The Boston Red Sox may be on the verge of trading the most talented player they have ever developed, but several obstacles are in the way.
Newly hired Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer, Chaim Bloom, is presently attending the MLB GM meetings, which are currently underway in Phoenix, Arizona. Executives from every Major League team will be on hand, as well as representatives for many of the sport’s top free agents.
Historically not many major trades or signings will occur during this annual meet-and-greet. Rather all of the aforementioned parties will essentially get a sense of the types of markets that might potentially develop for the transactions they will try to pursue ahead of next month’s Winter Meetings.
For Boston’s new top executive, the most prominent task on his agenda will be to finally have a resolution on Mookie Betts‘ future with the club. Bloom will be meeting with representatives this week for his MVP right fielder, but whatever their actual goal truly is, remains open to interpretation.
The front office has said numerous times that getting below the luxury tax (CBT) threshold of $208 million is the ideal goal but not necessarily a mandate. It’s a nice idea, but when other teams have been informed that all of Boston’s starting pitchers are available for trade, as well as a couple of specific outfielders, it certainly seems like a definite mandate.
On his own accord, Betts has publicly maintained since before the start of the 2017 season that he has no intention whatsoever of signing an early extension with his current club. He reiterated those exact same sentiments to the Boston media during clubhouse interviews this past September. It would be a stunning turn of events if suddenly both sides lay down the framework of any such extension following their meeting this week.
As Jon Heyman points out, trading the 2018 American League MVP could also be a very tall task. With only one year remaining on his deal, only a “win-now” type team would be interested. The Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers come to mind as both have assets, and each has fallen just short of a championship the last few years.
If Boston has a high asking price for Betts, inquiring teams might instead pursue the services of infielder Francisco Lindor, who brings far better value with two years of control remaining. As well as four consecutive All-Star appearances, and World Series experience.
The Cleveland Indians have been known to wheel-and-deal. They received a huge haul for trading Trevor Bauer in a blockbuster three-way deal last July with the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres. Not to mention smaller trades with the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners.
Another alternative trade to Betts is the 2016 National League MVP, Kris Bryant. Like Lindor, the Chicago third baseman also has two years remaining on his deal. However, this is pending a grievance against the Cubs in regards to his service time being manipulated.
If Bryant wins his case, he would reach free agency a year earlier than currently scheduled. Arbiters will rule on the issue in the coming days and his market will become more clear.
Another scenario would be a one for one swap with the New York Mets. Joel Sherman recently speculated that the Red Sox could send Betts to Queens for Noah Syndergaard.
In 2014, Jon Lester was dealt from Boston to Oakland in a similar trade for Yoenis Cespedes after a contract agreement could not be reached with the longtime ace. Cespedes was parlayed to the Tigers the following winter for Rick Porcello.
Syndergaard is controllable for the next two seasons, however, his projected $9.9 million arbitration price tag is still problematic for the Red Sox in terms of getting below the CBT.
Also problematic is that the burly Mets pitcher has often been a central figure in what has been perceived by many observers as a troublesome clubhouse. As the Jacob deGrom contract negotiations were getting sorted out, Syndergaard was very outspoken against his own organization for not getting a deal done with his Cy Young-winning teammate.
Syndergaard was asked by Mets training staff in April of 2017 to undergo an MRI on his shoulder. He refused that request and then exited his next start with a torn lat muscle.
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So as a Red Sox fan ask yourself this question: Is this the type of player you want to add into a clubhouse that David Price also occupies?
One final question on the Betts saga: Why was there no trade buzz surrounding him last summer? There are no known rumors or reports of any teams seeking to acquire him. Perhaps Boston simply wasn’t willing to entertain the idea of dealing him as the playoff picture was dimming. But surely they were in a position to be open-minded?
A lack of interest this winter in Mookie would be extremely unfortunate. Especially if the team does ultimately fail to get below the $208 million CBT threshold, and returns in 2020 with the same shoddy rotation and bullpen from last season.
Having a player with only one remaining year of control at a staggering arbitration price tag of $28 million is a unique situation. Especially in an era of advanced analytics.
Fortunately for the Fenway faithful, Chaim Bloom has made a successful career out of being open-minded, and at times unconventional. If there is a pathway for trade, he will have the creativity to execute it. If that trade does materialize, Boston fans should immediately resign themselves to the fact it will almost certainly not be the blockbuster they once imagined.