In each of the last two offseasons, the Giants pursued a star outfielder. Could the third time be the charm?
Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts could be the crown jewel this offseason, with the AL East power publicly saying it will be "difficult" to keep Betts and outfielder J.D. Martinez. The 2018 AL MVP's teammates are preparing for a season without him, and Boston reportedly has set its asking price.
SNY's Matthew Cerrone reported Tuesday that the Red Sox would "need to replace [Betts] in the lineup, add an affordable, team-controlled, mid-rotation starter and bring in at least two top 100 prospects" if they traded him. Unsurprisingly, there would be no shortage of suitors.
Citing "league insiders," Cerrone wrote that the San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers could be "capable of putting together an appealing package for Betts." If the Los Angeles Dodgers were interested, the Red Sox "would likely ask for" outfielder Joc Pederson and right-handed pitcher Kenta Maeda, in addition to the pair of prospects.
So, how could the Giants fit in this mix? According to MLB Pipeline and Baseball America, San Francisco has four top 100 prospects in its system: Catcher Joey Bart, outfielder Heliot Ramos, shortstop Marco Luciano and outfielder Hunter Bishop. The Giants have begun to re-stock their bare prospect cupboard over the last two years, and Bart and Ramos could continue their climb through the team's minor-league system and move to Triple-A as soon as next season. Luciano just turned 18 last month, while Bishop just completed his first season in pro baseball.
Those four are the Giants' brightest sources of hope, but it's fair to wonder if they -- or, frankly, any prospect -- can ever reach the level Betts has. Even in a down 2019, Betts rebounded down the stretch and ultimately still was worth 6.6 Wins Above Replacement by Fangraphs' measure. He has been far more productive up to this point in his career than top 2019 free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado were. Trading prospects always is a gamble, but Betts is likely to live up to his price tag.
The Giants could pay one portion of it, but they probably don't have the major league talent to match the Red Sox's reported asking price. While Kevin Pillar could entice Boston, big-money starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto would seem to be bad fits for a team looking to shed payroll.
Of course, the Red Sox don't have a lot of leverage. They've made it known they want to get below the competitive balance tax, and teams aren't going to want to give one of baseball's richest any kind of help. Even though Boston would have a 28-team bidding war on its hands if it decided to trade Betts, the Red Sox wouldn't be in an advantageous position with their desperation to shed salary so widely known.
Boston might make it all moot and trade Martinez instead, but it goes without saying that pursuing a trade for Betts is worth the Giants' time. The same can be said for the rest of baseball.
It certainly would make missing out on Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper in back-to-back offseasons much easier for the Giants to swallow.