Mookie Betts
Don’t rule out Mookie Betts returning to the Red Sox in 2021. The list of teams Mookie could sign with in the offseason is smaller than you might think. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Don’t Rule Out Mookie Betts Returning To The Red Sox In 2021

The Red Sox are getting crushed for trading Mookie Betts. I’m not happy about it either, but I also am reasonable and understand why they did it. In the long run, trading Mookie was probably the right call. What nobody is talking about is what if the Red Sox can have their cake and eat it too? Is it really out of the realm of possibility that the Red Sox sign Betts in the offseason? I don’t see how you can rule it out.

I’m not an insider nor do I pretend to have sources. I also do try to get sources. Reporting news isn’t my thing. I don’t get any thrill from it. This hasn’t been reported or anything, but it’s hard to ignore the possibility of Betts coming back to the Red Sox. The Yankees traded Aroldis Chapman for a package that included Gleyber Torres and then re-signed him. The Red Sox would have re-signed Jon Lester after they traded him if it weren’t for former Red Sox gm Theo Epstein swooping in at the last second to snag him for the Cubs.

Mookie Betts is going to command the brinks truck in free agency. There is no question about that. Realistically, how many teams will be in the market for his services? You don’t have to be a reporter or rocket scientist to narrow down potential options. It’s a smaller list than you think.

There are MAYBE 15 teams that you could consider being big market teams. Those teams would include the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers, Phillies, Mets, Cubs, Rangers, Nationals, White Sox, Braves, Tigers, Blue Jays, Giants, and Astros. Big market is probably being generous to a good chunk of those teams.

Some of these teams can be ruled out based on the fact that they just won’t be competitive with or without Mookie Betts. He doesn’t fit their timeline. These teams are considered to be in a full-fledged rebuild. Pretty much no chance they are signing a mega contract while they are trying to start over. That list would include the Giants and Tigers. Cross them off the list.

Then we have to eliminate teams that you know just will never hand out that kind of a contract. History has shown these teams just can’t do it:

The largest contract in Blue Jays history is Vernon Wells at 7 years for $126 million. They couldn’t compete to re-sign David Price a few years ago. Cross them off.

Cross the White Sox off too. Their largest contract ever is Yasmani Grandal who signed this past year for $73 million. Not in the same stratosphere.

Cross the Mets off too. Their highest contract ever is Carlos Beltran for 7 years at $119. The Wilpon’s never go above and beyond to compete for the real big boys. The Mets have limits and just don’t have the capital to compete in this kind of range. I should say they could do it. The Wilpons just don’t.

That leaves us with the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers, Phillies, Cubs, Rangers, Nationals, Braves, and Astros.

Now we have to cross off teams that either don’t have the payroll flexibility or don’t have a need at the position.

The Yankees have $29 million per year committed to Giancarlo Stanton next year, $10.5 million to Aaron Hicks, and still haven’t signed Aaron Judge to an extension. Cross them off the list too.

The Angels already gave $426 million to Mike Trout, $245 million to Anthony Rendon, and still have Albert Pujols on the books for $30 million next year. Let’s also mention they still have zero pitching. Cross them off too.

The Phillies signed Bryce Harper to a $330 million contract to be their right fielder and now will start to have luxury tax issues. Cross them off too.

The Astros are tapped out. They couldn’t even offer Gerrit Cole a contract. They have nothing left to spend. Houston has a great team and everybody is starting to get expensive. Cross them off too.

That leaves the Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers, Nationals, and Braves.

The Cubs could do it but that even seems unlikely. Chicago isn’t even a luxury tax team this year and the Rickets’ are crying poor. Chicago could swing it but it would probably have to involve them trading Kris Bryant and Javier Baez. The Cubs have a bunch of guys to pay adding Anthony Rizzo to that list. Chicago is also stuck with Yu Darvish and Jason Heyward’s big deal too.

The Rangers could do it. Still, history shows that’s probably unlikely too. They couldn’t win with the Alex Rodriguez contract and had a hard time even handling that kind of salary. Mookie’s deal will exceed the $245 million Alex Rodriguez got at the time.

The Nationals could do it but they are also strapped with some big contracts. They are paying Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin a lot of money. They also have this guy named Juan Soto they have to prepare to take care of. Washington could do it but it’s probably not realistic.

The Braves could also be in the mix but this doesn’t seem likely either. The highest contract they have given out goes to Freddie Freeman worth a total of $135 million. Their payroll is also starting to creep up and Atlanta never even got in the mix for trade talks. They had plenty of young talent to spare to in a trade. Not impossible but it seems very doubtful.

That leaves the Dodgers and Red Sox. Could Betts re-sign with the Dodgers in the offseason? Absolutely. They are one real option. The Red Sox are the other. Realistically, Boston is probably better suited to win the bidding war too. The Sox really trimmed their payroll by dumping part of the David Price deal. There is probably more to come too. JD Martinez could be the next to go in a trade. I don’t think there’s any question that Boston will have more payroll flexibility than the Dodgers next year.

I’m not saying the Red Sox will sign Betts when he hits free agency. My guess is that minimum there is a 20 percent chance it happens. Maximum it’s probably a 50-50 proposition. Mookie clearly loves Boston. Who knows? We may not have seen the last of Mookie Betts in a Red Sox uniform.

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