The inevitable has finally happened:
I have been going on and on about this for months and the reality has arrived. The Red Sox have traded Mookie Betts AND David Price to the Dodgers in exchange for, well…not much.
Lets start with Mookie: Mookie Betts is an absolute star. He is one of the most dynamic players that I have ever seen, and I don’t say that just because he is a homegrown talent for Boston. The proof is in the pudding here: Mookie is an MVP, a 4X Gold Glove winner, 3X Silver Slugger winner and, most notably, a World Series Champion.
Betts is in the last year of his deal with the Red Sox, making him a free agent after the 2020 season. Mookie is being paid $27 million (an exorbitant amount of money for a guy on the last year of his rookie deal) and has been very clear that he will test free agency this summer, no matter what. The Red Sox have tried to extend Betts, offering him a 10 year, $300 million contract. Mookie’s team (Scott Boras, of course) countered with 12 years, $420 million. The sides were more than $100 million off, and it did not appear that an agreement was eminent.
The fans have driven me absolutely crazy over this matter: all that I’ve heard is “no player can live up to $420 million”, “just move on, its not worth the money” and “Its not like he’s Mike Trout!”. I would agree with the fact that $420 million is a lot to pay one player. But it has to be viewed through the lens of Average Annual Value.
The Red Sox offered Betts 10 years, $300 million, giving the contract an AAV of $30 million per year. Mookie’s counter offer would have put him at an AAV of $35 million per year. That is still a ton of money, but it is simply what it costs to keep one of the most talented players in baseball. Of course Mookie is not Mike Trout. But Mookie is about as close as they come.
Imagine if your boss walked up to you and said “hey….tell you what…you do such a great job for us, we’re going to pay you $150k per year because we feel that you are the best basket maker in the universe.” Are you really going to counter with “well….I can live comfortably on $100k so I’ll just take that”? Absolutely not. Why would you do that?
And why would Mookie Betts do that? He deserves to be paid like one of the top athletes in the sport, because, well….he is. The players are lining team owners’ pockets with cash, and they’re asking for their share. Pretty plain and simple, really.
Would I give him 12 years? Probably not. Mookie is 27 years old, so he would be 39 when the contract is complete. I’m all set on that, but the years aren’t as big of a deal if you’re meeting, at minimum, the value that he is worth, on a year to year basis.
If 12 years is what it takes to get the extension done for a generational player, that’s just the cost of doing business. Just think about all of the extra dollars an owner can make by fielding a competitive team that makes a deep playoff run. Why are fans so concerned with the profit margins of billionaires who ALWAYS want something for nothing?
Bottom line is that the Red Sox knew that they weren’t going to be able to resign Mookie Betts. They stated that their goal is to get underneath the luxury tax threshold, to keep them from paying “huge” tax penalties for signing star players. Since that is the goal and not putting a competitive product on the field (which fans are paying for, by the way), trading Betts to get SOMETHING for him was the only way to go. Otherwise, he would have walked out the door after the season and the team would get a compensatory draft pick (that they would probably lose due to the current scandal that they’ve gotten themselves in to).
It sucks, but thats where we are.
This leads us in to the David Price portion of this deal:
David Price has always been an enigma in Boston. And, for the record, I love this guy. Everyone has ragged on him for being terrible in the post season, but from where I’m sitting, the 2018 World Series Championship banner says otherwise.
What people don’t understand is that the signing of David Price was a reactionary move. Dating back to 2014, the Red Sox were in a similar predicament. Too much payroll and a guy that they weren’t going to be able to extend in Jon Lester.
Lester said in an interview that he was willing to take a small hometown discount to say with the Red Sox since he was one of the few pitchers who have come up through the organization. (Boston is notoriously bad at growing talent.) When trying to get an extension done during Spring Training, John Henry and the Red Sox decided to low-ball the living hell out of Lester. They offered Lester a 4 year, $70 million deal. This is a man who was an elite, homegrown lefty (rare), who just came off an epic World Series run. He mentioned that he was willing to take a small discount and the Red Sox decided to slap the man in the face, and then proceed to ask if he liked it.
Here was my skepticism in 2014, as we approached the trade deadline:
Lester was traded to Oakland, and eventually signed a contract with the Cubs in 2015. Care to guess how much he got in free agency? Lester got 6 years, $155 million, with a $30 million signing bonus, and an AAV of $25.8 million. He could have signed that in Boston. But they decided to insult the man and call his children ugly. (Ok, I don’t KNOW that they called his children ugly but they may as well have!)
My feelings on this unmitigated disaster have not changed one bit:
The Red Sox, in 2015, proceeded to fall on their faces, with a starting pitching staff that included Wade Miley (disaster), Rick Porcello (on a bad year), Clay Buchholtz (hot and cold) and Justin Masterson (disaster).
Boston hired Dave Dombrowski to be the President of Baseball Operations in 2016 and the first thing that Dombrowski identified as a hole was the need for starting pitching. Dombrowski had a previous relationship with David Price, which made it easier to convince him to come to Boston.
What made the decision even easier for Price was that Dombrowski gave him a 7-year, $217 million contract with an AAV of $31 million per year. The Red Sox were forced to make Price an offer that would blow his proverbial socks off. The team NEEDED David Price.
Since arriving in Boston, Price has been largely effective. The media hated David Price because he wouldn’t play their game. He wouldn’t allow himself to be dragged in to the fight (aside from a pretty stunning confrontation with Dennis Eckersley). The media loved to talk about how Price wasn’t a “team guy”.
Well guess what. Everyone in that clubhouse loved David Price. David Price is one of those pitchers that will stand up for his guy. He knows how to read the room and knows how to motivate. He is experienced, effective and, most importantly, a room guy.
There was always the feeling that Price would not make it through 7 years in Boston. Several of those years would have been lost, in some way, shape or form, but as we discussed with Mookie, thats just the price (get it?) of doing business.
As the Red Sox entered year 5 of the 7-year deal, it became apparent that the team was looking to shed payroll, and moving Price’s remaining $96 million would be very helpful, in that case, and thats exactly what the team did.
So, that is where we are. The trade looks as follows:
My take? This stinks. I LOVE shipping out proven players for prospective good players. That always makes sense…
The Dodgers get an elite outfield and Boston gets sweet, sweet flexibility. YESSS!!! I LOVE hanging my hat on flexibility.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in an argument about baseball and completely dominated the person by saying “psh…well…sucks to be (insert team name)…they don’t have flexibility”. That fries them every single time.
I understand why they made this trade. On paper, it makes sense. But what this amounts to is a fundamental misunderstanding of assets.
When a team is torched all the way to the ground and rebuilt from the ashes, it should be positioned to win more than one Championship. It doesn’t always work out that way, but ideally, with a solid young core in Benintendi, Betts, Bogaerts, Devers and Jackie Bradley Jr, the expectation is several years of success, on relatively reasonable contracts, so that they can pay the JD Martinez’ of the world to come in and rake.
The Red Sox fumbled around for too long with their homegrown talent and now they are paying the price for it.
It is going to be a tough year for the Boston Red Sox in 2020. The Red Sox are still anticipating the other shoe to drop from the Alex Cora cheating scandal, which could cost them $5 million (money that could make up one of those AAV years for Mookie) and several draft picks. The team still hasn’t hired a manager. In fact, they’ve barely interviewed anyone. And now the team has lost a generational player, and has a glaring hole in its starting rotation.
This is what it costs to win a Championship. For those that haven’t, this is a reminder that the other side is not always pretty.