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The Mass Media

Ask Bobby #12
September 25, 2023

Don’t Look For the Sox to Make Any Blockbusters Before Opening Day

Trading+or+holding+on+to+Mookie+Betts+may+be+the+biggest+decision+of+them+all
Trading or holding on to Mookie Betts may be the biggest decision of them all

If you’re an MLB fan, you’ve probably heard that the Red Sox lack an ace—or a number one starter for that matter—and they would be best served to trade for one in order to become a contender. You can definitely see the merits of that argument, given that they made some significant investments over the offseason to improve their lineup, which should be among the best in baseball this season. They do have a perceived lack of top-end starting pitching, with Rick Porcello and Clay Buchholz holding the top two projected spots in the rotation, but it may be a better move to head into the season with the pieces they have than pull off a blockbuster move.
Many pundits have suggested the Sox pull the trigger on a trade with Philadelphia for Cole Hamels, their stud starter who has been on the market for months. The trade does have some appeal to it, except for the fact that the Phillies reportedly want either Blake Swihart or Mookie Betts, two of the best prospects in Boston’s system, in return. The willingness to part with either of these players has been a topic of disagreement amongst fans for more than a month.
Swihart should be viewed as untouchable at this point. He hasn’t played in the big leagues yet but he’s viewed as someone who can be the best player on a contending team, and because he plays catcher, that’s very rare. Having a potential franchise catcher for the future is too good to pass up, and the Red Sox brass likely feels that way as well, so Swihart is out of this.
Betts is a little more complicated. He came into the system as a second baseman, but was moved to the outfield in AAA last year. Betts was called up in June to improve the deplorable offensive performance from the outfield last season. He played very well, hitting .291 in 52 games. That’s a limited sample size, but there is obviously potential for improvement and Betts is touted as a very disciplined hitter with power. Trading him would be a last resort.
Is Hamels worth trading Betts at this juncture? Some would say yes and cite how the Red Sox have a surplus of good outfielders heading into this season. However, not all of those outfielders have long term futures in Boston. Shane Victorino is in the last year of his deal and Allen Craig figures to be dealt fairly soon. If Betts is dealt, you could see Daniel Nava or Jackie Bradley Jr. playing every day, and that would be less than ideal. Factor in Hanley Ramirez’s durability issues and Betts could turn out to be a far more valuable piece than anyone’s been giving him credit for.
So, what should the Sox do right now? Stay put. The AL East is very weak this year. The Orioles have lost some huge contributors from last year’s squad, the Yankees are littered with question marks, the Rays are terrible, and the Blue Jays haven’t done much to inspire any confidence. They can win the division with the rotation they have. If they look like serious contenders around June or July (with this lineup, they will), then it’s time to make a deal, and they have the trade chips to do it. Chris Sale, Jordan Zimmerman, Hamels, and even Johnny Cueto should be on the table by then. Like last year, the Sox should be major players around the deadline, but they’ll be buyers in 2015, unlike the sellers they were last year.