Freddie Freeman Rumors Make the Red Sox’s Mookie Betts Trade Look Even Worse

The Boston Red Sox came within two wins of a World Series appearance in 2021. If they did make it, they would have gone head-to-head against star slugger Freddie Freeman and the Atlanta Braves.

But as it turns out, Freeman and the Sox may become well-acquainted between now and Opening Day.

Boston is one of the teams in the running for Freeman, the 32-year-old first baseman. His All-Star bat would drastically improve the lineup, but it would come at a steep price. A price that, rather ironically, the Red Sox weren’t willing to pay for a younger, better, and homegrown player in former franchise cornerstone Mookie Betts.

The Red Sox are interested in signing Freddie Freeman

All throughout the lockout, it seemed like Freeman was destined to re-sign with Atlanta. However, the baseball world collectively lost it when the Braves traded for 27-year-old Matt Olson in a blockbuster deal with the Oakland Athletics. Once they traded for the Georgia-native and signed him to an eight-year, $168 million extension, it spelled the end of Freddie’s time in the ATL.

This opened the door for several teams, including the Red Sox, to make their best offers for the 13-year veteran.

According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, Boston “remains very much in the mix” for Freeman’s services. The Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers are also in the running, while the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays are likely out after acquiring 1B Anthony Rizzo and 3B Matt Chapman, respectively.

Freeman is one of the more consistent batters MLB has had over the last several years. The 2020 National League MVP has slashed .295/.384/.509 for his career with an average of 28 home runs and 97 RBI over a 162-game season. Last year, he hit .300 with 31 home runs while leading the NL with 120 runs scored.

Although he’s already 32, Freeman presents a major upgrade over Boston’s current first base situation. Bobby Dalbec is the team’s only true 1B, and while the 26-year-old did slug 25 homers in 2021, his on-base percentage was also below .300 and his OPS+ of 105 was just barely above league average.

Boston’s interest in Freeman makes the Mookie Betts trade age terribly

The Red Sox had a significant leadership change after the 2019 season, with former Rays executive Chaim Bloom taking over for Dave Dombrowski as the head of baseball operations. Bloom, who was used to operating well within a budget in Tampa, decided to slash payroll for the 84-78 Red Sox.

Just months into the job, the 36-year-old pulled the trigger on a blockbuster Mookie Betts deal, sending the 2018 American League MVP to the Dodgers for a package highlighted by young outfielder Alex Verdugo and top prospect Jeter Downs. Betts, who won four gold gloves and a batting title in six seasons with Boston, was scheduled to hit free agency after the 2020 season. Mookie signed a 12-year, $365 million extension with LA before leading them to a World Series victory.

Now, with the 29-year-old Betts thriving in LA, the Red Sox are pondering Freeman. While the first baseman is a great player, he’s already 32 years old. If Boston meets his asking price of a six-year deal worth $180 million, that will net Freeman around $30 million a year through his age-37 season. For perspective, Mookie’s average annual salary comes in at $30.4 million.

Signing Freeman would essentially be an admission that the Red Sox messed up by trading Betts. Boston could have kept a top-five player in baseball for his career rather than chasing the Braves star who could be exiting his prime shortly.

Freddie Freeman isn’t enough to make the Red Sox AL East favorites

Time will tell whether the Red Sox manage to sign Freeman. But even if they do, they’ll have some serious work to do in order to compete in the AL East.

The Blue Jays are loading up this offseason, acquiring Chapman as well as starting pitchers Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi. They also re-signed ace Jose Berrios and are reportedly targeting Cleveland Guardians star Jose Ramirez.

Meanwhile, the Yankees opted to re-sign Rizzo days after trading for 3B Josh Donaldson and SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Plus, the Rays always find a way to win no matter who’s on their roster.

The point is that Boston’s moves haven’t come close to what its rivals have done. Bloom’s biggest pre-lockout acquisitions have been veteran pitchers Rich Hill and Michael Wacha and former outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. Freeman would obviously be the biggest splash, but they would still need more pieces to seriously contend.

Perhaps having someone like Mookie Betts on the roster would help …

All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

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