The season is barely over and the stove is HOT. Heck, the season isn’t even over for everyone. The playoffs BEGIN tonight. But on Monday, the day after the regular season ended, there were a few storylines of note and if you squint and try to connect the dots, they could lead to the Cincinnati Reds landing Mookie Betts. Hear me out.

The big story of the day on Monday was that the Boston Red Sox were planning on cutting payroll, and doing so significantly. Now, as insane as it is that they of all teams are looking to trim payroll, that’s their plan. And that means that they are going to be moving some very good players. One of those players could possibly be outfielder Mookie Betts, who made $20M in arbitration in 2019 and will be eligible for one final year of arbitration in 2020 before entering free agency.

That last sentence is why the Red Sox would consider moving him. He’s going to make a hefty salary (that he will absolutely be worth), and he’s only got one year remaining until free agency. He may not be the only player they look to move. And he may not even be among the players that they look to move – but it makes sense that they could at least explore those options.

For the Reds, well Jon Heyman said late last night that Cincinnati was going to be in the market for a center fielder.

The asking price for a guy like Mookie Betts should and will be high. In 2018 he was the American League MVP. During the 2016 season he finished second in the MVP voting. This season he isn’t going to be quite that high, but he hit .295/.391/.524 with 16 steals, 97 walks, 101 strikeouts, and he posted 6.6 WAR – good for 9th in the Major Leagues.

Dating back to the 2015 season only one player has been better than Mookie Betts. Mike Trout. That’s it. And frankly, no one is close to Betts besides him. His 35.4 WAR easily outpaces that by a group of six players who are in the 27-28 WAR range between 3rd to 8th place on the list.

For the Red Sox, Mookie Betts has mostly played in the corner. But he’s spent time in center during his career, and he’s even been there at times in the last few years, too. He’s still got above-average to plus speed and moving back to center should be no issue at all. For the Reds it would clearly be no issue – this is the same team that felt it was fine to put Jesse Winker in center field.

What about Nick Senzel?

Surely you knew the question had to be asked about Nick Senzel if the Reds are going to be in the market for a center fielder, right? It’s a valid question. In his first year as a center fielder in 2019 he held his own. When he was healthy he started nearly every day in center for the Reds. But his season ended early because he wasn’t healthy. He injured his shoulder and had to have surgery to repair a labrum tear in September.

If the Reds can’t find a center fielder in the offseason, then as long as he’s healthy, Nick Senzel can return to the position. But that’s one of the things that makes him so valuable – he can play just about anywhere. He came up at third base in the minors before switching to second base in his final season at the Triple-A level. If needed, he could move to either corner spot in the outfield. There are many options for where he could play and that allows the Reds to explore all kinds of options on the market to try and improve their team.

What would it take to land Mookie Betts?

The price tag for Mookie Betts won’t be cheap. Even with the Red Sox looking to shed payroll, he’s among the best players on the planet. Even with just one season before free agency, he’s an absolute difference maker. Teams will be making offers to bring him in. Players like him don’t just become available.

The Reds have gone through plenty of prospects via trades in the last year. Taylor Trammell, Shed Long, Josiah Gray, Jeter Downs – all gone. The farm system isn’t as loaded as it was a year ago. But the farm system isn’t bare, either. The depth isn’t quite there, but at the top there’s still plenty of value. Every team in baseball would love to acquire Hunter Greene, even if he’s still recovering from Tommy John surgery. 2018 and 2019 1st round picks Nick Lodolo and Jonathan India are Top 100 prospects. 2015 1st round pick Tyler Stephenson should be ready to step up to Triple-A to begin next year and is a Top 100 prospect. Jose Garcia may be the highest riser of the system from 2019.

The Reds may not have that Top 15 or Top 25 prospect that some other teams do. But they’ve got more than a few guys that are well regarded to work with. And that is only if we assume that the Red Sox are interested in just prospects. Perhaps the Reds could send over some Major League value on top of a prospect or two? The Reds bullpen certainly has more than a few guys that are quite valuable who could potentially draw some interest.

One thing is for sure: Whatever the price is, it’s not going to be small. It would be painful for the Cincinnati front office to make the call on the right offer. But they’ve probably got the pieces to get the deal done if they are willing to truly “go for it” and pay the price.

Bob Castellini isn’t getting any younger. And Trevor Bauer wasn’t acquired just to compete for 83 wins in 2020. The Reds seem to be making moves to compete now. It didn’t quite work out as they had hoped in 2019 for different reasons. But that didn’t stop them from making a move at the deadline for 2020, either. The plan to go for it next season still seems to be there. Landing a Mookie Betts caliber player would drastically tip the scales towards competing. Are the Reds willing to pay the price to do it – both in terms of acquisition cost and in expanding the payroll? We’ll find out.

Photo of Mookie Betts by Keith Allison. It was slightly modified to fit the site. You can see the license for the photo here.

72 Responses

  1. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I just don’t think we have enough to land him.

  2. Hotto4Votto

    I’m hesitant to want to make the talent commitment it would take to acquire a one year talent. This team needs to think of longer windows of competing. Can’t drain talent in the hopes the stars align for one magical year.

  3. Spaceman Red

    I am skeptical but a little optimism over the hot stove is never a bad thing. Whom was the last MVP caliber free agent that the Reds signed or traded to acquire? Ever? Smarter fans than I will know. I guess Griffey and besides him… well. Tom Seaver? It happens rarely.

    Re: Senzel… it is not time to give up, of course, but it is worth asking questions about durability when he has missed the end of two straight seasons with serious injuries. Hard to say you can plan on him playing 140+ games over a season without going down. He turns 25 next year so he is not miles away from his prime. The question becomes relevant regarding whether he is truly untouchable in a trade scenario.

    • Optimist

      Not in the same class, and on the downside of their careers, but Greg Vaughn and Kevin Mitchell are the two names that come to mind. Don’t know if Mookie is worth it for one year, and doubt they could or would get an extension. Mookie justifiably looking for a 5 yr. + deal – can’t see Reds going there.

  4. Roger Garrett

    It would certainly be a change in thought process to bring him in or anybody else that is a top player so we will see what happens.A player like that and another soild OBP guy would make us a contender barring injury to our pitching staff.Lets hope they don’t roll the dice again on players with several years in the big leagues that the data shows are below average players.I personally like the guy the Cubs got from the Tigers cause he is a doubles machine and would cost less.

  5. Don

    Yes, trade for him. Move Senzel to 2nd. Solidify two positions for 2020.

    Ask the Sox what they want and start negotiating.

    He is a go get the hitting type of player and is not someone which Bell could ever consider being a platoon player.

    FO must get players which Bell cannot justify platooning if they want to win. If the FO will not change managers, they must put players on roster which will limit Bell’s ability to lose games by bad double switches early in the games.

  6. Hot Chili

    Definitey a yes to go after a guy like Betts, but the price must be according to control years. If they can negotiate an extension ala Sonny Gray, pay the high price. If not, pass or just keep off the table guys like Hunter Greene, Ty Steph or Lodolo.

  7. lost11found

    Might not take as much as we might think. Generally the FO’s around the league are looking long term as much as short term now and while there might be a team that blows the doors off with a big offer, the ones interested will probably play it more like a deal dash auction trying to make the trade with as few prospects as possible.

    I’d be all for trying to get betts. The changes to BoSox FO this season were the herald of this rumor I’d bet.

  8. Ed

    Cubs are also looking for a center fielder

  9. CFD3000

    For one year? No thanks. But if they can negotiate a Sonny Gray type extension and trade for three years of Betts? Absolutely. And Betts might consider it. He’d still be a young free agent in 2023.

    I’m on record as wanting Josh VanMeter to get a full time shot at second base. But if the Reds could lock down center field and move Senzel to second, JVM becomes expendable and the Reds solidify two key positions. At least make the call…

    • Ed

      I really think the window of solid starting pitching will close before JVM is able to really contribute- and it remains to be seen if he’ll ever be an all-star, playoff caliber player

    • Ryan

      I’d love to get Betts, too – but, what they fail to mention in the post is that Betts has refused to negotiate an extension with the Red Sox, which probably is fueling a lot of the speculation because he’s on the record stating he wants to see what the market will offer him as he believes its his duty to the players that come after him to do so. that would be a clear message that he’s not signing an extension anywhere unless the blew the doors off with an Arenado or Trout-type money offer. I say go for it, I’d love to cheer for the Reds come next October

  10. Scott C

    Mookie would be an interesting acquisition but I would hate to give up a lot to get him for just one year. There are still very good options out there without selling off the future. Anything less than a World Series win would be a fail.

  11. SultanofSwaff

    This trade would most likely bump Senzel to 2B. Geno is at third. To me, that means that India becomes expendable. I would think him plus a player from the 25 man roster would be the likely ask. The Red Sox need starting pitching. Does Disco+India get it done?

    We saw how adding Yelich completely transformed the Brewers. Betts is that kind of difference maker. Do it!

    • SultanofSwaff

      That said, India plus a Phil Ervin likely nets you Starling Marte and you keep Disco while having more money to spread around elsewhere. I like that scenario as well.

      • Bob Purkey

        I would be shocked if you could get Marte for that, but if so, I would do that in a NY minute!

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Marte is a FA. No trade.

    • Scott C

      The difference between Yelich and Betts is that Yelich had several years of control. That being said if we could sign Marte as a free agent that would be a good move.

    • Doc

      I don’t give up pitching. Betts for one year does not move the Reds forward much, but not having adequate replacements for Bauer and Disco in 2021 shortens the duration of the window by a bunch.

  12. Dave Eberly

    Doug, do you think Greene and India and someone worse than them would do it? Betts has only one year of control (then you’d get a draft pick for him).

    If that would work, the question is – are the Reds all-in for next year? Because if they are, then you HAVE to do this. The worst thing the Reds can do is be only half-in. Improving the team a little will not get it done. All-in or all-out.

    • Dave Eberly

      Oh, and Betts is PERFECT for this team. I have seen names floating out there (Rendon, Didi, etc). Only Betts and Lindor make sense for an all-in move, at least to me. Lindor? He’s SS. Betts? He’s CF and Senzel’s your new 2bman.

      Didi is an improvement, but past his prime. Rendon has played 3b for so long that I wonder about his move to ss or 2b.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Keep Rendon at 3rd, move Suarez to SS. That’s the position he played coming up.

        That’s one thing I don’t get. Some on here have stated they don’t see Suarez at SS. I see two things.

        First, it would be an immediate upgrade in offense.

        Second, Suarez may not be the prototypical SS. But, at least he’s played the position before. As well as, we just put two IFer’s in CF, an entirely different position. And, they did fine. But, we can’t move a 3rd baseman 50 feet to the left?

      • citizen54

        If Suarez could play SS do you think the Reds would be playing people like Galvis and Iglesias there? If Senzel can’t play SS what makes you think Suarez can? You can’t just stick anyone at SS just like you can’t just stick anyone in CF.

      • Jack

        Sign Rendon, trade Suarez and others for Betts

      • centerfield

        with the shifts Suarez is at ss half the time anyway

  13. BK

    Betts is a transforming player for sure. The question how would his acquisition cost compare to other (free agent) options?

    From it would cost two of Garrett, Mahle, India or Greene. Plus, anticipate a payroll bump of $25M. This puts the Reds in the neighborhood of last year’s payroll in one transaction meaning subsequent acquisitions will be from the all too familiar bargain bin.

    • scottya

      That would be a deal I would make: two of Garrett, Mahle, India or Greene. By my estimate that leaves the payroll at 119.5 m with needs for a + SP, one good bullpen piece, two good SS and the #26 roster player. Here is a 150 million roster with Betts:

      1. Castillo
      2. Gray
      3. Bauer
      4. Z Wheeler ?? (12 m av 3 yrs)
      5. Desclafani

      1. Iglesias
      2. trade for a setup man
      3. Lorenzen
      4. Mahle
      5. Garrett
      6. Stephenson
      7. Bowman
      8. Reed or Kuhnel or ??

      1. Winker (LF)/Ervin (splits WRC+ 137/157)
      2. Betts (CF)
      3. Votto (1B)/W. Flores (Flores WRC+ 116 vs LHP career)
      4. Suarez (3B)
      5. Gregorius (SS) (2 yrs 15m av)/Iglesias (1 yr 4m) (platoon splits WRC+ 103/101)
      6. Senzel (2b)/Dietrich (Dietrich (WRC+ 113 vs RHP)
      7. Barnhart (C)/Casali (platoon splits WRC+ 89/113)
      8. Aquino (RF)/Vanmeter

  14. Bill J

    Does anyone believe that Betts signs a long term contract for less a year than Votto is getting? So you get 1 year and like was said if you don’t win it all it’s lost.

  15. jk

    What about Raisel Iglesias, India and Tyler Stephenson for Betts?

  16. Seat101

    Being realistic, one year at approximately $28 million salary Is not likely to cost a fortune in prospects.

    Bosox need salary relief. They also need bullpen help.
    If it would cost more than a straight up deal trading Iglesias to them, I wouldn’t do it.

    I’d be less willing to trade Lorenzen straight up.

  17. AllTheHype

    I’d rather trade for three years of JD Martinez, assuming he doesn’t opt out, and leave Senzel in CF.

  18. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I just don’t know if we have enough to go after him. I could see maybe 1-2 OF’s and maybe a prospect or 2. But, then, even then, I would only do it if he signs an extension.

    But, I have no problem bringing Senzel back into the infield. I believe he’s getting beat up a bit out there running against the wall.

    • AllTheHype

      Betts extension would exceed Harper. He’s a better player with more accomplishments and similar age. You want to give him $350M ++?

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        I don’t see trading much for a one-year player. Roark? Alright. Puig? Alright. Betts? We don’t have that much, to trade off for a one-year player.

        What, you think we would get him for something like Winker and India? It would probably take more than that, if not a lot more.

      • AllTheHype

        Betts will be on a one year 30M or so contract. That contract inhibits many teams. Reds relief pitching would probably be attractive to Boston’s poor relief corps. Start with that and add maybe one prospect from top 5, not named Lodolo or Greene from my perspective.

  19. AirborneJayJay

    The one year of team control is enough to walk away after learning what the price will be. Did the Reds learn nothing from the Dodgers trade last winter by giving up 2 top-100 prospects for practically nothing?
    If the Red Sox are serious about shedding payroll, the Reds should pivot talks in a hurry to SS Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts just turned 27 today, so he will be in his age 27 season next year. He is signed to a 6 year / $120MM extension from 2020 to 2025, and can opt out after 2022. About the length of Suarez’s deal. Suarez, Bogaerts, Senzel, and Votto locking down the INF works for me. What would it take to get Bogaerts? Quite a bit, and it might take Aquino to headline that package with some pitching added in. Maybe Mahle and Lucas Sims, and India and Aquino.

    • AllTheHype

      BoSox aren’t trading Xander, no way. They want to get under the luxury tax threshold for one season only, to reset the penalties. Should term, expensive contracts is what they are looking to shed.

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      I agree with something more like that. Or, even, go after Rendon and move Suarez back to SS. Since Rendon is a FA, we wouldn’t have to give up anything.

      • greenmtred

        Suarez was not a good shortstop when he played shortstop, and he’s probably lost range since then. The Reds need hitting, but they can’t really trash the defense after investing so much in good pitching.

  20. Charles McMillan

    While I’d love to see Betts in a Reds uniform I’m not sure it’s the best idea. Going from the Red Sox to Cincy is like being demoted to AAA. It took 2-3 year for Bronson to stop blabbering about how great it was to play in Boston. Puig is the latest example, but thankfully he didn’t make $30 million.

    • TR

      Who cares what they say or don’t say about Cincy? Money talks.

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      I don’t know if that would be enough.

      But, that’s more like how to consider it, a one-year contract for a one-year contract. The only question being, we would probably have to sweeten the deal. How much sugar do we need to put in?

    • AllTheHype

      Perennial MVP candidate for a pitcher on a one year deal that had a horrific year and another player would has no options and is likely to be cut (and surely would never make their roster). Sounds like the Sox would jump at that.

      • Ed

        I was basically just kidding. But those are two pitchers I would happily pass along

  21. Ed

    Oh man- Turner Ward is out! Per

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      I have no problem with that. I wouldn’t have had a problem giving him one more season. But, if no improvement then, then I would have canned him.

      As well as, now that Joe Maddon is gone from the Cubs, I wouldn’t have a problem bringing him in here. A guy use to working with young players given his time with the Rays. A guy who has won a WS before. A guy who has playoff experience. That is one quick coaching change I would do. Sorry, Bell.

      • Ed

        I agree- I had really started suspecting there was some sort of coaching deficiency months ago… it seemed impossible for so many people to slump so hard, without there being some sort of catalyst for everyone to suck so bad. Firing the minor league base running pack is a no-brainer too- seems like there have been some major systemic issues to fix.

        I’d also prefer running with someone other than Bell. At some point, you either figure out how to win those 1 run ball games, or you pay the price as the man in charge. So many questionable bullpen calls, lame batting orders, etc.

    • RedsMonk65

      Good move in the right direction. Given the Reds’ season-long anemic production at the plate, I had been hopeful (but not optimistic) that this would take place. Williams on the move:

      “As we reflected on this season, it became clear that we lacked the alignment we were seeking with our offensive approach.”

      Maybe the FO is finally getting it. … ?

  22. jbonireland89

    And the nonsense starts! Fantasy trades of Greene and India for Betts. I want no players where we have to give up prospects for one year of someones services even if it is Mookie Betts. Reds should shoot lower and get players with multiple years left.
    Greene = little value due to arm surgery at this point and India has barely cracked .250 in the lower minors. If your talking about big trades you better start with the names of Castillo and Suarez. All else would be non starters.

    • Doc

      And barely cracked .100 OBP in AZ fall league, to go with a sparklingly perfect .000 BA. Of course, all you advanced metric guys don’t care about BA.

  23. CI3J

    One small thing about Mookie: He’s from Nashville, TN. That’s still kind of Reds Country. It might appeal to him to play closer to home, even though he has stated that he wants to test the waters of free agency. No doubt the big payday holds sway over all, but it’s one intangible that the Reds can offer that virtually no other team can except maybe the Braves. Remember, Sonny Gray is also from Nashville, and he talked about being “closer to home” when he was traded to the Reds. Could that also be the case with Mookie?

    If he would agree to a 10-year, $270 million contract with the Reds, wouldn’t that be worth it, much like the Votto contract? Mookie puts up Votto-like numbers, with the difference being Mookie also plays a prime defensive position. He would absolutely be worth that contract, especially with his prime years coming up.

    The only downside I see is that he would make the Reds a predominantly right-handed lineup with no left-handed power bats in sight. Suarez/Mookie/Aquino looks terrifying, but I don’t think Winker and JVM carry quite as much “oomph” from the lefthand side. And Votto… Well….

    • Scott C

      That kind of signing and Betts would be like Joey over the last three or more years of his contract. He does play a prime defensive position but even that works against him as the first thing to go are you legs and the next thing to go are your friends (fans).

      • CI3J

        The difference is, Mookie is 26 now. A 10 year contract means he would be done in his age-36 season, not like Votto who is signed until he is 40. Also, he could easily make the move to LF or RF once his speed starts to go, and he would be a ++ defender at either position then.

      • Jim Walker

        And like it or not, the NL is going to have the DH no later than the next CBA which will create a spot for an aging bat

  24. Jon

    A trade for a guy like Betts is the type of bold move I’d like to see the front office make this winter. However, given his one year of control remaining, at an expected salary in the $28-$30 million range, he is not the right pick for the Reds UNLESS they can extend him prior to the trade (like they did with Gray). I still think Rendon should be their prime target.

    • Don

      Rumor is Nats have offered Rendon 210 mil for 7 years as a starting point and that the Nats want to extend Rendon before they are out of the playoffs so that he does not become a FA.

  25. AllTheHype

    Folks, to all the people who think Betts will sign and extension on the cheap…..

    Betts will get more than Harper ($330M) and Machado ($300M). He’s same age as they were as free agents and he’s better than both. Red Sox offered him over $200M three years ago and he declined.

    Some of the comments in this thread, one says 5 year deal, another says Gray like deal, one says less than Votto, they’re all WAY, WAY OFF.

    • AllTheHype

      Betts would play one year in Cincy. That’s it.

      • SomeCallMeTim

        He’d play 4 months until he’s flipped July 31, 2020 for prospects worse that what we gave up to get him. It’s the Reds way.

  26. Westfester

    The Reds need to add an All Star caliber player to get this lineup over the hump, along with slight production improvement from several positions (C, 2B, possibly SS). Trading for 1 of the 5 best players in all of baseball in his prime should be priority number 1. Yes, the trade haul WILL HURT. However, winning the World Series with a lineup beginning with Senzel/Betts/Suarez/Acquino WILL BE GLORIOUS! Nothing is guaranteed after 2020. GO FOR IT!

    • greenmtred

      You have to subtract from that lineup the players we gave up to get Betts. Does anyone believe that the Reds have enough good prospects to get the deal done without adding one of the few good players currently on the big club? It would look different if he’d be in Cincy for more than one year.

  27. Klugo

    What about Nick Senzel? and What would it take to land Mookie Betts? can probably be answered together.

  28. TR

    With Betts under contract for only one year, it would take a big outlay of money (some of which can be used in other areas) and/or players to extend him. I think a better choice, with somewhat less monetary outlay, is Nickolas Castellanos who is a free agent, age 28 coming up, and would give the Reds offensive power covering center or right field with Aquino then going to centerfield. A big bat acquisition is what the Reds need with their improved pitching.

    • doofus

      Castellanos is a notoriously bad defender. CF is not a position he can handle.

  29. Don

    Reds should tell Red Sox.

    1) Look at 40 man Roster, pick any 1 or 2 players but Gray, Castillo, Suarez, Aquino, Senzel, Lorenzen.

    2) Look at Minor Leagues and pick any one player but Stephenson or Lodolo

    3) If only take 1 player in Step #1, Reds protect 5 more players in the organization and then pick a 3rd player.

    Then make the trade for those 3 players and move on to making the rest of the roster for 2020.

  30. Colorado Red

    Just say NO.
    The cost in prospects is way to high.
    We gave up too much in the failed Dodger trade last year.
    We gave up too much for Trevor.
    We stole Sonny.