By Nick Recchia
PHOTO CREDIT: Wikipedia
The old adage of where there’s smoke there’s fire certainly seems to apply to recent rumors regarding the Padres and Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts. There seems to have been dialogue between the two teams dating back to the Winter Meetings held earlier this year here in San Diego. At first glance, the two teams look like odd partners between recent team history and the simple fact that Mookie Betts is such an iconic player in the midst of his prime. This is not the type of player a big market club like Boston is accustomed to making available for trade and certainly not due to financial concerns. There has been rumblings over the years that Betts hasn’t been amenable to signing long term in Boston which has left the team in a precarious spot whether to trade the homegrown star or fear letting him walk for nothing more than a compensation pick in the amateur draft. Safe to say new Boston GM Chaim Bloom, has his work cut out for him. It seems like a trial by fire initiation will be the recipe for his first offseason in Boston at the helm.
The Red Sox, in a year where there payroll was well over $230 million already, paid a $13 million luxury tax bill for the 2019 season, which saw them not make the playoffs a year after winning the 2018 World Series. Though Boston ownership has claimed it is not a mandate and simply a benefit if possible, lowering payroll seems imperative since the biggest additions to the team so far has been SS Jose Peraza and LHP starter Martin Perez. They would like to drop below the luxury tax threshold like the Yankees and Dodgers have done in recent years to save money and allow for more payroll flexibility moving forward.
Another facet I believe that is coming into play as well is if they keep Betts and he does walk, there is not a ready made young player that could come close to filling that role. The farm system has paid off in recent years with players like Betts, Bogaerts, and Devers but from these graduations and trades for players like Craig Kimbrel and Chris Sale, the farm system has been left fairly barren with only one prospect in the top 100 of the 2020 MLB.com prospect rankings. The team could also be left missing some high end draft picks depending on the penalties that come down from MLB regarding the 2018 sign stealing investigations that are currently ongoing. The Houston Astros in comparison are penalized their 2020 and 2021 1st and 2nd round picks. This is sure to be on the mind of Bloom when projecting the multiple “what if”s” his franchises future.
With tumultuous history between the two teams regarding the Drew Pomeranz trade possibly mitigated by the firing of then GM Dave Dombrowski and the arrival of Bloom, maybe this is water under the bridge. There are some holdover front office executives that remain from the previous regime but a frigid relationship thawing now would prove advantageous for both parties involved. Bloom has the wherewithal to make a bold statement as the new GM of the Red Sox and AJ Preller has the marching orders from Ownership to show improvement or possibly be shown the door. Motivations abound for both organizations to leave a transaction of this magnitude as winners where it can be a turning point for a team in either direction.
To acquire a player of Betts ilk, it will take something that the receiving team deems as painful, as it should for a 27 year old former MVP in the apex of his career. The Padres and Red Sox both know the stakes involved and leading into the end of January. Baseball will quickly be upon us in the coming weeks with the crack of the bat and the snap of the glove flooding ears in Peoria and Fort Myers respectively.
Longtime baseball enthusiast who tries to incorporate new age analytics into old school baseball strategy and how the two can coexist in winning harmony. Also a minor league aficionado who delves deep into the farm to share the love of the game from the lower rungs of the minor leagues and up. Always up for sports talk.