Leading off for the Yankees, the center fielder, No. 50, Mookie Betts, No. 50.
The Boston Red Sox reportedly are considering trading their franchise centerpiece. Teams including the White Sox, Padres, Mets or just about anyone would be interested in the former MVP, but the Yankees are the one team you really can’t imagine him playing for in 2020.
There’s a good reason for that; Brian Cashman has spoken in the past about how he’s talked to 28 teams, obviously excluding the Red Sox even when his frequent trade partner in Dave Dombrowski was at the helm. The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry sits on an emotional faultline which makes any trade of non-scrub players untenable in the current environment.
Furthermore, the Yankees have budgeted themselves under the top luxury tax tier in the past season and one would assume they’ll do so again. If they’re going to pursue a top starter, adding Betts without shedding salary doesn’t quite work. We, for example, apportioned $30 million in AAV for Gerrit Cole, and that is on the low-end of projections. Boston, meanwhile, would mostly consider trading Betts to get under the lowest luxury tax year.
But let’s ignore rational thoughts for a second and a few hundred words. What if the Red Sox actually make Betts available and are willing to sell him to the highest bidder, rivalry or otherwise? What would a package for Betts look like?
Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe put together the following hypothetical trade in a column recently:
Red Sox trade: Mookie Betts and MiLB LHP Jay Groome
Yankees trade: Miguel Andújar, Clint Frazier, Luis Gil and Michael King
On the surface, that checks out. Run that deal through Baseball Trade Values and the site finds it fair on both sides. While Betts is far and away better than anyone else in that deal, he’s also only under contract for one season. The Yankees would be giving up one of their top pitching prospects, a pitcher in the upper Minors and two right-handed hitters who could thrive at Fenway despite their defensive limitations.
(I have thought that Frazier would be a particularly good fit for Fenway Park. Playing the Green Monster would take time to learn, but once he got used to it, it would allow his arm to play up while making his lack of range or first step a secondary concern. Any right-handed pull bat also gets to hit off the Monster.)
However, Boston isn’t going for just fair. They want to extract their pound of flesh. That might not apply just to the Yankees — You can’t give up Betts for just a fine set of prospects — but it’s especially pertinent with the Bombers.
The situation makes me think of Roy Halladay back in 2009. The Blue Jays entertained offers from the Yankees, but they reportedly expected a premium to acquire the veteran ace in-division. That’s fair; Can you imagine what it would have been like to watch a franchise cornerstone like Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera thrive in Toronto while you were mired in fourth place? That’d be an ordeal.
So the Yankees would have to give up something that hurts. The Red Sox would ask for Gleyber Torres and Brian Cashman would threaten to hang up before Chaim Bloom beckoned him to stay on the call. Aaron Judge, too, is off the table, even if Betts is arguably the better player.
Therefore, I’m not sure a deal is workable without Deivi García. The Yankees would still have to give up at least one of Andújar and Frazier, and perhaps a fourth prospect as well. García, though, would be the piece that would hurt, the player Boston could hail as the future to their rotation and as the centerpiece of a retooling rather than a rebuild. New York doesn’t have another MLB or near-MLB ready player to headline the package.
So I kept the basic framework of Abraham’s deal and changed it into the following:
Red Sox trade: Mookie Betts
Yankees trade: Deivi García, Clint Frazier, Jonathan Loaisiga and Mike King
This deal still provides the Red Sox with an outfielder to replace Betts and exchanges Gil for García, giving Boston a player closer to the Majors. While Andújar has more value than Loaisiga, the Red Sox could use the pitcher more than a likely DH who overlaps on defense with Rafael Devers.
I’ll remind everyone that your trade proposals suck, and my trade above is certainly included. I accept all of your critiques, though I remind you that a Betts-to-the-Yankees trade is just not in the offing. Baseball Trade Values has my proposal as an even deal, which means New York would likely have to give up even more and include someone such as Andújar instead of King.
The Yankees could, however, look to acquire Betts in free agency a year from now, making him their center fielder and moving Hicks to left field. This is nearly as much of a pipedream, but they’ll have plenty of money coming off the books. In that hypothetical, New York would avoid what Cashman often mentions as paying twice for a player, giving up both prospects and an extension.
Even if it’s entirely unrealistic, the dream is fun. Maybe one day, with one of the teams or both out of contention, we’ll get a Yankees-Red Sox blockbuster with reputations on the line. Until then, all we have is frivolous speculation and hypotheticals on which the offseason thrives.