- The Boston Red Sox traded 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts and left-handed starting pitcher David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a blockbuster deal.
- Betts will be a free agent at the end of the season and reportedly wants to test the market after turning down extensions with the Red Sox.
- The deal appears to amount to a salary dump as the Red Sox got off the $US96 million owed to David Price and the lingering questions about Betts’ next deal.
- In the process, the Red Sox turned the Dodgers into World Series favourites.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The Boston Red Sox on Tuesday completed a blockbuster trade, sending 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts and left-handed starting pitcher David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder Alex Verdugo.
The Minnesota Twins were also part of the deal, sending pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol to the Red Sox, while the Dodgers sent starter Kenta Maeda to Minnesota.
The deal immediately impacts the MLB landscape, as the Dodgers – winners of the NL West for the last seven years, with an average of 95 wins per season during that stretch – now arguably have two of the top five players in baseball in their outfield: Betts and Cody Bellinger. And they added a solid starting pitcher in Price, who could contribute to the rotation if he gets past the injuries that plagued him in Boston.
The trade – and the rumours of dealing Betts that preceded it – has been panned by the baseball world.
Verdugo is a talented outfield under team control for several years, and Graterol is a big-armed prospect, but the Red Sox return still feels light for a player who iss second in WAR since 2015, behind only Mike Trout.
Betts will be a free agent at the end of the season. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported on January 30 that the Red Sox had unsuccessfully attempted to come to long-term extension agreements with Betts, who wants to test the market next offseason. The Wall Street Journal’s Jared Diamond reported that Betts could be in the market for a $US400 million deal.
Olney reported that the Red Sox didn’t want the question of Betts’ future lingering over the 2020 season. However, as Diamond noted, Betts testing the free agency market didn’t necessarily mean he was sure to leave Boston.
As Olney reported in January, the inclusion of Price in trade talks meant that the Red Sox were likely to receive less as rich of a return for Betts in any deals. Price is owed $US96 million over the next three years.
Moving off Price’s contract was clearly a priority for the Red Sox. Team owner John Henry told reporters in September, after the Red Sox missed the playoffs one year after winning the World Series, that the team wanted to get under MLB’s harsh luxury tax. The comments came after the Red Sox fired president of baseball operations David Dombrowski, in part for his tendency to spend big-money on known players instead of building up the team’s farm system.
The Red Sox then hired Chaim Bloom, an executive who helped build up the Tampa Bay Rays through their farm system. Diamond described Bloom as the “opposite” of Dombrowski.
Olney reported in January that the Red Sox had considered the idea of trading Betts by himself for a better return and keeping Price in the rotation to rebuild his value. It’s unclear what swayed the Red Sox to deal them together.
“All the Red Sox did was get under the salary cap,” The Athletic’s Jayson Stark wrote. “So, they will enjoy their financial flexibility pennant, at the expense of relegating themselves to the game’s second tier … This was about getting under the salary cap (officially known as the luxury-tax threshold). When deep-pocketed marquee franchises shed salary, it’s never a good look.”
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal said some American League executives have defended the move.
- embed type
The cost savings are a sticking point for critics of the deal. MLB has had several quiet free agency periods in recent years, with teams reluctant to spend big on available players, with a few notable exceptions. A big-market, historically successful team like the Red Sox tearing down a team that won the World Series two years ago and dealing their best player to save money isn’t great for the league optically.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, are all-in and look like the favourites to win their first championship since 1988.