We missed this recent item, but it bears highlighting. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney recently provided some details (Insider link) on the asking price the Red Sox have placed on star outfielder Mookie Betts.
It goes without saying that the Boston organization is requesting quite a bit in return for an opportunity to rent one of the game’s best players. Otherwise, we might already have seen a swap. And chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom may not have been quite so forthright in recently announcing his “expectation” that Betts will remain with the club for 2020.
Olney’s report is most interesting for its indications of the sort of structure the Red Sox would be willing to consider. He writes that the Sox would look to package Betts (and his big upcoming arbitration salary) with veteran hurler David Price (including “most or all” of his remaining $96MM in guaranteed earnings). To acquire those quality but highly compensated veterans, a rival organization would have to part with “two high-end prospects to front the deal.”
Even allowing a wide degree of latitude for interpretation regarding the quality of the talent requested in return, that feels like a steep ask. It’s also an understandable one. Betts may be costly, but he’s also a 27-year-old with a recent 10-WAR season under his belt. The well-rounded, high-end performer might conceivably take a team from plausible contender to division favorite.
The involvement of Price is notable both for what it says of the Red Sox’ valuation of the lefty — it remains rather high — and for what it means for the potential universe of Betts pursuers. All MLB teams could fit Betts into a payroll, even if it meant shuffling the deck to meet their internal targets. But adding that salary and most of the money owed Price in one fell swoop is another thing entirely. Some clubs that might theoretically match up on Betts could be taken out of the picture if Price must indeed be bundled.
It remains to be seen whether there’ll be further talks involving this Betts-Price scenario. Olney notes that the Red Sox could simply carry their young star into the season in hopes that he and others will spur a rebound performance after a laggard 2019 showing. If so, it’ll easily be worth the foregone trade return. If not, there’s always the trade deadline to reconsider, with Betts potentially featuring as a pennant-race-altering figure.