Red Sox

How close did the Red Sox come to trading Rafael Devers for Chris Sale? Let Dave Dombrowski explain

How close did the Red Sox come to trading Rafael Devers for Chris Sale? Let Dave Dombrowski explain

At last month's All-Star Game, White Sox batterymates James McCann and Lucas Giolito waxed poetic about the burgeoning greatness of Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers.

"His talent is off the charts," McCann said.

"He's already a star," Giolito added.

You both realize he could've been your teammate, they were told.

"Really?" Giolito said.

"I had no idea," McCann said, "but he's a special, special player."

The Red Sox wouldn't have even considered dealing Devers when he was one of the best prospects in their system unless they were receiving a superstar in return, and it just so happens that one became available in December of 2016 when the White Sox decided to move ace Chris Sale.

With Devers erupting like Vesuvius, it's worth revisiting the biggest blockbuster of Dave Dombrowski's Red Sox tenure to answer a fascinating what-if: Just how close did he come to including Devers in that franchise-altering trade?

Short answer: not very.

"When they got into the Devers part of it, at that point, we were prepared to walk away," Dombrowski said this week.

The White Sox came to the Red Sox looking for one of two players to headline the deal: outfielder Andrew Benintendi or infielder Yoan Moncada. Baseball America had just named Benintendi the best prospect in the system and Moncada the second-best prospect in all of baseball. The Red Sox weren't going to surrender both future All-Stars.

With a perennial Cy Young candidate leaving in the deal, Chicago desired pitching in return, which made right-handed flamethrower Michael Kopech the next name on its list. The foundation of the deal thus became clear: Benintendi or Moncada, and Kopech.

"The reality is they either wanted Benintendi or Moncada as the No. 1 guy," Dombrowski said. "Now Devers' name came up after that, but it was clear that they wanted one or the other in order to start the conversation, and the next part of the conversation was Kopech."

The Red Sox liked both offensive prospects, but prioritized Benintendi because they needed him to start in left field. "We were trying to win," Dombrowski said.

With Moncada and Kopech established as centerpieces, talk turned to the prospects who'd round out the transaction. They couldn't just be filler, because Chicago was surrendering a five-time All-Star who had never finished lower than sixth in the Cy Young voting.

And so that's where Devers entered the picture. Ranked Boston's No. 3 prospect by Baseball America, the teenager had just smacked 11 homers as one of the youngest players in the High-A Carolina League. Two years younger than Benintendi and Moncada, who had already tasted the majors, Devers seemed much further away.

"The reports were very similar for all three of them," Dombrowski said. "We thought all three of them could be All-Stars. And they did think he'd play third base, but it might take a little bit of time. He just needed some additional work. But (player development) thought his ability translated. He's a better athlete than people thought he was when they looked at him. He moved well, he had some quickness attached to him with a good arm, and he could really, really hit."

At one point the White Sox pushed for Devers, Dombrowski said, and even intimated that they might explore other offers if they didn't get him.

"We were already giving up Moncada or Benintendi and Kopech," Dombrowski said. "We knew that they liked those other guys so much, and we kept weighing it in or our mind and kept saying, if you have one of those two guys and Kopech, we didn't think anyone could realistically match that deal. So we told them at that point we were not going to give up Devers. And then they came back to us with a couple of other names."

Those names ended up being outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, a power-speed threat with high strikeout numbers but upside whom BA ranked eighth in the system, and fireballing reliever Victor Diaz, a top-20 Red Sox prospect.

Devers stayed put and reached the big leagues eight months later, slamming 10 homers in just 58 games at age 20 -- including an opposite-field shot off a 103 mph fastball from Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman -- to help the Red Sox reach the playoffs. Benintendi hit 20 homers and drove in 90, while Sale went 17-8 and became just the second Red Sox pitcher to strike out 300 batters in a season. All three played roles in last year's World Series title.

Meanwhile, the White Sox like what they've seen from Moncada. The 24-year-old is hitting .301 with 20 homers and an .893 OPS while slashing his strikeout rate by nearly 20 percent. Kopech showed promise before undergoing Tommy John surgery that will sideline him until next season. Basabe has struggled, while Diaz hasn't pitched since 2017 because of shoulder woes.

"I don't know if it necessarily matters going forward what [Sale] does anymore when you are assessing that trade," White Sox GM Rick Hahn told MLB.com earlier this year. "They signed him to an extension, so that's different going forward than what they acquired him for. But during the period of control they acquired, he helped them win a World Series championship. He played a really big role.

"So that's a great win for them. Whenever our time comes in the next few years, if Moncada and Kopech and others we've acquired play an important role in us winning the World Series or two along the way, then we would have won as well. That's the best of both worlds."

That's just the way Dombrowski likes it.

"Maybe I'm different than others, but I've always believed if you're going to get talent, you have to give up talent," he said. "You're not getting a player like Chris Sale if you're not giving anybody up who can play. I'm glad it worked out for them, and it's worked out well for us."

It sure has, and not just because of the All-Star the Red Sox acquired, but the one they refused to give away.

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Is now the right time to trade Mookie Betts? Red Sox have all the evidence they need

Is now the right time to trade Mookie Betts? Red Sox have all the evidence they need

If Mookie Betts and the Red Sox are really $100 million apart, then the Red Sox should stop pretending he has a future in Boston and trade him right now.

WEEI's Lou Merloni reported on Wednesday that last year the Red Sox made Betts an offer in the 10-year, $300 million range, and he countered with 12 years and $420 million. That gulf is so sizable that meeting in the middle at $360 million might be considered unacceptable by both sides.

When the Red Sox infamously lowballed ace Jon Lester before the 2014 season, after all, their four-year, $70 million offer was probably only one year and $30 million less than Lester would've considered a legitimate starting point. And he still shut down negotiations before being traded and then joined the Cubs in free agency.

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At this point, the Red Sox have as much information as they need to discern Betts' intentions.

He wants to be paid closer to Mike Trout's $426.5 million than Manny Machado's $300 million, and he plans to do so in free agency. Keeping him in the hope that he suddenly agrees to an extension when he has never been closer to hitting the open market feels like a denial of reality.

That's why the chatter of Betts heading west to either San Diego or Los Angeles has suddenly intensified. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom should play the division rivals against each other to secure the best deal and move on.

Personally, I'd be focused on unloading both Betts and David Price to the Dodgers, paying enough of their combined $59 million in 2020 to land a package built around a promising young player like outfielder Alex Verdugo, and getting a jump on life in a post-Mookie world.

The alternative is keeping him until the trade deadline, letting this story hang over both player and organization through July, and then being unable to pull the trigger because the team clings to the periphery of the postseason race, at which point the Red Sox are left with basically nothing.

Trading Betts now doesn't even preclude the possibility of him signing long-term, because if the Red Sox decide they simply can't live without their former MVP, his desire to reach the market could actually cut back in their favor. Nothing would stop them from making a massive offer next winter and trying to bring him back, à la the Yankees after trading closer Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for three months in 2016.

That said, if the Red Sox trade Betts, I suspect it would be forever, and there's a case to be made for that, too. Ten- or 12-year deals are generally bad business, no matter how talented the player, because there are too many ways they can sour.

The Angels have been riding out Albert Pujols' decline almost from the day he signed a 10-year, $240 million contract in 2012 at age 32, and even if he had signed at 28 before winning back-to-back MVP awards, it would still be money poorly spent. The same goes for Robinson Cano (10 years, $228 million), Miguel Cabrera (effectively 10 years, $292 million), and unfortunately, Dustin Pedroia, who's not going to see the finish of his eight-year, $110 million extension in 2021, thanks to a degenerative knee injury.

Betts is younger than all of them (27), which works in his favor, but we have not made nearly a big enough issue of his size when calculating the risk of a lengthy deal. He stands only 5-foot-9, and that's not a stature that yields longevity.

Since 1980, only three players that height have delivered a .900 OPS in at least 100 games after age 30 — Matt Stairs (twice), Lonnie Smith, and Kirby Puckett. For $35 million a year, .900 feels like a reasonable floor, but for players Betts' size it's actually a pretty hard ceiling, with his most promising comps being Puckett — who saw an eye injury end his career at age 35 — and former Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, who made five All-Star teams between ages 30 and 35.

Otherwise, we're talking about players such as Chuck Knoblauch, Marcus Giles, Brian Roberts, Pedroia, and Jimmy Rollins — undersized stars who peaked in their 20s before experiencing precipitous declines in their 30s. Cleveland's Jose Ramirez could join that group, which might even include Hall of Famer Tim Raines, whose case became borderline based on his 30s.

In any event, there's now more than enough evidence for the Red Sox to experience clarity on their most pressing offseason issue: it's time to trade Mookie Betts.

MLB Rumors: Red Sox interested in Mark Kotsay for managerial opening

MLB Rumors: Red Sox interested in Mark Kotsay for managerial opening

The Boston Red Sox's search for their new manager has been rather slow, but a new candidate may be emerging.

The Red Sox reportedly have an interest in Oakland Athletics quality control coach Mark Kotsay, according to MassLive.com's Chris Cotillo.

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Although Kotsay, 44, a former outfielder who played for the Red Sox in 2008 and '09 in a major league playing career spanning more than 16 years, has no MLB managerial experience, he has worked in the San Diego Padres' front office as well as serving on the Padres and Athletics coaching staffs since retiring in 2013.

After firing Alex Cora earlier this month, the Red Sox have been linked to multiple managerial candidates, including Ron Roenicke, Jason Varitek, Dino Ebel and Joe McEwing. Although Boston is still in the thick of the managerial hunt with spring training approaching in two weeks, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported that the Red Sox are unlikely to make a hire before next week.