Despite the fact that the Braves have a load of young talent at their disposal and have spent the past two seasons on top of the NL East as divisional champions, it’s clear that they’ve still got some ceilings to break through. The Nationals have surpassed them when it matters the most. The Braves haven’t been able to conjure up any sort of good fortune during October and they’ve rarely been in a situation where everything lines up for them to make a deep run. Instead, it seems as if the best way for the Braves to get some good luck is to make like Harvey Dent and make their own luck.
One way to do that is to make a splash and strengthen your squad in some way during the offseason — be it through trades or free agency. In the case of free agency, these past two situations have shown that not just the Braves but the entirety of baseball are very, very reticent when it comes to just handing out long and expensive contracts. Both of the big free agent deals the Braves made (one in the offseason and in the regular season) were as short-term as you can get. Unless you’re under 30 and you’re a transcendent talent, big money and big years are becoming rare in the baseball landscape. It’s not fun but it’s part of the game until the next round of CBA talks come along.
So that leaves trading as one of the more optimal ways to acquire talent in this ugly free agency landscape and it just so happens that there’s going to be an extremely talented player on the trade market this offseason! For some reason, the Boston Red Sox are preparing to go down the route of cutting their payroll and if they can’t convince Mookie Betts to sign a contract that fits neatly into their plans, he could be on the trade market as soon as this offseason.
Yes, the same Mookie Betts who won the 2018 AL MVP in the same league where Mike Trout exists. That Mookie Betts could be on the trade market. If the Red Sox end up in a situation where they’re trying to shop him, then Alex Anthopoulos and new Boston GM Chaim Bloom should become phone buddies and lunch pals at some point during this winter. The Braves should be doing everything that they possibly can to trade for Mookie and get him in the outfield at SunTrust Park.
Testing Mookie?— Red Sox (@RedSox) September 24, 2019
We don't recommend it. pic.twitter.com/bqlEo7P25V
Mike Petriello of MLB.com recently wrote an article on who should be trading for Mookie Betts should the Red Sox decide to pull the lever. The short answer is that every other team in baseball should be lining up with offers but the long answer included his own personal list of what would make a team a good match for trading for Betts.
1) A team either already good enough to contend in 2020 or at least close enough that Betts would make them a contender right away.
2) A clear need in the outfield.
3) The ability to satisfy Boston’s needs in prospects or taking on contracts.
4) The ability to take on the estimated $28 million or so Betts will get in 2020.
5) Isn’t the Yankees or Rays, because come on. It won’t be the Yankees or Rays.
Well, would you look at that! It sure seems like the Braves can put a checkmark in each of those boxes. It’s especially easy for them to do that for box number five since they don’t play their home games in New York or Tampa Bay! But in all seriousness, this is an idea that the Braves should take very seriously. Petriello touched on his reasoning for the Braves side of things, and I’ll let you go over and check out his part on the Braves since it’s interesting to read, as usual.
Now, the usual howl from fans of any baseball team with a stacked farm system is that you don’t want to give up the prospects necessary since there’s always a chance that they could “turn into something,” with the “something” being a possible star. That “something” could also end up being a fourth outfielder. That’s the thing about baseball — you never know exactly what a guy is going to look like until he comes up. Drew Waters and Cristian Pache could become elite outfielders, or they could end up being a defensive replacement in a few years. The point is that even though it’s wonderful to have these guys and you sure hope that they live up to the expectations that we’ve laid upon them, we’re also depending on hope.
Meanwhile, there’s Mookie Betts and there’s no doubt as to what type of player he is. There’s nothing to hope for. He hit 29 homers, had a 135 wRC+ and was worth 6.6 fWAR in 2019 and it was considered a down year. If that is considered a “down year,” then please tell me what I need to do and if we can get it down to something “reasonable.” Petriello suggested that the Braves would probably have to part with something like Pache, Waters, another pitching prospect (likely Ian Anderson. I know, I see you wincing and grimacing right now) and Ender Inciarte. Petriello also suggested that they could move Ender if the Red Sox were also moving Jackie Bradley Jr. but I also feel like you have to include some major league talent as well. Either way, this would be a pretty steep cost to bring in Betts.
There’s also the concern of trading all of those prospects (and the juicy potential of team control, which team executives clearly value like the finest gems on this earth) for potentially just one year of Mookie Betts. The main reason why we’re talking about the scenario of Betts getting trade is because 2021 is coming soon and if we truly live in a world where people get what they deserve, he’s going to get a golden boat full of cash in free agency. If we’re also in a scenario where Braves fans can actually have nice things around here, the Braves would also decide to turn that one year of Betts into a few more by being the team that gives Betts the boat that he deserves.
In the wake of Ronald Acuña Jr. signing his extension, I wrote about how the Braves owe it to Acuña to do whatever they can to build as strong of a team as they possibly can around him (and Ozzie Albies as well) since he and his pal at second base both signed long-term contracts for significantly less money than what they could have gotten. If you’re going to tout your financial flexibility, eventually you’re going to have to utilize it by making a huge move and turning Mookie Betts into something more than a rental would qualify. Make no mistake, either — this would be expensive and there’s always a chanc
However, this is all speculation at this point. For all we know, the Braves may end up doing all of this just to fall short at the hands of the Dodgers flexing their organizational strength and doing everything that we want the Braves to do in regards to strengthening their major league team. A “mystery team” could swoop in and pull off the deal and just upend the baseball order as we know it. The Braves could just end up finding the whole thing too rich for their blood and look at other ways to improve the thing. The Red Sox could just end up convincing Mookie Betts to stay and all of this talk ends up being for nothing There’s a lot that can happen between now and whenever a decision is made on Betts and his future.
The main thing is that the Braves should be involved. We know they have the resources to make a trade. They will have a need in their outfield. They should be motivated to do better than getting walloped 13-0 in their own ballpark in a win-or-go home game in the divisional round of the playoffs. Bringing in a player of Mookie Betts’ caliber wouldn’t guarantee success and it would be a bit of a gamble when you consider the overall price of the entire operation. With that being said, if a player like that is indeed being shopped around, then the Braves should be doing everything in their power to make sure that they’re the ones that get him — instead of watching another opponent reap the benefits of their own ambition.