Although they’re quite different in nature, the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers have issues to deal with as spring training approaches.
In the wake of Alex Cora’s resignation as a result of his part in the Astros electronic sign-stealing scandal, the Red Sox are still without a manager. But even once they decide on one, they still will be dealing with ownership’s directive to trim their massive payroll enough to get under the salary cap threshold.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers, perennial NL West champions, are trying to decide whether to reconfigure their team after losing the last two World Series.
Who knew that Mookie Betts and David Price might be the ones who can help solve both problems.
Multiple reports this week indicated the Dodgers and Red Sox are working feverously on the particulars of a trade that would ship Betts – and maybe Price – to the west coast.
In Betts and Price, the Red Sox have $124 million tied up over the next three seasons. Betts, the American League’s MVP in 2018, who will become a free agent after this season, signed a record one-year, $27 million deal in arbitration a few weeks ago. He’s a career .301 hitter.
Price, who is 34 and has had elbow problems, will be paid $96 million through 2022. He was 7-5 with a 4.28 ERA in 2019.
If the right deal could be worked out, the Red Sox might be willing to absorb a percentage of the Price’s deal. How much the Dodgers are willing to bite off would determine what they would offer the Red Sox in return for the two players.
It appears the Red Sox understand they have little hope of signing Betts to a long-term extension, particularly now that they’ve been asked to trim their payroll. So they are actively shopping their All-Star right fielder. Both the Dodgers and San Diego Padres seem to be the center of their focus. If Betts isn’t traded before spring training, its practically certain he will be dealt before the July 31 deadline.
The Dodgers have both the financial resources to pay Betts and Price and the high-level prospects that would satisfying the Red Sox, led by pitcher Dustin May, infielder Gavin Lux and outfielder Alex Verdugo.
According to ESPN, the Red Sox have developed two plans of action. One involves including Price in the deal knowing they’d receive less in return. The other is to exclude Price and press the Dodgers for one or two of the prospects.
If the Dodgers can acquire Betts, that would give them perhaps MLB’s best outfield with Betts, 2019 National League MVP Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson.
After failing to sign Gerrit Cole to bolster their pitching staff, and losing third baseman Anthony Rendon to the Los Angeles Angels in free agency, the Dodgers have spent the remainder of the offseason looking for other ways to improve.
At first, trying to trade for Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor seemed to be the priority, but the Indians have decided for now not to trade him. The Dodgers also figure the Colorado Rockies would have no interest in dealing Nolan Arenado within the division. That helped shift their focus to Betts.
If they decide to take at least a portion of Price’s salary, that might convince the Red Sox to accept a lesser package that could involve someone like the versatile Keke Hernandez.
The Dodgers know the addition of Betts could be the difference-maker that helps them take the next step. He is a great player, as gifted defensively as he is with the bat and they could stick him in the leadoff spot and watch him ignite the remainder of their powerful offense.
However, they would likely need some assurance Betts would be willing to forego free agent and sign an extension with them. Why go to the bother of making a high-profile deal for Betts, and then lose him after one season, when they could instead put Verdugo in right and hope he produces the same way Lux did when the Dodgers gave him a chance late last season.
The Dodgers need to make a decision very soon. The Red Sox and Padres are having very similar conversations that involve Boston taking on a large portion of what remains on outfielder Wil Myers’ $61 million deal over the next three seasons.
“Mookie Betts is one of the five best players in the game,” an assistant GM told Sports Illustrated. “When you have an opportunity to add a star player for one year, any team could use that kind of player… This is the kind of player you rarely get to acquire. He’s why you consider trading prospects.”