The Mookie Betts trade saga finally reached an end Monday when the Red Sox announced a deal sending him and left-hander David Price to the Dodgers. Both players were instrumental in helping the Red Sox to their most recent World Series title in 2018, and Betts is on a short list of the game’s greatest players. But the Red Sox nonetheless moved on from the two, saving $75MM in the trade ($48MM on Price, $27MM on Betts) and getting back a trio of promising young players in outfielder Alex Verdugo, infielder Jeter Downs and catcher Connor Wong.
Needless to say, Boston’s hope is that Verdugo, Downs and Wong will emerge as long-term core pieces. In the here and now, though, only Verdugo figures to play a significant role. The 23-year-old had a solid rookie season in 2019 before injuries cut him down. Even if Verdugo stays healthy in 2020, he’s not going to make Red Sox fans forget about Betts. That’s not a knock on Verdugo – who has shown that he’s a quality major leaguer – but a compliment to Betts, a legitimate superstar.
Betts was among the driving forces for a position player group that finished fourth in the majors in runs and sixth in fWAR last year. To be sure, Betts didn’t do it all himself. There’s still incredible talent on hand in shortstop Xander Bogaerts, third baseman Rafael Devers and designated hitter J.D. Martinez. They should continue to make Boston’s offense a bear for enemy pitchers to deal with, while Verdugo, fellow outfielders Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. (if he’s not dealt), and catcher Christian Vazquez look like fine complementary pieces. That said, there’s no doubt Boston’s offense would have looked better had Betts remained a part of it.
Just as the Red Sox’s position player group took at least a short-term hit in this trade, so did its rotation. Price may not have been the all-world ace the Red Sox expected when they signed him to a then-record $217MM contract entering 2016, but he’s still an above-average starter. While injuries held Price to 107 1/3 innings last season, he did log a useful 4.28 ERA/3.62 FIP with 10.73 K/9 and 2.68 BB/9. Price was undoubtedly a top three starter on a team whose rotation didn’t get much from anyone else but Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale a season ago.
Rodriguez and Sale are still on the roster, but there aren’t any sure things backing them up in Boston’s staff. Nathan Eovaldi will try to rebound from a horrid season, and the team brought in the relatively inexpensive Martin Perez (a back-end starter) in free agency. It’s up in the air who will occupy the fifth spot in the Red Sox’s rotation behind that quartet. As for the club’s bullpen, which endured its share of scrutiny last year, there haven’t been any especially notable additions this winter.
The 2019 campaign didn’t go as planned for the Red Sox, who entered with title aspirations but ended up winning a disappointing 84 games. They’ve since let go of their manager, Alex Cora, as a result of a sign-stealing scandal, and now the face of their franchise and one of their most reliable starters are also gone. Cora hasn’t been replaced yet, but his successor will be stepping into a drastically different situation than the one he oversaw. The Betts- and Price-less Red Sox are still a talented team, though, and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said Monday that it’s still “realistic” to believe they’ll compete in 2020. Considering how their roster looks now, do you agree?
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