I’ve been open, both here and other venues, about my issues with how last offseason went for the Yankees. It baffles me — still! — why the Yanks didn’t make a greater effort to sign Patrick Corbin or Charlie Morton. The team needed pitching. Sure, stealing James Paxton from the Mariners helped, but when good pitchers are available only for cash and you’re the New York —
Sorry. There I go again.
Part of that urgency came from watching the 2018 Boston Red Sox destroy the baseball world en route to a World Series championship. The Red Sox looked poised for years of contention, man. Mookie Betts had just won MVP; J.D. Martinez wasn’t going anywhere. Chris Sale was showing some risk, but Boston’s a progressive franchise, they’d figure that out. Plus, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers and …
But look now: the Red Sox have fired Dave Dombrowski. Okay, whatever. The Red Sox burn through executives; it’s forever a failure of John Henry and his ownership group that Theo Epstein, one of the game’s great team builders, is not in Boston. But now this? The Red Sox might not try and retain Betts or Martinez?
In re-signing Eovaldi and then reaching a long-term deal with Chris Sale, Dombrowski put the Sox in a position where – based on their payroll projections and a significant desire to get under the luxury tax threshold sometime in the next two years to reset the penalty structure – they’ll likely end up parting with J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, or possibly even both this winter.
Huh? Wait … huh? I get trading Martinez — he’s an aging DH, sure, no problem, cash him in before it’s too late — but Betts? Mookie Betts was the AL MVP last season. He’s 26 years old and this is the Boston Red Sox. They don’t have the money? Huh? You don’t trade Mookie freaking Betts, you build around him. He’s one of the most valuable players in the world.
Something isn’t right here, and it provides the Yankees with a generational opportunity. I’m not suggesting they will try to acquire Betts — can’t imagine that happens, as the Yanks are about to be paying a lot to Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton — but rather continue to make reasonable, careful decisions while Boston threatens to submarine a potential dynasty. Trading Mookie Betts is the height of insanity. (On the other hand: acquiring one of the game’s best players is always advisable.)
If that sort of conversation is happening at Fenway Park, opportunity abounds for both the Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. Contending in the AL East only gets easier if one of the teams in the fight decides to destroy itself. The Red Sox could be headed for their usual win-struggle-collapse-rebuild-spend-win pattern, but each time you play with fire that way you threaten to stay crisp.