The Boston Red Sox are seeking ways to reduce payroll, a blockbuster package containing Mookie Betts and David Price would achieve that goal.
On Friday, August 24, 2012, there were rumblings all across sports media that the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers were discussing a mega trade. The deal was reported to be centered around Adrian Gonzalez. Less than 24 hours later the trade was complete, and Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto were all sent to Los Angeles.
Boston managed to shed nearly a quarter-billion dollars in salary relief. But more than that, three of the most notable faces of the infamous “beer and chicken” team from a year earlier, would no longer be negatively influencing the clubhouse.
The sudden financial flexibility paved the way for Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, and Koji Uehara to arrive at the following Red Sox spring training. Eight months later, the duck boats rolled down Boylston Street.
Newly hired Chief Baseball Officer, Chaim Bloom certainly has a mess on his hands after inheriting several large contracts, many of which are hardly sustainable. Red Sox ownership has an expressed goal of getting below the luxury tax threshold of $208 million this winter.
Doing so will not be all that difficult due to so many players departing for free agency. However, simultaneously filling areas of need and ensuring future sustainability will be impossible while staying below the CBT.
A solution could be to use a little bit of creativity by drawing up trade scenarios this winter. For myself, that’s part of the intrigue of bringing in a new top executive.
Right away some of you are probably thinking, “What team in their right mind would take on such a massive salary?” For starters, it would have to be a win-now team. Cough, Texas, Cough.
Another aspect people need to think about, is that taking on huge money is not always necessarily a scary proposition as long as it’s short term. Price has a balance of $96 million owed to him for the next three seasons. Mookie is projected to get $27 million in his final year of arbitration. So for both players, that puts the overall combined total to $123 million.
For perspective, that figure is only half the amount of what the Dodgers took on for salary back in the 2012 Red Sox trade. Furthermore, after the conclusion of the first season (after 2020) of this mock trade, $59 million will come off the books. All that would remain is $32 million annually in each of the following two seasons for Price. The risk is more minimal when you look at the actual breakdown.
A team that agrees to this deal will be receiving an outfielder who will give them MVP type production, as well as supreme motivation to put up the biggest offensive numbers possible before he hits free agency the next winter, as well as a pitcher capable of winning around 20 games.
Even though Price is coming off the worst season of his career, several factors could play a part in an impressive bounce-back season, one of those being a change of scenery. A second dust-up last season with Dennis Eckersley was an unnecessary distraction in the clubhouse. The Sox ace also took himself out of two scheduled starts against the Yankees. Separation from this fan base could certainly result in a source of motivation.
Another factor might be if the balls are less juiced than in 2019. Pitchers last season were less inclined to try to induce fly ball outs for fear of giving up home runs, which were definitely an epidemic in the first half. A return to more normal baseballs would be far less taxing on starting pitchers.
At least six or eight teams could be viable dance partners depending on how they evaluate their areas of need. Virtually any big market team outside of the New York Yankees or Chicago Cubs would be in play. Mid-market teams like the Minnesota Twins and Cincinnati Reds could also jump into the sweepstakes given the fact the deal would be short, and their respective divisions are wide open.
One team to watch out for is the Atlanta Braves. Alex Anthopoulos, their current GM/VP previously acquired Price from the Detroit Tigers back in 2015 ahead of the July trade deadline while he was serving as the GM of the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto went to win the American League East for the first time in two decades, as well as reaching game six of the ALCS before losing to the Kansas City Royals.
It would not even be the first reunion Anthopoulos has had since taking the Atlanta job. Last winter he signed third baseman Josh Donaldson to a one-year/$23 million contract. It was a risky move since the 33-year-old was limited to just 52 games in 2018. However, the gamble paid off as Donaldson had 37 home runs, and 94 RBI this past season, not to mention a 6.1 WAR.
The Los Angeles Dodgers also might be a fit. Surely they’re tired of ending every season without a championship despite coming so close in recent years. The Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals might also pursue upgrades and have the means to do so.
One final thing to consider. Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon will each command at or above $300 million each this winter. So if you’re a team in win-now mode, and already has a talented core of players, would you rather spend the combined $600 million on those two free agents? Or would you rather spend just $123 million and still have some available financial resources?
It’s all about imagination, creativity, and value.