Trying to figure out a Mookie Betts & David Price trade for the Dodgers

There are two trade rumors involving the Dodgers that just won’t go away: Francisco Lindor and Mookie Betts.

I’ve written about Lindor a few times and once about Betts already, but Jon Morosi stoked the fires again on Thursday when he reported that the Dodgers are as — if not more — likely to trade for Betts than Lindor, in part because Cleveland is insisting on Gavin Lux in any Lindor trade and the Dodgers don’t want to trade Lux.

As a result, sources say the Dodgers’ negotiations with the Red Sox about acquiring Mookie Betts have become at least as frequent — and perhaps even more involved — than their talks with the Indians about Lindor. The Dodgers’ conversations with the Red Sox are said to be more dynamic than the Dodgers-Indians talks, because Boston appears less insistent on Lux. Also, there exists a very real possibility that a Dodgers-Red Sox deal would include multiple players heading to Los Angeles.

That last bit is interesting, because we all know the Red Sox are, inexplicably, making Betts available to clear his projected $27.7 million salary in hopes of getting under the salary cap luxury tax. To also do that, they might be looking to attach David Price‘s $96 million over the next three years to clear even more salary. In turn, that would reduce the acquisition cost for the acquiring team. With the Dodgers being something like $35-40 million below the $208 million luxury tax (which includes projected arb salaries), there might be a deal to be struck.

Cody wrote about the idea of acquiring Price and his contract when his name first popped up in trade rumors last month.

In short, the Red Sox signed Price to a bad deal (even if he pitched incredibly well against the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series, finishing with two wins and a 1.98 ERA in 13 2/3 innings). There’s probably about $40 million (at least) in lost value going forward, so eating all of Price’s remaining contract is no small task. But there’s reason to believe Price may at least be useful for part of the remaining deal. If taking on all or most of Price’s contract means getting Betts and sending less in return to Boston, I think my opinion (and others who write at this site) is probably obvious. It wouldn’t even be the first time the Dodgers took on a pretty bad contract from the Red Sox (Carl Crawford‘s 4.3 WAR for $100+ million is going to be hard to top).

Acquiring Price by himself doesn’t make much sense for the Dodgers, but if he comes with Betts then that’s a gamble worth making.

Cost

OK, I know you’re basically reading this article to answer this question: What’s it going to cost?

Well, this could be a scaled down version of the famous Nick Punto trade back in 2012, but not by much. So, I’m going to throw out three proposals that are at least in the proverbial ballpark.

But before that, let’s establish one thing: Any Betts-Price proposal is going to have A.J. Pollock going the other direction. There is no way it works, financially, if Pollock isn’t involved. The Dodgers haven’t tried this hard to remain under the luxury tax just to go over it by acquiring two players making a combined $59.7 million in 2020. David Young of True Blue LA broke it down on Twitter.

The first tweet is a great point not a lot of people are making. If the Dodgers don’t sign Betts to a long-term deal, they’ll at least recoup a supplemental draft pick for the 2021 draft if they trade for him now. That wouldn’t be enough to make up for the sting of Betts leaving, but it also isn’t nothing. They also wouldn’t lose any 2020 picks (or 2021-22 international signing money) that they would’ve if they had signed Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, or Stephen Strasburg, or if they ended up signing Josh Donaldson.

Should a team with the monetary might of the Dodgers have to prioritize staying under the luxury tax? No, but it’s clear they want to yet again and we have to deal with that frustrating reality.

Anyhoo, here are the proposals.

Proposal 1

To BOS: A.J. Pollock, Enrique Hernandez, Keibert Ruiz
To LA: Mookie Betts, David Price, Brandon Howlett, $10 million cash

Net 2020 Monies (CBT): Red Sox -$32.2 million; Dodgers +$32.2 million

This one depends how much the Red Sox like guys like Hernandez and Ruiz. Hernandez is projected to make $5.5 million in his final arbitration year, so he isn’t a long-term concern (money-wise) for them. The big piece here would be Ruiz, who should be their catcher of the future. Christian Vazquez had a strong 2019 season (102 wRC+, 3.5 WAR), but he’s one season removed from a 42 wRC+ and 0.2 WAR season. If nothing else, he could be a nice pairing with Ruiz in the future.

Proposal 2

To BOS: Pollock, Jeter Downs, DJ Peters, Connor Wong
To LA: Betts, Price, Tanner Houck, $10 million cash

Net 2020 Monies (CBT): Red Sox -$32.7 million; Dodgers +$32.7 million

This would be the most prospect-heavy package for the Red Sox without getting one of the Dodgers’ top 3 guys. Downs is the biggest prize, while Peters could have some fun playing pepper with the Green Monster. Wong would give them an athletic catcher with pop for the future. Houck is a guy the Dodgers liked in the 2017 draft.

Proposal 3

To BOS: Pollock, Joc Pederson, Tony Gonsolin
To LA: Betts, Price, $5 million cash

Net 2020 Monies (CBT): Red Sox -$36.8365 million; Dodgers +$36.8365 million

This one seems the most logical for both teams. With Betts coming in, you have to assume he and Cody Bellinger would start most games in center and right field, leaving Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Alex Verdugo to man left field. Pederson doesn’t appear to be in the Dodgers’ long-term plans and he could go to Boston, hit some dingers, and hit free agency prior to his age-29 season looking for a big pay day. Gonsolin would slot into the Boston rotation, with Price slotting into the Dodgers’ rotation. This one is would also be the most money the Dodgers take on in any of these proposals.

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Elite players don’t often become available either on the free agent or trade markets, and while the Dodgers have done a good job in the past jumping on top players at the deadline (Yu Darvish, Manny Machado), none have been as good as Betts is. Thus, if it means taking on Price to get Betts — even for one year — that’s something a World Series-contending team should do 100 times out of 100. Here’s hoping the Dodgers figure out a way to make it happen.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.