Red Sox

Five potential landing spots (and one wild card) for Mookie Betts

Five potential landing spots (and one wild card) for Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts would improve any team in baseball, but only a handful of clubs check the boxes that justify acquiring the defending MVP, should the Red Sox make him available.

The first is money. He's going to earn a little under $30 million in arbitration and anyone who can't afford that need not apply.

The second is a deep farm system. The Red Sox must replace him with young talent that's close to major league ready, with at least one potential impact player as the centerpiece of any deal.

The third is a legitimate chance to contend in 2020 (or at least that belief, even if it's misguided), because acquiring Betts means you're going for it. Otherwise, what's the point?

Punch all of that data into the ol' Tandy and the list that emerges is manageable. For the purposes of this exercise, we're going to focus on five teams (plus one wild card), with each team's committed contracts in 2020 (per Baseball-Reference), arbitration estimates (per MLB Trade Rumors), farm system rank (per Baseball America), and contention status (per me).

1. Atlanta Braves

2020 commitments: $83 million
Arbitration estimates: $28.4 million
Farm system rank: 4th
Contention status: World Series

Of all the short- and long-term landing spots for Betts, the Braves have to be considered high on the list. Blessed with one of baseball's best young nucleuses that features 21-year-old MVP candidate Ronald Acuña Jr. and 22-year-old NL hits leader Ozzie Albies, they're a team on the rise trying to sell out a new ballpark.

Betts fits their mix of veterans (Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson) and aforementioned youth to a T, and he could be just the piece to put them over the top. Atlanta has seen its win total increase in each of the last five seasons, from 67 in 2015 to 97 in 2019, but it has lost its last 10 playoff series since 2001 and is desperate to break through.

Making a match even more feasible, Atlanta's farm system remains stacked, even after graduating contributors like right-hander Mike Soroka and outfielder Austin Riley to the big leagues. With six top-100 prospects, including right-handers Ian Anderson, Drew Waters, and Kyle Wright, the Braves have the pieces to deal.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

2020 commitments: $125 million
Arbitration estimates: $53 million
Farm system rank: 5th
Contention status: World Series

Speaking of needing to be put over the top . . .

After two straight World Series losses, the Dodgers were shocked in the NLDS by Howie Kendrick and the Nationals. They've since faced criticism that their patient build through youth and shorter-term contracts has cost them potential superstars, even though they possess some of the most robust resources in the game.

One year of Betts would actually fit their model perfectly, since the bulk of their roster is only signed through 2020 or 2021. They'd need to move center fielder A.J. Pollock to open a spot for Betts, who'd add a dynamic table-setting component to the NL's best offense, which is homer-heavy.

As for what L.A. has to offer, the Dodgers have boasted a top-five farm system in four of the last five years, and they keep churning out star-caliber players, whether it's NL MVP favorite Cody Bellinger, All-Star shortstop Corey Seager, or potential ace Walker Buehler. One name to watch is right-hander Dustin May, who could be next in the pipeline.

3. Chicago Cubs

2020 commitments: $161 million
Arbitration estimates: $48.3 million
Farm system rank: 29th
Contention status: Playoffs

Oh, man, are the Cubs at a crossroads. After winning it all in 2016, they have systematically dismantled their farm system while recklessly chasing one more title with the Kris Bryant-Anthony Rizzo-Javier Baez core.

That bill is about to come due in a big way, with the core trio expiring after the 2021 season. The Cubs are locked in to some terrible contracts, whether it's $184 million for underachieving right fielder Jason Heyward or $126 million for fragile right-hander Yu Darvish.

They'd have to get creative to fit Betts for even one year since the top 15 players on their roster will count for more than $200 million next year. Their farm system is also pretty wiped out, but don't discount Theo Epstein, who drafted Betts in 2011 and has watched him blossom into a superstar from afar.

Going all in on one last title run is how the Cubs have gotten themselves into long-term trouble, but their window is slamming shut, and Betts could be a one-year difference maker before the reckoning.

4. San Diego Padres

2020 commitments: $101 million
Arbitration estimates: $25.6 million
Farm system rank: 2nd
Contention status: 2-3 years away

The Padres proved their willingness to spend last winter when they landed Manny Machado for 10 years and $300 million. Machado delivered a disappointing season, but there's reason for optimism, particularly at shortstop, where rookie Fernando Tatis Jr. slugged 22 homers in only 84 games.

The Padres feel they're on the cusp, thanks to an absolutely loaded farm system that delivered both Tatis and 23-year-old right-hander Chris Paddack (9-7, 3.33) last year, and is stacked with big-league ready prospects, including left-hander MacKenzie Gore.

Coming off a 70-win season, it's hard to envision the Padres suddenly making a playoff run. But they weren't afraid to spend last year, and Betts would transform their offense. Most importantly, they have the pieces to entice the Red Sox, whether it's right-hander Luis Patino or outfielder Taylor Trammell.

5. Chicago White Sox

2020 commitments: $15.3 million
Arbitration estimates: $32.2 million
Farm system rank: 3rd
Contention status: 2-3 years away

Imagine a White Sox offense that features both J.D. Martinez and Betts? Chicago has the resources to make that admittedly remote scenario happen, with basically no money committed to next season. The other Sox are ready to take the next step behind a sneaky-dangerous core of AL batting champ Tim Anderson, former Red Sox farmhand Yoan Moncada, and slugging youngster Eloy Jimenez.

Their well-regarded farm system has already delivered hard-throwing right-hander Dylan Cease, and there's more where that came from, whether it's outfielder Luis Robert, rehabbing right-hander Michael Kopech, or second baseman and Dustin Pedroia clone Nick Madrigal.

The White Sox were in on Manny Machado last winter and could turbocharge their rebuild with Betts after hanging on the periphery of the AL wild card race for half of 2019.

6. New York Mets

2020 commitments: $127.5 million
Arbitration estimates: $48 million
Farm system rank: 28th
Contention status: Pretenders

And here's our wild card. The Mets made a splash under agent-turned-GM Brody Van Wagenen with last winter's Edwin Diaz trade and then the deadline acquisition of Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman, but they seem unlikely to add enough payroll to accommodate Betts.

And yet … an offense built around Rookie of the Year lock Pete Alonso alongside a deep pitching staff (Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Stroman, Steven Matz) has the Mets thinking playoffs, especially after their blistering 46-26 second half.

We'll find out in 2020 how real that performance was, but in the meantime, imagine replacing center fielder Juan Lagares with Betts? The temptation should be very real for Van Wagenen, although the issue will be finding the talent to send back, since New York's farm system is thin.

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In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

The transactions came in quick succession as the winter meetings wrapped on Thursday in San Diego. First, the Red Sox selected infielder Jonathan Arauz from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft. A couple of hours later, they inked infielder Jose Peraza to a one-year, $3 million deal.

Both are utility infielders, and their arrivals increase the likelihood that we'll be saying goodbye to Brock Holt this winter. 

From a bottom-line perspective, it's hard to argue. Holt turns 32 in June, has battled injuries the past four years and should make more than $3 million annually on a multi-year deal. The Red Sox need to get younger and cheaper, and that includes the bench.

If this is it, though, Holt deserves more of a sendoff than a line in the transaction wire, because his impact on the field, in the clubhouse, and especially in the community far outstripped his modest 5-foot-10 frame.

From high school (where he barely broke 100 pounds as a freshman) to junior college to Rice University to the major leagues, Holt beat long odds each step of the way. That a throw-in acquired with Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan before the 2013 season could earn Rookie of the Year votes and then make an All-Star team defied reason. That the same player would hit for the cycle not once, but twice -- including in the postseason -- while winning two World Series and becoming a gritty heart-and-soul fan favorite, let's just say guys hit that lottery maybe once in a generation.

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"I know and I've kind of gotten a taste of it coming here that certain players just really seem to bond with the fan base," said new baseball boss Chaim Bloom. "He's certainly been one of those. That's not something that's lost on any of us."

Holt brought a fun-loving energy to a clubhouse that needed it in good times and bad. Boston can be a meat grinder even when things are going well, and supporting players who take the edge off are essential. Kevin Millar mastered that role in 2004, while Jonny Gomes followed suit in 2013. That was Holt's job, too, whether he was serving as Andrew Benintendi's All-Star publicist, re-christening the 10th month on the calendar as Brocktober, or wearing a Cobra Kai-inspired headband around the locker room that others soon copied.

Holt had a knack for cracking up his teammates. After Mitch Moreland's three-run homer delivered the team its first win of 2019 in Seattle, Holt sauntered past Moreland in the clubhouse with an ice cream cone, gave it a lick, and said, "Hey Mitch, my mom says, 'Way to go,'" and then just walked out. (His mom later confirmed this account on Twitter).

He famously asked a shorts-wearing Bill Belichick if he was, "going to put some pants on," before facing the Packers on a cold October night in 2018 when the Red Sox were honored by the Patriots as World Series champions.

The night he completed the first cycle in postseason history with a ninth-inning home run to complete a rout of the Yankees, the megawatt smile on Holt's face as he rounded third and returned to the dugout could've powered the sun.

Holt's joyful persona extended to his toddler son, Griff, a glasses-clad Instagram star who developed a cult following for giggling while raiding a box of Life Cereal in the pantry, or pointing at a billboard of David Ortiz and exclaiming, "Big Papi!" or hitting what he called, "Big bomb!" with an oversized whiffle ball bat.

Holt's many viral moments with his son became all the more poignant when viewed through the lens of his tireless devotion to children's causes. He's a four-time Roberto Clemente Award nominee for community service, and he routinely leads the Red Sox in charitable appearances. He served as Jimmy Fund captain for the past five years, and his Brock Stars ticket program brought a Jimmy Fund patient to every Tuesday home game for batting practice. Director of community relations Sarah Narracci has long referred to Holt as her "go-to guy" who never says no.

"He has a great heart," manager Alex Cora said when Holt was nominated for this year's Clemente award, and if this is indeed the end of Holt's Red Sox career, he'll leave an outsized legacy that "5-10, 180" doesn't begin to capture.

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MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

Martin Perez is no Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. But the veteran left-hander reportedly drew a good amount of interest in free agency before the Boston Red Sox scooped him up.

A "handful" of MLB teams, including the American League East foe Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, pursued Perez before the Red Sox agreed to terms with him Thursday night, MassLive's Chris Cotillo reported.

Perez's surface-level stats aren't very inspiring: The 28-year-old posted a 5.12 ERA with the Minnesota Twins last season after the worst campaign of his career with the Texas Rangers in 2018 (6.22 ERA, 1.78 WHIP).

But what Perez does provide is durability: He's appeared in at least 32 games in three of the last four seasons, topping 165 innings in each of those campaigns.

Durable left-handers aren't a dime a dozen in MLB, which explains why Perez drew interest from several clubs looking to fill out their rotations entering 2020.

The Venezuela native should be a rotation-filler in Boston, projecting as Boston's fifth starter behind Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi with Rick Porcello leaving to join the New York Mets in free agency.

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