MLB

Can Red Sox, MLB Fix the Mookie Betts Trade Fiasco?

Major League Baseball has stumbled from one public relations problem to the next with clumsy footwork that would get a Broadway musical shut down halfway through opening night.

With the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal having made headlines for two weeks, the sport took a fresh hit when the Boston Red Sox, one of the most valuable franchises in sports, traded their best player because he was about to become too expensive.

And now that trade sending Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers has made new headlines because the teams didn’t finalize the details before word leaked out that a deal had been made.

Just about the time the Betts trade gets fixed, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred should be ready to announce his sanctions against the Red Sox for their own sign-stealing shenanigans.

That’s no way to run a sport.

What made the Red Sox decide to trade Mookie Betts?

The Boston Red Sox decided that paying Mookie Betts $27 million this summer served little purpose since the talented and exciting outfielder would almost certainly leave for free agency at the end of the 2020 season.

Betts’ agent was throwing around numbers in the ballpark of $420 million over 12 years as an opening negotiating position, which scared the Red Sox. Once they decided Betts would have to go, they looked for a suitor also willing to take on much of the $96 million owed to pitcher David Price over the next three years.

The Dodgers were one of the few teams willing to take the risk.

The Dodgers and Red Sox weren’t a perfect match

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ stance was that they were taking a payroll hit by accepting David Price and shouldn’t have to send top prospects to the Boston Red Sox to complete the Mookie Betts trade. That caused the teams to shop for a third partner, and the Minnesota Twins stepped in with an offer that satisfied everyone.

The Dodgers would get Betts, David Price, and some money from the Red Sox. Boston would acquire outfielder Alex Verdugo from Los Angeles and pitcher Brusdar Graterol from Minnesota. The Twins would accept pitcher Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers.

The problems began several days after word of the deal leaked out when the Red Sox said their medical staff had concerns about Graterol and the teams would need to restructure the trade.

The Twins still want Maeda from Los Angeles and could negotiate a one-on-one deal, but that leaves the Red Sox and Dodgers back where they started – eager to complete the Betts deal but unable to do it without assistance unless Los Angeles agrees to accept a lot less cash from Boston.

Who gets the blame and what’s next?

Fans may wonder why the Boston Red Sox didn’t do their homework on Brusdar Graterol, whose injury history includes Tommy John surgery. It’s not that simple because MLB teams don’t share medical files or make players available for physicals until the terms of a trade are worked out.

If the system didn’t work that way, some players could find themselves being poked and prodded by doctors from four or five organizations while being dangled as trade bait. If no trade materializes after that ordeal, the team is left with a player who’s feeling very unwanted.

In that respect, then, the Red Sox are blameless. However, they’re also running out of time to complete an unpopular move they initiated.

Pitchers and catchers report to Red Sox spring training this week and the rest of the squad arrives next week. Potential trade partners that intend to contend this season would be reluctant to make a big move without knowing how they might subsequently plug holes resulting from giving up some of their own starters and prospects. Those are decisions better made in December rather than March or April.

If the Dodgers and Red Sox don’t salvage the trade soon, Boston may re-open discussions with the San Diego Padres, who offered the Red Sox a deal for Betts but have no desire to take on Price’s contract.

Could things be any worse for the Red Sox?

Uh, yeah. They went into the weekend without having named a new manager to replace Alex Cora, who got caught up in the sign-stealing scandal that is still residing in Boston’s on-deck circle.