Imagine yourself a disciple of Red Sox Nation today, dedicated to praising and preserving New England’s team.
You have heard for weeks the Red Sox have been exploring ways to trim their massive payroll, one that had become too burdensome for owner John Henry to live with. The goal was to dip below the $208 million luxury-tax threshold.
Rumors had been flying about 2018 MVP Mookie Betts and pitcher David Price being shipped to the Dodgers as the primary means of making that happen.
And you have covered your ears with your hands, refusing to believe letting go of Betts was possible.
Well, on Tuesday that nightmare was brought to life when the Red Sox did trade Betts, the face of their franchise, and Price, the overpriced lefty, to the Dodgers in return for significant cash relief and outfielder Alex Verdugo.
The trade included a third team, the Minnesota Twins. The Dodgers sent righthander Kenta Maeda to the Twins, who then sent reliever Brusdar Graterol to the Red Sox.
And it was a precursor to another deal in which the Dodgers shipped outfielder Joc Pederson to the Los Angeles Angels for infielder Luis Rengifo.
There is only one way to really assess this deal and its from the perspective of the Dodgers and Red Sox.
The Red Sox decided they could not – or would not – offer Betts the long-term deal and dollars he will seek when he becomes a free agent following the 2020 season. They agreed to pay him $27 this season, but there is apparently no interest in giving him a multi-year deal that could pay him nearly $400 million in the future. And it’s too early to know if he’d even listen to the Dodgers should they broach the subject during the season.
Boston also decided it wanted nothing more to do with Price, the washed-up former All-Star lefthander who still has three years and $96 million remaining on the outrageously stupid seven-year, $217 million deal they gave him in 2015. Price hasn’t thrown more than 176 innings since in three years. He’s averaged only 119 in that time.
What’s not known at this moment, but what’s certainly in the fine print, is how much of Price’s deal the Red Sox will absorb. But considering they received only Verdugo in return, it probably won’t be much. MLB.com estimates the teams will split it 50-50.
The Dodgers will happily pay that – the additional price for getting Betts – and hope he produces as likely their fourth starter now that starter Hyun-Jin Ryu has signed with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Betts is just 27 and he’s coming off a season during which he slashed .295/.391/.524. He went .346/.438/.640 during the Red Sox’s World Series-winning season in 2018. In his five seasons in Boston, his war was an amazing 42.0, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Betts is also a four-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, with three Silver Sluggers. Since his debut in June 2014, Betts leads MLB in runs (613) and doubles (229) is second in extra-base hits (394) and fourth in total hits (965). He will play right field in Los Angeles – opposite left fielder Cody Bellinger, the NL’s 2019 MVP.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers, clearly upset about losing the last two World Series to the Red Sox and Nationals, who haven’t won a league championship since 1988, were looking for another powerful asset. Rebuked in their efforts to sign pitcher Gerrit Cole (Yankees), Stephen Strasburg (Nationals) and third baseman Anthony Rendon (Angels) they set their sights on Betts and outmaneuvered the Padres to get him.
If the Red Sox plan on replacing Betts with Verdugo, they will get a 23-year-old who went .294/.342/.475 with a 2.2 WAR in 377 plate appearances for the Dodgers last season before injuring his back on Aug. 4 and not appearing in another game. He will make the MLB minimum of $563,500 this season.
Pederson, 27, who will join Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Brian Goodwin in the outfield, hit .249 with 36 home runs and 74 RBIs last year for the Dodgers. But he’s also a free agent after the season and with top prospect Jo Adell due up this season, Pederson is likely a one-year rental.