Atlanta Braves Listed as Potential Suitor for Mookie Betts
As the MLB season comes to a close, the trade rumors have started to heat up. One trade rumor, in particular, has caught the attention of many in Braves Country. That would indeed be the whispers about Mookie Betts getting traded to Atlanta.
Adding Betts would add a significant boost to an already potent Braves lineup, and MLB.com writer Mike Petriello ranks Atlanta second among potential trade partners for the superstar right fielder. The Boston Red Sox are currently entering an uncertain future and could be looking to have a salary dump this offseason by trading Betts, and others. On the other hand, the Atlanta Braves are coming off another disappointing postseason exit and are looking to finally get over the hump in 2020.
So, what would a Mookie Betts trade to Atlanta look like, and could this really happen? Let’s find out.
Resume of Mookie Betts
First off, let’s take a look at Betts’ resume. He is regarded as one of the game’s superstars, and the stats back it up. Betts is still in his prime (27 years old), he’s a World Series champion, a three-time Gold Glove winner, four-time All-Star, and an MVP Award winner.
Also, over the last four years, Betts ranks second in MLB in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) — only sitting behind Mike Trout. The leaderboards look like this:
Betts is also a career .301 hitter and has hit 139 home runs, drove in 470 runs, and successfully stolen 126 bases.
Will the Red Sox Trade Betts?
It’s not every day that a player of Betts’ caliber comes along — which makes this a difficult decision for the Red Sox front office. As much as Boston wants to re-sign Betts to a long-term contract, he has made it clear that he wants to test free agency after next season. He is in his walk year and will be owed around $27 million in 2020. Things should get even more interesting after the Red Sox hired Chaim Bloom as their chief baseball officer. Bloom will immediately be tasked with finding out what to do with the Betts situation.
“As we’ve said, we think [Betts is] one of the great players in baseball, and we would, in a perfect world, like to figure out a way for him to continue to be a player for us for his career,” Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said. “But he had the right to test free agency. We’ve had conversations with him in the past, and Chaim and his group will lead conversations going forward.”
Although it is subject to change, the Red Sox have a payroll total of $233,050,000 on the books for 2020. $79 million of that is committed to three starting pitchers, and it might be difficult to stay below the threshold with both J.D. Martinez and Betts.
The front offices’ decision about what to do with Betts will have a major impact on who manager Alex Cora will plug into the lineup.
“He’s a guy that is a complete player,” Cora said, “and also a complete person. Obviously, he’s a game-changer. But at the same time, he’s a franchise player. We know that. But at the same time, obviously, those conversations are going to come up, not only with the organization and the front office and ownership, but with the player.”
The Braves Case for Betts
The Braves enter the 2020 season fresh off their second straight NL East division title. They boast one of the best farm systems and have some of the top young talent in all of MLB. Adding Betts would further cement the Braves as one of the best teams in the NL and help them make their push for that elusive World Series title.
Atlanta has been cautious in the past with not wanting to give up their highly-regarded prospects in a trade. But now seems the perfect time to make a splash. Superstars Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Mike Soroka are in their prime, and Freddie Freeman, the face of the Braves franchise, is a Free Agent in 2021. Although it seems rather evident that Freeman will remain a Brave for the rest of his career, nothing is guaranteed until it happens. While the price could be rather steep, and Betts has just one year of team control, the Braves could strike while the iron is hot. After all, the Braves have the financial flexibility, deep farm system, and needs in the outfield to make a trade for Betts.
Adding Betts’ salary will almost replace what the Braves were paying Josh Donaldson this season. Considering that the Braves don’t re-sign Nick Markakis, they will have a spot open in right field. Also, top-prospects Cristian Pache and Drew Waters are not expected to be ready for Opening Day in 2020. As Mike Petriello wrote, “It won’t be easy to hold off the Nationals and Phillies again in 2020, and then you still have the Dodgers to get through in the playoffs. Better have Betts on your side than have to face him.”
What the Braves Might Have to Give Up
Obviously, an elite player like Betts is going to bring a haul of talent — whether or not he is in his walk year. Even though all 29 teams in baseball would like to acquire Betts, most teams don’t have the resources it will take to obtain him. However, the Braves have an abundance of young talent in order to pull this off.
If the Braves and Red Sox start talking about a potential trade, Boston will assuredly ask Atlanta about both Pache and Waters. But considering the value the Braves place on both of these youngsters, it’s unlikely that they part ways with either. The Braves do have the young pitching talent to sway the Red Sox if they are serious about parting way with Betts.
Here’s what a trade for Betts might look like:
Braves get: Mookie Betts
Should the Braves Do it?
If the Red Sox asking price is too steep, expect Alex Anthopoulos and the Braves front office to stay away. The Braves could go after another star in free agency that they could lock up in a multi-year deal, such as Yasiel Puig or Marcell Ozuna. Or, they could go the cheaper route by re-signing Nick Markakis or having Adam Duvall take over in left field — at least until Pache is ready.
If Betts’ contract had more control, let’s say two or three years left, then the Braves might not be as hesitant to part with either Pache or Waters. But with all the young talent the Braves have in the majors—and all that’s on the way—it seems like the smart move to not overpay at this point.
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