Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts’ name has been bandied about in offseason trade speculation, particularly with the club trying to get under the $208MM luxury-tax threshold in 2020. But the Red Sox still have a very good roster, and Betts is an irreplaceable member of it, so there doesn’t seem to be any hurry on their part to move him.
The Red Sox, led by new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, aren’t “actively shopping” the former AL MVP, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Trading Betts is not part of Boston’s ideal plan for cutting payroll, though the team may at least consider offers, Bradford suggests.
As of now, the Red Sox are projected for a luxury-tax outlay of $237MM-plus for 2020, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. Getting rid of Betts’ projected $27.7MM arbitration salary would put them in striking distance of $208MM, and he’d likely bring back a nice return at the same time. With that said, trading Betts – the Red Sox’s best player and one of the game’s elite performers – could cripple their chances of pushing for a playoff return next season. The 27-year-old Betts was a 10-WAR player as recently as 2018, his MVP campaign, and though his numbers dropped a season ago, he was still worth upward of 6 WAR.
Going forward, Betts is in line to become a free agent in less than a year’s time, but the Red Sox figure to put on a full-court press to extend him before truly considering a trade. Betts has indicated on multiple occasions he’s gearing up to test free agency, but as we saw when the Angels extended Mike Trout before last season, an enticing enough offer can keep a superstar from trying his luck on the market.
In Betts’ case, an extension should mean a guarantee approaching or exceeding $400MM (Trout got 10 years and $360MM in new money). But if the Red Sox aren’t willing to go to those lengths, or if Betts is dead set on shopping himself around the league next winter, he could dominate trade rumors leading up to the July deadline. In the meantime, left-hander David Price and center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. seem like more attainable trade candidates on a team that’s hoping to reduce its payroll while remaining competitive.