Top Trade Packages, Landing Spots for Mookie Betts
The Boston Red Sox don't have to trade Mookie Betts this winter. The 2018 American League MVP is signed through the 2020 season and would be a key cog in the Red Sox's lineup as they try to rebound from a disappointing third-place finish in the AL East.
He's won three Gold Gloves for his play in right field and snagged a pair of Silver Slugger Awards. By any metric, he's among the most special players in the game in the midst of his prime.
Unsurprisingly, Betts has been the subject of rampant trade speculation.
Assuming the Red Sox dangle their 27-year-old superstar, here are a half-dozen top suitors and the packages they might surrender.
Each suitor is an ostensible 2020 contender with enough highly rated prospects and/or MLB-ready pieces to make a serious offer. Obviously, though, this involves a healthy dollop of informed speculation.
San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres went 70-92 and finished dead last in the National League West. Should they go all-in on a one-year Betts rental? Maybe, yes.
A core led by burgeoning 20-year-old superstar Fernando Tatis Jr., third baseman Manny Machado and right-hander Chris Paddack is poised for contention, provided San Diego augments its rotation and lineup.
Both goals could be accomplished via free agency. That said, San Diego boasts a deep farm system and intriguing yet expendable pieces at the big league level.
Betts, it doesn't need to be said, would significantly boost their chances.
Outfielder Hunter Renfroe hit 33 home runs for San Diego and is 27 years old. His .216 average and .289 on-base percentage leave plenty to be desired. But his power is undeniable, he's got a cannon for an arm and he's controllable through 2023.
The Padres could sweeten the deal with right-hander Luis Patino, who struck out 123 in 94.2 innings between High-A and Double-A and is MLB.com's No. 30 overall prospect. Plus, they could toss in speedy, slick-fielding 20-year-old middle infield prospect Xavier Edwards (No. 72, per MLB.com).
New York Mets
The New York Mets are at a crossroads. After adding veteran pieces last winter with designs on contending, they finished 86-76 and in third place in the NL East. Do they reload, rebuild or some combination of the two?
If they choose to reload, Betts could join forces with power-hitting first baseman and likely NL Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso to buttress a Mets offense that finished 11th in OPS (.770) and 13th in runs scored (791).
The Red Sox need cost-controlled pitching, and the Mets could offer it in the form of left-hander Steven Matz. The 28-year-old posted a 4.21 ERA in 160.1 innings, has flashed top-of-the-rotation potential in his five big league seasons and is controllable through 2021.
New York could add 26-year-old outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who was limited to 69 games by injury this year but posted an .886 OPS in 140 games in 2018 and is under team control through 2022. Toss in a high-upside prospect such as 23-year-old left-hander Thomas Szapucki, who returned from Tommy John surgery in 2017 to strike out 72 in 61.2 innings while rising to Double-A.
The Cincinnati Reds have made it clear they intend to increase payroll and try to contend in 2020. With that in mind, they could stand to upgrade an offense that ranked 12th in the NL in runs scored with 701.
Betts would obviously help the cause. With its willingness to spend, Cincinnati could absorb the massive sum the outfielder is set to pull down in arbitration (a projected $27.7 million, per MLB Trade Rumors).
With their revamped pitching staff and Betts in the heart of the lineup, it's possible to imagine the Reds could compete with the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals in the crowded NL Central.
Outfielder Jesse Winker hit .269 with 16 homers and an .830 OPS in 113 games for Cincinnati and, at age 26, is controllable through 2023.
The Reds could also offer left-hander Nick Lodolo (MLB.com's No. 56 overall prospect) as well as 22-year-old right-hander Tony Santillian, who threw 102.1 innings at Double-A and could profile as a front-line starter if he harnesses his command.
Los Angeles Dodgers
After winning 106 games and claiming their seventh consecutive NL West title, the Los Angeles Dodgers were bounced in the division series by the Washington Nationals. They haven't won a World Series since 1988.
If desperation isn't setting in, it should be.
Los Angeles has depth all over its roster, including in the outfield, and doesn't need Betts. But there's no question he would make the Dodgers more dangerous in 2020 and measurably improve their championship odds.
L.A. could start with outfielder Joc Pederson, who is limited by extreme platoon splits (.505 OPS versus lefties, .920 OPS versus righties) but launched 36 home runs and is projected to make $8.5 million in his final year of arbitration compared to Betts' aforementioned $27.7 million.
The Dodgers could add right-hander Dustin May (MLB.com's No. 32 overall prospect), who made his big league debut in 2019 and struck out 32 in 34.2 innings, plus hard-throwing 23-year-old Dennis Santana, who fanned 105 in 93.1 innings at Triple-A and also sipped an MLB cup of coffee.
The Atlanta Braves won a second consecutive NL East crown but once again fell in the division series. They've got a stellar young core and loaded farm system, but this feels like a moment for Atlanta to make a daring move.
A Betts trade would certainly qualify, and pairing him with the likes of Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies could make Atlanta's lineup truly frightening.
With third baseman Josh Donaldson set to hit free agency, the Braves may be in need of an experienced middle-of-the-order bat. They could also have a hole to fill in the outfield if they don't exercise veteran Nick Markakis' $6 million club option, and they might be looking for an upgrade even if they do.
Right-hander Ian Anderson (MLB.com's No. 31 overall prospect) rose to Triple-A and is MLB-ready after striking out 172 in 135.2 minor league innings in 2019.
The Braves could package him with center fielder Ender Inciarte, who battled injuries and played just 65 games this season but is a three-time Gold Glove winner entering his age-29 season. On the financial side, he'll earn an affordable $7.7 million in 2020 and $8.7 million in 2021 with a $9 million club option for 2022.
After signing Bryce Harper to a massive contract last offseason, the Philadelphia Phillies finished a distant fourth place in the NL East. Their offense ranked 14th in runs scored (774) and tied for 17th in OPS (.746).
Now, imagine Betts paired with Harper in the outfield and the middle of the Phillies lineup. It's the kind of superstar tandem that's almost unheard of in MLB.
It might require Harper to slide to left field to accommodate Betts in right. Or Betts could play center field, where he's logged 1,661.2 big league frames.
If the free-spending philosophy Philadelphia's front office expressed last season is still in play, absorbing Betts' massive arbitration salary shouldn't be an issue.
The Phillies could start with 25-year-old right-hander Zach Eflin, who posted a 2.80 ERA over his final six starts and tossed a pair of complete games in 2019. Eflin is entering his first year of arbitration and is controllable through 2022.
The Phils may also have to part with Alec Bohm (MLB.com's No. 34 overall prospect), who can capably play third and first base and possesses a plus hit tool. Add 19-year-old right-hander Francisco Morales, who struck out 129 in 96.2 innings at Single-A, and the dream of a Harper-Betts twosome could be realized.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.