The Boston Red Sox have been widely reported to be open to trading star rightfelder Mookie Betts, opening the door for fans of every team to clamor for their club to acquire the former MVP.
Hosts Tim Shovers, Todd Dybas and Chase Hughes discussed the possibility of Betts being shipped to D.C. in Monday’s episode of NBC Sports Washington’s Nationals Talk podcast.
“The Nationals…don’t have the assets to satisfy a Mookie Betts trade and the Nationals don’t have a need to pull off a Mookie Betts trade,” Dybas said. “Sometimes I say there’s a zero percent chance of something happening and I would say this is very close to zero percent.”
Betts is a four-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger, the winner of four straight Gold Gloves and the 2018 AL MVP—oh, and he just turned 27 in October. The only reason Boston is considering moving him under new Chief of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom is the state of its payroll.
According to Spotrac, the Red Sox have had the highest payroll in baseball each of the past two seasons. Heading into 2020, the team is looking at paying over $92 million just to David Price, Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi and Dustin Pedroia—all of whom have significant questions surrounding either their production or performance.
That doesn’t even include Betts, who’s projected to make over $27 million in arbitration, or Xander Bogaerts, their star shortstop whose salary jumps to $20 million next season.
Meanwhile, the team enters the offseason following a disappointing campaign in which it finished 84-78 and missed the playoffs. If Boston aims to compete again in 2020, it’s going to need to find a way to satisfy a long list of roster needs while simultaneously cutting costs.
A trade of Betts would certainly help take some money off the books and could go a long way toward replenishing the Red Sox’ depleted farm system. If the Nationals were to make a run at him, they’d almost certainly have to build a package around Carter Kieboom, who’s the 20th-ranked prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline.
But Dybas says Kieboom is “a damaged asset after last year.” The 22-year-old got his first taste of the majors in late April and struggled both at the plate and in the field. He did have a strong season at AAA-Fresno (.902 OPS and 16 home runs in 109 games), but opposing scouts will point to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League as a contributor to his success.
There’s also the fact that the Nationals already have a set outfield of Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Adam Eaton. Soto and Robles are both considered key parts of Washington’s future while Eaton is signed to a team-friendly deal with a team option for 2021. In fact, the Nationals’ best option for enticing Boston to make a deal might involve Eaton.
The market for one-year rentals (Betts is a free agent after next season) has plummeted as analytics-savvy executives have taken over front offices across the league. Paul Goldschmidt, widely considered one of the best hitters in the game, was traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks to the St. Louis Cardinals last offseason for a three-player package that involved just two top-100 prospects—and none from the top 50.
Betts is a better player than Goldschmidt was, and several years younger, but there is a chance Boston finds few willing suitors if a top-20 prospect is its main target. Washington could offer a package centered around Kieboom and Eaton, allowing the Red Sox to significantly cut payroll, boost their farm system and remain competitive all in one deal.
A lot would need to happen for the Nationals to acquire Betts. Although the odds are low—“very close to zero percent,” as Dybas says—the market has been known to produce signings and trades no one saw coming.
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