According to multiple major league sources, the Red Sox continue to discuss the possibility of a Mookie Betts trade with multiple suitors. The team is weighing potential combinations of big leaguers and prospects offered by the Padres as well as the Dodgers, and remains engaged with both teams about a possible deal involving their superstar right fielder.
The fact that discussions are ongoing with multiple teams is not a guarantee that Betts will be dealt. It’s possible the Red Sox will enter the 2020 regular season with their superstar — with the possibility of exploring his trade value at the deadline if the team is not clearly in contention. But the team’s willingness to consider dealing the four-time All-Star and 2018 AL MVP appears serious.
Los Angeles features the financial and roster flexibility to entertain numerous trade scenarios with the Sox. The Dodgers could take Betts straight up in a deal that would include major league talent (likely starting with an everyday outfielder given that Betts would give LA surplus depth) along with multiple prospects.
The Dodgers also could consider an acquisition of both Betts and a starting pitcher such as David Price, thus giving the Red Sox a clear path to getting under the $208 million luxury tax threshold and financial flexibility for years to come. In such a scenario, the Dodgers either could part with either a relatively young, inexpensive outfielder such as 23-year-old Alex Verdugo (who hit .294/.342/.475 in 106 games before injuries left him unable to play after Aug. 4) or more expensive options (Joc Pederson or A.J. Pollock) to receive greater prospect return.
On the prospect front, in a Betts deal, the Dodgers likely would consider moving anyone outside of middle infielder Gavin Lux (ranked the No. 4 prospect in the game in Baseball America’s recent top-100 list) and righthander Dustin May (ranked No. 20). Los Angeles featured five additional prospects in Baseball America’s top 100, including catcher Keibert Ruiz (No. 81, with an atypical ability to hit for average but below-average power), righthander Tony Gonsolin (No. 82, a big league-ready starter in 2020), righthander Josiah Gray (No. 84), infielder Jeter Downs (No. 86), and catcher Diego Cartaya (No. 97, having cracked the list after an impressive pro debut as a 17-year-old in 2019).
The Dodgers long have viewed Betts as a rare talent. The team is almost certain to make a significant push to land him in free agency, presuming (as seems all but certain) that Betts reaches the open market after 2020.
But Los Angeles also has considerable reason to pursue Betts for the coming season, one year before he hits the open market. After a 106-win season in 2019 — on the heels of back-to-back World Series appearances in 2017 and 2018 — Los Angeles has focused this offseason on efforts to add elite talent.
To date, they’ve fallen short in their attempts to do so, watching Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Anthony Rendon head elsewhere. In Betts, however, they could acquire a player of similar — and potentially greater — impact. And if they broadened the package to include a starting pitcher such as Price or former Dodger Nate Eovaldi, LA could add a playoff-proven starter to help offset this winter’s free agent departures of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill.
Discussions with the Padres, by contrast, would require the Red Sox to take on the contract of Wil Myers. Myers — who performed at an All-Star level in 2016 and 2017 but has endured a considerable dropoff the last two years — would carry a significant price tag (he’s owed $61 million over the next three years with an average annual value of just under $14 million), thus diminishing the financial flexibility he’d afford the Red Sox in a Betts trade. Such a deal by itself would not get the Red Sox under the 2020 luxury tax threshold.
But while San Diego wants to protect its top prospects — including lefthander MacKenzie Gore, righthander Luis Patino, shortstop C.J. Abrams, and outfielder Taylor Trammell — its farm system and big league roster are deep enough to keep them engaged with the Red Sox.
The Padres could offer a major league-ready outfielder (perhaps Trent Grisham, a 2015 first-rounder who had a breakout 2019 season in Milwaukee’s system before reaching the big leagues) and pitcher (candidates might include righties Michel Baez and Cal Quantrill as well as lefty Joey Lucchesi).
Additionally, the team could add multiple prospects, including catcher Luis Campusano, recently ranked No. 79 overall after a standout season in the High A California League. San Diego could also tack on Jake Cronenworth, who led the Triple A International League in average while posting a .334/.429/.520 line and threw 7⅓ scoreless innings and/or the No. 35 overall pick in the draft. (As a revenue-sharing recipient, San Diego has a Competitive Balance Round pick — in this case, in Round A, falling between the first and second rounds — that, unlike regular draft picks, can be traded.)
The Sox have to weigh a number of variables in both packages: Which team has the more appealing proposal, whether either team is willing to add more to its proposal, whether either package is enough to justify parting with Betts, and whether either package is significantly better than what the Red Sox might be able to reap if they were to hold their 27-year-old four-time All-Star and 2018 AL MVP until the trade deadline.
The answers to those questions does not yet appear to be clear. But it does appear clear that the Red Sox are wrestling with each of them.
Alex Speier can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexspeier.