Mookie Betts Trade: Not What You Think

Mookie Betts Trade: Not What You Think

The ‘You’ implied here is the current conventional wisdom. That being that the comp for a Mookie Betts trade is what the Diamondbacks got for Paul Goldschmidt in a similar situation. That is nonsensical. But please hold, why are the Red Sox potentially, even likely, to trade the defending AL MVP?

It’s The Economy Stupid

The Major League Payroll Luxury Tax economy to be precise. According to spotrac, the Red Sox are carrying a $12.6 Million tax bill in 2019. That is because the luxury tax threshold is $206 Million, and the 2019 Sox all in payroll is $241.7 Million. We won’t get into the weeds on the penalties that come with cracking the $247 Million barrier. Suffice to say it would suck.

The Red Sox, despite having Panda’s $19 Million and Porcello’s $21 Million coming off the books, already have $151 Million in payroll for 2020. That is for only the eight players (including $23.7 Million that J.D. Martinez will likely opt out of) that have contracts. A team needs to field a 25 man operation. Once arbitration or contracts are set for players like Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi, not to mention the bullpen in it’s entirety, a new contract for J.D. Martinez, a starting pitcher or two, and a first baseman among others, the payroll will exceed $200 Million yet again.

John Henry stood in the afterglow of the World Series win in 2018 thanking the limited partners for going above and beyond to field the most expensive team in the sport. As eye glazing as it can be, it’s clear ownership does not want to extend themselves to the top payroll in the majors again.

Mookie Betts has not signed a contract. It is clear he does not want to be here long term. All he talks about is free agency. He is in the last year of arbitration eligibility. He will break the record for arbitration in the offseason. The team might not bring back J.D., but they won’t want to lose Mookie for nothing. Not with a troubled farm system to restock. Now about that potential trade.

Paul Goldschmidt Does Not = Mookie

First of all, Goldschmidt plays first base. Mookie is perhaps the best right fielder in the game.

Paul Goldschmidt hasn’t finished in the top two of the NL MVP since 2015. Mookie has a second place finish in the AL MVP in 2016, following by a win in 2018. Mookie is just entering his prime at the age of 26, while Goldschmidt is in his age 31 season this year.

Using WAR, the contrast is crystal clear. Goldschmidt’s average season is 4.6. That’s All Star level, no doubt. But Mookie’s average season is 7.9. That is a whopping 70% higher. How about their best three seasons? Goldy’s three MVP type seasons average 7.2. Mookie’s top three average 9.2. That’s 28% higher.

Any way you slice it Mookie Betts is markedly better than Paul Goldschmidt. Yes, it will cost more to sign Mookie to an extension. Goldschmidt got a five year $130 Million deal. Mookie will be more than twice that. But it can be argued that Mookie is twice the player or more. He’s five years younger and anywhere between 28% to 70% more valuable.

The Goldschmidt Trade

Arizona secured Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, Andy Young, and a competitive balance pick for Goldschmidt. Weaver and Kelly were considered top 100 prospects who both had big league experience at the time of the trade, and Young had hit .289 with a .858 OPS (including 21 home runs) over the 2018 minor league season.

That’s a pretty good haul. Although trading for a highly regarded young pitcher from the Cardinals is always fraught with uncertainty. They don’t trade guys like Jack Flaherty. They do trade guys like Joe Kelly. Regardless, Weaver has been great this year when he’s not on the 60 day IL. Kelly has 19 homers.

Chris Sale Trade Level Expectations

The Red Sox should ask for and get a degree more than that. Dave Dombrowski focused on trades for major league talent. If the new GM focuses more on top prospects this could be a Chris Sale level trade. That was Yoan Moncada, the top rated prospect in the game at the time, Michael Kopech at #30, and two others.

Mookie is better as an everyday player than Chris Sale was as a starting pitcher at that time. Yes, Sale had more team control, but he was also a health risk as we have seen. This is the level of trade we should expect.

In the coming days we’ll look at clubs that will be motivated to trade for, and willing to sign, Mookie Betts to a long term deal.

Boston Red Sox