Who says no? 5 hypothetical Mookie swaps

If Betts gets dealt, these are the types of deals to look for

February 4th, 2020

Just a few weeks ago, it seemed unlikely that Red Sox outfielder would be dealt before Opening Day, but the saga has taken another turn as trade talks have picked up steam again.

"This is going to happen," MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal said Monday on the network's "Hot Stove" program. "Mookie Betts is getting traded. The only question is when and where."

The Dodgers and Padres are believed to be the only teams involved in serious trade discussions with Boston at this time, and multiple scenarios reportedly are being considered, including deals that would involve Red Sox left-hander David Price (owed $96 million through 2022) and Padres outfielder Wil Myers (owed $61 million through '22) changing teams along with Betts.

Below, you'll find five hypothetical trade proposals -- two for the Dodgers, two for the Padres and one for a "wild card" club with the need and resources to pursue Betts if Boston's other talks fizzle -- that could be enough to land the 27-year-old in a new uniform.


Proposal No. 1

Red Sox get: OF Alex Verdugo, SS/2B Jeter Downs (MLB Pipeline's No. 44 prospect), RHP Tony Gonsolin (Dodgers' No. 6 prospect in 2019)

Dodgers get: OF Mookie Betts

How much is a year of Betts -- at $27 million -- worth to the Dodgers, a powerhouse dying to get over their last hill to climb? What's the appropriate weight in prospects and young stars to balance one MVP-caliber player for one World Series run? Even if a Boston-L.A. deal seems like the most likely, the Dodgers still have to figure that out. Let's assume it's all worth it. The Dodgers covet a World Series ring above all else, they'll do what it takes to land the superstar that will help them get it and it's just a matter of finding the right players to package.

Start with Verdugo, a long-term replacement for Betts in the Red Sox outfield. He's only 23, was on his way to NL Rookie of the Year Award contention last season before injury shut him down, and he's under team control through 2024; five whole seasons. Now what else do the Red Sox need? How about a middle infielder to inherit Dustin Pedroia's spot? Downs is a top prospect, he could be Boston's second baseman of the future since he's only 21, and he can play short, too, if the Sox needed him there down the line. (And let's admit there is something poetic about Boston getting its own "Jeter.") Add in Gonsolin to shore up a Boston pitching staff that was full of question marks in 2019 -- the 25-year-old right-hander was more than solid as a rookie for L.A. (2.93 ERA in a flexible starter/reliever role). That's three quality players at three areas of need for the Red Sox to make it worth their while parting with Betts.

Who says no? The Dodgers. They'd be giving up too much young talent long-term. Verdugo might be a star in the making and he's already in the Majors. And picture a Downs-Lux duo in the middle infield for years to come. It's a nice image, right?

Proposal No. 2

Red Sox get: RHP Josiah Gray (MLB's No. 67 prospect), 2B Michael Busch (No. 6 second-base prospect), OF A.J. Pollock, OF Joc Pederson

Dodgers get: OF Mookie Betts, LHP David Price

Of course, more goes into a trade than talent alone. And in the case of a Betts deal between the Sox and Dodgers, both teams might want to use the trade as an opportunity to get contracts off their books. Boston's big one is Price, pitching out the last three seasons of his seven-year, $217 million megadeal. The Dodgers don't have anything at that level, but if they're getting Betts in their outfield, maybe they try to move Pollock. Pollock is owed $37 million in salary over the next three years, which takes him through his age-34 season, and he has a $10 million player option for 2023 that could go even higher based on plate appearances and any MVP Award votes he receives. So package Price with Betts and put Pollock on the table. Who do the Dodgers need to include now to balance the deal?

This time, their package starts with a top pitching prospect in Gray, a 22-year-old with an explosive fastball and sharp slider who had a 2.28 ERA in the Minors last year. (Dustin May, MLB's No. 23 prospect, seems like he might be too much to ask for from L.A.) The Dodgers can include Busch, their 2019 first-round Draft pick and another strong middle infield prospect in their system. The 22-year-old is No. 6 in this year's second baseman rankings, and Boston still needs to fill the role that Pedroia once held. Why add Pederson to this deal? He'd give the Red Sox insurance for Pollock's injury history, and he can really slug (36 homers in 2019) any time they need to plug a lefty into the lineup. Plus, Pederson is a free agent next offseason, and the Dodgers could give him up since they get to keep Verdugo in this deal.

Who says no? The Red Sox. The contracts involved make this one trickier to pull off, and the Gray/Busch headlining prospect package from the Dodgers might not be strong enough compared to Verdugo/Downs.


Proposal No. 1

Red Sox get: C Luis Campusano (MLB's No. 50 prospect), OF Taylor Trammell (MLB's No. 57 prospect), OF Josh Naylor, LHP Joey Lucchesi, OF Wil Myers, cash

Padres get: OF Mookie Betts

Let's get a little creative here: In this hypothetical proposal, the Padres will send roughly $15 million to the Red Sox, putting Boston on the hook for $46 million of the $61 million owed to Myers over the next three years. In exchange for assuming that much money in the deal, the Sox get quite a haul of young talent, led by a pair of MLB Pipeline Top 100 prospects in Campusano and Trammell, a potential replacement for Betts in right field. San Diego also would send Boston two controllable assets in Naylor (controllable through 2025) and Lucchesi (controllable through '23), both of whom can contribute in '20.

Although it's a steep price to pay for a player who is only under control for one more year, Padres general manager A.J. Preller could be inclined to swing for the fences, as the club is heading into a pivotal season. If San Diego doesn't make notable strides, Preller could find himself on the hot seat.

Most important, the Padres would acquire Betts -- and keep him away from the Dodgers -- without having to part with anyone from their top tier of prospects, which includes left-hander MacKenzie Gore (MLB's No. 5 prospect), shortstop CJ Abrams (MLB's No. 25 prospect) and right-hander Luis Patiño (MLB's No. 27 prospect). And the Red Sox, in addition to replenishing their talent pool for a player who might leave as a free agent after this season, give themselves a much better chance to finish below the $208 million Competitive Balance Tax threshold in 2020. Myers' CBT number is just $13.8 million, and it would be further reduced by the money San Diego is including. Betts, meanwhile, accounts for $27 million toward the CBT figure.

Who says no? The Padres. This is a lot of talent to give up for a one-year rental, especially when San Diego appears to be more than one player away from being a serious contender in 2020.

Proposal No. 2

Red Sox get: C Luis Campusano (MLB's No. 50 prospect), OF Manuel Margot, LHP Joey Lucchesi

Padres get: OF Mookie Betts, cash

As you can see, the return for the Red Sox isn't nearly as strong in a hypothetical deal that doesn't include Myers. For a trade like this to work, Boston probably needs to send San Diego money -- say, $10 million or so -- to cover some of Betts' salary. And remember: Any cash Boston includes to cover part of Betts' contract would count toward its 2020 CBT number, meaning another move would have to follow this trade for the Sox to get under the threshold.

Still, if the Red Sox think there's a good chance that Betts is going to walk next offseason, they could be compelled to accept a package centered around Campusano, one of the top catching prospects in baseball. Boston's current starting catcher, Christian Vazquez, is signed for two more seasons and has a $7 million team option (with a $250,000 buyout) for 2022, his age-31 campaign. Campusano could arrive in MLB at some point in '21 and be ready to assume the starting job the following year. Replacing Betts with Margot in right field would obviously be a huge offensive downgrade, but at least it keeps Boston's stellar outfield defense intact. Lucchesi, meanwhile, would give the Sox some much-needed rotation depth.

Who says no? The Red Sox. Campusano is a solid prospect, and Margot and Lucchesi could be useful pieces, but Boston would likely be more willing to take the chance that it can find a better offer before the Trade Deadline.


Red Sox get: OF Ender Inciarte, OF Drew Waters (MLB’s No. 26 prospect), RHP Freddy Tarnok

Braves get: OF Mookie Betts

If talks with the Dodgers and Padres ultimately stall, the Braves would make plenty of sense as a “wild card” team that could jump into the mix. First, there’s the fact that the back-to-back National League East champions haven’t advanced past the NL Division Series since 2001. And with the defending World Series champion Nationals leading the division competition, along with the talented Mets and Phillies, Atlanta could have a fight on its hands getting back to October.

Betts obviously would raise the chances for a third straight division title, as well as a deeper postseason run, taking at-bats from a 35-year-old Nick Markakis, Inciarte (.728 career OPS) and Adam Duvall. He would join Ronald Acuña Jr., Freddie Freeman, Marcell Ozuna and Ozzie Albies in a formidable lineup. Inciarte, owed more than $17 million through 2021, helps balance out Betts’ payroll hit, while Waters, a 21-year-old switch-hitter who rose to Triple-A last year, gives Boston a potential long-term successor for Betts. Tarnok is an intriguing 21-year-old arm who has had mixed results as a pro, but he has an elite prospect pedigree, with the Braves giving him an above-slot bonus of $1.445 million as a third-round pick in 2017 out of a Florida high school.

The Braves, with Acuña signed long-term and another highly ranked outfield prospect (No. 13 Christian Pache) knocking on the door, can afford to take the chance.

Who says no? The Red Sox. Taking on Inciarte’s money lessens the benefit of dealing Betts, and with Jackie Bradley Jr. under contract for 2020, Boston already has a defense-oriented center fielder this year.