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What's on the table if Padres push for Betts

@AJCassavell
January 24, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres still want to bolster their offense this winter, and they've always believed they have the pieces in their farm system to swing a deal. There's not a single big-name bat on the trade market who is off limits. That includes Mookie Betts. The Padres and

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres still want to bolster their offense this winter, and they've always believed they have the pieces in their farm system to swing a deal. There's not a single big-name bat on the trade market who is off limits.

That includes Mookie Betts.

The Padres and Red Sox have indeed discussed a deal that would send Betts to San Diego, according to sources. Those trade talks were first reported by The Athletic. As the report notes, a trade between the two sides remains unlikely.

It's unclear what pieces the Padres would need to part with in order to land Betts. The star outfielder is 27 and has one year and $27 million remaining on his contract before he hits free agency next winter.

The two clubs have explored including outfielder Wil Myers in the deal, according to a source. Myers has three years and $61 million remaining on his deal, and given his recent struggles, the Padres would likely need to eat a portion of that money.

Of course, San Diego’s package for Betts wouldn't be centered around Myers. It would instead be headlined by prospects from a farm system that is widely regarded as one of the best in baseball.

The Padres seem hesitant to part with valuable long-term pieces in a deal that would only land Betts for one season. But while a trade remains unlikely, it's at least apparently on the table.

Why it might happen

The Padres' offense finished 27th in runs, 26th in OPS and 24th in wRC+ last season. This winter, they've added Tommy Pham. Plus the Padres are expecting a full season from Fernando Tatis Jr. and a bounceback year from Manny Machado. But there's clearly room for another impact bat.

Betts, who batted .295/.391/.524 last season and was worth 6.8 WAR, is one of the best hitters in the sport. He was named American League MVP in 2018 and would change the dynamic of San Diego’s offense entirely.

The Padres have serious question marks in their rotation. But their bullpen -- arguably the best in the National League -- might be good enough to mask that unit’s shortcomings. As a result, the Padres have spent their offseason in search of offense, and Betts represents the best upgrade available.

Why it might not

General manager A.J. Preller began his overhaul of the Padres' roster 3 1/2 years ago, trading established big leaguers like James Shields and Fernando Rodney to revamp the farm system with prospects like Tatis and Chris Paddack. The goal, Preller said, was to set the Padres up for a sustained run of success without rushing the process.

Recently, that plan has borne fruit. But the Padres still finished 70-92 last season. And while many projections are optimistic for an 80-something-win campaign, it's unclear whether the Padres will be serious contenders in 2020.

Betts would help accomplish that goal. He's accrued the second most WAR in baseball over the past five seasons, trailing only Mike Trout. But it's worth asking whether this singular year of Betts intersects with the organization's peak -- especially when top pitching prospects like MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patiño haven't yet arrived.

What would it cost?

The Padres’ front office is acutely aware that Betts has only one season remaining before he hits free agency. In that regard, it seems unlikely that the organization would severely jeopardize its future for a short-term jolt.

One source noted that the Padres are unwilling to part with anyone from their top tier of prospects in a Betts deal -- a tier that includes Gore, Patiño, promising shortstop C.J. Abrams and possibly others. That said, there's a belief that the Red Sox might be willing to accept a trade that includes a group of prospects from the Padres' second tier. That’s where things get interesting.

Earlier this winter, the Padres and Indians explored a potential trade for star shortstop Francisco Lindor. In the Padres’ eyes, the asking price was unrealistic, and those talks never progressed. But Lindor had two seasons left on his contract. Betts only has one -- meaning the Red Sox, who are looking to shed some payroll, don’t quite have the same leverage.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.