This year’s MLB offseason provided a very strong free-agent class. However, even with just less than a month to go before Spring Training and no elite free agents still on the market, possibilities for a huge move that could shape up a team’s chances for the upcoming season still remain wide open.
Red Sox outfielder and 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts is amongst the players which are heavily rumored to be on their way out and traded to another team prior to the start of the 2020 MLB season. In the past two years, the right fielder has been one of the best players in baseball, posting 17.0 WAR, with only the dominant force of Mike Trout being more valuable since the beginning of the 2018 MLB campaign.
Last year, Betts posted 6.7 WAR and reached his fourth straight MLB All-Star Game. Earlier in December, the Nashville native got $27 million for 2020, smashing the record for a player in his last year of arbitration eligibility, settling with Boston to avoid arbitration. But trade rumours haven’t disappeared – in fact, they’ve become stronger.
That’s how the candidates are now down to two teams – the Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers. And, believe it or not, San Diego is starting to gain advantage. The latest on the case makes it even more believable that a Betts move could happen soon, but, as Kevin Acee reported on Tuesday, uncomfortable contract situations might be standing in the way – that stands for both Mookie and Wil Myers, a potential piece in the Padres side of the deal, owed $61 million over the next three seasons.
Acee also listed other players that the NL West club might feature in a potential deal. Those include centerfielder Manuel Margot, outfielder Josh Naylor and starting pitchers Cal Quantrill and Joey Lucchesi, both of which could be a part of the Padres rotation to start the year.
So let’s see what the package could look like, taking into consideration every detail from insider reports from the past two days:
Padres get: OF Mookie Betts
Red Sox get: RF Wil Myers, CF Manuel Margot, CF Taylor Trammell
It’s not difficult to imagine why negotiations are so complicated for both sides. Considered here need to be the real value of the three Padres players getting shipped to Boston, as well as the distribution of Myers and Betts’ salaries.
In the following, we try to break down if the trade, in its current state, matches the needs and ambitions of both organizations and how both teams could make sure to take on the least amount of salary money.
What are they adding and losing?
It’d be difficult to impossible for the Red Sox to receive something that matches the loss of their best position player, and there’s no alternative if he doesn’t agree to a new contract. Whether the potential suitor is San Diego or Los Angeles, the downside is big since MacKenzie Gore and Gavin Lux are pretty much off the table. The Dodgers could also be reluctant to deal away pitcher Dustin May since he could be a part of the rotation no later than Opening Day.
So, unless the Dodgers offer to absorb a big chunk of Betts’ salary, the Padres look like the team that can give you more in prospect talent. Major League talent – that’s a whole new story.
Wil Myers has disappointed in the past two seasons, posting a -0.2 WAR in 2019. Manuel Margot has been a decent fielder throughout his MLB career but a dreadful batter that wouldn’t add much to the Red Sox lineup. And the Padres, now nearly completing their rotation for the upcoming season, are unlikely to offer an MLB starter in return for Betts.
Is Myers’ contract worth it?
Myers is signed to what is a runaway candidate for the worst contract in Major League Baseball right now, with the only competition being Chris Davis‘ deal with Baltimore. And if he’s indeed a part of the trade, Boston would need to take on at least 50 percent of the $61 million he’s owed in the next three years.
Needless to say, if his performance from 2018 and 2019 holds up, Myers is worth nowhere near $20 million/year and that could be a big hit for a team that has the task to open up payroll space with their next move. But they don’t have many other options – since May and Lux aren’t going anywhere and neither team is willing to give up MLB pitching, San Diego is the team that could give more to the Red Sox, and they would want to move on from Myers.
Can they stay in contention in 2020 without Betts?
The Red Sox are one big question mark before the Spring Training 2020. Boston is on the verge of losing its best asset, while the bullpen was 16th in ERA (4.40) and 6th in blown saves (28). The lineup remains very strong, and Chris Sale is in line to have a bounce-back year. The Red Sox, without Betts, are definitely far behind the Yankees, could be worse than Tampa Bay, but are a team capable of fighting for an AL Wildcard spot in 2020.
That doesn’t mean they’ll prioritise MLB-caliber return in the trade – don’t expect them to demand guys like Josh Naylor or someone similar instead of a prospect. The Red Sox know that they have to capitalise on Betts’ value and Taylor Trammell is the least they could hope to receive.
What are they adding and losing?
A Mookie Betts trade would mark the second offseason in as many years that the Padres have added an elite position player, after signing 3B Manny Machado to a massive deal last February. There are still some doubts whether they are ready to compete even with Betts in rightfield but at least nobody could doubt that as a lineup that could be terrifying for opposing sides, especially if Fernando Tatis Jr. stays healthy over the course of the whole 2020 campaign.
There are no doubts, however, on whether such a trade is worth it from the Padres’ point of view. If Margot leaves, Trent Grisham, newly acquired from the Brewers, could start in center, while Taylor Trammell, despite being SD’s No. 2 prospect, is an easy stock to get rid of as the Padres lead all MLB farm systems in prospect points and would get to keep Gore. Don’t forget – the Padres already traded Luis Urias in a deal with the Brewers, so they could be willing to do the same for Betts.
How valuable are Myers and Margot really?
Wil Myers and Manuel Margot have rarely been solid guys for a long period of time, and are even declining with every year. Their value, while on the downward spiral, still makes them seem like they have a lot of potential to fulfil. And, whether they really have a brighter future in store or not, with the way they’ve been trending and their reputations of good, not great players, they could be a minimal loss alongside an elite prospect.
Can the Padres take on less than 50% of Myers’ salary?
You don’t need to be an economist to know that, if the Padres take on all the money Myers and Betts are owed, they’re screwed. Teams’ track records when they spend reckless bucks haven’t been too good in recent memory. Those two front offices know that, especially since A. J. Preller’s staff is already giving to Machado what was for a couple of weeks the most expensive FA contract in history.
According to Kevin Acee, the Padres want to absorb only 25% of Myers’ salary while the Red Sox are willing to take on no more than 50 percent. It could be important to save as much as possible in order to leave the door open for future upgrades, even if that takes another top 10 prospect going to Massachusetts.