For whatever it’s worth, reading from a script at the start of a press conference after you traded one of the most talented homegrown players in the history of the franchise and a pitcher who helped carry the organization to a championship doesn’t come across great. Just wanted to throw that out there.
Anyway, somehow, the mess of a deal between the Red Sox and Dodgers was finally completed on Monday. (And it still took all day for things to officially wrap up.)
Mookie Betts is gone. So is David Price. Now the Red Sox have a talented young outfielder that has maturity issues, an infielder named Jeter and a catcher who projects as a “decent backup.”
But this isn’t about Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong. Who knows? Maybe they all pan out and make an impact.
What this is really about is the Red Sox’ approach to this process.
First, you’re trading an unbelievable talent. The type of player the Red Sox typically sells the farm for. And not just during the Dave Dombrowski era, either.
But, in fairness, Dombrowski did spend more than the average general manager or president of baseball operations. The Red Sox were dealing with some heavy penalties. They had to get under the luxury tax. John Henry — even though he’s tried to say the narrative is media-driven — said it himself back in September:
“This year we need to be under the CBT (Competitive Balance Tax threshold). That is something we’ve known for more than a year now.”
Now, on Monday, Chaim Bloom mentioned how getting under the CBT was a goal for offseason. With that being the case, moving Betts and Price makes sense — ignoring what they provide on the field. Trading them before the start of spring training achieves one offseason goal and should have allowed Boston to get max value from bidding teams.
But there was one thing Bloom said after the deal was done regarding the team’s payroll that felt particularly odd:
“The CBT was not a major factor in us deciding to do this deal, as much as it was a goal with us this offseason.”
So, that means getting the most value out of the deal was the driving force then.
How, then, did the Red Sox not end up with a pitching prospect? Has that not been the biggest issue with the organization? The inability to identify and develop young pitching talent?
As much as Betts might be a rental for the Dodgers this year, he and Price give that organization an outstanding chance to win it all. Those two can provide a team with more than just an extra boost.
Shouldn’t Boston have been in the driver’s seat then? Or, shouldn’t they have walked away with an arm in addition to Verdugo?
And it’s important to note in all of this: Bloom expressed the Red Sox weren’t shopping Betts in the offseason.
“With Mookie, we were never, and it’s something we’ve said all offseason, there was never a point where we were pushing him out there, shopping him,’ Boston’s Chief Baseball Officer said. “We maintained privately the same we did publicly: That we had to be open to all options. Obviously, over the course of the offseason that involved a number of teams checking in on us with him, as happens with many players. Once it became clear that the Dodgers, in particular, were going to be very aggressive, it made sense to engage.”
However you feel about Bloom’s approach to Betts or his team-building process, what he’s saying here is fine — if the Red Sox got a better haul than Verdugo, Downs and Wong. He needed to get a young arm from this team that was clearly “very aggressive.”
That doesn’t mean Brusdar Graterol was the answer. But Red Sox needed a pitching prospect. Especially when you consider what the franchise is prioritizing.
“Developing starting pitching is going to continue to be a huge priority for the organization,” Bloom said. “We have a number of pitchers in our minor leagues that we think do have the ability to start for us. It’s going to continue to be a huge priority. When it comes to any specific move, we have to prioritize talent.”
There’s another head-scratching comment: “When it comes to any specific move, we have to prioritize talent.”
In case anyone has forgotten throughout this long, drawn-out rant, Betts and Price are, in fact, talented. If you’re prioritizing talent when making moves and want to have the best chance at developing pitching, why not make this one of the stipulations in trade talks: a young arm with top of the rotation talent has to be involved in the final deal?
Simple: other important goals were achievable. Meaning the CBT, luxury tax, payroll — whichever way you want to put it. And that can be a strategic move on the Red Sox’ behalf, again, whether or not you’re a fan of the deal.
But, for some reason, the Red Sox refuse to admit money played a big role in this trade — even though their actions, and everything Bloom said to make it sound like this wasn’t money-driven, can easily lead one to think this trade was money-driven.