Mookie Betts on the Trade Block?

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I find it weird that this even a question, but here we are! Multiple reports have come out over the last few days about the Red Sox entertaining the idea about trading one of the game’s premier players, Mookie Betts. When I first heard this, I thought the notion of the Red Sox even considering putting Betts on the trade block was absolutely bananas. Why would you trade the face of the franchise, who is just about to hit his prime and is already one of the best players in baseball?

Well, you have to ask yourself, how the heck did we get here?trade block

Earlier this year Mookie Betts turned down an 8 year $200 million contract to stay in Boston. If you’re Mookie it makes sense considering you saw Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado get huge pay increases with their new contracts. Mookie isn’t stupid. He knows he’s better than Machado and Harper and is nipping at the heels of Mike Trout in terms of production. I’m sure if the Red Sox offered something north of $300 million Mookie might have considered giving in and agreeing to that sort of deal.

 

However, that is where the next issue lies, payroll. The Red Sox have the highest payroll in baseball and, if you haven’t noticed, are a bit strapped for cash. I guess making upgrades to the bullpen in the offseason is tough when you’re allocating almost $19 million to Pablo Sandoval for literally just existing at this point. It also doesn’t help that they owe Dustin Pedroia (who only has one functioning knee) almost $30 million over the next two years. David Price isn’t getting any younger either and is owed roughly $90 million over the next three years. In addition to these poorly managed and dead money contracts, the Red Sox used some additional payroll flexibility to sign Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts to long term deals.

I know I’m playing captain hindsight right now, but the less frivolous spending would have given the Red Sox a bit more flexibility to lock in one of the best players in baseball. Now, by trading Betts, I can only imagine they could use the assets to bolster a depleted farm system and maybe add some depth to their pitching staff.

Keeping Mookie Long Term? Or Is The Trade Block In His Future?

If the Red Sox somehow sign Betts to a massive contract, I don’t know where else they will be able to improve the rest of the team? The Red Sox can print money all they want, but being at the top of the payroll in baseball means you are subject to a high luxury tax. Now, if you want to pay that type of luxury tax, fine, but make sure you actually stay competitive and not pretend like everything’s okay (I’m looking at you, Dombrowski).

Let’s just hope both sides figure things out and are able to come to a common ground to benefit the team and the player. I want Mookie Betts to retire in a Red Sox uniform and have number 50 retired with the likes of Ortiz, Martinez, Williams, Fisk, Yaz, Boggs, etc. However, I also want this team to be competitive in the future.

Red Sox trade targets to look out for

A seemingly taxed bullpen and what’s been a thin starting rotation for a while now are problems forcing the Red Sox into considering outside options for their pitching staff. With Alex Cora confirming that Nathan Eovaldi will assume the closer role upon returning from the Injured List, a spot will remain open in the rotation. Red Sox trade targets have generally been bullpen arms the last few years, but that tune might be changing in 2019.

With a largely competitive field of teams still vying for wild card contention, the market is aRed Sox trade targets bit thinner than it has been in recent seasons. That being said, there are indeed arms that are reportedly being shopped, as sellers like the Mets, Blue Jays, and others will be looking to unload and rebuild.

If the plan for the Sox is to add a man in the rotation, there are some options on the market that might come a bit cheaper than relievers with multiple years before free agency. Let’s take a look at who some of these Red Sox trade targets might be.

RHP Zack Wheeler, New York Mets

Ken Rosenthal recently reported that the Red Sox were spotted scouting a recent start of Wheeler’s (and Matthew Boyd’s). With the Mets coming undone in another lost season, a move would make sense. While the ERA is an unimpressive 4.69, Wheeler has been able to eat up innings in New York. He has managed to work 6.0+ IP in 15 of his 19 starts, including 7.0+ IP in 9 of those starts. He has worked fewer than five innings just a pair of times, going 4.2 in each. For a Red Sox team starved for an innings eater, a low-cost soon-to-be free agent represents an excellent fit.

LHP Matthew Boyd, Detroit Tigers

Boyd has put together a career year, posting a very solid 3.87 ERA through 18 starts. He’s been the best pitcher on a poor Tigers team, but has done well in a division that features a number of solid teams like the juggernaut Twins, competitive Indians, and rising White Sox. There are two concerns, however: for one thing, he is still a few years away from free agency. With how much clubs value team control these days, Boyd will come at a high price. Not just that, but after being one of the AL’s best through mid-June, Boyd has regressed a bit. The southpaw has allowed 4 or 5 ER in each of his last 4 starts, after allowing more than 4 ER just twice through his first 14. Boyd would make another quality addition, but the fit might not be as strong.

RHP Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays

Red Sox fans might not jump all over this idea. But Stroman is having an excellent season, has always proven a tough out, and brings a swagger to the mound, which makes him a Red Sox trade target. A swagger that might energize the group. Stroman is one of the league’s best at producing high ground ball rates. In two starts against Boston this season, Stroman has allowed just 1 ER over 11 IP. His 3.18 ERA would automatically be the lowest among fellow Sox starting pitchers. What makes this deal difficult is that Toronto won’t trade a key player to a divisional rival for nothing. Like with Boyd, the Red Sox might be priced out of their comfort zone.

Swihart Designated for Assignment: A Confusing Move

When you begin a season 6-12, especially in a large market, fans react impulsively. If certain players get off to bad starts, people call for their heads. It is not necessarily fair, but it is the nature of a place like big-market Boston. With catcher Blake Swihart being let go after just 17 games, it indeed felt impulsive. Considering turmoil across the rotation, lack of bullpen depth, and an anemic offense, it indeed seemed time for a change. With Swihart designated for assignment, the Red Sox tried to solve a litany of issues by moving one role player, and it’ is hard to understand why.

With Swihart designated for assignment, the roster subtracted a versatile, cost-Swihart Designated for Assignmentcontrolled player yet to blossom. As Alex Cora tussled with how to use the former first round pick throughout 2018, the consensus was that he was a valuable trade chip that provided depth off the bench. The Red Sox never moved him, and it seemed to pay off in the second half after Swihart flashed his ability with increased playing time. 2019 was when Swihart was going to get a real shot at becoming the catcher of the future. Christian Vazquez would get his innings, but Swihart was going to get ample time on the diamond. But after just a handful of contests, a sputtering team decided to make a move. It just does not feel like the right one.

Swihart was never really given a clear path to a major role

With Swihart designated for assignment, it might easy to forget his origins. A first round pick, 26th overall out of New Mexico in 2011, he brought with him a Gatorade National Player of the Year award. The Red Sox drooled over his athleticism, seeing him as a steal at 26 in the first round. He surfaced in the bigs in 2015, which at the time felt a tad premature. He was solid across 84 games as a rookie, particularly showing defensive improvement as the season progressed. It was 2016 where the wheels came off. Trying to incorporate Vazquez back into the mix meant moving Swihart around the field to find playing time. After a nasty ankle injury in left field, it took him nearly two entire seasons to return to full health. From there, Swihart played spottily all over the place, and never settled in. Since the beginning of 2018, there has never been a clear spot for him, and that has now shown through with this DFA.

Removing Swihart hurts the team’s versatility

It is tough to make sense of why removing a cheap, young, versatile player was the best move. On a roster that has underwhelmed, Swihart at least provided intrigue. Despite management shifting his focus to catching in 2019, he still managed to appear at other positions. How could the Red Sox justify keeping him all last season, just to DFA him now? In comparison to other players such as Eduardo Nunez, who is relegated to the infield, why remove the guy that can move around the diamond? Sure, Swihart’s .213/.310/.385 slash line through 12 games played is unimpressive. But looking at what other role players have offered so far, it really is odd to make him the (first?) fall guy.

Perhaps there are issues off the field that the fan base does not know about. Maybe Blake Swihart was not a long term solution. Whatever the case, his days in Boston are numbered, and it remains to be seen what baseball holds for his future.

Phillies Acquisitions Will Make for a Tight NL East Finish

The Phillies had already won the off-season before the fateful day of February 28. That’s when news broke that they acquired the transcendent talent known as Bryce Harper. Signing the right fielder to a mega deal (13 years, $330 million) was a bold move by the Philadelphia brass. However, many other Phillies acquisitions have the club in position to take control of what suddenly has become a very competitive division.

Phillies acquisitions: The outfield

Bryce Harper: Despite a down year in 2018, Harper, along with Manny Machado, were the Phillies Acquisitionsprized possessions on the free market this winter. With talk about nine digit baseball contracts, the Las Vegas native had the chance to break the bank. It didn’t come until Spring training began, but it was worth waiting for. Harper, temporarily, was awarded the largest free agent contract in American sports history. If he can give the Phillies close to his 2015 MVP season production, the deal will pay for itself. If he is pedestrian (if .249/.393/.496 is pedestrian), then it’ll take more than Harper to vaunt the Phillies into first place.

Andrew McCutchen: Once one of the game’s brightest stars, McCutchen’s value has diminshed in recent seasons. However, despite a drop off in runs batted in, the former Pirate posted close to his career averages across many categories in 2018. Standing out among them was a .792 OPS, 30 doubles, and a near-career high 95 walks. However, his strikeout numbers are soaring, he’s on the wrong side of 30, and is relegated to the corner outfield positions. But there’s no doubt his value as a veteran presence around a relatively young Philadelphia team is a welcomed sight.

Phillies Acquisitions: The Infield

J.T. Realmuto: The Phillies acquired arguably the game’s best catcher in 2018, a first-time all-star and silver slugger award winner. Over just 125 games, Realmuto set career highs in runs (74), home runs (21), RBI (74), and OPS (.825). The backstop long ago requested a trade from the Miami Marlins, after team president Derek Jeter decided to fire sale most of the talent off the club. Without Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna, Realmuto was stuck on a hopeless squad. Now, he’s in position to contend.

Jean Segura: Widely considered one of the game’s most underrated talents, Segura, 29, is already on the fifth different team of his career. He previously had time with the Angels, Brewers, Diamondbacks, and most recently, the Mariners. The Dominican-born product has seen success everywhere he has played, and has two all-star appearances under his belt (2013, 2018). While a .766 OPS over the last two seasons is nothing spectacular, he has consistently been above-league average offensively. According to Fangraphs, only four shortstops have posted a higher wRC+ than Segura’s 117 over the past three seasons, and only six have produced more WAR.

Phillies Acquisitions: The Bullpen

David Robertson: A stellar 2017 season put Robertson on the upper echelon of late inning relievers. 2018 slowed down that narrative. A 3.23 ERA is a sizable regression from 1.82. But Robertson has been a rock throughout his 11-year career, logging over 60 innings pitched in each of his last 9 seasons. He brings closing experience to a club with a cavalry of veteran arms. He figures to be a key part of the division’s strongest bullpen.

Given the major talent overhaul in the city of brotherly love, do not be surprised to see the Phillies make a big jump in 2019. But they’ll have to get through talented squads in Washington, Atlanta, and New York to do so.

Mookie Betts Contract Extension: What Will it Take?

The last two off-seasons have been sour for many free agents, but a change appears to be on the horizon. Players have been outspoken about the level of talent left on the market well into March, including Mookie Betts. Are fears of failing to find mega deals in free agency causing players to sign extensions? Is a Mookie Betts contract extension next on the docket?

Elite players around the league are starting a trend

In recent weeks some of the top stars in the game such as Mike Trout and Nolan Betts Contract ExtensionArenado have signed massive contract extensions that eliminate them from their impending free agencies. Eloy Jimenez of the Chicago White Sox has not registered a single day of service time, yet just agreed to a six-year, $43 million deal.

Jimenez joins a list of names that also includes Ryan Pressly, Alex Bregman, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Nola, Whit Merrifield, and Carlos Carrasco. Studs like Bregman, Nola, and the aforementioned Severino are signing away arbitration and free agency years to make better money now.

Despite Bryce Harper and Manny Machado eventually getting the mega deals they so desired, many quality players have been left behind on the free market well into March and beyond. Would a move to get extended before the murky waters of free agency make sense for Betts, too? He does not seem to think so.

Where does a Mookie Betts contract extension come into play?

When asked in a media scrum about his openness to an extension, Betts had this to say: “Why not? You should definitely keep your ears open and see what is said. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to agree on or take whatever is given. Like I said, I love (Boston). I think this is great place to be to spend your career here. But that doesn’t mean you should sell yourself short.”

While Betts certainly does not close the door on a future deal, his stance has never wavered. As questions mount, with contract totals and AAV records being shattered, many believe the Red Sox outfielder is next in line for a huge pay day.

In terms of trying to set a price, the Red Sox already set the baseline. Betts confirmed a report by the New York Post’s Joel Sherman that he was offered an extension last offseason. He turned it down. The verdict? An eight-year, $200 million beast of a deal. But given what has transpired in recent weeks, Mookie Betts seems to be one step ahead.

Trout’s colossal deal of $360 million over 10 years might be a good measuring stick for Betts. In 2018, Betts won the AL MVP award, the AL batting title, a gold glove, silver slugger, and made his third consecutive All-Star team. If Trout can command a deal of that size, then Betts surely can. Betts might even be able to land more.

What might a Mookie Betts contract extension cost?

If Betts continues to level himself with Trout for the rights to be baseball’s alpha dog, he might hit it big. Let’s say Betts puts up comparable numbers to his 2018 MVP season, with some expected drop off. The native Tennessean led the league in average (346), slugging (.640), runs (129) and WAR (10.9). With that in mind, it is not farfetched to think Betts could be MLB’s first $400 million man. It seems likely the Betts will seek a 10-year deal in the neighborhood of Trout’s $360 million. If he continues to produce at this pace, Betts might blow us all out of the water.

Red Sox Breakdown Halfway Through Spring Training

The reigning champs sent postseason Red Sox hero David Price to the mound Tuesday. He made his first start since World Series Game 5 when he pitched seven dominant innings, allowing just three hits and one earned run — en route to being snubbed as World Series MVP (the award went to his teammate Steve Pearce).

spring training schedule

Price pitched 3 innings on Tuesday afternoon, allowing two hits, two earned runs, and two walks. He also struck out four and forced three ground outs in a losing effort.

So far in this edition of the Grapefruit League season, Boston owns a record of 7 wins and 11 losses. Rafael Devers, who many Boston fans expect to be the long-term answer at third base, leads the team with 11 hits in 23 at-bats. He is reportedly making a push for hitting third in the lineup this season. The Sox top prospect, Michael Chavis leads the team in home runs (4) and runs batted in (10) in 11 Grapefruit League contests. He was, nonetheless, demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket yesterday.

Starting rotation

Entering his fifth season as a starter is Eduardo Rodriguez, who leads the club with three Spring starts to date. Along with Rodriguez, locks to begin the regular season in the starting rotation are Rick Porcello, Price, Nathan Eovaldi, and Chris Sale.

Porcello made his Spring debut over the weekend (Sunday, March 10). He, along with Price, surrendered two runs in three innings. He also allowed two home runs on four hits while striking out one. Sale and Eovaldi have yet to pitch.

Relief struggles

The largest cause for concern is the Boston bullpen. Last season’s closer Craig Kimbrel (42 saves, 0.99 WHIP) is still a free agent and has yet to sign with a ballclub. Team general manager, Dave Dombrowski, has elected to promote 2019’s closer from within the organization. With the season starting on March 28, here is a quick glance at the Spring relief effort so far:

Matt Barnes – 2 innings, 3 earned runs; Tyler Thornburg – 4 innings, 7 earned runs; Brandon Workman – 5 innings, 4 earned runs; Colten Brewer – 5 innings, 5 earned runs; Bobby Poyner – 7 innings, 2 earned runs; Erasmo Ramirez – 8 innings, 6 earned runs.

Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez, both whom remain on the active roster, have each started two games this Spring and have allowed a combined 12 earned runs.

Plenty of depth

The light has shined bright on Darwinzon Hernandez and Marcus Walden.  Both have pitched 8 innings and allowed 1 earned run to this point. However, neither have yet to put together a full big league season in their careers, respectively. Jenrry Mejia has pitched 4 innings this Spring, but has not pitched in a regular season game since 2015 due to a previous lifetime ban from the MLB in 2016.

Two of 2018’s staples in the pen are Heath Hembree and Ryan Brazier. Neither have pitched to date.

There is still much to be sorted out for the Sox. Will starting ace Chris Sale be on a pitch limit this year due to last year’s issues of shoulder soreness and fatigue? Does Dustin Pedroia, who is being casted as the team’s starting second baseman, plate his first 500 at-bat season since 2016 due to his unshakable injury history? Can the 2019 Red Sox make it back to the playoffs, after falling to the bottom of the AL East in the two seasons following their last title in 2013? Good news is, it’s just about time for all of these questions, and many more, to be answered — with Opening Day just sixteen days away in Seattle.