Pivoting to Betts is the right move
In the beginning, the clamoring crowds wanted Gerrit Cole, but he said no to the most expensive contract the Dodgers have ever offered a free agent and went to the NYY. Then, it was Rendon, but the Dodgers never even offered him a contract after he let the front office know that he and his family wanted no part of the “Hollywood Lifestyle” that permeates the Dodger culture. Instead, Rendon signed with the Angels who just last year lost a player who overdosed on drugs so you can understand why Dodger fans were a bit confused by his comment. Since the Rendon signing, the smooth fielding Franciso Lindor has been on the Dodger radar but the news today is that the Dodgers might be moving on from Lindor and pivoting toward Mookie Betts.
This is a pivot I have been asking for all along.
If you have any belief in Zips, it seems to me the LAD should be targeting Betts/Price not Lindor. Using the Zips projections, the worst everyday player is Alex Verdugo and he happens to play the exact same position as Betts. You keep Lux and May, you land the 2020 NL MVP. Win
— Phil Gurnee (@meercatjohn) December 17, 2019
The backstory on why the 2018 AL MVP is available is that the Red Sox are in cost-cutting mode, and Mookie is headed into his final season before becoming a free agent. Normally the price for Mookie would be pretty high, but the kicker here is that if the Red Sox attach David Price to the deal, the cost in prospects will go down, while the Dodger payroll goes significantly up.
Price is still due $96 Million over the next three years and he’s a far cry from the guy who signed his 7/217 deal back in 2016 when he was 30 years old. Fangraphs posted an article talking about the value of David Price and as you can see he’s an albatross for the Red Sox right now.
If we assume Price’s value is around $30 million, it creates a $60 million gap between his value and his contract.
I’d expect the Red Sox to throw in some money in any deal, and the Dodgers to throw in some players and prospects to make it worthwhile. The Red Sox are in a tough spot. They were barely mediocre last year, the Yankee’s just signed Cole, and Tampa Bay is probably still a better team. The chances of them making the postseason aren’t good for 2020. In a perfect world, the Red Sox unload Price and sign Mookie to an extension but I don’t see that happening. Price is simply too pricey and to move that contract they have to attach a player so they might as well attach the guy who is going to be a free agent at the end of next year.
Before we look at how the Dodgers can acquire Betts and Price how about we look at the team. Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projection is out and the first thing you might notice is that the lowest fWAR is in right field, a spot currently allocated to Alex Verdugo even though it sounds like his back injury was much more serious than we thought. Mookie Betts is arguably the best right fielder in baseball. In 2018 Yelich won the NL MVP and Mookie the AL MVP as right fielders. Cody Bellinger won his 2019 MVP playing most of the time as a RF where he won his gold glove. You don’t want the worst player on your team to be your right fielder.
So, how about a lineup of:
Joc Pederson / Chris Taylor
You don’t see AJ Pollock in this lineup for a reason. The rotation now features
Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias or Dustin May
How can we make this happen?
Who the Dodgers would send out is the question, but I think it starts with D.J. Peters, Josiah Gray, and Jeter Downs along with some major league talent like potentially A.J. Pollock and Ross Stripling.
My guess is that AJ Pollock has to be going back to help mitigate the contract of David Price. Ross Stripling to replace David Price in the rotation. Some prospects from a pool of DJ Peters, Edwin Rios, Mitch White, Dennis Santana, Leo Crawford, and Zach McKinstry. Not sure how much money would be coming back to the Dodgers if the Red Sox take Pollock. I’m flying blind.
Yeah, the payroll balloons in 2020 but you fill two needs in 2020, you now have two possible MVP candidates in Bellinger and Betts, one hits left-handed, one hits right-handed, and you didn’t have to deal any of Lux/May/Ruiz/Gonsolin/J Downs/Gray. It isn’t a big haul for Boston, but given the contract of Price, it shouldn’t be. This gives the Red Sox some major flexibility next offseason just as it did back in 2012 when the Dodgers loaded up on Red Sox bad contracts. That didn’t work out for the Dodgers as it was the Red Sox who ended up using that deal to springboard to a World Championship in 2013.
I just want Mookie Betts playing RF for the Dodgers in 2020. If things work out, they can take that money they were willing to play Cole, and give it to Betts after 2020.
I should probably mention that Mookie Betts is my favorite player in baseball. The last time my favorite player in baseball was traded to the Dodgers was back in 1974 when Jimmy Wynn helped lead the young 1974 team to the World Series. Mookie Betts is not Jimmy Wynn. He’s much younger, and much better. He’s what we thought Matt Kemp was going to be.