Alright, we’ll get this out of the way first: I don’t want the Red Sox to trade David Price. I’ve been over this a million times and people who read this site consistently generally know that stance. I won’t rehash the arguments, but it feels weird to talk about that entire situation to discuss this entire situation without stating that off the top. It informs everything I feel about every variation of every rumor, the same as any of our opinions about anything inform our resulting opinions on anything tangentially related. But again, this isn’t about that.
Instead, let’s just assume the Red Sox don’t actually give two shits what I think. Crazy hypothetical, I know. Let’s just assume that David Price is going to be on another team next year and it’s just a matter of when the best deal will be put on the table, not if. Now, there is something to be said about the lack of leverage that comes from the entire world knowing what you want to do, but that ship has sailed. Based on all of the reporting and their explicit stated desire to reset the luxury tax, it’s a given he’ll be traded. It also appears to be a given that no team is going to take on the entire contract. So, if this trade is indeed to happen, Boston is left with three choices.
The first is adding young talent to facilitate a deal and entice a team to take on more of the salary. This is something I wrote about just last week, so I won’t go too deep into again this time. It is counterintuitive for this team that seems to be prioritizing this “sustainable success” model that relies on young talent to then trade that young talent just to get rid of money. It doesn’t appear they are willing to part with Andrew Benintendi or Michael Chavis or any of their top prospects to make this deal done, which is good news. But it’s an option that opposing teams will surely be throwing out there.
The next option is the one that seems to be coming up more over the last week or so, which is to take on a bad contract of their own to facilitate a deal. This recent trend in the Price trade rumors is what sparked me to write this. On the surface, it makes sense because, again, teams don’t seem particularly interested in paying David Price’s entire contract. For the Red Sox to get rid of as much as possible, some teams will insist the way to do that is to take on their own problem contract, albeit a smaller one. There’s an argument that they should do whatever it takes to get the Price contract off their books. It’s just not the argument I would make.
Among these rumors, the one that I have heard the most is involving the Padres in which they would send Wil Myers to the Boston as part of the trade. Unless the Red Sox are getting some very real value along with Myers, that would be terrible. The former top prospect had a good stretch in his first couple years in San Diego, but that was in 2015 and 2016. Over his last three years he has a combined 105 OPS+ (including a below-average 95 OPS+ last year) while playing meh defense in the corners. He did play some center field last year, but he can’t really play there. He’s also due to make $22.5 million in each of the next three years, giving Boston a whopping $8.5 million in savings compared to Price. This rumored deal just does nothing unless the Padres are turning around and eating a significant chunk of money, at which point what are we even doing.
There was also the latest addition into the conversation on Wednesday when MLB Network’s Dan O’Dowd unleashed whatever in the hell this is on the world. The main point here for our purposes — I’m not even going to mention Betts being part of this — is the idea of A.J. Pollock being involved. He is not owed as much money as Myers, but he is still being paid in the mid-teens and is under contract for three more years. He’s also been, like Myers, just a little better than league-average at the plate for the last three years.
The argument for making these kinds of deals, particularly with these two, is that they can plug holes. With Myers and Pollock, they could slide into the outfield picture after a presumed Jackie Bradley Jr. deal. The Red Sox can find cheaper options than them to fill that hole, though. You can also get more prospect talent by taking these contracts, but I’m of the mind that unless you are getting legitimate prospects (i.e. at least top 75 in the game), it’s just not worth the hassle. Anything less is getting close to lottery ticket or low-ceiling territory. There’s also the potential of getting someone whose money comes off the books earlier, though Price is only under contract for three more years. Is it worth it to take on a bad contract for just one fewer year, assuming you still make it work to reset the luxury tax? I’m just not seeing the benefit here.
At the end of the day, it just seems like the clear play is to just eat as much (but also as little) as you have to to get a deal done. You’re probably not getting much of anything in return, and that is what it is. But if you’re going to build your entire offseason around the luxury tax, then go all-in and do it. This involves putting some faith in this front office that they will actually reinvest the cash after the penalties are reset, and to be fair to this ownership group they often has. I just worry to take it as a given, particularly after seeing the Dodgers (who are run by another former Rays front office alum in Andrew Friedman) being so skittish in free agency. But if they are truly going to reinvest next winter and put all of this money back, then just rip the bandaid and make that process as easy as possible.
Again, that these three choices are apparently the only three choices is not something I am wild about to begin with. But given the situation in which the Red Sox have chosen to put themselves, this is what we have to deal with. Like I said, it’s about just ripping the bandaid, looking ahead and getting back over the threshold next year. They just better hope they actually reinvest, or else all of this posturing looks... Well, you know.