Monday, Feb. 3, Red Sox fans everywhere felt their hearts sinking, as ESPN broke the story; Boston was not only going to trade away former MVP Mookie Betts as he enters a contract year but also veteran ace David Price.
The Red Sox trade would send Betts and Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo and Brusdar Graterol and an undisclosed amount of cash. Graterol, a pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, is part of a series of trades in which ultimately Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda would be sent to Minnesota for the Graterol-Price trade-off.
However, the trade appears to be on hold after Boston got spooked looking at Graterol’s medical records.
The logic behind this move is difficult to gauge immediately after the players have been shuffled around, but many are jumping to the immediate conclusion that this trade will haunt the Red Sox, similarly to that of the Great Bambino. You can’t just find a guy like Betts and give up a player of his caliber because his contract figure seems unreasonable when the bigger picture isn’t accounted for. For starters, it’s not realistic to say the next Mookie Betts will come in time. We’re talking about a guy who in five full seasons as a starter has won an MVP, four Gold Gloves, has been a four-time All-Star, won a batting title and a World Series championship.
At the beginning of this generation of talent, Mookie Betts was the cornerstone of the young talent group that consisted of Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, Brock Holt, Jackie Bradley Jr., Christian Vasquez, Rafael Devers and Yoan Moncada (traded for ace Chris Sale). All of the aforementioned players that still are with the team are looking at reasonable contracts of their own on top of the massive figure Betts will command in negotiations.
To be fair to ownership, they have a lot of money tied up in a lot of dreadful contracts, with the most pertinent being the Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, and Rusney Castillo contracts. They are still paying Price a good chunk of his contract as well, but to be able to dump off as much cash as they did by moving him is big. Price has not been worth the seven-year, $217 million contract he signed since he threw his first pitch, showing a softer arm and less accuracy than he had before his monstrous deal. That is not to say that Price has been a bad pitcher. He’s still at a productive level and has piled up multiple wins and saves for the team, but he was never that Cy Young-level pitcher that he was prior to his time in Boston. In his four years in Beantown, Price was 46-24 with a 3.84 ERA. Those are solid numbers, but you don’t pay someone $31 million a year for them. Along with Price came his horrific attitude toward the media, a feud with hall of fame pitcher and Red Sox announcer Dennis Eckersley and a lot of meltdown performances in big games when the team needed him most.
You have to give credit where it’s due though, as Price was dependable in multiple circumstances and did get over his playoff struggles in 2018, including a great performance against the Dodgers in the series-clinching game. Price promised a World Series when he was first introduced after signing his contract and delivered on the promise, even if it was only one. Price and Boston were just never exactly the right fit, but they did get the job done in the historic 2018 season.
As for Betts, it is just incredibly disappointing to see the guy who all Red Sox fans were expecting to be the cornerstone of the franchise go play for another team. Betts was on a trajectory to be placed in the same light as guys like legendary sluggers David Ortiz and Ted Williams, and they’re letting him go so the owner could save money. Red Sox fans have every right to be upset with ownership for pushing this move, and, at this point, the best hope is that management will make a move to sign him back as a free agent after the conclusion of the 2020 season, but that is wishful thinking.
There are a lot of concerns about this team going forward. Even with the emergence of Bogaerts, Devers, Rodriguez and JD Martinez returning for another year, you’re looking at a team that missed the playoffs last year and has since made no splash in free agency. Additionally, Boston could be facing a loss of draft picks, hasn’t found a coach to lead the team and just gave a big extension to Sale, whose elbow seems like a ticking time bomb.
This makes for tough times in Boston. Dodgers outfielder Alex Verdugo is the big name prospect the Red Sox will be getting in return if the trade goes through. Verdugo has a lot of upsides and the Red Sox hope they can develop him and add a boost to the farm system that has been poorly managed by Boston’s President of Operations Dave Dombrowski in the past three years. But Verdugo will always be “the guy they traded Mookie Betts for,” so there are very big shoes for him to fill.