Mookie Betts

Under what circumstances would the White Sox trade for Mookie Betts?

Under what circumstances would the White Sox trade for Mookie Betts?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Nothing seems to be off the table for the White Sox this winter.

But certain moves might be the centerpiece, while others might be hiding behind the salt shaker.

One of the biggest questions in baseball right now is what the Boston Red Sox are going to do with Mookie Betts. With the Red Sox aiming to get under the luxury tax — made more difficult when J.D. Martinez opted to stay in Boston for $23.75 million — speculation surrounding a trade of Betts and the $27.7 million he’s projected to receive through arbitration has increased.

Betts, too, it’s important to note, has just one year of club control remaining, and he seems set on heading to free agency at this time a year from now.

The White Sox hole in right field and quest to make a huge addition to their rebuilding project lines them up as a potentially interested party. While general manager Rick Hahn is waiting until his 2020 roster takes shape to set expectations for next season, the emergence of a young core presents the possibility that next season could be the one in which contention arrives on the South Side.

Adding Betts to the mix would certainly increase those chances.

Tuesday, Hahn seemed to leave the door open to acquiring a player like Betts, that is a player with just one year of club control remaining.

“Yeah, depending on the cost. It all comes down to price,” he said. “Like everybody, you want guys who are going to fit for the long term. We want to add a guy who's got a three-, four-, five-, six-year window of control where he's going to continue to improve and he's going to grow with this young core. Those guys aren't so easy to acquire. Usually you have to give a pretty premium piece like we did to get ours, or hit on them at the top of the draft like we've hopefully done.

“Short of that, we're going to look for guys who can certainly make you better in the short term but ideally have a little back-end control. If those don't exist, if we don't come across the right fit, then we'd be open to a one-year improvement knowing that with where we've put ourselves economically, we might have the ability to retain that player when they hit free agency.”

That sounds promising if you’re a member of the Betts-to-the-White Sox camp.

But there was a decidedly different tone Wednesday. Now, Hahn was never speaking about Betts specifically, nor was he ever asked about Betts specifically. But asked about dealing from a position of prospect strength for an impact talent who has just one year of club control left, the answer was significantly different than Tuesday’s.

“We made a commitment,” Hahn said, “that once we got ourselves in a position to be on the opposite end of these trades, the trades where you were giving up talent for short-term gain, that it was going to be important to us to still try to remain committed to the long term.

“When there's a guy like Chris Sale available, who (in 2016, when the White Sox traded him) had multiple years of control and you're ready to win, making that push makes all the sense in the world. If you're talking about a guy on a one-year basis, we're not to that point yet, and if we do get to that point, that's going to be a tough trigger to pull because we're trying to build something sustainable for an extended period of time.

“Quick hits don't necessarily do that. And certainly after three years of rebuilding, we've gotten ourselves in a very good position, but not in one where we're going to do something for immediate bang in 2020, necessarily, if we feel it compromises us for the long term.

“We've paid too big of a price to compromise where we're going to be at long term.”

Now, with that question posed by a Boston-based reporter, Hahn might have been addressing a more specific scenario. More likely is that he was reacting to the idea that the White Sox top-rated prospects would make them able to swing a deal for the elite of the elite. Thing is, the highest rated of those prospects aren’t really on the block, with Michael Kopech, Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn all solidly part of the team’s long-term plans.

So, is a Betts trade off the table? No. Is a Betts trade likely? Probably not. Would the White Sox trade for Betts? Probably if they only had to give up mid-tier prospects. What would it take to pry Betts away from the Red Sox? Probably more than mid-tier prospects.

Despite the seemingly contradictory nature of Hahn’s comments on Tuesday and Wednesday, he didn’t really flip-flop. A trade for one year of Betts isn’t out of the question, it's likely only going to come if the White Sox don’t have to give up too much. Maybe the Red Sox financial situation is dire enough that the prospect cost will be unusually low. Maybe the White Sox are presented with a rare opportunity to negotiate an extension.

But “depending on the cost” remains the key phrase not just in this situation but the entire White Sox offseason. That doesn’t mean they won’t spend or trade anyone. It simply means that they will only do so if there’s a long-term benefit. They’re trying to build a perennial contender, and the lengthy tenures of Robert and Madrigal and Vaughn are more valuable than one year of Betts.

In search of that long-term benefit, then, the free-agent market or a trade for a player with greater club control certainly seems a more likely route than a trade for Betts.

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Scott Boras' history lesson illustrates why Cubs are unlikely to trade Kris Bryant

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AP

Scott Boras' history lesson illustrates why Cubs are unlikely to trade Kris Bryant

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — As the Cubs move into a new era, the Kris Bryant Decision looms large over the entire organization.

Should they trade him now, two years out from free agency (or one year away if he actually wins his service time grievance)? Or is now the time for the Cubs to deliver a huge offer and lock him up long term?

Bryant's agent, Scott Boras, has been one of the most powerful men in baseball over the last couple decades and he's seen many teams go through the same dilemma the Cubs are currently weighing.

In encountering similar situations with players of Bryant's caliber (a former MVP and Rookie of the Year), Boras shed some light on how unlikely it is that the Cubs would actually wind up dealing him.

"Certainly every player I have that is at that level, they're always asking the question about, 'will they? Won't they? Will they trade him? Will they do it?'" Boras said. "And the answer to that is always: I can give you a percentage over a decade of how many of those players get traded and the answer is very low. If you think that much of him and to get something back for him with a limited period of time is always very hard."

He's got a strong point there. Bryant has a career .901 OPS and averages 32 homers, 92 RBI and 112 runs scored per 162 games over his five years in the big leagues. He proved that the lack of power and production in 2018 was injury related with a strong bounceback season this past year, finishing 14th in WAR in the National League while battling through a lingering knee issue. 

Bryant provides a ton of value to the Cubs and his presence on the roster increases the likelihood of winning another World Series over the next two seasons. In order to trade him, they would need a huge haul in return — a package of players that sets the franchise up for success the future without completely sacrificing the short-term and current window of contention. Will some team actually meet the Cubs' asking price?

The service time grievance is a major issue here, as the difference between one and two years of Bryant would be vast. Red Sox star Mookie Betts is a free agent a year from now and Boston is in a similar situation in that they're weighing a potential trade now rather than risk losing Betts to the open market and getting only draft pick compensation in return.

Boras pointed to how the Red Sox and Cubs both won World Series with Betts and Bryant earlier in their careers, leveraging the star players on cheaper deals to allow more resources to augment the roster around them. But now both guys are due a hefty sum of money in 2020 (MLB Trade Rumors estimates the arbitration figure to be $18.5 million for Bryant and $27.7 million for Betts) and it's time for each team to decide which path to go down.

The prevailing thought around the game is that Bryant won't win his grievance, which puts the Cubs in a different spot than the Red Sox in that they have two years of control left. That's key to either dangle in a trade or to allow more time for the two sides to reach an agreement on an extension.

"I've seen clubs take this decision on and it's often been a decision that they regret — whether they've kept him or whether they've traded him," Boras said. "Again, because they're great players, they're really key decisions."

If no team is able to — or decides to — meet the Cubs' price for Bryant in any trade talks, how likely is it the two sides would work out an extension that keeps him in Chicago beyond 2021?

Both sides waved off any notion that the service time grievance has done anything to damage the relationship between Bryant and the club, with Boras emphasizing that this was a "union matter" and was more about being an "advocate for the rights of players." Even if the arbiter rules against Bryant's grievance, it could still be a major step forward in changing the structure of free agency and service time for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In the matter of extension talks, Bryant and Boras are all ears.

"Look, we're open to talking with them and we've always said that to them," Boras said. "It's always been Kris' philosophy with the team. 

"I would certainly keep the terms and conditions of the contract negotiations private with the Cubs, but obviously it's always a fairness standard. You want what's fair for him and where he stands in the industry and that's true of any player." 

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Sox Drawer: Moving on from J.D. Martinez, trading for Mookie Betts and more from the hot stove

Sox Drawer: Moving on from J.D. Martinez, trading for Mookie Betts and more from the hot stove

All right, the World Series is over. Free agency is underway. The Hot Stove is here. Let’s begin by sending clairvoyant messages to all 30 teams, the players and their agents to make this a swift, exciting and piping-hot offseason, especially when it comes to your White Sox.

Unfortunately, the first day of free agency was a downer for many of you who were hoping the White Sox would sign a certain Red Sox DH by the name of J.D. Martinez. There were many questions about him and the White Sox DH conundrum, plus Nicholas Castellanos, Starling Marte, Eloy Jimenez, my all-time favorite White Sox player and this unexpected inquiry: Is Prince Fielder coming out of retirement to sign with the White Sox?

You never know what you’re going to get inside the Sox Drawer. Let’s get to it.

Is it OK to cry about J.D. Martinez? — @Angel121695

I hear ya, Angel. Martinez stunned many White Sox fans on Monday when he decided not to opt out of his contract with the Red Sox. He’d be a perfect fit for the White Sox, who got the least DH production of any AL team last season (.208/.285/.362). Martinez would be a huge upgrade on the field and in the clubhouse with the young hitters. If he did opt out, there certainly wasn’t a guarantee that he’d sign with the White Sox. Rick Hahn hasn’t said a word about Martinez publicly, but considering the White Sox need and Martinez possibly becoming available, it didn’t take much to link the two together. I’ve got some tissues for you if you need them. Though Martinez opting in for 2020 doesn’t mean there’s a zero-percent chance he can’t end up with the White Sox. More on that in a moment.

Get the Boston reporters back on the podcast and explain themselves. — @mtmill10

Seriously. The Martinez-to-the-White Sox fervor seemed to really take off after we had John Tomase from NBC Sports Boston on the White Sox Talk Podcast.

With so few teams needing a DH, I had been skeptical that Martinez would actually opt out of his contract. He appeared to have very little leverage and too much to risk by becoming a free agent in this market. But Tomase, who covers the Red Sox, said on the podcast that Martinez was “gone, G-O-N-E” from Boston, and he predicted that he’d end up signing with the White Sox. Yeah, I fell for it.

However, Tomase wasn’t the only Red Sox writer who said that Martinez would leave Boston. In early October, the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham wrote, “Say goodbye to Martinez. It was a good two seasons (in Boston).” He added that the White Sox “are a good bet” to sign him. Yeah, I fell for that, too.

Do you see (Mookie) Betts or J.D. Martinez as realistic trade targets as the other Sox cut payroll?  — @akleinerman

Who would you rather trade for? Mookie or Martinez? Also, what would it cost to get one of them? — @lito2313​​​​​​​

The fallout from Martinez opting in for 2020 has a bunch of tentacles that could potentially affect many players and many teams, including the White Sox. Red Sox ownership has stated their need to cut payroll to get under the luxury tax this offseason. Martinez opting in for $23.5 million doesn’t exactly help them out in that regard. Nor would keeping Betts, who is projected to earn $27.7 million in arbitration and has one year left of team control before he hits free agency. New Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has to play a game of payroll Tetris as he looks to shed salary and field a competitive team at the same time.

Betts is a 27-year-old superstar who plays right field, and it just so happens that the White Sox need one of those. The White Sox could try to acquire Betts like they reportedly attempted to do with Manny Machado two winters ago, giving him a season to feel comfortable with the team and then attempt to sign him to a long-term deal when he becomes a free agent after next season. It’s a big one-year risk to make, but if he’s someone the White Sox are targeting for their future, then it would make sense to go down that road. What would it take to acquire Betts? I don’t have the answer, but considering you’d be giving the Red Sox huge salary relief, the cost might not be as crazy as you think. That said, there could be some serious competition around the league for Betts, which would drive up the price. Though this wasn’t the case when the Orioles listened to offers for Machado, didn’t like what they heard and ultimately chose to keep him.

As for Martinez, his situation might be more complicated. Since he has another opportunity to opt out of his contract after next season and his salary drops by more than $4 million in 2021 and 2022, are you acquiring him for one year or three? Maybe a team trying to trade for him puts conditions in the deal, adding players to be named later if Martinez doesn’t opt out and plays all three years with his new team.

The Red Sox also have high-priced pitchers with bad contracts, including David Price and Nathan Eovaldi. Jackie Bradley, Jr had a rough season offensively. He has one year left before free agency. Some kind of roster shuffle is coming. It behooves the White Sox to sniff around what’s happening with the Red Sox, because they’re a good match for each other: The Red Sox need payroll relief, while the White Sox have money to spend and would like to take the next step in 2020.

We broke down the entire Martinez situation on the latest White Sox Talk Podcast.

I’m actually curious about the “process” of a player becoming a DH and becoming comfortable in that role. Edwin (Encarnacion) and J.D. played the field at one point and had to learn to just hit, so what does it take? Seems like Edwin is the only FA that one would call a full-time DH. — @bmarsh442003​​​​​​​

From players I’ve spoken to about it — Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko, Jim Thome, Adam Dunn, Harold Baines, Yonder Alonso — they’ve all said that there’s much more to being a DH than just going up to the plate and hitting. It’s definitely a skill, and it’s not for everybody. The biggest key is the hitter’s mental approach, being able to stay focused on the game and remain engaged while sitting on the bench, sometimes for an hour between at-bats. That’s why most players prefer to be at a position in the field than be the regular DH. If there’s one common link to all the great DH’s we’ve seen, they’ve all had a special mental tool that allowed them to thrive, even though they were only at the plate for a few minutes during a three-hour game.

Check out these career stats as a DH. You might see a pattern here as you get toward the bottom.

— Thomas: .275/.394/.505 in 1,310 games

— Baines: .291/.370/.467 in 1,643 games

— Konerko: .274/.350/.454 in 345 games

— Thome: .264/.391/.531 in 817 games

— Dunn: .200/.316/.401 in 361 games

— LaRoche: .187/.275/.285 in 81 games

— Alonso: .170/.294/.314 in 49 games

And here are the career DH stats for Martinez and Encarnacion, which helps explain why they would be good fits for the White Sox.

— Martinez: .288/.360/.537 in 238 games

— Encarnacion: .268/.365/.518 in 723 games

Based on the White Sox needs in pitching, what pitcher in your view has the postseason experience, play on the mound and skills to be a good leader and player for a young White Sox rotation? White Sox Talk Podcast is awesome!! — @WilliamDFarlow​​​​​​​

Thanks for listening to the podcast, William. I’ve got two pitchers who check all those boxes, are free agents and would be great fits with the White Sox: Madison Bumgarner and Dallas Keuchel.

Bumgarner was a playoff horse for the Giants, throwing 102.1 postseason innings by the time he was 26 years old. He was the World Series MVP in 2014. He’s 30 now. Maybe not the same pitcher he was in his 20s, but neither was Jon Lester when he signed his long-term deal with the Cubs at age 30. That’s worked out pretty well.

Keuchel is another southpaw who has Bumgarner’s leadership qualities and knows exactly what it takes to go from a rebuild to a World Series title since he did it with the Astros.

Of course, Gerrit Cole wouldn’t be a bad choice, either.

Do you think Nick Castellanos can be a great long-term fit in right field even with his questionable defense? — @MakowskiMatthew​​​​​​​

I’d have to say no. The White Sox already have Eloy Jimenez in left field. He finished with minus-11 Defensive Runs Saved in 2019, fourth worst among major league left fielders, better only than Dwight Smith Jr., Shi-Soo Choo and Justin Upton. Castellanos finished with minus-9 DRS, which was fourth worst among major league right fielders, better only than Randal Grichuk, Franmil Reyes and Melky Cabrera. That’s not a good combination defensively and would put a lot of pressure on rookie Luis Robert in center field.

Castellanos would be better served, long term, as a DH. For his career, he’s hit .283/.301/.494 as a DH. Though I’m not sure he’s ready to play that position full time at 28 years old. My guess is he’ll sign with a team that already has a good defensive left fielder and center fielder and is willing to sacrifice the limitations of Castellanos in right for the production he’ll bring to the plate.

By the way, Yolmer Sanchez had 11 DRS in 2019, tops among American League second basemen. DRS doesn’t tell the whole story about a player defensively, but it’s one stat to look at. Sanchez won his first career Gold Glove. Congrats to Yolmer!

How drunk are the people in charge of the Rookie of the Year voting to allow Brandon Lowe over Eloy Jimenez? Yikes. That is brutal. — @Donopolis1​​​​​​​

Not sure, but they better not have been driving after making that vote.

That or they didn’t look hard enough at Jimenez, or didn’t realize that Lowe played only six games the entire second half of the season due to injury. Or they punished Jimenez for his defense, which seems extreme for a Rookie of the Year Award.

Lowe did have a great first half, with 16 home runs and 49 RBIs for the Rays, earning him a spot on the All-Star team. But when it comes to rookies with limited playing experience, I like to see them actually play, especially as the season goes on.

In the month of September, Jimenez was one of the best hitters in the majors, slashing .340/.383/.710. He finished the season with 31 home runs, one of only 11 players ever to hit 30 or more home runs in their debut season. (Thanks to Chris Kamka for that stat.) The baseball might have helped boost that home-run total a bit, but then it also helped the 5-foot-10 Lowe crank 17 dingers of his own.

In the end, it won’t matter. Yordan Alvarez is going to run away with the award. He was a beast after getting called up (.313/.412/.655). But how about some respect for Jimenez? As I tweeted when the news came out, “You gotta be bleeping me!”

Should we expect another slow offseason with free agent signings? — @Philip_12

Fingers crossed it won’t be. The last two winters have been painstakingly slow. I wish I could say things will be different this time around. It’s so much better for the game when the hot stove actually is that in November and December and we see a flurry of moves during the Winter Meetings (which take place Dec. 9 through Dec. 12 in San Diego). Nobody knows for sure what to expect. The league is looking at ways to incentivize teams to spend early. Easier said than done.

What gives me hope that it might be a more active winter is the sheer number of teams that seem to be trying to add and improve, maybe twice the amount from last year. With more teams in the picture competing for free agents and making trades, there’s a chance we’ll see more wheeling and dealing sooner rather than later.

Make a trade for Starling Marte since Pittsburgh exercised his option? — @KMcCar91​​​​​​​

Marte has never played right field (577 games in left, 359 in center), but I assume he could move over and be fine. He’s 31, has two years remaining on his contract, and the Pirates are a mess, currently without a GM. Depending on who they hire and what direction they want to go in, Marte could be on the trading block. I like him.

What do you think the rotation will look like? — @NateWags11​​​​​​​

Here’s what I’m thinking (and hoping):

1. Free-agent pitcher to be named later
2. Lucas Giolito
3. Dylan Cease
4. Michael Kopech
5. Reynaldo Lopez or free-agent pitcher to be named later

Favorite White Sox player ever? — @Bradley_Brodksy​​​​​​​

It’s too tough to go with one favorite. How about I go by decade in my lifetime with personal honorable mentions because I like them almost as much.

1970s: Chet Lemon (Bill Melton)

1980s: Harold Baines (Julio Cruz)

1990s: Frank Thomas (Bo Jackson and “The Deacon” Warren Newson)

2000s: Mark Buehrle (Paul Konerko and Juan Uribe)

2010s: Jose Abreu (Eloy Jimenez)

And finally ...

Hey Chuck, I know a lot of people that know a lot of people. Word in the clubhouse right now, something about Prince Fielder being interested in coming back and possibly playing a year with our South Siders. What do you think? — @BrodnerDan

If true, this would be something, a medical and baseball miracle. Fielder hasn’t played since July 2016 after needing a second cervical fusion in his neck. He later announced he would no longer be able to play the game and retired. Not sure what people you know, but that would be an interesting scoop, to say the least. Oh, and it would possibly solve the White Sox hole at DH.

Prince Fielder, at 35, making a comeback with the White Sox? I wouldn’t mind covering that story in spring training. Any chance you’re related to Wetbutt23?

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