We've already discussed the reasons why the Red Sox will likely trade Mookie Betts. Now begins the process of divining just where that will be. First up the "If:Then" entry. It's no shock that it's the Atlanta Braves. The fact that the Braves are close to his Nashville, TN home means that Mookie might be more likely to sign a long term deal with them. That's important, but there's a lot more to it than that.
According to spotrac, the Braves currently sit at $158,479 Million for 2019. Many of their players are on arbitration eligible deals that will get big raises. Their best player, MVP candidate Ronald Acuna Jr., is on a team friendly eight year $100 Million contract.
But they have three big deals coming off the books too. Josh Donaldson is on a one year, $23 Million deal. He's expressed interest in coming back, but the Braves might not want to pay for an older player. Dallas Keuchel is on a one year, $13 Million (that's the prorated portion) deal. Darren O'Day is in the last year of his deal, which accounts for $9 Million.
Altogether that's $45 Million coming off the books. More than enough to add Mookie's arbitration or long term deal number to their arbitration raises and remain around $160 to $170 Million in payroll. Imagine Acuna and Mookie in the same outfield for the next seven to eight years.
Braves Youth & Farm System
Atlanta has a plethora of young talent to trade. They were ranked as the third best system in baseball in the spring. And recently they ranked the same, despite graduating players like Austin Riley this year. Ian Anderson is their top prospect, a starting pitcher who had 172 strikeouts over 135.2 innings in AA and AAA this year. In the majors they have young starters like Mike Soroka and Touki Toussaint. Soroka is the gem, having gone 13-4 this year with a 2.60 ERA for the Braves. Toussaint is less so, with a 5.62 ERA in the majors this year. But in 2018 he had a 2.38 ERA with 163 strikeouts over 136.1 innings in AA and AAA.
Would the Braves be willing to trade one of these three as the basis for a deal? The Red Sox would love to add young starting pitching. That's only the tip of the iceberg in a system this deep. There are few teams with the money and the talent to get this done like the Braves. But what would cause them to pull the trigger?
The Braves have not won the World Series since 1995. The Braves are going to win the NL East and will finish with the third best record in the National League this year. They have a stadium that opened in 2017 that they would like to keep filled. The fly in the ointment right now is that Acuna is dealing with a groin strain. He should be back for the playoffs but that kind of injury can linger, especially for a dynamic athlete like him.
If the Braves falter in the playoffs, particularly with an early exit, then they may be willing to take the plunge in the belief that Mookie Betts can get them over the hump. Mookie might be tempted to sign a long term deal to be closer to home. A package around one of their top three young pitchers, Austin Riley and something more might break loose.
So root for the Braves to fail, because this is the best case scenario for the Red Sox.
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