Why Trading Mookie Betts Was the Right Move

Betts, who recently observed his 28th birthday, received a long extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers at $365,000,000 over 12 years. It’s needless to say that he’ll have some coin once his playing days are over with some rings to pair…

With his performance in the playoffs as of late, the front office in Boston has come under much scrutiny from media and fans for trading a highly regarded player like Mookie. Much of the outrage focuses on the fact that Mookie is a generational piece, but Boston sought sustainable success with talented, young ballplayers after the decimation of the farm system by former GM Dave Dombrowski in an effort to chase a ring.

In analyzing the deal, we must consider the contracts of the players involved… At the time of the trade, Mookie was set to hit free agency at the end of the 2020 season. In an interview with David Ortiz for the World Series, Mookie suggested that he saw himself staying in Boston for the rest of his career. However, he omitted the most significant part: He wanted to be rewarded with one of the highest contracts in the league.

Mookie made it clear that he wanted to be paid as a top player in the game, but never committed to Boston explicitly until after the fact.

He quietly rejected multiple offers from the Red Sox before the pandemic, the last of which was comparable to his current $365mil deal with the Dodgers. In a pre-COVID market, this was still a massive deal– but he sought $400mil as a free agent. His unwillingness to settle for anything less than what he valued himself, made it clear that he was not tied to Boston.

Admittedly, I was initially in the boat that thought the trade was lopsided for Betts at first… Verdugo and Graterol for an elite player like Mookie surely was a joke, right?

While Brusdar Graterol will be a cornerstone reliever in the near future, there might have been some misrepresentation of whether he was a starter or reliever. His inclusion in the deal was ultimately voided and instead, the Red Sox got a crop of young talent with infielder Jeter Downs and catcher Connor Wong, in addition to Verdugo.

Mookie Betts had no immediate intention of re-signing with the team. The Red Sox effectively gained “free talent” for an expiring contract when the race for the playoff was muddied by a very tough division with the Rays and Yankees in the hunt. The Red Sox effectively punted on the 2020 season by preempting an imminent exit with a trade that effectively locked up their middle-infield for the next 5 years. They also gained an every-day outfielder who can play all three outfield positions.

In his very short career, Verdugo has shown that he can replicate Betts’ offensive output (with slightly less power). In his career spanning over four years with 211 games underneath his belt, his career slash line is .290/.345/.458. It is impressive by itself, and he is gaining confidence at the plate– he has a very high ceiling.

Drooling Meme GIFs | Tenor

Jeter Downs is also a name to remember… The SS/2B was a highly touted prospect within the Cincinnati Reds organization until the Dodgers traded for him specifically. The 2018 trade that sent Jeter Downs to the Dodgers was the blockbuster that sent Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, Matt Kemp and Kyle Farmer to Cincinnati. They, along with $7 million in cash, were packaged for Jeter Downs (then a 7th-ranked prospect), Josiah Gray (then a 20th-ranked prospect) and Homer Bailey. The Dodgers clearly valued Jeter Downs heavily and parted ways with him to get their dude in Betts.

Mookie is a great talent, but not someone you build around. He is, at best, an ancillary piece, who could turn a team into a super-team. His glove is elite, but he is not the best “complete” outfielder in the league. I don’t think he even breaks the top 5 (Trout, Acuña, Yelich, Bellinger, Judge all have slight advantages).

We will thank the Red Sox’ front office for making this trade in the near future, even though it is not apparent at the moment. The Dodgers’ World Series win validated that they “won” the trade, but who is to say the trade can’t be mutually beneficial?

Is 2020 the Year of the Replacement Ballplayers?

It seems with each day, the disparity between the MLBPA and MLB widens. According to Jon Heyman, the two sides thought that they settled the issue when they agreed to a prorated salary… Whatever agreement they had on March 26 was lost in translation. The players perceived this agreement to mean that the salary per game stays the same, while the owners believed that this was predicated on fans attending the games. The two sides have taken to social media to air their grievances, and the conflict is souring by the day. Before a return to play, both sides need to mediate and hash out a plan.

The last time the labor union and league could not come together on a CBA was in 1994. Major league players went on strike on August 11th, and the season was ultimately canceled. For the first time since 1904, there was no World Series.

The strike lasted until hours before Opening Day in 1995, and baseball’s owners intended on using replacement players in the league. On March 30, 1995, future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor presided over a hearing between the player’s association and the owners that lasted for two hours. The players’ association protested the owners’ decision to unilaterally eliminate free-agent negotiations and salary arbitrations while negotiating a new CBA. Sotomayor, who was then the youngest judge in the Southern District of New York, took merely 15 minutes after hearing arguments to rule in favor of the players. She issued an injunction against the owners and the players agreed to return to work, effectively ending the strike.

Prior to this decision though, the owners had opened up training camps in February to retired players, minor-leaguers, and replacement players. Some of these replacements had no professional experience and were paid mere pennies. They went incognito to hide their intentions from the players’ union, some with aliases that were vastly different from their actual names. These replacement players were subjected to heated rhetoric from the unionized players, and were barred from membership to the MLBPA. No matter their reasons for crossing the line, they were opportunistic individuals in search of a chance to play.

When the strike ended, many replacement players saw their contracts terminated. Some of the lucky ones were reassigned to the minors, but a select few were kept on their major league teams. There are a few recognizable faces who got their start from these unfortunate circumstances.

Current analyst for the MLB network and host of the show, Intentional Talk, Kevin Millar, spent ten years in the majors. He was the heart and soul of the 2004 Red Sox run, coining the rally cry “Cowboy Up!” He posted a career slash line of .274/.358/.452.

Brian Daubach saw his eight-year career begin from the strike. He spent the majority of his career with Boston, with a career batting line of .259/.341/479.

Lou Merloni, the current co-host of the Ordwar, Merloni & Fauria on WEEI and baseball analyst with NBC Sports Boston, also obtained a shot at the big leagues after the strike. He played professionally for nine years, with some experience playing internationally in Japan. His career slash line is .271/.327/.388.

Even if the negotiations between the MLBPA and the MLB turn nuclear, the general consensus among fans is that we still want to see baseball. A strike would have far-reaching ramifications for the league and its subsidiaries, but fans are starved for games.

It is in no one’s interest to have a strike, but even the worst possible scenario happens, there are some positives to be taken out of it. There are athletes out there that are waiting for their shot at the big leagues, and some could have the ability to endure.

Biggest Loser from the COVID-19 Fallout: Mookie Betts

He was supposed to be baseball’s next $400 million dollar man, and rightfully so. Mookie Betts was in pole position to have a monster offseason, where he would become the most sought-after unrestricted free agent.

The Red Sox had reportedly made several attempts to restructure the contract with Mookie. In 2016, he declined a five-year, $100 million deal. Following the 2017 season, Betts again turned down an offer of an eight-year, $200 million dollar contract. After his 2018 AL MVP season, Mookie was offered a ten-year deal, worth $300 million in the offseason. Mookie counter-offered with twelve years at $420 million. In an effort to recoup something in return for Betts, Boston dealt him away after the 2019 season. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers after insisting on hitting the market in search of his desired price tag. 

Like every other business, the market for athletes is dependent on the total market revenue. With the stoppage of play, each team will be affected differently. According to the New York Times, the LA Dodgers are currently at $232 million in local losses, with teams like the New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, and Boston Red Sox close behind with $214 million, $199 million, and $188 million in losses, respectively. 

Even if there is an abbreviated season, teams will lose out on a significant amount of revenue. This will take away from their ability to pay out contracts after the season, and the market will see an overall dip.  The Athletic’s Peter Gammons suggested that Betts would be “lucky” to earn a deal worth $250 million in the current market.

While it was unforeseeable during prior negotiations, Betts must be kicking himself over what could have been. He might not command the $420 million dollar price tag he was in search of, but he has a lot to prove if baseball is to be played this year. 

Does Boston now have the ability to offer Betts a competitive contract offer, due to the expected market dip?

Remembering Athletes Who Served in the Military

On this solemn day, it is a time to remember the servicemen and women that made the greatest sacrifice possible. Throughout history, there are a handful of patriots who were both heroes on the frontlines, and in between the lines. In honor of Memorial Day, we will look at some notable athletes who risked their lives for our country.

Pat Tillman, defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Pat enlisted in the Army to serve his country. He passed up an opportunity to sign a 3-year deal worth $3.6 million with the Cardinals to enlist. Pat served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and he was subsequently deployed to Afghanistan. Pat tragically lost his life in 2004 due to friendly fire in the Khost region, near the Pakistan border. In the wake of his death, his family started the Pat Tillman Foundation, which provides aid, resources, and scholarships to support veterans.

Ted Williams, outfielder for the Boston Red Sox

Ted fought in two wars. After winning the Triple Crown in 1941, Ted was required to miss the prime years of his career due to selective service during WWII. Ted joined the Navy Reserve on May 22, 1942, and went on active duty in 1943 as an aviator. After returning to baseball, he was again recalled for service during the Korean War when he was in his 30’s.

He almost lost his life on one of his missions in Korea; he flew over a village and his plane was met by small arms fire. As his plane bled fuel, he refused the protocol to eject. He believed that if he ejected, he would damage his legs due to his large frame. His decision to land the plane was a precarious one… As he descended, his landing gear malfunctioned and his plane slammed into the runway. The husk of what was the fuselage skidded for more than a mile on the runway, but it came to a stop at the edge with feet to spare.

Rocky Marciano, Boxer

The heavyweight boxing champion was one of the few athletes to get his start in his respective sport from his time in service. He was drafted in 1943 and served with the 150th Combat Engineers on the European Front. He boxed regularly in amateur matches towards the end of his tenure in the Army. After he failed to break out of the Chicago Cubs’ minor league system, he began his career as a professional boxer.

Yogi Berra, catcher for the New York Yankees

Yogi enlisted after the Pearl Harbor attacks in 1941 as a Gunner’s Mate in the Navy. At this time, his minor league career was picking up traction, but he still made the decision to enlist. He was among the many who stormed the beaches in Normandy on D-Day. He earned a Purple Heart for his actions and finally made his major league debut in 1946.

David Robinson, center for the San Antonio Spurs

As a first-round pick out of the U.S. Naval Academy, David was widely considered the best athlete in the 1987 NBA Draft. There was one caveat the Spurs drafted him with— it was that his mandatory military obligations could span up to five years. David spent most of his time at a submarine base in Georgia, but he trained often while on duty. He participated in some international basketball tournaments, and managed to stay in shape for his eventual NBA career. In the end, he only served two years of active duty, and in 1989 he was allowed to join the San Antonio Spurs.

Arnold Palmer, Golfer

Arnold served in the Coast Guard from 1951 to 1953. He joined as a means of escaping the pain associated with the loss of his college roommate, who died in a car accident while the two were enrolled at Wake Forest. In the Coast Guard, he served as a photographer but spent his weekends golfing.