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Rosenthal: Mookie Betts trade is going to happen, just a matter of when/where

Mookie Betts is supposedly on the move and soon. We break down three likely scenarios for the dynamic outfielder for the 2020 season.

Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts rounds second base to score the game winning run on a hit by third baseman Rafael Devers against the Baltimore Orioles during the ninth inning at Fenway Park. Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

On an appearance on MLB Network on Monday, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic stated that a Betts trade “is going to happen and the only question is when and where.” It’s been a rumor that’s been floating around all throughout the offseason but has really picked up steam over the course of the last week or so. Much to the dismay of Red Sox fans, it looks as if the 27-year-old outfielder will be sporting a new uniform on Opening Day in what would be his final year under contract before hitting free agency. Below, we’ll look at the three most likely landing spots for the man who hit 29 home runs, knocked in 80 and swiped 16 bases in 2019.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Rosenthal stated that he would bank on the Dodgers as the one coming away with the services for Betts if a trade does indeed happen. One of the biggest snags in the trade talks has been the Red Sox insistence to include SP David Price in the deal. Price is owed $96 million over the next three years before becoming a free agent in 2023 at the age of 37. As you’d imagine, the inclusion of Price in a deal has been one of the biggest snags overall, as teams have been reluctant to take on his massive deal — especially if they’re looking to sign Betts to a long term deal.

The Red Sox ultimate goal seems to be getting back a mix of major league ready players and prospects. On the Dodgers side, the centerpiece of the deal coming from them has been rumored to be OF Alex Verdugo. The 23-year-old has posted modest numbers during his time in the majors up to this point and last season slashed .294/.342/.475 with 12 home runs, 44 RBI and four stolen bases through 106 games. The Dodgers seem intent on keeping two of their top prospects in any deal, meaning Gavin Lux and Dustin May would not be taking their talents across the country. That could, however, mean names like SP Tony Gonsolin or C Keibert Ruiz, who missed the last month and a half in the minors due to a fractured pinkie finger.

The Dodgers have the ability to make this deal happen more than anyone, it appears. The likelihood of Betts wearing the blue and white seems imminent. However, as we’ve all known and seen, nothing is a sure thing in this world.

San Diego Padres

Before the Dodgers emerged as the favorites to land Betts, the Padres were the ones who were the most likely team to land him. However, the deal was help by the Padres desire to include OF Wil Myers. He’s currently in the midst of a six-year $83 million contract that will take him up to 2023. A once highly touted prospect in both the Royals and Rays’ system, Myers has really fallen off offensively, slashing just .239/.321/.418 with 18 home runs and 53 home runs through 155 games last season. As you’d imagine, the Red Sox, who are trying to shed salary, are reluctant to take on the Myers contract, especially for the next four years.

Like the Dodgers, the Padres have a rich farm system. It’s one of, if not the biggest reason the Red Sox have been entertaining the idea of moving on from Betts with one of these NL West teams. Like the Dodgers, the Padres won’t be giving up their top prospects either — meaning SP MacKenzie Gore will be staying put. However, names like RP Adrian Morejon or C Luis Campusano are rumored to be in play. The Padres have recently shown their willingness to throw money at big-name players and will be into year two of the 10-year contract signed by Manny Machado — paying him $30 million per year. With the amount of young, talented players currently on their team, the Padres are a year or two out from being very competitive. The addition of Betts for years to come, if they’re able to re-sign him, would certainly speed up that potential timeframe.

Boston Red Sox

We also can’t rule out the possibility that the Red Sox do NOT move on from Betts. What if they don’t move off their want to include Price in a deal? What if the Padres insist on including Myers? What if the Dodgers package of players heading back doesn’t appease the Red Sox? It’s all very possible.

What works in the Red Sox favor is that they essentially hold the cards here. It’s not as if another big named outfielder is on the market and thus one of these teams could turn their attention towards them. Reports have surfaced that the Red Sox and Betts are on two completely different planets on what both sides feel the other is owed. Betts is reportedly looking for a contract in the $420 million range for 12 years while the Red Sox reportedly offered a 10-year $300 million deal after the 2018 season, according to Lou Merloni of the WEEI program “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria” in Boston. Numbers that far apart don’t exactly make anyone feel all warm and fuzzy about a potential deal coming together.

If the Red Sox do retain his services once Opening Day begins, the potential to trade him at the deadline would be an option. Teams in contention could look to overpay for Betts, although in that instance they’d be getting him for half a season. It’s likely a scenario the Red Sox would like to avoid, especially if the team is in the playoff hunt at that time. While some may say the team underperformed last year, they mainly have the same roster returning for 2020.

With spring training looming, the likelihood of a deal feels high. With two teams involved, the chance of Betts moving on feels inevitable. If you think once a trade happens the news is over, well I’ve got news for you. That team will still attempt to sign him to a massive deal to prevent him from getting to free agency. If not, the Betts watch will be the story of the offseason, once again.