerts, Sale, and Benintendi long-term could help them avoid the out-right “rebuild”. While I think Sale is on the down in his career, the opposite can be said about Bogaerts. Pairing that with the likes of a T100 — or better — prospect that would be received in the Betts trade, and an MLB ready player as well, and they have something in the works. I am a fan of Verdugo, and think if Boston are to get him in a Betts trade — of course, hypothetically — that would be the best option. Verdugo is already a 3 WAR player, mainly because of his incredible defense at all OF positions, paired with a high contact percentage and solid speed. I view Verdugo as Melky Cabrera but with good defense. As for May, he’s got all the stuff to be an ace in the future. He’s valued extremely highly across the entire major leagues, and very much so in the eyes of the Dodgers.
If Betts is to go to LA, the DAY OF, there would be an insane amount of articles crowning the Dodgers as 2020 World Series Champions. If Boston is to trade Betts, as a Yankee fan I would be concerned. I think that having Mookie in Boston is the best option for NYY, as I don’t see Boston as contenders. I would much prefer Betts’ talents to be wasted on an above-average team, than a World Series contender. I’d much rather him be in Boston than in San Diego, because that Padres team has a scary bright future. They have the funds to bring in Betts — ultimately I feel like SD are the NL Yankees of old, as that front office doesn’t care how much money they shell out. Putting Betts in a LU that already features the likes of Tatis, Pham, and even the bang-average Eric Hosmer, would make them objectively better. Add to that numerous talented young-guys barking for a spot on the Major League roster.
Boston’s LU, would falter — as any team’s would when they lose a perennial MVP candidate — but it wouldn’t collapse. Boston last season only won 84 games, and this year I project them to win right around the same. If they were to trade Betts, I do think they’d drop to the fourth spot in the AL East, but not be dramatically out of the picture. Boston will always be competitive, and they’ll always have a rotating door of talent. With that, losing Betts would be a big loss, but they’d still be alright for this season, and better off for the future. As mentioned, having Xander Bogaerts, JD Martinez, and Andrew Benintendi in your lineup, there’s the chance at achieving something great. Boston’s future right now is basically Bobby Dalbec and Triston Casas, who was ranked 77th on MLB’s T100 prospects. The chance that Betts is to resign in Boston is next to zero percent, so Boston are actively trying to get whatever they can for him, naturally. With that, I don’t expect Boston to accept any low-ball offers, unless it gets to the trade deadline and Betts is still a Red Sock.
Anywhere Betts goes to, that team will get objectively better. This isn’t even a question, as Betts at his worst, posted a 4.8 fWAR paired with a 120 wRC+ back in his rookie year in ’15. Since then, he’s not posted below 5.0 fWAR, and his wRC+ — while its been a bit up and down — has a low of 107 and a high of 185. Getting a player who posts an average of 6 WAR and a wRC+ of 130 is a massive weapon.
If I had to give my prediction as to what happens, I expect Mookie to be shipped off to LAD, or even LAA. If he were to be sent to the Angels, I think they’d send over Justin Upton — for salary purposes — and include Brandon Marsh as well. There’s even that chance that Boston ship Price with him to LAA, which would give the Angels a “weapon” in their rotation. LAA have been very active this free agency, and there’s a chance they shock even more people and pursue Mookie.
Keep your eyes out for more trade proposals and rumors centered around Mookie Betts in the coming weeks.