The Blue Jays have spent over $100 million this winter, landing NL ERA champ Hyun-Jin Ryu, among others.
The Twins have committed roughly $50 million to their 2020 payroll, with a four-year offer reportedly sitting in front of former MVP Josh Donaldson.
The Reds, no one’s idea of big-market spenders, kicked off this offseason spree by signing Mike Moustakas to a $64 million contract to … play second base?
Everywhere you look, teams are throwing around money. Everywhere except Boston, that is. The Red Sox have yet to make a splash, unless you count left-hander Martin Perez, who parlayed a 5.49 ERA over the last two years into a $6.5 million deal. Or backup catcher Kevin Plawecki, he of the .218 lifetime average, who signed on Thursday.
But they can’t stay inactive forever, and the market appears to be settling into a next phase that should finally draw the Red Sox out of their cave. Maybe they’re even preparing to pull off a blockbuster.
On Thursday, MLB.com reported that the Dodgers have turned their attention to former MVP Mookie Betts after (a) being shut out of the high-end free agent market and (b) reaching an impasse with the Indians over superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor.
The story suggests the Dodgers could be interested in acquiring both Betts and left-hander David Price, a scenario a rival executive laid out to NBC Sports Boston at last month’s winter meetings, but which still feels farfetched.
So how did we reach this point? The big names in free agency are virtually gone. Beyond Donaldson, the most recognizable hitters left are doubles machine Nick Castellanos and Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna. They’re the only three of Fangraphs’ top 20 free agents who remain unsigned.
Pitching is even scarcer. A run on top-end arms landed Gerrit Cole in New York on a record $324 million deal, sent World Series hero Stephen Strasburg back to the Nationals, and landed Madison Bumgarner in Arizona.
Most of the secondary guys are gone now, too, with the likes of Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Tanner Roark, and Jordan Lyles finding new homes. One potential target, Milton native Rich Hill, instead signed a one-year deal with the Twins even though he won’t return from arm surgery until June or July.
Where this leaves the Red Sox can’t exactly be called a position of strength, but it at least gives them some clarity as they embark on the task of cutting payroll and then assembling the rest of the roster. And as they have all offseason, all roads keep pointing back to Los Angeles.
Boston’s No. 1 priority remains finding a taker for Price, who is owed three years and $96 million. The Red Sox are going to have to eat some money, and the most they can reasonably request another team to pay in a vacuum is $20 million annually, which is what Ryu received from the Jays on a four-year, $80 million deal.
Even that number is probably optimistic, considering the AAVs of second-tier starters like Dallas Keuchel ($18.5 million), Cole Hamels ($18 million), Jake Odorizzi ($17.8 million), and Bumgarner ($17 million). It’s hard to argue that Price is worth more than any of them, especially coming off wrist surgery, months before he turns 35, and with a number of high-profile dustups calling his character into question.
But what if Price weren’t the only piece of a deal? It’s hard to imagine new Red Sox boss Chaim Bloom using Betts to facilitate a salary dump of Price, but including the five-tool outfielder would increase both the potential prospect and monetary return, and the Dodgers are blessed with loads of each and thus far nowhere to spend any of it.
L.A. was in on Cole, but lost him to the Yankees. It was in on third baseman Anthony Rendon, but lost him to the crosstown Angels. It has otherwise remained remarkably silent, despite boss Andrew Friedman’s contention that the club plans on acquiring an impact player through either free agency or trade. The Dodgers’ only signing to date is reliever Blake Treinen, who fell apart in Oakland but still earned a one-year, $10 million contract.
Friedman drafted Price No. 1 overall with the Rays in 2007 and watched him blossom into a Cy Young Award winner. He also watched him dominate his lineup during the 2018 World Series, when Price should’ve been MVP after winning two games, including the clincher in Dodger Stadium.
In a perfect world, the Red Sox would trade Price and center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. in order to pare at least $25 million in payroll and create the space to retain Betts for one more season before trying to convince him to sign here long-term.
But Bloom has inherited an imperfect roster, with holes at first, second, and possibly in the outfield, not to mention starting pitching and the bullpen.
That’s a lot of work left to be done, and December is already gone. Pitchers and catchers report in six weeks, the market has largely sorted itself out, and the Red Sox are on the clock.
Market aligning for potential monster trade between Red Sox, Dodgers originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston