Mookie Betts Trade Talks Heating Up
Rumors have swirled all offseason about the fate of Mookie Betts. The Boston Red Sox have been exploring all sorts of avenues amidst the right fielder’s unwillingness to sign a long-term extension. While talks have been light until this point, a couple of factors have seriously changed the landscape of the discussions.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers have reportedly been interested in Betts, but only if the couldn’t land Francisco Lindor; that day seems to have come. The Cleveland Indians have remained adamant that they want Gavin Lux — the second-best prospect in baseball — included for Lindor. The Dodgers have made it clear, however, that their top prospect is off-limits in any sort of trade this winter. This impasse seems to have left negotiations for the shortstop dormant.
This shift has turned the Dodgers sights to Mookie Betts — the 2018 American League MVP. The Dodgers seem like the most likely landing spot for Betts at this point for a handful of reasons. In light of the events that have transpired with the Houston Astros this winter, the Dodgers will be playing 2020 with a vengeance. Los Angeles lost in the World Series in back-to-back seasons against teams who have since been accused of cheating. Another factor that could streamline negotiations is the relationship between the front offices. Dodgers’ president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman served as Chaim Bloom’s boss during their time with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Dodgers also have young Major League-ready talent that they seem willing to trade, unlike the Padres. Alex Verdugo seems to be the centerpiece of LA’s end of the deal. Verdugo slashed .294/.342/.475 in his first full season in the bigs last year. Verdugo’s defensive abilities would provide as a cheaper alternative to Betts in right field.
Corey Seager is a player that could make this trade interesting. Seager won the National League Rookie of the Year in 2016 while also being a finalist for the MVP. The shortstop is coming off a down season where he hit just .272/.335/.483. If Boston wanted to focus their return on Major League talent as opposed to a haul of prospects, Seager could be a viable avenue. The Red Sox have an open position at second base that Seager could slide into if he’s included in the package for Betts. Verdugo and Seager would both provide another left-handed bat in a heavy right-handed lineup.
Gavin Lux is certainly off the table for Boston. The team’s second-best prospect RHP Dustin May likely will be left out of any deal with the Sox as well. The next best would be infielder Jeter Downs and RHP Josiah Gray.
Downs, who is listed as a shortstop, has the potential to make a switch to second base by the time he’s estimated to break into the league in 2021. His contact ability looks promising for the possibility for him to turn into a home run hitter as he progresses. He was one of the featured pieces that were traded from the Cincinnati Reds for Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp.
Josiah Gray was also included in that trade from the Reds. Gray is a hard-throwing right-hander who has a dominant two-pitch combination with his fastball and slider. Although he’s been treated as a starter to this point his lack of pitches, and his velocity and command of his fastball could make him a prime candidate to move to the bullpen; a spot Boston is extremely thin at.
San Diego Padres
The new-age of the San Diego Padres began last offseason when they landed Manny Machado in free agency. Owning one of the best farm systems in baseball, the team had two options from that point on: they could sit back and wait for their young talent to develop, or they could cash-in those chips for solidified Major League talent. They seem to be exploring the latter.
San Diego was one of the finalists for Starling Marte before he was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Their focus is now on a much bigger fish in Mookie Betts. While the Padres have a superior farm system to the Dodgers, it seems like there could be a few more speed bumps in these discussions.
The Padres want to dump salary, similar to the Red Sox. Wil Myers is owed $61 million over the next three seasons, and David Price is owed $96 over that same time. Each side hopes for a team to take about half of each player’s contract in any potential trade. If a trade happens between Boston and San Diego, it seems unlikely that either side would want to take on the contracts of the other. Myers’ .239/.321/.418 slash-line probably won’t move the needle for Boston much anyways.
Joey Lucchesi just finished his second full season in San Diego and tossed 163.2 IP with a 4.18 ERA, 1.222 WHIP, and 8.7 K/9. Boston only has three starting spots solidified to this point: Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, and Eduardo Rodriguez. Anything after that is up in the air at this point. Adding a young starter like Lucchesi could be useful for the team in 2020.
Luis Campusano is the team’s fourth-ranked prospect. Campusano is a catcher expected to arrive in 2021. While his defense has proven it needs some work moving forward, he has shown much promise at the plate. The catcher hit .325/.396/.509 with 15 home runs and 81 RBI this past season in the California League. Even though Christian Vazquez had a breakout 2019 season, any team would be enticed by this sort of talent coming through the minors.
Dodgers Most Likely Landing Spot
While both the Dodgers and the Padres present interesting scenarios for Boston, LA seems like the frontrunner at this point. They seem like they’d be more willing to take on David Price’s contract, along with the fact that they have more talent to help the Red Sox win right now.