One day after Punxsutawney Phil ignored his shadow, the baseball world wondered whether a long Red Sox winter of relative inactivity might finally give way to daylight that would illuminate a decision about the fate of Mookie Betts. On Monday morning, chatter spread across baseball that after weeks of conversations with the Padres and Dodgers, the Red Sox might be nearing a deal of their four-time All-Star.
But the expectation of a quick conclusion to the talks on Monday proved premature. As of Monday night, the Red Sox still hadn’t made a choice, the waiting game continuing to play out, all three teams – the Red Sox, Padres, and Dodgers – as well as Betts himself remaining in a suspended state while awaiting resolution.
So what’s the holdup? According to major league sources, the deliberate pace to negotiations reflects a few elements. First, the Red Sox don’t feel a particular rush to deal the ultra-talented Betts. While there’s a strong expectation that he will be traded before the start of spring training, the Sox don’t want to push to conclude a deal based on a timetable rather than its substance.
Moreover, the team doesn’t feel as if it’s facing a hard-and-fast deadline. There’s not an equivalent alternative to whom the Padres or Dodgers can pivot if their goal is to acquire one of the preeminent difference-makers in the game, at a time when the free-agent market has been thoroughly scoured.
Meanwhile, in his first major trade as the chief baseball officer of the Red Sox, Chaim Bloom is taking a methodical approach to navigating what remains a complicated decision — not so much apples to apples or even apples to oranges as much as it is apples to oranges to zucchini to paper towels.
Multiple major league sources said the Red Sox, as of late Monday, continued to consider proposals from both the Padres and Dodgers — and in the case of the Dodgers, the Sox continue to consider not just a deal that would send Betts to LA but also trade packages in which Betts and lefthander David Price would head west.
Scenarios involving Price are particularly complicated, since the Dodgers wouldn’t be willing to absorb the remaining three years and $96 million on his contract. So, it’s possible that Bloom is weighing Price packages that include the Red Sox subsidizing the remainder of the 34-year-old’s contract, or partially offsetting it by taking back a contract from the Dodgers (outfielder A.J. Pollock, for instance, is owed $47 million over the next four years).
The Dodgers are offering packages that would get the Red Sox – whose payroll as calculated for luxury tax purposes is roughly $232 million right now – below the $208 million luxury tax threshold for 2020. The Padres, meanwhile, would need the Red Sox to take back 29-year-old Wil Myers (owed $61 million over the next three years) to make a Betts deal work – and as such, likely would not be able to get the Sox below the luxury tax threshold.
And so, as the Red Sox contemplated those variables in a deal, Truck Day came and went with Betts still officially on their roster. But for how long? As of Monday night, that question remained unanswered.
Alex Speier can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter at @alexspeier.