Red Sox: The financial positives of trading Mookie Betts
The financial plus of the Red Sox not signing Mookie Betts
When the Red Sox traded Mookie Betts who subsequently signed a massive deal with the Dodgers the comparisons began. The nature of the beast – trades – are comparisons and that usually narrowed down to Betts versus Alex Verdugo. Who wins? But it goes deeper than just Verdugo and prospects.
For the Dodgers, the returns on the deal were instantaneous with the Dodgers winning a World Series. Betts was his usual five-tool player in 2020 and finished second in the National League MVP balloting. Another Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award were added to the ever-growing Betts stash of impressive iron. Certainly a “win” for the Dodgers.
Meanwhile, Verdugo was a pleasant surprise. A solid hitter and an excellent defensive player. This season there has been a flip as Betts – with injuries contributing – has sunk. The numbers are not impressive for a $10 MM player let alone what Betts is hauling in. Verdugo has been steady and the Red Sox have been winning.
You see the postings on social media comparing both. You read and attempt to assimilate the long-term predictions for Betts as he goes deep into his contract. Is 2021 a harbinger of his future? Amazingly or not amazingly far too many Red Sox fans gloat over Betts’ (hopefully) off-season.
The Red Sox also siphoned off two prospects that could be note-worthy. Catcher Connor Wong has already had a brief Boston surfacing and impressed. Infielder Jeter Downs is plugging away at Worcester and remains a top prospect. Then there is the real issue for me and that is David Price.
Price was not an awful signing, but certainly a very questionable one. Price had his personality difficulties with media, fans, and possibly teammates. He also had an immovable contract or was that an assumption? Apparently, it was as moveable as the ugly contract handed out to Carl Crawford during a previous administration. The Dodgers took Crawford and they took Price.
Boston was not completely off the financial hook. They pay half the freight on the Price tab at $16 MM a year. The old half a loaf axiom kicks in. Boston was willing to pay to get rid of Price. This was similar to other situations such as Pablo Sandoval where a team simply takes a poison pill, but in this instance, it was not fatal thanks to the Dodgers.
If Price had remained, Boston would be in a serious luxury tax situation. And performance-wise I doubt Price would accomplish any more than he has for LA. So far in 2021 Price is a bullpen operative and even has one save. His only career save. He has made only four starts for the Dodgers this season with the last being before the All-Star break. Price tossed three scoreless innings against the Diamondbacks.
If Price had remained in Boston I doubt very much he would be considered more than middle to bottom of the rotation pitcher. What’s more, is nagging injuries in Boston were surfacing with greater regularity. Time missed. In Boston, Price would become the latest of a long list of fan targets for underperforming and being overpaid. In LA he is just one of many on a star-studded cast.
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The cost savings is important. Boston signed no big tickets in the offseason but when you look at the contracts of Hunter Renfroe, Enrique Hernandez, Marwin Gonzalez, and Danny Santana you get about $16 MM.
Just how much flexibility would be available if Price was still on the Boston ledger? Maybe you can flip it around and put reliever Hirokazu Sawamura and starter Garrett Richards in there. That money was put to good use. Mix and match several would not be here if Price remained.
Price may have a negative feeling from the locals and I am certainly one, but Price also is rather noteworthy for his generosity. Last season Price handed out $1,000 to each Dodger minor league player as a COVID-19 offset.
After the 2022 season, the Red Sox will have Prices’ $16 MM luxury tax hit off the books. The bad news is the $2 MM to Dustin Pedroia and Manny Ramirez will remain. The Bobby Bonilla deferred salary conundrum.
The Betts trade will continue to have outcomes of comparisons and hopefully, for Red Sox fans it will be positive. If Downs performs as predicted the Red Sox may have a nugget. If Wong impresses next spring he could slide in behind Christian Vazquez. Then you can go to the next level and that is the cost savings of not having Betts’ contract. It is a good story for another time. How is that money being allocated? That could even represent a longer-term positive than just the Price contract. This is clearly a time will tell deal.