In the wake of the news of former President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski’s departure from the Red Sox, a Boston Globe report states that the new front office of Eddie Romero, Brian O’Halloran, Zack Scott, and Raquel Ferreira may be looking to part with one of Mookie Betts or JD Martinez. I think that the Red Sox are substantially more likely to part with JD Martinez, due to his opt out clause in his contract. However, it is a question that certainly has a lot of variables, and those variables will have to be carefully considered during the offseason.
This fall, the Red Sox are finally shedding the horrendous contracts of the Ben Cherington days, including Rick Porcello’s 4-year, $82 million deal. Porcello proved to be an awful signing, especially after his inconsistent swing with the Red Sox in which he was sometimes brilliant, but most of the time pretty awful. His statistics from this season read spot starter at best, not someone paid like an ace. His ERA sits at an abysmal 5.83, which is...
On top of the nearly 22 million off the books from Porcello, the Red Sox will also receive 19 million back from one of the worst contracts in MLB history. The 5-year, $95 million contract of Pablo Sandavol, aka Panda Express, is mercifully set to come off of the Red Sox books after this season. Even so, the Red Sox may still be forced to move on from either Betts or Marintez due to the extensions of Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts kicking in for the 2020 season. Additionally, Dustin Pedroia's contract is also set to remain on the payroll unless the legendary Red Sox 2nd baseman finally decides to retire and forefit the rest of his deal. If the Red Sox do have to chosse between arguabbly their two most accomplished hitters, who should they pick?
The Case for JD Martinez
JD Martinez is arguably the best pure hitter in the MLB right now. After a record setting first season in a Red Sox uniform, the All-Star got off to a slow start with the Red Sox in 2019. Martinez had a batting average of only .256 in the month of May. However, the slugger has picked up his usual pace, and is now batting .308 with 35 home runs, 94 RBIs, and an OPS of .961. While these numbers are clearly worse than those in the year prior, Martinez is still having a solid season and is still significantly underpaid. Due to the opt out clause in his contract at the end of this season, Martinez is still more likely to leave than Betts is. His decision could ultimately determine the direction the Red Sox take this offseason.
If Martinez were to opt in to his contract, he'd probably be easier to trade than Betts would be. Due to the exorbitant value that Mookie Betts has and his surprising inclination to test the waters of free agency, despite his insistence that he loves Boston, it could be tricky to find a suitor for him this winter. Ultimately, JD Martinez is the easier player to move on from, but it's not that simple for the Red Sox.
The Case for Mookie Betts
Mookie Betts’ free agency is an enigma. The Red Sox’ superstar has never publicly voiced displeasure with Boston (in fact, he has praised it), nor has he shown any sign of displeasure with the Red Sox organization. Despite that, Betts seems to have an obsession with testing the waters of free agency. Betts impending free agency will likely not feature the same testy rhetoric, public feuds and drama that Kyrie Irving's did for the Celtics last season, but it will still loom over the organization for the entirty of next season if he remains on the roster without a new contract.
Take a look at any of the other Mookie Betts-level superstars dealt during the MLB trade deadline these past few years. Baltimore traded Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline of 2018 for a plethora of prospects, including Yusniel Diaz, who only hit .262 in Double-A this year, Zach Pop, who underwent Tommy John surgery in May, Breyvic Valera, who was designated for assignment and is currently playing for the New York Yankees, Dean Kremer, who succeeded in Double-A, but is still only in Double A and Rylan Bannon, who only played 20 games with the Orioles AAA affiliate, the Norfolk Tides.
An example of a trade of that caliber during the offseason saw Chris Sale dealt to the Red Sox in exchange for Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech and Luis Alexander Basabe along with some others. Moncada is a budding superstar and had an outstanding season. However, this was his first season in which he hit over .240. Michael Kopech had Tommy John Surgery at the end of last year and is still rehabbing that injury, while Basabe has not made his major league debut as of yet.
Although Machado’s star is less than that of Betts or Sale, the disappointing return had far more to do with Machado's rental status. As we all know, Machado signed a lengthy, expensive contract with the San Diego Padres. Betts is a free agent at the end of the 2020 season, so it makes more sense to trade him now. Former Orioles GM Dan Duquette took a lot of heat for holding onto him through a mediocre 2017 season and the entire offseason. It would not be a good look for the Red Sox to struggle and take much less for Mookie Betts at the deadline instead of trading him during the offseason for a heavy return.
What the Red Sox Will Do
Ultimately, the direction the front office decides to take will determine who leaves. If they want to enter a rebuilding period, which they seem to, they will choose to deal Mookie Betts. Their farm system is depleted thanks in large part to the recently departed Dave Dombrowski and trading Mookie Betts is the easiest way to replenish it. They only have one top 100 prospect, Triston Casas, who most recently clocks in at 86 on the MLB list. Bobby Dalbec is doing outstanding things at the Triple-A level and may prove to be a strong DH with power at the major league level. This is another reason for the Red Sox to move JD Martinez. Darwinzon Hernandez has proven to be an electric reliever at the major league level, but it remains to be seen whether he can be an effective starter. The Red Sox also have Bryan Mata and Tanner Houck in the system, who are in Double-A and Triple-A, respectively.
If Eddie Romero believes in his young players and the team’s ability to compete right away, the Red Sox can choose to reload and let JD Martinez and Rick Porcello walk, let the young guys begin to take over and eventually return to the former glory of 2018 and previous years. They do have rising stars in the farm system to help replace those two players. While Martinez's production may not be easily replicated, Porcello's loss may prove to be helpful to a team that struggled to receive consistent starting pitching this year outside of Eduardo Rodriguez.
It seems more likely that the Red Sox front office will choose to reload and let JD Martinez walk and hold onto Mookie Betts, but the latter could quickly change depending on how the Red Sox start in 2020.
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