MLB Winter Meetings: Trading Mookie Betts Would Be Bad Business For Boston

The money and metrics of baseball are always perplexing and change from season to season. Last season, owners were hesitant to award pitchers who were 30ish in age with large multi-year contracts, but they didn’t mind giving MLB’s top position players record deals

Red Sox Might Unload 2018 MVP Mookie Betts 

Betts has been a Top 5 player in baseball since his breakout season in 2016 and he has the highest fWAR of anyone not named Mike Trout since 2015

His 2019 season (.295, 29 bombs and 80 RBI and n MLB-leading 135 runs scored)  ranked ninth in fWAR despite a slight dip in production from his 2018 AL MVP campaign.  

Not to mention, he’s a Gold-Glove right fielder, one season removed from a 30-30 campaign and WS Championship and just entering his prime at 26 years old. 

So what justification could the Red Sox possibly have for wanting to trade Betts or even entertaining offers for baseball’s No. 1 African-American superstar? 

C.R.E.A.M (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)

I hear this talk about money, but it’s not like Boston is struggling for paper. The Red Sox — one of baseball’s flagship brands — ranked fifth in attendance in 2019 and Forbes estimates the team is worth $3.2 billion, $2.5 billion more than Henry and his partners paid for it in 2002. 

Why even consider trading their best player like some small-market squad cleaning house for a rebuild. Pay him and cut corners somewhere else. You don’t want a homegrown talent that is this dynamic playing on a division rival. Red Sox fans surely don’t. 

The real reason revolves around metrics and money. Boston faces some franchise-changing decisions, has a new team in place consisting of new Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, general manager Brian O’Halloran and team president/CEO Sam Kennedy.

They are financially motivated to get under the luxury-tax threshold, which is subject to harsher penalties for repeat high spenders — a threshold they’ve eclipsed the past two years. 

The threshold will be $208 million in 2020. The team’s desperation move would be to trade either Betts or All-Star outfielder J.D. Martinez as they carry two of the team’s biggest salaries. If the new 36-year-old wunderkind could heist another team’s farm system and acquire multiple stud pieces to build with, then word is, he’d be willing to entertain offers to get below the luxury tax. 

With Betts entering free agency in 2020 without an extension, Boston risks losing him after the season to the highest bidder — and there will be a trailer load of teams ready to unload a bag on such a young, dynamic, MVP player. 

I get it…but c’mon bro.

Why is the new brain” trying to lowball a guy who has another 7-8 years of All-Star production left in him? Just sign your team leader who finishes Top 10 in MVP voting every season.

With the Yankees adding talent by the day and Boston trying to remain in contention in a tough AL East, trading Betts, a homegrown baseball beast, would be asinine. 

It seems unfathomable, but the Cubs are ready to trade the face of their franchise and another former MVP, Kris Bryant, for similar reasons. 

Baseball is always changing. It’s all about the numbers and picking and choosing when it’s your time to strike in the free-agent market and when it’s time to dump salary regardless of how bad it hurts your fans. 

Before 2018, Betts took the Red Sox to arbitration and won $10.5 million, the largest deal ever for a first-year arbitration-eligible player. The Red Sox and Betts agreed to a one-year, $20 million deal before this season to avoid arbitration, the largest amount given to a second-time arbitration-eligible player. 

Betts turned down an eight-year, $200 million offer before his first arbitration case two offseasons ago, refusing to sell himself short and believing that his best years were ahead of him. 

Boston hasn’t come with the type of bag Mookie wants so he told reporters he doesn’t expect any movement until he becomes a free agent. Now social media wants in. 

Betts says it’s his obligation to maximize his value — and help raise the bar for the next generation of players — by hitting the free-agent market.

“I’m confident in knowing my abilities, but also know, I’m kind of a realist, I know when I suck,” Betts said. “I’m confident in my abilities and confident to know what kind of player I am. I’ve also been educated on the business side of it, getting your value.

“You just have to be able to stand up for yourself. And that’s OK,” Betts said. “Some people kind of get lost in what everyone else is doing and not pay attention to themselves, and I think I’m one where I pay attention to myself and can set an example for the people coming up. Somebody’s gotta do it. I’m more than happy to be the person to do it. I stand on principle.”

Betts is estimated to receive $27.7 million in his final year of arbitration before becoming a free agent after the 2020 season. 

If Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado can command $300 million or more, then Betts — who based on sales from of Majestic jerseys since New Year’s Day 2019 has the highest-selling jersey in MLB after Harper and Aaron Judge —  is deserving of a record-breaking bag as well.

For the record, none of these other guys have World Series rings either. 

Pay The Pitcher

This season, pitchers are getting paid. In fact, 31-year-old, injury-prone pitcher Stephen Strasburg got a record deal of 7-years, $245 million to remain with the World Champion Nationals.

With the deal, Strasburg tops David Price‘s previously held record for total dollars committed to a pitcher ($217 million),  Zack Greinke’s mark for average annual value for a pitcher ($34.4 million). 

29-year-old Gerrit Cole is about to get crazy loot too — probably more. This offseason it seems that elite position players are the ones who owners want to short change. 

They are the darlings of the MLB offseason and Winter Meetings underway in San Diego; highly valued and highly favored.

 Betts has said he would like to stay in Boston buts he’s also taking no shorts, no loyalty deals. He wants all that cash and deservedly so. If Boston doesn’t want to pay him, somebody will, but it will be the biggest mistake in franchise history since letting Roger Clemens leave to early, as he went on to become their arch-nemesis and a road black to the World Series with the New York Yankees.

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