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The Flyby: Direction for the 2020 Red Sox

The Over The Monster posters have spoken. Here are the words they spoke.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

This past weekend, I asked the Over The Monster community to choose a direction for the 2020 Red Sox. Let’s dive right in and see what they said.

J.D. Martinez and the National League - OwenLetteney

What they said: Martinez didn’t opt out of his contract. He’s a great player but the contractual obligation may force Chaim Bloom to make a difficult decision. His trade value is undoubtedly lowered due to being a designated hitter, but what if the National League adopted the DH rule like the American League? Maybe the Red Sox could find a way to keep Mookie Betts, while getting maximal value for J.D. Martinez.

First of all, I want to welcome Owen to OTM. It’s his first post on Over The Monster.

Let’s start by looking at the elephant in the room with this FanPost. J.D. Martinez is a DH. It does not matter what Scott Boras bills him as. It does not matter what he himself bills him as. He is not an outfielder. Especially not at Fenway Park. And that’s fine. His bat provides plenty of valueprovides plent.

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

Since 2014 (when Martinez first truly burst onto the scene with the Tigers) he has the third highest wRC+ in baseball, in baseball behind only the best player of all time potentially in Mike Trout, and Aaron Judge. His Isolated Power ranks in the top 10, close to names like David Ortiz and Giancarlo Stanton. He also has the second highest wOBA (behind only Trout) over that same timeframe. There’s no dispute about his bat.

If the National League were to adopt the DH, the amount of teams that could feasibly play Martinez would double.

It’s worth noting there’s a few more road-blocks.

First is that not every team is trying to win. Let’s ignore 2021/22 for now. For 2020 there are not 15 teams in the National League that are trying to win. Teams like the Marlins, Pirates, and Rockies are almost certainly not players for the 2020 season. Additionally, it looks like the Giants and Reds are trending downwards for right now. Then there are teams like the Cubs and Mets who might not consider themselves real players for 2020 (there’s talk of the Cubs potentially trading away Kris Bryant, and the Mets are the Mets).

That’s not to say those teams would definitely not be players, but they seem like safer bets to not be in the thick of a J.D. Martinez discussion.

There’s also the question of control. J.D. Martinez could potentially opt out of his contract after the 2020 season unless he reaches an extension deal with whoever trades for him. One year of a player, no matter how good he is, rarely goes for very much in the modern trade market.

Boston Red Sox v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The final obstacle is smaller, but still present. He has a limited no trade clause that will allow him to block trades to three clubs (for leverage purposes mostly). At present, he’d most likely block trades to three of the four most rumored clubs after his services (the Blue Jays, Rangers, White Sox, and Yankees). While expanding the DH to the National League would help expand his market, he’d still be able to block trades to three of the seven or eight teams that would most likely be after him (assuming teams want to target J.D., career DHs are not a market anybody knows well).

If it helps the Red Sox keep Mookie Betts, as he heads into the prime of his career, a trade of J.D. Martinez should definitely be considered.

Retool, Don’t Rebuild! - Bosoxsince89

What they said: The Red Sox have the highest payroll in baseball. They also make a lot more money than other teams. This helps them contend every single year... or should. Their footing is significantly weaker than it has been in the past, though. Even worse, their farm system is relatively in shambles. There’s also a strong push from ownership to lower payroll. That said, they are the Red Sox, and they should look to contend every year. Here’s a bunch of moves they should do.

I’m not going to list every trade above, because we’d be here all day analyzing trade value. But I want to point out a few that made sense to me, and stand as something I believe the Red Sox can do, and should do (and just might do).

The first move that leaps off the page as realistic and in the realm of something we should actually be doing, is the trade of Jackie Bradley Jr and a couple of corner infield prospects to the Mets for Dominic Smith. I like this move for two reasons. The first is that the Red Sox could cut a good amount of salary by jettisoning Bradley to Queens (or anywhere). The second is that by doing this they can also pick up Dom Smith, who played pretty well over his 89-game campaign.

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

While the Red Sox have Triston Casas and Bobby Dalbec in the pipeline, taking a chance on Smith, who played up to the hype generated by prospect evaluators years ago, while simultaneously dumping Bradley’s salary, would be a solid move for a team trying to contend, while also cutting payroll. The cost here is ditching two prospects in Nick Northcut and Josh Ockimey, but neither player is essential to the future and could easily be seen as the cost of business.

The other move that stood out was the straight salary dump of Nate Eovaldi to the Phillies for two flier prospects. While I believe the original poster aimed too high in terms of value (I actually really like Jhailyn Ortiz’s tools, and think the Phillies would value him more than his stat line suggests, but Francisco Morales is the real catch here). If the Red Sox can do this, they should be doing it now, and be rid of Eovaldi’s contract.

Those two moves alone would cut between 25-28 million dollars from the payroll (depending on what JBJ gets in arbitration). The other moves are nice suggestions, but I think trading David Price is going to prove harder than trading Mookie due to his salary commitments remaining. And as much as I’d love Luis Patino and Taylor Trammell for Mookie Betts, I get the feeling we wouldn’t even get one of those for him, let alone both and extra. But I’m also incredibly pessimistic we get anything more than some second tier prospects from the Braves.

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Ditch The Fan-Favorites - speeddemond

What they said: Our team has too many holes to reasonably contend as constructed. There’s no point in bringing Mookie Betts back for the 2020 season, unless he agrees to an extension. Our best chance to win is to build a team similar to our 2013 roster, and pick up a lot of underappreciated players on low value deals with the savings we make from dealing out high salary talents.

You can go into the FanPost linked above to see his analysis.

The move I’m focusing on is the one that everyone wants to discuss, Mookie Betts. I’ll be talking more about him later this week or next. I don’t think anyone wants to deal him away. I don’t think anyone who has suggested trading him is the right move even expects to get anything of significant value for him.

However, if Mookie Betts is dead set on testing free agency, then he will not sign an extension with anyone. If we’re operating in good faith (and I have to believe the Red Sox are, the alternative is too disappointing), then the Red Sox have offered fair (or better) value to Mookie in a contract. They have planned to meet with his agent, to potentially do this again as well.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

If Mookie Betts wants to be a free agent, then Mookie Betts will be a free agent. And if he’s a free agent, then the Red Sox could sign him back in the offseason. I’m not saying they will, but it’s a possibility. This possibility exists as long as Mookie Betts does not extend with whatever team he is traded to. There is the risk that whoever trades for him will make him a godfather offer (wouldn’t you? He’s Mookie Betts) and he will no longer hit free agency. But the potential for that offer exists now, and the Red Sox and Mookie Betts have yet to reach an agreement.

If he has not signed a contract before Spring Training, the Red Sox should trade him. If they hold him to the season, his value instantly gets worse, as he will no longer have a qualifying offer attached to him. Right now, the Red Sox are not trading just Mookie Betts. They are trading Mookie Betts for 2020, and the ability to get an extension or get a draft pick back when Mookie leaves in free agency.

I will reiterate my personal opinion is that the Red Sox should just pay Mookie Betts. No matter the cost, the Red Sox can afford it. They are the Red Sox. As several people have pointed out, they have extremely high revenue coming back from their expenditures. While this would hurt their ability to stay under the luxury tax in 2020, it’s pretty easy to argue that he’s worth it in the short term, and that he’s the player you build your core around, rather than move.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Here is a list of the top position players in Red Sox franchise history. Mookie Betts ranks 15th on that list despite the relative lack of games. Nobody in the top 25 has played fewer games than Mookie Betts. Only nine players in the top 50 have played fewer. It’s great company to even be on that list, but to be on that list with fewer games played than your peers is a greater testament to his talent.

However, that all operates on the assumption that the Red Sox are willing to pay him. Time will tell if that assumption is true or totally unfounded.

Something I’m going to try to do from this FanPost on is also mentioning other FanPosts written on the site over the previous week. I think a lot of good FanPosts are written that don’t get the love they deserve, and for a while I’d been trying to reconcile how to make it fit in with the Flyby. While I won’t fully dissect each one in the article proper, I will mention them and give a brief look into what they are about.

This week, we had two FanPosts that I didn’t think qualified as FanPost Friday responses, but were worth mentioning.

Another Mookie In Queens - Redsoxny

This poster (submitting their first FanPost) brought up a potential Mookie Betts trade, where the Red Sox would trade Betts and CJ Chatham for Jed Lowrie and Jeff McNeil. McNeil has been exceptional in his first year and a half of action, and would slot in well at second base, one of the biggest holes on the roster, at a fraction of the cost of Mookie Betts. It’s unlikely that this type of deal would be on the table, but it’s fun to think about. If we have to trade Mookie, let us dream a little.

Shopping Mookie Betts - Bosoxsince89

The poster dives into a list of every conceivable team that could go after Mookie Betts from the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres to the San Francisco Giants and Cleveland Indians. Some teams aren’t likely given their perceived directions (the Indians may sell Francisco Lindor) or because of their burden of financial commitments (the Dodgers may find it difficult to pay for Mookie with their current roster unless the Sox take back a lot of salary, which may go against their mandate). Eleven possibilities on the table. Choose your own adventure this time.

See you all next time!