FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP)Mookie Betts and David Price are Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Boston Red Sox are tax dodgers.
Boston and Los Angeles finalized the on-again, off-again deal that will send the 2018 AL MVP and 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner to the West Coast on Monday night – just hours before the Red Sox are scheduled to open spring training.
The Dodgers hope the players will be the missing pieces after seven straight division championships all ended short of their first World Series title since 1988. The Red Sox have already achieved their biggest goal of the offseason: ditching more than $70 million in salary to get under baseball’s collective bargaining tax threshold for 2020.
”Our mission, our charge as a department is to compete consistently year-in and year-out, and to put ourselves in position to win as many championships as we can,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said. ”That’s behind everything that we do. And we can only accomplish that goal with a talent base at all levels of the org that is deep, broad and sustainable.”
The Red Sox acquired outfielder Alex Verdugo and two prospects: infielder Jeter Downs and catcher Connor Wong. According to a person with knowledge of the deal, Boston will send cash to the Dodgers, reportedly half of the $96 million owed for the next three seasons. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the financial terms were not public.
The Red Sox agreed to deal Betts and Price to the Dodgers last week, as part of a three-team swap that was to send Twins bullpen prospect Brusdar Graterol to the Red Sox and Dodgers starting pitcher Kenta Maeda to Minnesota. The Red Sox hesitated out of concern about Graterol’s medical review, however, and the Twins and Dodgers eventually worked out their own deal. The Maeda-Graterol trade was also finalized on Monday night.
In order to make room on their 40-man roster, the Dodgers designated infielder Tyler White and outfielder Kyle Garlick for assignment.
In five full major league seasons, the 27-year-old Betts has received MVP votes five times, finishing as runner-up once and winning the AL honor in 2018; he is a four-time Gold Glove winner. But he will earn $27 million this season, the last before he is eligible for free agency, and he has already turned down a nine-figure extension.
”With Mookie, there was never a point where we were pushing him out there, shopping. We had to be open to all options,” Bloom said at the team’s spring training complex. ”Once it was clear that the Dodgers in particular were going to be very aggressive, it made sense to engage.”
In a statement distributed by the team, owner John Henry acknowledged the backlash the Red Sox have received for jettisoning Betts.
”In trading a great player, a beloved player, we recognize how incredibly difficult this is for fans who fully understand just how special Mookie is,” Henry said. ”While the organization in its entirety very much wanted to see Mookie in a Red Sox uniform for the length of his career, we believe in this decision as we are responsible and accountable for both the present and the future of the Red Sox. We thank Mookie for his incredible contributions, both on and off the field.”
Price, 34, is a two-time Cy Young runner-up and 2012 winner. He was also the runner-up for the World Series MVP when the Red Sox beat the Dodgers in 2018 after their franchise-record 108 regular-season victories.
But he made just 22 starts last season – two after July 30 – due to wrist injuries. By shedding his salary along with Betts’, the Red Sox have dipped below the $208 million threshold that allows them to avoid paying baseball’s collective bargaining tax this year and lowers the rate if they go over it in 2021.
Henry said in September, after the team missed the playoffs for the first time since 2015, that the Red Sox ”need to be under the CBT.” Team president Sam Kennedy later walked back the comments and said that was ”a goal but not a mandate.”
”We fully expect to compete in 2020,” Bloom said Monday. ”The front-line talent on our roster can play with anybody.”
Verdugo batted .294 with 44 RBIs and 12 home runs in 106 games before a back injury in August ended his season early. Downs batted .276 with 24 homers and 86 RBIs at Single- and Double-A last year.
”He’s got a chance to be a complete player that can really impact us,” Bloom said.
Wong hit .281 with 24 homers and 82 RBIs in Single- and Double-A.
”He’s made a lot of strides offensively,” Bloom said. ”When you have really good athletes behind the plate, sometimes those guys can exceed what you expect offensively.”
The Red Sox remain without a manager three weeks after firing Alex Cora for his role in the Houston Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal; Major League Baseball has not announced the results of its investigation into whether Cora implemented a similar scheme when he took over in Boston in ’18.
Red Sox pitchers and catchers are due to report to spring training on Tuesday.