Is Betts to the Dodgers 'inevitable'?

February 3rd, 2020

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Betts to LA 'inevitable'?

Feb. 2: A deal sending Red Sox star right fielder Mookie Betts to the Dodgers is "inevitable," three National League sources have predicted, according to The Athletic's Peter Gammons. Gammons adds that the "consensus" opinion is that a return package from Los Angeles to Boston would comprise of outfielder Alex Verdugo, the Dodgers' No. 5 prospect (No. 87 in baseball) Jeter Downs, a pitcher and perhaps a Class A prospect. Gammons surmises the pitcher could be left-hander Caleb Ferguson.

Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reports that the Red Sox could make a decision on their superstar right fielder "within the next few days." Per Speier, Boston has continued to discuss potential trades with both the Dodgers and the Padres, and the talks have reached "a relatively advanced stage," though the Sox haven't asked either team for its last and best offer.

Betts is entering his final season before free-agent eligibility, and so far the former American League MVP and the Red Sox haven't reached an extension agreement. Boston is also reportedly keen on staying below the luxury tax threshold, which could happen if Betts' contract is moved.

The Dodgers have had a very quiet offseason so far after being stunned by the Nationals in a five-game National League Division Series loss in October. But the addition of Betts to an already potent lineup that includes reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Max Muncy, Corey Seager and others would be a big boost, not to mention a big splash of the type that president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has tended to avoid in the past.

Verdugo, 23, hit .294/.342/.475 with 12 home runs in 106 games last season. Downs, primarily a shortstop in the Minors, slashed .276/.362/.526 with 24 homers and 24 steals between Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa.

Ferguson, 23, posted a 4.84 ERA in 46 appearances (two starts) last season for the Dodgers, striking out 26 percent of batters he faced, but also walking 13 percent.

Betts potentially still in play for Dodgers?

Jan. 26: The Red Sox are still discussing Betts trade scenarios with the Dodgers and Padres, according to a report by Alex Speier of the Boston Globe.

That doesn't make a Betts trade certain, but the fact that Boston is still considering both clubs' proposals -- each reportedly containing combinations of Major Leaguers and top prospects -- with Spring Training on the horizon signals that the club is still open-minded to a swap. Speier reports that the Red Sox's willingness to trade Betts "appears serious." While the Red Sox could compete for the American League East title this year, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal notes in his Sunday column for The Athletic (subscription required) that clearing Betts' salary -- and getting a prospect-laden return for him before he departs via free agency -- would potentially give Boston a more flexible future.

The Dodgers have the financial wherewithal to take on Betts' $27 million salary this year, and possess multiple highly regarded prospects besides shortstop Gavin Lux and pitcher Dustin May, who appear to be untouchable. Los Angeles could probably take on the remaining $96 million left on David Price's contract as part of a deal, too. A deal with the Padres could involve the Red Sox acquiring outfielder Wil Myers, who is owed $61 million over the next three years. San Diego would probably need to tack on significant prospect talent to convince Boston to take on Myers in a swap. Rosenthal reports that the D-backs, with former Boston ties in manager Torey Lovullo and general manager Mike Hazen, have also shown at least some interest in trading for Betts. However, on paper, Arizona doesn't appear to have either the financial or prospect resources to compete with the Dodgers or Padres in a bidding war.

Dodgers miss out on Donaldson, too. What now?

Jan. 15: The Dodgers have been linked to or expressed interest in just about every available big name this offseason with regard to both free agents and trade chips. They have brought in exactly zero of them.

Not Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg or Josh Donaldson, the most recent free agent to find a new home, as he agreed to a four-year deal with the Twins on Tuesday, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

Not Nolan Arenado of the Rockies, Kris Bryant of the Cubs, Francisco Lindor of the Indians or Mookie Betts of the Red Sox, a quartet of massive superstars that remain stalwarts of trade speculation.

"The Dodgers’ inability (or lack of desire, take your pick) to bring in a big, outside free agent is becoming one of the more intriguing subplots in the sport," MLB.com's Will Leitch wrote in highlighting the five teams most impacted by Donaldson's decision, "and one that’s going to continue to fester until they nail one down or, you know, win the World Series. Does this make them more likely to push for a Mookie Betts trade? Or a Bryant one? Or do they let ride for another season?

So ... what now?

The biggest names left on the open market are corner outfielders Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna, neither of which is a clear fit for L.A. If the Dodgers do hope to make a major move before the regular season starts, then, they're almost certainly going to have to get something done via trade.

Any of the above four players could be targets, but each likely would require the Dodgers to surrender a package of players, including one or more of their highly valued and highly coveted prospects. The names that have been floated in rumors include, among others, catcher Keibert Ruiz, right-hander Dustin May, and infielder Gavin Lux, who is MLB Pipeline's No. 2 overall prospect (as of the end of 2019) and has been designated more or less "untouchable."

Given all that, which of Arenado, Bryant, Lindor or Betts -- if they're even traded, that is -- might be the best fit for the Dodgers?

It's hard to see the Rockies sending their franchise face to their NL West rival, so Arenado is out.

Betts looks increasingly likely to remain on the Red Sox, as Boston's chief baseball officer said Wednesday, perhaps even more so given the public relations hit the team just took in dismissing manager Alex Cora for his role in the Astros' illegal sign-stealing scandal.

That leaves Bryant and Lindor. The former could make sense, except for the fact that the Cubs are awaiting word on his pending service-time grievance to determine whether he's under club control through 2020 or '21.

So, it's down to Lindor, who has two seasons left before he's due to hit free agency. The Indians are in something of a state of flux, hoping to contend yet again -- albeit in an AL Central featuring an improved White Sox team and the 2019 division-winning Twins, now with Donaldson -- but also looking to manage their small-market payroll at a time when Lindor's salary is climbing and his trade value may never be higher.

Cleveland has made it known to the Dodgers that any blockbuster built around Lindor must include Lux. While it's unclear how much discussion the two sides have had about such a trade, there's a possibility that the decision ultimately could come down to the Dodgers' preference (or not) to part with Lux to get Lindor.

Dodgers well positioned to land Betts in free agency

Jan. 10: Although the Dodgers have had a quiet offseason, the club is well positioned to be a major player on the free-agent market after the 2020 season, specifically with Mookie Betts, writes Andy McCullough of The Athletic (subscription required).

Los Angeles reportedly has discussed a trade for Betts with the Red Sox this winter, but a deal remains unlikely. If the Dodgers aren't inclined to meet Boston's asking price, they could just sign Betts next offseason.

The Dodgers still haven't signed a free agent to a $100 million-plus deal during president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman's tenure, but the team's $300 million offer to Gerrit Cole shows a willingness to diverge from the usual M.O. for a player the team really wants.

As McCullough points out, the Dodgers have just $16 million in guaranteed money on the books for 2022, giving the team the payroll flexibility to make Betts a massive offer.

It's looking likely that Betts will test the open market. And once the outfielder is a free agent, it wouldn't be surprising to see him leave Boston, based on recent trends.

According to The Athletic's Jen McCaffrey, Jose Abreu is the only player among the top 100 active leaders in Wins Above Replacement to reach free agency for the first time and then re-sign with the team with which he spent his entire career, without having previously signed a contract extension with said team.

"In other words, Betts entering free agency for the first time and re-signing with his original team without ever having signed an extension would be unprecedented among current players of his caliber over the last decade, when contracts ballooned into the $300 million range," McCaffrey writes.

Betts is set to earn $27 million -- a record for an arbitration-eligible player -- in 2020 after he reached an agreement with Boston on Friday. The deal allows the two sides to avoid going through a contentious arbitration hearing that could potentially harm the Red Sox's chances of re-signing the outfielder.

Could Dodgers jump back in on Donaldson?

Jan. 9: Although Josh Donaldson has received four-year offers from three teams (Braves, Nationals, Twins), the market for the veteran third baseman has reached a standstill. That could give the Dodgers an opening to jump back into the mix, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal writes in an article for The Athletic (subscription required).

To this point, Los Angeles' biggest additions this offseason are Blake Treinen and Jimmy Nelson. The club also has explored trades for superstars Francisco Lindor and Mookie Betts, but a deal for either player remains unlikely.

"President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman almost certainly would not want to offer four years, but if all other options fail, what alternative will he have?" Rosenthal writes.

Rosenthal previously noted that Donaldson was holding out for a team to offer him $110 million. However, based on recent reports, Washington might be the only club close to that mark. According to MLB.com's Mark Bowman, some industry sources have expressed doubt that the Braves have come close to making the top offer for Donaldson, and SKOR North's Darren Wolfson gets the sense that the Twins' offer is closer to the $80 million to $85 million range.

Meanwhile, the Nats' additions of infielders Starlin Castro, Asdrúbal Cabrera and Eric Thames make it unlikely they'll increase their offer from a reported $100 million over four years. Moreover, Washington is known to utilize deferrals in its big-money contracts, lowering the present-day value of the deal. It's unclear if the team's offer for Donaldson includes deferred money, but it would explain why the third baseman has been willing to wait for something better.

As Lindor talks cool, Mookie chatter intensifies

Jan. 2: It's been all Los Angeles to this point as far as Francisco Lindor trade rumors are concerned. But now, that chatter has cooled, and in its place has arisen a new potential blockbuster.

Sources told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi on Thursday that as the Dodgers-Indians conversations have become less intense, "the Dodgers’ negotiations with the Red Sox about acquiring Mookie Betts have become at least as frequent -- and perhaps even more involved -- than their talks with the Indians about Lindor."

Why might that be the case? Morosi added that Boston is less insistent on Gavin Lux, Los Angeles' top prospect and the No. 2 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, be part of a potential return for their superstar. That's not been the case so far with Cleveland. What's more, Los Angeles is in need of a starter to replace the innings of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill, and with the Red Sox having an interest in shedding salary, David Price and the three years and $96 million left on his contract certainly fits the bill on both sides.

However, Morosi predicts that a deal which sends boh Betts and Price to Los Angeles would require highly-touted prospects in return, though it may not have to include Lux. Instead, Dustin May or Tony Gonsolin -- two of Los Angeles' top three pitching prospects -- could be moved. More >

Arenado to LA makes sense ... to some

Jan. 1: There are a lot of reasons Nolan Arenado in Dodger blue makes sense. The superstar is a native of Southern California. The Dodgers are a win-now team, have a history of not being shy to spend when it needs to and have a hole at third base, assuming Justin Turner makes the transition to first.

But as sensible as the move may seem, it would be a big surprise to Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post.

"I really don’t see a scenario in which Arenado lands in L.A.," Saunders wrote in a recent reader mailbag. "Trading a star player to a team within the division is always a risky and unpopular thing to do. The Dodgers already own the Rockies, so can you imagine the outrage among Rockies fans if the Dodgers won a World Series with Arenado playing third base?"

Going one step further, Saunders predicts that Arenado will remain a Rockie come Opening Day. But he would not be totally surprised if Arenado is traded at some point before he can opt out of the last five years of his contract following the 2021 season.

No matter what, Arenado's full no-trade clause in his contract ultimately makes him the decider in where he lands should that location not remain in Colorado. Saunders describes that as one of the biggest factors surrounding Arenado's trade talks, and even though Los Angeles would make sense for a multitude of levels, it may not be that easy.

Pieces for blockbuster trade taking shape

Dec. 24: If the Dodgers do intend to make a splash on the trade market this offseason, the pieces they're going to need to part ways with are becoming clearer.

Andy McCullough wrote in The Athletic (subscription required) on Tuesday that both Joc Pederson and Corey Seager are potentially moveable for the right price. But they would not be enough alone for someone like Mookie Betts or Francisco Lindor. However, as Ken Rosenthal also noted in The Athletic recently, Los Angeles' top prospect Gavin Lux (No. 2 overall in MLB) is off limits.

But Los Angeles is rich in prospects. If Lux is indeed untouchable, perhaps right-hander Dustin May (MLB's No. 32 prospect) and catcher Keibert Ruiz (No. 33) could top off a package for the Red Sox's or Indians' superstar.

Dodgers may be eyeing Mookie in addition to Lindor

Dec. 18: The Dodgers have been connected to a number of big names this offseason, but signing Blake Treinen to a one-year, $10 million contract has been their biggest move to this point.

MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported Monday in an article for The Athletic (subscription required) that the club had turned its attention to Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor. However, Rosenthal wrote that Los Angeles was making Gavin Lux (MLB's No. 2 overall prospect) off limits.

What might a Dodgers package for Lindor look like if Lux isn't included? Los Angeles does have a deep farm system that still could allow for an offer featuring quality and quantity, perhaps featuring right-hander Dustin May and catching prospect Keibert Ruiz.

If the Indians insist on Lux being part of any trade for Lindor, 26, the Dodgers could pivot to another superstar trade candidate. USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports that L.A. also has its eyes on Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts and has engaged in "exploratory talks" with Boston.

Alex Speier of the Boston Globe was told by multiple sources that the Red Sox and Dodgers had "virtually no engagement" on Betts during the Winter Meetings. But it's possible that Los Angeles decided to check in on Betts in response to a rapidly thinning free-agent market and Cleveland's asking price for Lindor.

With Betts set to test the open market next offseason and the Red Sox looking to get below the $208 million Competitive Balance Tax threshold in 2020, trade rumors have been swirling around the outfielder all offseason.

The 27-year-old is a season away from free agency, compared to two years for Lindor, and he'll be much more expensive in his final year of arbitration eligibility than Lindor will be in his second year. Given those factors, Betts will surely cost less to acquire.

The Dodgers also remain in the running for free-agent third baseman Josh Donaldson, per Rosenthal, but the Nats are considered the favorites to sign the 34-year-old.

Dodgers still in on Donaldson. Will anyone outbid Nats?

Dec. 17: The latest update on the Josh Donaldson sweepstakes, from MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, is that the Dodgers are still in on the third baseman. However, teams involved are concerned they won't be able to outbid the Nationals.

Per Rosenthal, Washington could offer the 34-year-old either a four-year deal or a three-year pact with a higher average annual value.

The Nats are in need of a third baseman after Anthony Rendon signed a seven-year, $245 million contract with the Angels. Washington doesn't have an obvious in-house replacement.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, don't necessarily need Donaldson, as they have Justin Turner signed for one more year. However, Turner has made it clear he's willing to change positions if Los Angeles adds another third baseman. The club could use Donaldson's right-handed power, as Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Cody Seager, Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo, Gavin Lux and Matt Beaty all bat from the left side.

The Braves and Twins are also reportedly in the mix to sign Donaldson, who played for Atlanta on a one-year, $23 million contract in 2019 and produced 37 homers, a .900 OPS and 4.9 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement.

Is an NL West competition brewing for Lindor?

Dec. 16: With seven straight National League West titles in the bag and one of the deepest rosters in baseball, the Dodgers don't need to do anything major to be a top contender in 2020. But there's still a case to be made that Los Angeles should shake things up in an effort to get over the hump and win the franchise's World Series championship since 1988.

With the free-agent market thinned substantially and Corey Kluber headed to the Rangers, the Dodgers' best chance to upgrade the roster might be trading for Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, who has two years of team control remaining. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports in an article for The Athletic (subscription required) that the Dodgers are indeed focused on Lindor, but they aren't the only NL West club that has talked to the Tribe about the superstar shortstop.

Per Rosenthal, the Padres' discussions with the Indians regarding Kluber led to conversations about Lindor. There's no indication San Diego intends to make a serious push for Lindor, but that could change, as some of the team's baseball people are in favor of it. Part of the motivation could be to keep him away from Los Angeles.

San Diego already has a shortstop in 20-year-old Fernando Tatis Jr., but the club could shift Tatis to center field if it acquires Lindor. The 26-year-old could be there for the taking if the Padres want to act, as the Dodgers don't plan to make top prospect Gavin Lux (MLB's No. 2 overall prospect) available, Rosenthal reports.

MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM analyst Jim Bowden argues the Indians should insist on Lux being part of any package for Lindor.

"If the Dodgers aren't willing to do a deal centered around Gavin Lux, then I wouldn't trade [Lindor]," Bowden said. "If they put Lux in it, I would work with them. ... There's a package to be made if Lux is in it. 'No Lux, no Lindor.' That's all I would keep saying every time Andrew [Friedman] called me."

Dodgers still seeking a blockbuster move?

Dec. 13: So far this offseason, the Dodgers have been linked to just about every big name on both the trade market and in free agency. But they've yet to make that big blockbuster trade or signing.

The Dodgers were in on free agents Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg -- each of whom landed a big-money deal during the Winter Meetings. There's also been speculation that L.A. is considering the possibility of targeting Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant or Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts via trade.

Are the Dodgers ready to act to land a star in one way or another?

That is, after all, the club's biggest need at this stage of the offseason, as MLB.com's Ken Gurnick writes: "This isn't about selling tickets, because the Dodgers have no problem there. It's about adding someone an opponent fears, whether it's a standout shortstop like Francisco Lindor, a power corner bat like Kris Bryant, a dynamic outfielder like Mookie Betts or a monster reliever like Josh Hader. Nolan Arenado would be a perfect fit, but the hurdles of an intradivisional trade for a franchise player are probably insurmountable."

If, in fact, the trade route is the better option -- and it might be, given that many top-tier free agents already have signed -- then L.A. could take advantage of one of the game's best farm systems, featuring a collection of big league-ready young players (like Gavin Lux, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin) or nearly ready top prospects (including Keibert Ruiz, Josiah Gray and Jeter Downs).

The front office, however, seems disinclined to part with Lux, in particular, as MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports in The Athletic (subscription required) -- even in a swap that would net Lindor, who is under club control through 2021. Lux, a 22-year-old middle infielder, made his MLB debut late last season and currently ranks as MLB Pipeline's No. 2 overall prospect.

All of which raises the question: Is there a package of young assets the Dodgers could put together without Lux that would entice the Indians or Cubs or Red Sox? If not, then, would the Dodgers be willing to part with Lux to bring in a superstar to try to help them get back to the World Series and, perhaps, finally win it all.