We all knew Mookie Betts was going to get traded, it was just a matter of when and where to.
With the 2018 American League Most Valuable Player set to hit free agency after the 2020 and him and the Red Sox apparently very far apart on contract discussions, it was inevitable Betts would be traded before he could walk for nothing. And, well, before the Red Sox had to pay him anywhere near the $20 million he’s asking for, something they’re clearly not interested in doing.
On Tuesday night, Betts was traded along with David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for young outfielder Alex Verdugo and prospect Brusdar Graterol, who the Dodgers picked up in exchange for pitcher Kenta Maeda.
If you’re a Red Sox fan? This sucks. But we aren’t Red Sox fans, so who cares? From a Blue Jays fan perspective? This is fantastic.
I mean, to be somewhat fair to the Red Sox, Betts has always stated that he wants to test out free agency, so logic suggests getting something for him before we can walk for nothing is the prudent move.
But that isn’t what this is about. This is the Boston Red Sox, a team known for swinging its dick around with reckless abandon when it comes to payroll, being cheap. This is the Boston Red Sox acting like they’re the Arizona Diamondbacks (who traded away Paul Goldschmidt one year before free agency last winter).
Mookie Betts is one of the most talented Red Sox players ever. The team just traded him away in-part to get under the luxury tax. Let that one sink in
— Steve Perrault (@Steve_Perrault) February 5, 2020
I mentioned earlier when discussing these Sox-related rumours that the absolute best-case scenario for a rival of Boston would be for them to attach Price’s contract to Betts in a trade because it would completely sink what they would get in return.
Betts is probably the best non-Mike Trout player in the game and, even as a rental, would have netted the Sox a huge return. But with Price attached, all they were able to get back was Verdugo, a pretty good young outfielder, and Graterol, a scratch-ticket prospect with major upside. The reason L.A. was able to pull this off without giving up Gavin Lux, baseball’s No. 2 ranked prospect, was because they did Boston the favour of taking on Price.
This deal isn’t about getting Verdugo or getting Graterol. It’s about Boston re-setting their luxury tax. They had to pay a $13.4 million bill for having baseball’s biggest payroll this season, which is clearly too much for John Henry, whose property called Fenway Sports Group (which owns the Red Sox, Liverpool FC, and Roush Fenway Racing, and other stuff) was recently valued at $6.6 billion.
Players as good as Betts are hard to come by. The likelihood that Verdugo becomes anything near what Betts is right now is pretty unlikely. Hell, even Price, when healthy is still a pretty good starter. He’s expensive, sure, but his 3.62 FIP in 2019 suggests he can still contribute. For a team that’s expected to be competitive every single season, this trade certainly isn’t going to help the Red Sox win. I’ll eat my words if over the off-season they use the money they saved to make the team better, but if that were the plan Dave Dombroski would still be their general manager.
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) February 5, 2020
Here’s to hoping that giving away a franchise player in a cash grab works out as poorly for the Red Sox as it did a century ago.