J.D. Martinez surprisingly opted in to his contract with the Red Sox for 2020. The seeds for trading Mookie Betts were sown well before this, but the Martinez opt-in is a touchstone along the way. While the Atlanta Braves hold the best possibilities for a trade, there is a Midwest team that lurks in the shadows. The Chicago White Sox haven't forgotten what it means to win a Championship, and could target Mookie as the perfect fit.
Band Of Brothers
Think back to last offseason. The Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sweepstakes were in full swing, and the White Sox wanted in. Once it was clear the big hitters wouldn't be signing at the Winter Meetings, Chicago decided they would push in their chips. In January of 2018 Jon Jay and Yonder Alonso, two of the three of the Miami Baseball Brotherhood (with Machado being the third) signed with the White Sox. It was a blatant attempt to lure Manny Machado to the South Side, and it failed.
The Padres stepped up with a 10-year $300 Million deal for Machado, and the White Sox were left paying Jon Jay $4 Million for 47 games, a .267 average, and a .626 OPS.
Money To Burn
All was not well in Chi-Town when the White Sox wouldn't go an extra $50 Million for Machado. But GM Rick Hahn promised the rankled fanbase that they would spend the money they offered Machado soon. The current crop of Free Agents begins with Gerrit Cole, who says he wants to stay west of Nevada (not good for Chicago), and Anthony Rendon. The White Sox already have old friend Yoan Moncada at cheap money to play third.
The Chicago White Sox payroll sits at around $48 Million. There is more than enough there to pay Mookie Betts long term. Matching Mookie with Moncada and Eloy Jimenez is a daunting middle of the lineup. So what's left to trade?
White Sox Prospects
In the same offseason that Moncada and Chris Sale changed Sox, Chicago traded recent World Series champ Adam Eaton to the Nationals for, among others, Lucas Giolito. Giolito is just the type of young pitcher the Red Sox need. Yes, he would be a hard get from the Pale Hose. Giolito led the league with three Complete Games and two Shutouts in 2019, and went 14-9 with a 3.41 ERA, all while at the tender age of 24. But trading for a recent MVP should be hard.
If not Giolito, there is another offseason of 2016 pitching darling to covet: The flame throwing Michael Kopech. Remember him? Since he joined the White Sox as a part of the Sale trade, he's gone through Tommy John surgery and come out on the other side.
Luis Robert and Steele Walker are highly touted OF prospects. All together there are the makings of a deal. A pitcher, an outfielder, a way for one Sox to boost their 2020, and another to fortify a barren minor league system and ease their bloated payroll.
Mookie Betts' Value
In the coming days much will be written comparing Mookie Betts to Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt was traded to the Cardinal for young promising starter Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, and Andy Young. But Goldschmidt was going into his age 31 season. Mookie is going into his age 27 season. Mookie is in the midst of his best seasons, Goldschmidt hadn't had an MVP level season since 2015 when the trade happened. By WAR, Mookie is almost easily twice as valuable.
The bottom line is, if a team feels it can sign Mookie to a long term deal, as Goldy did with the Cardinals, the Red Sox should expect much more in trade than the Diamondbacks got for Goldschmidt.
The White Sox have a cranky fanbase, almost demanding they spend money. Their paltry payroll is not befitting a team looking to compete for the playoffs. The Red Sox have a cure for that. At some point the White Sox have to stop accumulating assets and take a shot. Mookie Betts is a bulls-eye.
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