It still doesn’t feel real that the Boston Red Sox will trade Mookie Betts, but these teams should start working on their offers.
For the Boston Red Sox, the title defense of the 2018 World Series fell flat on its face. The team did finish 84-78 but was never a serious threat in the AL East. Boston spent zero days in first place and watched Chris Sale and David Price spend a large chunk of their expensive seasons on the Injured List. The bullpen also struggled, leading to what was ultimately a very forgettable season in Beantown.
In most cities, a slightly down year on the heels of a World Series win could be brushed aside. After all, the Red Sox will bring back most of their roster again next season and can hope for ace Sale to return to health after a full offseason of rest. But we all know that’s not how things work in Boston. Dave Dombrowski was fired and the front office will enter 2020 with a new leader. Owner John Henry has also been very vocal about getting payroll below the luxury-tax threshold. Unfortunately, that’s very difficult to do with Price, Sale, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez all making north of $20 million.
Because the Red Sox owner wants to begin cutting back on payroll, the writing is on the wall (at least in washable paint) that MVP right fielder Mookie Betts is going to be shopped this winter. The 26-year-old will hit free agency just after his 28th birthday and could command a contract in the neighborhood of $30 million per year. If the Red Sox aren’t going to be willing to pay that, then it does make sense to begin feeling out the trade market.
Dombrowski delivered a World Series title for the Red Sox, but his strength has never been building and maintaining elite farm systems. He’s a win-now guy, and he won-now in Boston, but at what cost? The Red Sox have a bloated payroll and a very weak farm system. With the New York Yankees looking like a potential juggernaut for the next few seasons, this may be the time to go on a partial rebuild. If that is the case, these five teams should already be looking at their trade chips and thinking about what they can offer for Betts.
5. San Diego Padres
The Padres bold plan to build a deep farm system and then spend big on marquee free agents has yet to pay dividends. Manny Machado‘s first season in San Diego ended with a whimper as the team ended up back in last place in the NL West yet again with a 70-92 record. Manager Andy Green was relieved of his duties as the Padres were an abysmal 25-47 in the second half after hitting the All-Star break with an even .500 record.
Even with the big signings of Machado and Eric Hosmer the last two winters, the most aggressive expectations for the Padres this season would have been 80-84 wins. Despite the free-agent push and successes of the farm system, the Padres are still quite a few pieces short of being ready to win in the NL West. The offense was 13th in the league in runs and OPS, while the pitching staff was 12th in ERA.
There were some major player development wins for the Padres this year with Chris Paddack and Fernando Tatis Jr. announcing themselves to the big leagues with force. Dinelson Lamet also looks like a future rotation stalwart after striking out 105 in 73 innings.
Thanks to their rebuilding plan, the Padres could potentially still have millions of dollars to spend on one more game-changing free agent. If they feel confident in their ability to afford Betts past 2020, then it might make sense to pull the trigger on a trade now and give him a full year of playing in beautiful San Diego with Machado and Tatis.