- The Red Sox would (probably) be foolish to trade Mookie Betts. But David Price surfaced the idea if Boston doesn't get its season turn around. So we entertained the idea for just a moment.
Mookie Betts: trade chip? Such is the terrifying universe posited by Red Sox lefty David Price amid his team’s brutal 6–13 start to the season. “If we don’t start playing better, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, maybe myself, we could get traded,” Price told the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier following Boston’s series loss to the Yankees. “We’re what, 30th in minor league systems? We’re dead last. We don’t play better, Mookie Betts will be traded, J.D. Martinez will be traded. It will be tough for a while here.”
How serious Price is about this apocalyptic vision is unclear, but the doom and gloom is warranted. The Red Sox have the third-worst record and second-worst run differential (-42) in the majors, better only than the Marlins, and trail the first-place Rays by eight games in the AL East. Per FanGraphs, their playoff odds are down to a mere 50.7%, and their division chances look completely shot at 15.1%.
Things on the farm are indeed pretty dire. The Red Sox are last in both Baseball America’s and Baseball Propsectus’ organizational rankings, though they finished 24th in Keith Law’s rankings for ESPN. A few upgrades may be in order.
Does that combo of bad record and bad farm system mean that Boston is going to spend the summer tearing down a World Series winner? You could weigh the arguments for days. But Price is right that there are some notable names who could go if things fall apart. Martinez is the most likely, as he can opt out of his contract this winter. In terms of expiring deals, Rick Porcello, Mitch Moreland and Eduardo Nuñez could have some value to the right contender. And if someone’s willing to get stupid with the money, someone like Price—still owed $96 million over three years after this season—could be shipped out.
But Mookie Betts? That’s a bridge so far that it might as well be on another continent. The face of the team, Betts is the young future you build around. He’s only 26 and coming off an AL MVP-winning campaign. It would be the definition of lunacy to give him up.
In the spirit of Price’s prediction though, let’s get silly. Here are five Mookie Betts trade proposals—all of which have approximately zero percent chance of happening but are worth chewing on for a lazy Friday afternoon.
(Sidenote: If you have any issues with my potential trade packages, kindly keep it to yourself. This is just for fun.)
1. Betts to the Indians for SP Shane Bieber, 3B Nolan Jones and C Bo Naylor
Cleveland’s outfield right now is—I swear I’m not joking—Jake Bauers, Leonys Martin and Tyler Naquin. Martin aside, that’s a pitiful trio for a contender. You could say that about the Indians’ lineup as a whole, currently featuring the desiccated remains of Carlos Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez and something named Mike Freeman. Betts improves the weakest part of the team and helps increase the team’s title odds in the window where both he and Francisco Lindor will be around, as the Indians’ chances of re-signing either or both are slim to none. As for Boston, it gets a top-of-the-rotation arm in Bieber, a future third baseman in Jones (so that Devers can move off the position), and a possible franchise catcher in Naylor, as that position is a bit of a sinkhole.
2. Betts to the Mets for OF Brandon Nimmo, 1B Dominic Smith, RP Robert Gsellman and SS Ronny Mauricio
The universe demands both another Mookie on the Mets and a dude named Betts on the Mets. But this generation’s Mookie would give New York a true star centerfielder—something it’s lacked since Carlos Beltran left town eight years ago. And while this haul may look light, it has upside. Nimmo is a terrific bat, Smith is a former top prospect who could flourish with regular playing time, and the 18-year-old Mauricio is the long-term heir for Bogaerts at shortstop. Boston could do better, but this isn’t bad.
3. Betts to the Braves for a literal grab bag of pitching prospects
Seriously, take any three or four you like. Atlanta has so many electric young arms in its farm system that it could lose its entire Double-A rotation and probably not notice. And the Braves would do well to replace the declining Ender Inciarte with Betts, especially at the plate.
3.5. Mookie Betts to the Marlins for the Dinger Machine
Just checking to see if you haven’t closed this tab in disgust.
4. Betts to the Cardinals for 2B Kolten Wong, OF Jose Martinez and 3B Nolan Gorman
St. Louis has approximately 348 outfielders, but most of them aren’t working. Marcell Ozuna has been great after a rough 2018, but Harrison Bader is hurt and can’t hit, Dexter Fowler can’t stay healthy or hit, and Martinez should be legally barred from playing the field. Here, we put Martinez in the AL at designated hitter where he belongs, give Boston help at the black hole that is second base with Wong, who may finally be reaching his potential, and provide a top corner infield prospect in Gorman. In exchange, Betts partners with Paul Goldschmidt to give the Cardinals a ludicrous top of the lineup.
5. Betts to the Cubs for Kris Bryant
Now we’re cooking with gas. Player-for-player trades are rare in MLB, but this is one that works. Hear me out. The Cubs’ outfield is fine but has its holes. Albert Almora is a tremendous defender in center, but his offense is shaky. Jason Heyward is hitting, but if you’re the Cubs, do you trust two hot weeks more than the irradiated wreckage of the last three seasons? Kyle Schwarber tries, bless his heart, but wouldn’t you rather have Betts patrolling Wrigley Field than him? Bryant, meanwhile, is in the same boat as Betts, where his team control will soon run out (after the 2021 season), and he may not be all that inclined to re-up with the Cubs after his whole service time manipulation brouhaha. This is a true challenge trade, and while logistically it might not work, it would be fascinating and thrilling all the same.