More than 15 years ago, at a time when their farm system had been thinned by years of bad drafts and trades, the Red Sox approached the Reds with an idea: They wanted to buy a prospect. Cincinnati was receptive, but ultimately it was more of an idea than a reality, since the Commissioner’s Office signaled that it was unlikely to approve such a deal.
Still, the idea of “buying” prospects has been around for some time, and in recent years, it’s taken shape in the form of teams that are willing to give up a prospect in order to get a team to take on a high-salaried player in a trade.
In 2015, the Braves agreed to take on the salary of Bronson Arroyo (at a time when he was sidelined by Tommy John surgery) from the Diamondbacks, but to do so, Arizona also had to send pitching prospect Touki Toussaint to the Braves.
This past offseason, the Angels attached prospect Will Wilson (the No. 15 pick in the 2019 draft) to infielder Zack Cozart, trading both (and Cozart’s $10.67 million salary) to the Giants. Roughly a month later, the Giants released Cozart.
The Red Sox, with newfound financial flexibility following the trade of Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers, have shown interest in a similar arrangement. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported last week that the Red Sox and Padres had discussed the possibility of a trade that would send Wil Myers to Boston, with San Diego picking up roughly half of the remaining $61 million owed him over the next three years.
The purpose of such a deal would be salary relief for the Padres, in exchange for which they would send not only Myers but also young, inexpensive players to the Sox, perhaps prospects and/or major league-ready pitchers.
Because Myers’s six-year, $83 million deal counts for roughly $13.8 million of payroll as calculated for luxury tax purposes, a $30 million subsidy by the Padres over the next three years ($10 million a year) would reduce that figure to about $3.8 million, making it easy to absorb for the Red Sox given their current projected payroll of roughly $195 million.
During their lengthy talks regarding a trade of Betts for Myers and several other players, the Sox and Padres discussed numerous players, including big league-ready starters such as Cal Quantrill and Joey Lucchesi as well as highly regarded prospect Luis Campusano.
However, while the concept is interesting for a Red Sox organization intent on replenishing its upper levels and young big league talent, two major leagues sources characterized any such trade as unlikely. One of those sources characterized the idea mostly as “tire kicking” by the Red Sox rather than a deal with real legs.
The Padres, after all, are trying to improve their chances of contention rather than simply shed payroll. Their goal in pursuing Betts wasn’t to shed Myers’s salary but to add an elite talent. As such, they have little motivation to give up prospects and/or potential big league contributors for the sake of moving Myers unless they could reallocate his salary to acquire another player (likely via trade) such as Francisco Lindor.
In short, a match between the two sides appears unlikely — and almost impossible to imagine in the absence of a separate blockbuster deal involving the Padres.