At this point, it seems close to inevitable that Red Sox superstar Mookie Betts is going to be traded. Betts is a free agent at the end of the 2020 season, and the two sides are over $100 million apart on a contract extension. Instead of inaccurately whining about how cheap the Red Sox management is, I decided to look at the best potential deals the top two suitors could offer.
The Dodgers seem like the most likely suitor for Mookie Betts, and they also have the most to offer. The Red Sox are still trying to compete, and trading Betts will leave a giant hole in their outfield, so a trade for Betts has to include one of their two young outfielders, Joc Pederson or Alex Verdugo. Of the two, Pederson is more experienced and is coming off a career year in which he blasted 36 home runs. His limitations are obvious—a career .233 average, extreme platoon splits (all of his home runs last year came off righties), and mediocre defensive skills. Yet there is still value in a guy who hits 36 home runs, even in today’s homer-happy league. Also, Pederson’s value has only grown as he has significantly cut down on his strikeout rate. Verdugo doesn’t have the power Pederson does, but possesses elite bat-to-ball skills and should only improve on a rookie season in which he had a wRC+ of 114. Of the two, I would probably prefer the more well rounded, younger Verdugo, but either one would provide balance to a predominantly right-handed Red Sox lineup.
One of the main reasons the Red Sox want to trade Betts is to rejuvenate a lackluster farm system, and there are few teams with more to offer than the Dodgers. They have six prospects in the top 100, including three in the top 35. The Dodgers are extremely unlikely to part with number two overall prospect Gavin Lux or rising star Dustin May, but there has been a lot of traction about catcher Keibert Ruiz. He posted moderate numbers last year at the upper levels of the minors, but still impressive as one of the youngest players in both Double-A and Triple-A. Ruiz is a switch-hitter with tremendous bat to ball skills, an extremely valuable asset for a catcher. Though scouts believe he can be inconsistent with his framing, he has more than enough athleticism to play catcher and has a plus arm. Ruiz is the complete package and would be an enormous gain for the Red Sox.
Verdugo and Ruiz would be the headliners of a Betts trade, but for this to fair trade, the Red Sox are going to need something else. One name I’m looking at is Tony Gonsolin. As a 25-year-old prospect, his trade value isn’t too steep, yet he would be a perfect addition to the Red Sox bullpen. He was tremendous in a 40 inning stint for the Dodgers last year, posting a 2.93 ERA and holding batters to a .178 average. He can be either a back-end starter or a multi-inning reliever and would help a Red Sox pitching staff that lacks depth. The Dodgers could also add 23-year-old Dennis Santana, who had an ERA near seven at Triple-A but possesses plus stuff. A package containing Verdugo and Ruiz and either of those two young pitchers could be enough talent to get the Dodgers Mookie Betts.
It sound likes a Mookie Betts/Padres deal is going to have to include Wil Myers, with the Red Sox paying a significant portion of the 67 million dollars he’s owed over the next three years. Myers is a good hitter coming off a down season: before 2019, he had four consecutive seasons with an OPS+ above 100, meaning he was above league average. He doesn’t walk very often, is constantly among the league leaders in strikeouts, and is a mess defensively in left field. Is he worth his contract? No. Do I necessarily want him on the Red Sox? No. But can he hit some home runs, steal a few bags and provide above-average offense in the bottom half of the order? Yeah, sure. It’s obvious that Myers would be nothing short of a throw in a Mookie Betts deal, but in terms of salary dump players, you could do a lot worse than a 29-year-old former rookie of the year who’s averaged 22 home runs over the last four years.
If the Red Sox are going to absorb a large chunk of the atrocious Myers contract, they are going to need some talent to come along with him. Fortunately, the Padres have a lot of great young talent at both the minor and major league levels. One of the names I’m looking at is Adrian Mojeron, who already made his major league debut last year at the age of 20. Like many young pitchers, Mojeron needs to improve both his control and command, but the stuff is clearly elite. He’s got a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a changeup and curveball that are both considered above average. He needs to prove that he can work deep into games: Last year at Triple-A, he averaged just over two innings a start. Though his ceiling is a long way away, Mojeron is exactly the kind of high-potential prospect that the Red Sox lack.
Another prospect that would fit in well with the Sox is Josh Naylor. On the surface, Naylor doesn’t seem too appealing: He’s a converted first baseman who, at 5’11 250, isn’t the most gifted of outfielders, he doesn’t hit for much power or average, and didn’t impress in his rookie season with the Padres. But in looking deeper into the numbers, the left-handed Naylor has a lot to like about him. In his last two years at Triple-A, Naylor showed an advanced feel for the strike zone, walking nearly as much as he struck out at Triple-A. He wasn’t nearly as proficient in his rookie season, but an 89 OPS+ as a 22-year-old is far from terrible. And while it’s true he won’t ever be confused with a Gold Glover, his versatility to play first base and right field, both positions the Red Sox will lack depth at if they trade Mookie Betts, would be a great asset to Boston.
The final name in this imaginary trade is Luis Perdomo. No, the 26-year-old long reliever isn’t the sexiest of names, but a guy who can throw multiple innings at a league-average rate has value over a 162 game season. None of the four players in this deal are as appealing as Keibert Ruiz or Alex Verdugo, but together they would provide a lot of value to the Red Sox.