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On the Yankees, Mookie Betts, and trade speculation

In which we break down a wild trade proposal

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

We all dreamed about it, I’m sure. At the very least, Red Sox fans had nightmares about it. After two center fielders jumped ship to the Bronx, all it took to strike fear into the hearts of Red Sox fans was to refer to Mookie Betts as “the future Yankee center fielder.” A joke among friends, however, was all it ever seemed destined to be, even as the Red Sox decided to do their best impression of the New York Giants and put their best player on the trade block.

And then Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, the newspaper owned by Red Sox owner John Henry, published an article with a wild trade proposal, in which the star outfielder and Jay Groome would come to the Bronx in exchange for Miguel Andujar, Clint Frazier, Luis Gil, and Mike King. Suddenly, the dream of signing three straight Boston center fielders became the dream of recreating the Babe Ruth trade 100 years.

Chances are, this article was nothing but a wild and crazy idea Abraham had and decided to write to help fill out a slow time of the year; it is the most difficult part of the job, after all. That said, although it may seem preposterous, there’s enough smoke that the article can’t be thrown out completely. Obviously, it’s highly unlikely Boston will salary dump a star right fielder in ‘19 for the second century in a row, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t kernels that can show us what’s actually going on behind the scenes.

For starters: That’s it? That’s all that Abraham thinks it would take from the Yankees to acquire one of the most dynamic players in the game? This isn’t MLB: The Show or Out of the Park Baseball, where computer GMs sometimes decide that shedding money is the most important thing, and trade big contracts for pennies on the dollar.

Boston is expected to be looking for a major haul, with Jon Heyman even reporting that most teams expect the price to be too high for a rental. No matter your opinion on Miguel Andujar and Clint Frazier, however, I think I’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who wouldn’t be ecstatic to see this pulled off. A neutral GM even told Abraham, “It’s not crazy.” In any case, either Frazier and Andujar are valued much more highly outside of New York, or Boston ownership is so desperate to dump payroll that they’re willing to sell low on one of the best Red Sox players of all time.

Additionally, between this article and the one telling Red Sox fans they are overvaluing Betts—incidentally, both from the Globe—it’s clear that Boston is committed to moving the Betts “contract.” I put the word contract in quotes because they’re not looking for long-term salary relief, they’re looking to not have to pay the estimated arbitration value of $28M in 2020 and gain some prospects before he walks in free agency.

While that is a smart move conceptually, Boston is still just one year removed from being an elite team. Even if they don’t intent on re-signing him, it would be worth at least keeping him around for 2020; if the season started like last year’s ended, then move him at the deadline. By being so intent on trading Betts now, it’s clear that Boston is entering some sort of transition phase, and they themselves might not even expect to be true contenders next season.

More significantly, however, there may very well be some dialogue going on between the Yankees and Red Sox front offices. Now, we know that the Yankees and Red Sox have historically avoided trading with each other; they have done so only 11 times since 1950, with the most recent being a Kelly Johnson-for-Stephen Drew swap at the trade deadline in 2014. Considering these are two players most Yankees fans like to forget ever donned the pinstripes, and it’s clear that most of the trades over the last 70 years have been fairly inconsequential.

That, however, might be changing. On Monday, new Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said that refusing to deal with the Yankees would be “irresponsible”. Although he clarified that he understand the nature of the Bronx/Boston relationship makes things more difficult, the off-the-cuff remark is telling. Cashman, meanwhile, has reiterated that he’s not opposed to making deals with anybody, but understands that divisional politics sometimes must take a role.

All this goes to say, while I’d be very surprised to see Mookie Betts donning pinstripes in 2020, a significant trade might could some day be on the table.