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Will this factor steer Betts away from Boston?

November 17, 2019

With Mookie Betts entering the final year of his contract in 2020, the '18 American League Most Valuable Player Award winner will be the focus of plenty of trade talks this offseason. Below is a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the 27-year-old outfielder.

With Mookie Betts entering the final year of his contract in 2020, the '18 American League Most Valuable Player Award winner will be the focus of plenty of trade talks this offseason.

Below is a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the 27-year-old outfielder.

Will Red Sox's farm system factor into Betts' decision?

Nov. 17: Money might not be the only factor in determining whether Betts re-signs with the Red Sox. As Rob Bradford of WEEI radio in Boston points out, Betts' next deal could tie him to a team for another decade, which means he is likely going to consider whether that team can build a sustainable winner around him.

If Betts looks at Boston's farm system, he might not like what he sees. Corner infielder Triston Casas is the only Red Sox prospect who ranks among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 overall, and he barely made the cut at No. 85. Casas also might not reach the Majors for another two years.

"It is universally believed that the Sox's best hope at finding impact young talent resides in the lower levels of the minors, leading to more uncertainty," Bradford writes.

The Red Sox do have greater financial resources than most teams, but a new deal for Betts would further restrict Boston's ability to add to the MLB roster over the next few seasons.

Another Red Sox-White Sox blockbuster?

Nov. 17: Three years ago this December, the Red Sox and White Sox collaborated on a blockbuster trade that sent Chris Sale to Boston and brought back Yoán Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz. Is another big deal between the two clubs forthcoming?

In outlining potential scenarios for this offseason, MLB.com's Richard Justice names the White Sox as the team that will make the bold move to trade for Betts, even with the outfielder under control for only one more season.

Justice thinks a package centered around second-base prospect Nick Madrigal (White Sox No. 3 prospect, MLB Pipeline's No. 40 overall) could be enough to land Betts, with Madrigal becoming the heir apparent to Dustin Pedroia in Boston. More >

Why this team could make a surprising bid for Betts or Lindor

Nov. 15: Much of the focus early in the offseason tends to be on the numerous free agents, simply because scores of players suddenly flood the market and can be acquired by signing them for money. The trade front, though, tends to be a little slower to develop, but already there are two really big names being bandied about as possible chips ...

Red Sox outfielder and 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts and star Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor.

Given that both players are very much in their primes and under club control only for a short time -- the 27-year-old Betts through 2020 and the 26-year-old Lindor through '21 -- it would seem that teams going all in on next season should be most interested in going after either one.

Enter ... (drum roll, please!) ... the Mets. More >

Are these the most likely trade fits for Betts?

Nov. 13: With Betts set to test the free-agent market next offseason, the outfielder's future has become a major source of speculation.

Instead of losing Betts for only Draft compensation in a year, the Red Sox could look to trade him now. Moving Betts' salary -- which could climb north of $25 million in his final year of arbitration eligibility -- off the books would also go a long way toward helping the club get below the $208 million Competitive Balance Tax threshold.

The problem for Boston is that there isn't an obvious trade fit for Betts. Although every team could benefit from adding the 2018 American League MVP Award winner, the Red Sox could have trouble finding a trade partner willing to give up top prospects for a player with only one year of team control remaining and a '20 salary over $25 million.

In the opinion of The Athletic's (subscription required) Jim Bowden, the Dodgers, Cardinals and Braves are the only teams that realistically make sense as a suitor for Betts.

Bowden points to St. Louis' trade for first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, which netted the D-backs right-hander Luke Weaver, catcher Carson Kelly and infielder Andy Young, as a model for what Boston can hope to get back in a Betts deal.

Bowden suggests a package of catcher Keibert Ruiz (Dodgers' No. 3 prospect, MLB Pipeline's No. 33 overall), right-hander Josiah Gray (Dodgers' No. 4, MLB's No. 75 overall) and shortstop Jeter Downs (Dodgers' No. 5, MLB's No. 87) could land Betts in Los Angeles.

For the Cardinals, Bowden puts forth a hypothetical offer of catcher Andrew Knizner (Cardinals' No. 3 prospect) third baseman Elehuris Montero (No. 4) and outfielder Randy Arozarena (No. 10).

And for the Braves, Bowden thinks outfielder Drew Waters (Braves' No. 2 prospect, MLB's No. 23), left-hander Kyle Muller (Braves' No. 7) and catcher William Contreras (Braves' No. 8) could be enough to swing a deal for Betts.

Red Sox will be creative this offseason, could trade with rare partner

Nov. 12: The Red Sox are expected to exercise creativity this offseason, with players like Betts potentially on the trade block, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand writes. It seems unlikely that the Red Sox would make a trade with their biggest AL East rival, but new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom indicated that he wouldn't rule anything out.

"I never like to think that way,” Bloom said. “I think it’s our job right now to make contact with 29 other clubs and to get the best sense we can of what everybody is trying to do and go from there.”

Dreaming up Betts trade scenarios

Nov. 11: How does a team acquire a superstar like Betts? How do the Red Sox acquire anything close to equal talent for him?

SNY's Matthew Cerrone attempts to work out the details with hypothetical trade scenarios that put Betts on the Mets, citing conversations he had with MLB insiders last month. His three scenarios include: a) The Mets trading Major Leaguers, like either Brandon Nimmo and Steven Matz as a package or ace Noah Syndergaard; b) Trading Jeff McNeil for Betts and a Red Sox starter, such as Nathan Eovaldi; or c) Dealing closer Edwin Díaz and Dominic Smith in exchange for Betts.

Cerrone also notes that the Red Sox could look elsewhere for a trade, identifying the Braves, Cubs, Cardinals, Nationals and Padres as potential partners.

One of these three likely to be traded this offseason, Betts part of group

Nov. 11: There has been trade speculation surrounding a number of players so far this offseason, with three of the biggest names in those rumors being Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor and Kris Bryant. According to a report from MLB Network Insider Jon Morosi, executives of multiple Major League teams believe that at least one of those players will be traded this offseason.

Will Betts' trade market begin to take shape this week?

Nov. 10: The GM Meetings are this week in Scottsdale, Ariz., and MLB.com's Mark Feinsand wonders if the Betts market may open in earnest this week as executives meet face-to-face for the first time this offseason. Whether the team will actually be able to trade Betts, if that decision is made, is a different story entirely, Feinsand writes. Not many teams are in a position to take on a player making as much money as Betts already is, and even those teams aren't necessarily going to want to trade a large quantity of players or prospects, or both, for a player who will be a free agent after 2020. At the very least, Betts' market will likely begin to take form this week.

Can Bloom's wheeling and dealing help Red Sox keep Betts?

Nov. 9: Although the Red Sox have financial advantages few teams can match, Boston's new chief baseball officer, Chaim Bloom, has inherited a difficult situation. Principal owner John Henry wants the club to get under the $208 million Competitive Balance Tax threshold, which has led to speculation that the Sox will need to trade Mookie Betts.

The 2018 American League MVP, who can become a free agent next offseason, is due to receive a raise in his final year of arbitration eligibility after earning $20 million in 2019. Meanwhile, David Price, Chris Sale, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Nathan Eovaldi and Dustin Pedroia will count for nearly $130 million toward the team's CBT figure in 2020, and Jackie Bradley Jr. and Eduardo Rodriguez could add another $20 million or so through their own arbitration raises.

That said, if there's anyone who can navigate Boston's payroll situation and find a way to keep Betts, it might be Bloom. As Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic (subscription required) points out, Bloom had a knack for wheeling and dealing to bring undervalued talent into the Rays organization.

Tampa Bay won 96 games and made the playoffs in 2019 despite having the lowest Opening Day payroll in MLB, as Bloom and general manager Erik Neander traded for Emilio Pagán, Nick Anderson, Yandy Díaz, Travis d'Arnaud, Guillermo Heredia, Mike Zunino and Jesús Aguilar. Tommy Pham, Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow and Ji-Man Choi also were added in trades the previous season. With his creativity, Bloom may be able to remake the roster and pare Boston's payroll without moving Betts.

Sherman: Betts would be "pipe dream" CF option for Mets

Nov. 7: Could Betts suit up for a New York ballclub?

No, not that New York club -- the odds of the Red Sox trading their franchise star to the Yankees are as close to zero as can be. But the Mets might have as big a center-field hole as any team in baseball, and MLB Network insider Joel Sherman writes that Betts is exactly the player to fill that need.

Writing for the New York Post on Thursday, Sherman outlined the Mets’ 2018 woes in center; Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo brought offense but were well below-average defensively, while glove stud Juan Lagares didn’t hit enough to justify an everyday spot in the lineup. New manager Carlos Beltrán has plenty of lineup-card options at the corner outfield spots in 2020, but center field remains a mystery in Queens.

Sherman lists Betts as the “pipe dream” option as an elite bat who could slide over from right field and contribute excellent defense in center, and he poses a hypothetical Betts-for-Noah Syndergaard trade that far surpasses the “splash” terminology. Syndergaard’s salary is roughly one-third of Betts’ next season, and he’s under club control through ’21 as well. Sherman posits that Boston could spin Syndergaard forward in a subsequent trade to acquire younger talent and cut even more payroll.

It’s a showy move that would seem to fit Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s early approach. But is it realistic? We’ll have to stay tuned.

How does Martinez's decision impact Betts?

Nov. 7: With J.D. Martinez deciding to return to the Red Sox instead of exercising his opt-out clause, it remains to be seen whether that will increase the likelihood of Boston trading Betts.

Martinez has three years and $62.5 million remaining on the five-year deal he signed in Spring Training 2018 -- but he can also opt out following the ’20 and ’21 seasons. Either way, that leaves the Red Sox with some tough decisions, especially after owner John Henry expressed his desire in late September to get the payroll below the first luxury-tax threshold of $208 million for next season. In 2019, Boston’s payroll was roughly $240 million.

Along those same lines, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy acknowledged the day after the regular season ended that it would be possible but “difficult” to have both Martinez and Betts on the roster next year.

New chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said the team is keeping all options open, after he was asked how the club will proceed with Betts, who has expressed his desire to test free agency next offseason in lieu of signing an extension in advance.

Of course, if the Red Sox are set on cutting payroll, they could explore the possibility of trading Martinez instead of Betts. That said, MLB.com's Ian Browne notes that moving Martinez this winter would be "risky to do without a long-term commitment from Betts."

Will Red Sox keep core for one more title run?

Nov 7: Though Red Sox owner John Henry has said he wants to get the payroll below the luxury tax next season, the possibility remains that Boston could try to keep its core together in 2020 -- including both Betts and J.D. Martinez -- for one more title run before Betts enters free agency next winter.

In fact, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman said in a recent radio interview on WEEI that he believes that's the most likely scenario. Though Heyman acknowledged he could see Boston going through a "modified rebuild," he said he would be "surprised" if the Red Sox traded Betts before his contract expires.

Could Red Sox shop Bogaerts instead of Betts?

Nov. 7: Though much of the focus has been on what the Red Sox will do with Betts and J.D. Martinez this offseason, ESPN's Jeff Passan proposed an alternative that involves Xander Bogaerts.

Martinez is on the books for $23.75 million next season and Betts is due for another sizable raise in his final year of arbitration eligibility after making $20 million in 2019. Given Betts' salary and his desire to test free agency next winter, teams might be hesitant to offer a significant return for the four-time All-Star.

With that in mind, Passan presents an alternative that involves packaging 27-year-old shortstop Xander Bogaerts, whose six-year, $120 million contract starts in 2020, with David Price and Nathan Eovaldi. The two pitchers have a combined $147 million remaining on their contracts and carry a Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) hit of $48 million next season. All told, trading those three would give the Red Sox $68 million in CBT savings for 2020.

With Bogaerts under control for the next six years, teams could be more interested in trading for him than Betts. The shortstop market is also weak this offseason, especially with Didi Gregorius coming off a down year, which perhaps makes Bogaerts an even more attractive trade target.

Similar to any potential Martinez deals, however, the Red Sox would likely be hesitant to part with Bogaerts unless they had some level of confidence they could re-sign Betts -- something that appears unlikely to happen prior to next offseason.