Red Sox

One window the Red Sox probably won't open into a potential Mookie Betts trade

Red Sox

Red Sox fans need no reminder of the havoc a negotiating window can wreak upon a potential trade.

In the winter of 2003, they were given 72 hours by commissioner Bud Selig to restructure the contract of Rangers superstar Alex Rodriguez, and the sides actually reached an agreement that would've sent the (then) future Hall of Famer to Boston before the union refused to allow the sport's marquee player to take a pay cut.

Sixteen years later, the Red Sox may very well swing a deal involving another MVP, but this time it's their own. And as they try to finagle the best package for Mookie Betts, it's fair to wonder if they'd be willing to allow the acquiring team to open a negotiating window with Betts on a long-term extension.

In today's information age, those windows aren't as common as they used to be. The Yankees granted one last January before sending right-hander Sonny Gray to Cincinnati, and the Reds used it to negotiate a three-year, $30.5 million extension, which paid off when Gray made the All-Star team.

The Cardinals, conversely, didn't even ask for one when acquiring slugger Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks last December, even though Goldschmidt was entering the final year of his contract and St. Louis wanted to extend him. He instead signed a five-year, $130 million extension during spring training.

"The belief is that we need to make a deal that we're comfortable with, whether he agrees to an extension or not," said Cardinals GM Mike Girsch. "It's not a two-part deal. It's got to be a stand-alone deal that you're comfortable with. We didn't ask and it wasn't part of our process.

 

"Everything that we knew and did research on Goldschmidt suggested that he was the type of guy who'd be comfortable in the type of environment that we have, in the location that we are. But we didn't know. We can't know. You can't talk to the player until you actually made the trade. But you can talk to his ex-teammates who are also ex-Cardinals. There are ways you can find out about somebody, and our sense was he was a guy who'd be comfortable in a midwestern city in a baseball-crazed market in a place that was competitive in the type of clubhouse environment we have. It all felt that we had a good shot at making this work, but until you meet him, you're never 100 percent sure."

The problem with granting a window is that it introduces too many potential headaches, especially in a world with 24-hour coverage putting breaking news just a smartphone alert or Ken Rosenthal tweet away. Any lag between completing a trade and negotiating a contract increases the possibility that the names of other players involved will leak, and if the negotiation collapses, it could result in hard feelings.

"Once you grab that 72-hour window, everything leaks out, it becomes a lot more complicated, and if you fail to reach an extension, the rumored players already have their names out there, and the potential issues that that creates have already arisen," said White Sox GM Rick Hahn. "The short answer is it's something we've asked for in the past and likely would ask for in the future, but it hasn't been too prevalent in recent years."

When the White Sox traded ace Chris Sale to the Red Sox in 2016, there was no need for negotiating windows because (a) Sale remained under contract through 2019, and (b) the Nationals were simultaneously offering a considerable prospect haul built around center fielder Victor Robles that left the White Sox in a position of power.

"It has become more and more rare because essentially teams have declined that request from most clubs and taken an approach almost like, 'Look, other teams are willing to do it without the window, so we're going to move him without the window,'" Hahn noted.

The whole idea of a window might not even apply to Betts, anyway, since he has repeatedly stated a desire to play out his contract and reach free agency. It's possible there's no offer he'd sign while limiting his negotiations to one club.

If it could increase the potential return, however, the Red Sox would at least have to consider it.

"If you're making a deal you're comfortable with, then you don't care whether he's going to sign," Girsch said. "It's just a whole separate negotiation. It just muddies the waters a lot of times and makes things more complicated if we make an agreement that's contingent on us making a separate agreement. And it's already hard enough to get an agreement done with the players involved. It just adds complexity."

 

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