Well, it looked like Chaim Bloom and the Boston Red Sox were close to pulling off one of the greatest robberies Major League Baseball had seen in a long time. Back in February Boston traded former MVP and Cy Young Award winners Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Up until recently, it seemed entirely possible that Betts could go the entirety of the 2020 season without ever suiting up in that Dodger blue before hitting free agency, while Bloom would escape with one of the best hitting prospects in baseball in Alex Verdugo and what projects to be an everyday infielder in Jeter Downs.
Although a game has yet to be played this season, the developments over the past few months have really changed how people should look at this trade.
Not much has changed for Betts in terms of on-field expectations heading into a 60-game schedule. The Dodgers remain as the favorite to come out of the National League. Where COVID-19 and an abridged schedule may hurt Betts is when he hits the open market this winter.
Betts Likely to Seek Short-Term Deal
Betts and the Red Sox failed to reach a long-term extension for years. He wanted to hold out for his big payday after the 2020 season. Many expected Mookie to ink for upwards of $300 million or even — however unlikely — $400 million like Mike Trout. It’s time to question whether Betts will ever get the contract that he so patiently waited for.
The money this offseason won’t be anywhere near the mark that Betts and the rest of the league expected due to the lack of revenue Major League Baseball will bring in in such a short season. If Betts were to sign long-term this winter he likely wouldn’t sniff the $300-plus million he was looking for. The more likely scenario is that Mookie along with other big names — J.T. Realmuto, George Springer, Marcus Semien — may look to sign one-year deals in hopes that the market will bounce back by next winter.
Betts, Boston Reunion Unlikely
If you’re among the camp that was holding out hope for Boston to make a run at Mookie Betts once he hits free agency, you may want to start moving on now. Betts only seeking a one-year deal means that more teams may be interested in the former MVP. Especially teams that want to load up for a run at the title without a long-term commitment.
The biggest factor that could keep Boston out of the running for their old friend remains the luxury tax. John Henry and the Sox brass made it known — although they tried to backtrack — that they wanted to get below the luxury tax threshold this offseason. Where the issue arises is that if the 2020 season doesn’t conclude. If another COVID-19 outbreak resurfaces and the season can’t finish, the luxury tax penalties won’t reset. If that situation turns to reality, Boston will be handcuffed financially for yet another offseason which would rule out a Betts reunion next season.
Mookie will be entering his age 28 season in 2021. If the market fails to completely bounce back within the next couple of seasons, it’s entirely possible that Betts won’t ever get the contract he’s sought for so many years.
Contrary to Betts, Verdugo has significantly benefitted from Opening Day being pushed back so far. He’s benefited both from a health perspective as well as a public perception in the eyes of Boston fans.
Verdugo Finally Healthy
The outfielder likely wasn’t going to be ready to start the season had it kicked-off at the end of March; his ETA was set for the start of May. Verdugo hasn’t played in a game since August 4 and hadn’t started swinging a bat until this past March.
On a recent Zoom call manager, Ron Roenicke made some optimistic remarks about his new outfielder. He noted that Verdugo may be more prepared than any of his players ahead of Spring Training 2.0. He has been rehabbing and practicing in Fort Meyers in the meantime at the team’s Spring Training facility.
The downside of this is obviously that he hasn’t gotten any in-game action in nearly a full calendar year.
It’s safe to say that much of Red Sox Nation wasn’t thrilled when the team shipped Betts out of town; No matter how good Verdugo performed he was going to be a tough sell for the fans. Beginning the season on the injured list wasn’t going to be the greatest first impression in Boston either; especially being the replacement to one of the franchise’s best homegrown talents.
Updated Trade Verdict
Overall, this trade currently makes sense for both sides. The Dodgers have been sniffing a championship for years and now have perhaps the most talented roster in baseball. The team is rostering former AL and NL MVPs in Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger; not to mention two former Cy Young Award winners in Price and Clayton Kershaw. These two will add to one of the best young pitchers in the game, Walker Buehler. The Dodgers are in win-now mode and have successfully made their 2020 roster more talented.
Boston wins on the fact that even if they kept Mookie around for a year they wouldn’t have had the pitching staff to make any sort of noise. 2020 will be a retooling season for Boston. They now have an exciting young player who didn’t have to rush back from injury. Not to mention that the fans may only have to suffer through a down season for 60 games as opposed to 162.
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