Mookie Betts will be a Dodger, if you've been asleep for the last 16 hours. There was immense pressure on L.A. to make a splash after seven consecutive division titles failed to result in a World Series win and this certainly qualifies as a major needle-mover.
The deal, which reportedly sends Betts and David Price from Boston to L.A. and outfielder Alex Verdugo to the Red Sox (among other moving parts), affects the Phillies in a couple ways.
First and foremost, it keeps Betts away from another wild-card contender. The Dodgers are going to win the NL West barring a shocking series of events. The Padres were also hot after Betts and that would have hurt the Phillies more because it would have made San Diego a bigger threat in the wild-card race.
The Phils' most likely path to the playoffs is a wild-card spot so this is a good thing for them.
The other point worth addressing here is why the Phillies were unable themselves to swing a deal for Betts. The reaction of many fans has been, "Why couldn't the Phils take on Price's money to acquire Betts like the Dodgers did?"
The easy, simple thing to do right now is continue the theme of blasting ownership for not exceeding the luxury tax threshold. It's disingenuous. It's flat-out wrong to think money was the only factor here.
First of all, the Phillies do not have a major-league-ready, young, inexpensive player like Verdugo, who hit .294/.342/.475 last season with 22 doubles and 12 homers in 377 plate appearances. Scott Kingery is not at his level, plus Kingery has already been paid, unlike Verdugo.
To acquire Betts without taking on Price's contract, the Phillies would have had to part with top-shelf prospects and they just don't have the depth to be trading away top young players for a one-year rental.
To acquire Betts while helping Boston out with the Price contract, the Phillies still would have had to part with a player as good as Verdugo or better. Who would that have been? It might have still had to be an Alec Bohm or Spencer Howard. For a one-year rental. To do that, you need to know you're getting years and years of Betts, who wants to hit free agency.
Financially, the reason the Phillies had little chance of acquiring Betts is the same reason the Red Sox probably felt they had to trade Betts: Years of bad contracts still on the books have created an inflexible situation. In Boston, it was Price and Nate Eovaldi and maybe even the Chris Sale contract. In Philly, Jake Arrieta, David Robertson and Jean Segura combine for $50.75 million in 2020 from a luxury tax perspective. Yes, Arrieta and Robertson are off the books after 2020 ... but so is Betts!
The luxury tax number for Betts and Price in 2020, combined, is $58 million. So if the Phillies made this trade and assumed all of the remaining money, their payroll would have jumped to right around $260 million, plus a luxury tax payment of about $11 million. In the history of baseball, one team has had an opening day payroll higher than $260M, the 2015 Dodgers.
So, yes, duh, Betts would have made the 2020 Phillies a helluva lot better. But it would have also cost a top prospect for a player they may have not been able to re-sign. And it would have likely resulted in the second-highest opening day payroll in MLB history. And it would have been for a team that, even with Betts, still may not have had enough depth in roster spots 10-through-26 to legitimately contend for a World Series. Would a Phillies team with Betts have more than a 50 percent chance to win its own division?
You can't sign or trade for everyone. The most realistic path to contention for the Phillies is not by further stripping down the farm system and adding another humongous salary. It's by having their top prospects graduate to the majors and supplement their existing veteran core. And the past failures of Domonic Brown or Phillippe Aumont have no bearing on the future success of Bohm and Howard. The 2020 Phillies cannot give up on their top prospects just because the city has been jaded by previous prospect failures.
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