BOSTON (CBS) — Let’s begin with this: There is no way — nor will there be any way — to replace a franchise player like Mookie Betts.
You all know the resume: 2018 AL MVP. Four-time All-Star. AL batting champion. Four-time Gold Glover.
Mookie was a 27-year-old sensation who never had any issues on or off the field. And now he’s gone to Los Angeles.
Open up your car, office or home windows and scream as long as you want. Get it all off of your chest.
Feel better? I didn’t think so.
But it’s time to move on and face reality. And with that said, let’s take a look at the many, many layers that come with this Mookie Betts and David Price deal.
The Mookie Angle
Let’s begin with Mookie Betts. There was almost zero chance that the superstar was going to re-sign with Boston. For whatever reasons, the two sides weren’t even close on a new deal. The Sox wanted no part of any deal longer than 10 years while Mookie (and with good reason) is seeing himself slotted in just behind Mike Trout’s 12-year, $430 million deal. Trout is 28 while Mookie is 27. Mookie is a tick below Trout, but it’s reasonable to think he could pull in an 11-12 year deal at $400-plus million. The Sox were – for whatever reason – never going to go that high or long.
The Sox chose to try to get something now as opposed to one more year with Betts before letting him walk away for draft pick compensation.
Alex Verdugo is 24 and entering his fourth MLB season. Last year, despite being limited with back issues, he hit .294 with 12 homers, 44 RBIs and an .817 OPS in 103 games for the Dodgers. Word on Verdugo is that he had some immaturity issues early in his career, but he’s a “baseball rat” who loves the game. He can’t/won’t fill the shoes of Mookie, but he’s a major league talent.
As for righty Brusdar Graterol, he’s a big kid who throws gas (100 mph) and went 7-0 with a 1.92 ERA on three different levels. He obviously needs to harness his talents, but a 21 year-old arm like that makes him the Red Sox top prospect today.
The Price is Right
There’s no question, again, that the Red Sox are taking a major hit in 2020. Price, when healthy, can be an ace. We saw that in the 2018 postseason and it will be missed. But, Chaim Bloom put his team well under the $208 million luxury tax threshold for the 2020 season. He now has room to make trades and signings if he so desires, as the Sox are expected to gain $16 million per season in relief for the next three years. The downside is Boston will be paying L.A. $16-plus million per season for the next three years.
The other factor? Not sure having Price around would be a good thing inside that clubhouse with Mookie gone. This season won’t be easy as there’s a lot to figure out.
Can’t imagine a more difficult spot for any GM to have to step into than what Bloom has entered. You get named Chief Baseball Officer and you inherit:
– A team that’s looking at severe penalties (money, draft picks, and international signing bonus cash) if you don’t get your payroll under $208 million.
– A team that’s been built around starting pitching, coming into 2020 with two of their three starters coming off injuries and making big money. Meanwhile, the third is aging and is owed $96 million.
– A team that has a franchise player, who is hell bent on playing out his contract and testing the free agent waters.
– A team that had to fire a manager that was universally loved because of a scandal that took place prior to you being here.
– A team that is expecting some form of punishment because of their won sign-stealing scandal.
Welcome to Boston, Chaim!
At least with this trade, Bloom gets well under the luxury tax and now can reset. He can go hire his own manager, or choose an interim manager and then get “his guy” in 2021. Bloom can also wheel and deal, draft, sign, etc. while not having to deal with World Series-or-bust expectations THIS season.
This is not going to be easy. The Red Sox players have to be crushed that Mookie is gone. He was a great player who loved the game and could do amazing things on a baseball field. And let’s face it, with Betts and Price gone, the Red Sox are potentially the third-best team in the AL East — and that’s being optimistic. The task of getting this group on the same page while dealing with a lot of negativity about their chances — and without two MVP/Cy Young talents — won’t be an easy one. You’ve got a group that won a World Series just two seasons ago and was hoping to be a major factor again this year.
Alex Cora could handle that. He had a special way of getting the most out of all of his players while also keeping their attitude positive. He’d be the perfect man for the job. But, as we know, he won’t be here. This also leads me to believe that the Sox will do their best to keep things the same and hire either Ron Roenicke or Carlos Febles as the interim manager.
Pitchers and catchers report for duty on Feb. 11th. We are mere days away. We’ve got new players coming in, franchise and solid veteran players leaving, a new administration, punishment coming, and a new manager coming in — all within a few weeks.
Buckle up folks, it’s going to be an eventful spring.