Boston Red Sox: Mookie Betts trade was the right decision

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 05: Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates with teammates in the dugout after hitting a home run against the Minnesota Twins during the fourth inning at Fenway Park on September 05, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 05: Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates with teammates in the dugout after hitting a home run against the Minnesota Twins during the fourth inning at Fenway Park on September 05, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox had arguably one of the best players in all of baseball in Mookie Betts but moving him was nothing short of the right decision

When Mookie Betts was presented with a long-term offer to become a lifer in Boston, he said no. When the Red Sox approached him in each of the next couple of years trying to sign him during arbitration, Betts again said no. That was the first of many warning signs that he did not want to stay long term.

While baseball is a business, there should be no one that believes the comments he made to Red Sox great, Jim Rice. According to MLB Network Radio, when Betts uttered the words to Rice,

"“I told you before – I wanted to stay. It was a business deal, I can’t do anything about it. They chose to get that way, and I have to accept it.”"

I find it very difficult to believe that was the case when on numerous occasions the franchise attempted to make him the face of the team. It was only a matter of time before Betts either got traded, became disgruntled and left, or got tendered a deal as an unrestricted free agent getting nothing in return. The Sox were never going to do that and were never going to get 100 cents to the dollar. They did what they could in order to recoup some of the value.

The Dodgers and Padres appeared to be the only two teams willing to get involved in the Betts Sweepstakes. With the Pads eventually dropping out, that left Boston with only one true suitor and a limited number of players to choose from.

The Red Sox were not going to get the top flight talent that they wanted to, they had to settle for lesser pieces that can still in the future make a difference. The Twins at one point got involved to making it a three team deal but a failed physical negated the three team aspect, keeping Betts in Boston just a little while longer.

The feelings that kept Betts in Boston were met with a lukewarm nature. Boston had finally traded away a player that didn’t want Boston as much as he said he wanted them and fans had finally ripped the band aid off. Having the trade fall through was like ripping that band aid off to only deal with the injury that hadn’t healed.

Finally, a trade was approved sending Betts to LA for Alex Verdugo, Connor Wong, and Jeter Downs.

Red Sox & Dodgers Trade Evaluation 2020

While Verdugo came with emotional baggage and a nagging injury, the two prospects that came along in the deal have shown major promise especially now when the future looks bleak. Verdugo, when healthy, can prove to be a decent enough replacement in the outfield – nowhere near the ability and talent of Betts but it’s better than nothing. Other options don’t seem to be as great so we’re settling on Verdugo for now.

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Downs plays  shortstop and second base, two positions that had always plagued Boston until Xander Bogaerts took over. The issues at  second base might now be taken care of. A speedy option at either spot wouldn’t be a bad option. If he can also do some platoon work in the outfield, it could be interesting to see if he can take over for Betts’ vacated right field spot. I don’t think anyone could have or would have seen a player with the name “Jeter” playing in Boston not after who is recognized with that name now.

The last player in the deal, Wong, is a catching prospect with the ability to play both second and third base. He’s a little older than Downs with the ability to play multiple infield positions. You can’t go wrong with that especially with the exit of the Swiss Army knife – Brock Holt departing for Milwaukee this offseason. Still with everything done (finally), was this the right move?

Evaluating Betts in LA

There’s no question that the Red Sox got major value back. Could they have gotten more? I think it’s fair to say that they should have but as the deal is now complete, that is a moot point now. While Red Sox fans will think that they should have gotten more in the deal, one has to ask, did the Dodgers get the best player in baseball? The answer to that question is no. The best player in baseball has been and will continue to be Mike Trout. A 3-Time MVP in the American League and 4-Time Top-2 Finisher. The guy is on another level.

Betts figures to be one of the better hitters in LA but is he better than other players on his team? Reigning MVP Cody Bellinger will still be the biggest home run threat since most doubt that his 2019 campaign was a fluke.

Betts and Bellinger have each hit 30+ home runs & 80 RBI’s twice in their career. Mind you, Bellinger has been in the league for three fewer seasons and is four years younger. You could give Bellinger less than half a season before he surpasses Betts’ total home run total.

So now we look at the fact that Betts did not sign a long term deal in Los Angeles and is making $27 million in 2020 a season that has still yet to begin because of the COVID-19 pandemic. If the 2020 season continues to get delayed and or cancelled, the Red Sox only look smarter for making this move. Not only were they able to get rid of a player who didn’t want to be here long term but they don’t have to deal with paying his contract any longer. Is he worth $27 million a year? Absolutely.

With that being said, will he still be worth $27 million in 8-9 seasons? Doubtful. I would expect a major decline at that point, making his (in his mind) fair contract of anything in the realm of $32-$34 million annual salary spanning 11-12 seasons ridiculous. Betts is not going to be good in years 9-12 of that contract. Maybe you get two seasons of value spanning those last four years but getting $60 million dollars worth of good baseball for over $120 million is a bad business decision. Boston made the right move here.

With that contract in mind, is it safe to assume that he will be fleeing in free agency in 2021, assuming 2020 counts as a season? Another one here, absolutely. If there’s one thing that we’ve learned from Betts thus far, it’s this: he’s a great ballplayer with limited loyalty. It’s the dollars that he’s after and it’s the dollars that one team will be willing to give him.

Next. Verdugo on the path to recovery from stress fracture. dark

Time will tell if he can turn himself back into a great 30/30 candidate hitting above .300 with over 100 RBIs. I think it’s possible and the remainder of his career will be one to watch closely.