Let’s Make a Deal

The Red Sox headed into this offseason with clear needs. They have a glut of outfielders (Shane Victorino, Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Yoenis Cespedes, Daniel Nava, Mookie Betts), but after trading ace Jon Lester and John Lackey during the season, they need to restock their pitching staff. Given this situation, it was sort of a head scratcher when Boston announced the signing of Hanley Ramirez to a 4 year, $88 mil deal (with an option) to play left field. That makes eight viable outfielders on the 40 man roster, while leaving Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz as the only proven starters on the staff. While the Red Sox currently have made an offer to bring Lester back to Boston, they should look to trade from their strength in the outfield in order to further solidify their staff.

That’s where the Brewers come in.

The Brewers also had clear needs coming into this offseason. They needed to address first base, which they did with the acquisition of Adam Lind from Toronto. They also need to improve a bench that was among the worst in the league last season, and lost its best two players in Rickie Weeks and Lyle Overbay. Subtract those two, and the rest of the team posted a .180 pinch hitting average. After outrighting Jeff Bianchi, the Brewers have only Martin Maldonado, Gerardo Parra, Elian Herrera, and Logan Schafer as bench players on the 40 man roster that had more than 100 at bats last year. While Maldonado posted a 0.8 bWAR as backup catcher, the other three combined for -0.6 bWAR. With those issues as well as platoon issues with Lind and Scooter Gennett, the bench is a position the Brewers cannot afford to overlook again if they truly want to contend next year.

In a report earlier this week, ESPN baseball insider Buster Olney suggested that given the Brewers current rotation depth, the team could be “listening” on pitchers Kyle Lohse and Yovani Gallardo, who are both free agents after 2015. In addition to those two, the Brewers have Wily Peralta, Matt Garza, Mike Fiers, Jimmy Nelson, Tyler Thornburg, and Taylor Jungmann as options to plug into the rotation.

Reminiscent of the Brett Lawrie for Shawn Marcum deal prior to the 2011 season, the Brewers should trade Yovani Gallardo straight up for Mookie Betts.

Yovani Gallardo will make $13 mil in 2015, the option year of the extension he signed in 2010. He’s coming off a season in which he posted a career best 3.51 ERA across 192.1 innings, which was supported by a 3.64 xFIP and 3.70 SIERA. Gallardo struggled in 2013 while dealing with diminished fastball velocity, but was able to reinvent himself in 2014. From 2007-2012, Gallardo averaged around a strikeout per inning while throwing his four seam fastball 50.7% of the time. In 2014, with his velocity down to 91.3 MPH from a high of 92.6 in ’10 and ’11, Yovani threw his four seam fastball only 24.1% of the time. Relying instead on his two seam fastball (30.5% of pitches) and slider (24.5%), Gallardo achieved a career high 50.8 ground ball percentage that would play well hitter’s haven Fenway Park.

Gallardo would slot in nicely as a number two or three starter, depending on who the Sox bring in during the offseason. Beyond the Big 3 of Shields, Sherzer, and Lester, Yo stands out when considering the “mid-tier” pitchers on the free agent market. Still only 28, Gallardo should be entering the prime of his career. Given his track record of consistency, durability, and the possibility that he still has unreached upside, he provides a more attractive option than the likes of Jason Hammel, Brandon McCarthy, and Francisco Liriano. Yovani is only on a one year deal and is much less of a financial risk, though should he perform well the Red Sox could easily wield their financial might to extend him.

Mookie Betts is 22 and was a fifth round pick in 2011. Betts hit .291/.368/.444 in 358 at bats for Boston last year, adding 5 home runs and stealing 7 bases. He played mostly center field, but also appeared at second base and right field. Unfortunately, he is blocked at every position in the outfield by someone making significantly more money, and is blocked at second base by former MVP Dustin Pedroia and his $110 mil contract. Though Boston have been said to be hesitant to move him, Betts doesn’t seem to have a place on the 2015 Red Sox.

Betts would have an immediate impact on the Brewers. While many consider Scooter Gennett to have had a strong season in his first full year in the majors, the fact remains that he slashed .103/.125/.128 off left-handed pitchers last year, good enough for a wOBA of .116. Betts, a righty, hit .328/.361/.483 off lefties last season and would pair nicely with Gennett, as Rickie Weeks did last year. Betts also has some minor league experience at shortstop, so he can be the primary backup for Jean Segura (who is coming off a poor season and still has to prove he is the answer at short going forward). This limits the need to push at bats to the light hitting Herrera. He has experience at every outfield spot at some level, providing insurance should Ryan Braun miss extended time with his thumb or if Khris Davis struggles. Beyond his impact of the 2015 Brewers, Betts also comes with six years of club control and could be a long term fixture. For a team that will likely lose Carlos Gomez in two years when he hits free agency and signs his mega deal, Mookie could become the solution in center for years to come. Given the age and relative inexperience of Khris Davis, Scooter Gennett, and Jean Segura, Mookie could also take over for any of them should they falter.

The Red Sox need pitching. The Brewers need a bench bat a controllable player going forward. These issues could be addressed with a simple trade of Yovani Gallardo for Mookie Betts. Gallardo slots in behind whichever ace the Sox lure to Boston and would either open up a spot for Taylor Jungman, Tyler Thornburg, or Jimmy Nelson to prove their worth (Mike Fiers is now past that point) or frees up $13 mil to bring someone in. Betts provides a platoon-mate for Scooter and depth across the diamond, while also becoming a possible long term solution at a number of positions. If everyone wins, why not pull the trigger?

Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs


18 thoughts on “Let’s Make a Deal

  1. As a Red Sox fan, I do not think this trade is reasonable. Trading a good young hitter, with positional flexibility and 6 years of team control for a one year rental of a pitcher who has lost a great deal off his fastball and project as a 4th or 5th starter, would be a poor use of resources for Boston. Many fan are reluctant to give up Betts for Cole Hamels, and Ben Cherington would be looking for a new job shortly if he were to agree to this proposed trade.


    • I think that over his career Gallardo has shown he is more of a solid #2 than a number 5…for a one for one trade, I think it’s pretty reasonable, and there are similar moves such as the Lawrie for Marcum deal that I outlined.


      • Mookie Betts is going to an above average OF with All Star potential in his prime. Why would the Red Sox even think about this trade? 1 year of control of, at best, a number 3 starter for 6 years of an above average player.

        Needless to say, this trade doesn’t come close to adding up. If you said Yoenis Cespedes for Gallardo then things become a lot more balanced.


      • I have to agree that the Sox would never do this.

        To start with Betts: He is not a bench bat. If anything, he is a very good blocked 2b prospect that has learned CF (a position with the same D value) in order to give the team more options. Betts is one of those prospects that never got as much love becuase of the block (we all knew he had to shift and SS was already going to Xander), and he never showed any truely off the charts tool. The reality is that he has proven every tool every season to at least be average to above average while playing an up the middle position. If you buy into the midseason top 20 prospect ranks he was getting all over the place, he has an expected surplus value over the next 6 years somewhere in the 25m range, maybe more since he is already mlb ready mitigating much of the prospect risk.

        Gallardo: His stuff has clearly faded, Any thought of him as an ace is gone, and the reality is that he is now closer to a 3/4 pitcher than a #1. That still has value, but he is really only worth roughly what he is signed for. A 13m contract means he is getting paid about the same as the 2nd teir of SP free agents will, and he is honestly only moderately better than any of them.

        The reality is that Gallardo’s contract does not represent enough value over the next year for this trade to make sense. The Sox would be just as well off signing another 2nd teir SP than making this trade.

        I still could see betts going to the brewers, I would see Freirs and Nelson as being enough to swing the sox. (basically a trade build around cost controlled pitching prospects). But Gallardo would be a figurehead of a trade if he were involved… Gallardo, Devin Williams, and Helliwig for Betts…. That is a trade I think both sides might be willing to live with (maybe would have to downgrade williams to Gagnon or some other simply interesting arm rather than a higher end prospect)


      • Betts will be in play for many years of Hammels (or another ace) in a large package.

        Cespedes can be had for a top pitcher.

        Craig or Victorino could go to clear space and payroll.

        What the market was years back doesn’t mean that is where the market is at going into 2015.


  2. The Brewers do not have a single player in their system — and I’m including Gomez and Braun in this, given their age and contracts — that the Red Sox would want in exchange for Mookie Betts, even up. This article, while well intentioned, is completely off base. Mookie Betts may not have a fixed position this year (or this month,to be more accurate), but his best position is one of the most important positions in all of baseball; namely leadoff hitter. He will be playing five days a week this year at a number of positions and batting leadoff. And after this year (and maybe even halfway through this year) he will be playing regularly. He’s cost-controlled, he’s an on-base machine, and he’s, pure and simple, a ballplayer. But more than that, the man is a baseball savant. He’s Pete Rose 40 years removed, only with more speed and power. Watch him play. He’s got an understanding of the game and a baseball IQ that is off the charts. Brewer fans can dream, but given the state of this organization and its woeful lack of prospects (or even below-market big leaguers) a trade between the two organizations is just never going to happen — at least not one that includes Mookie Betts.


  3. I agree with the commenter above who said Betts is too much to pay for Gallardo. Calling Gallardo a number two is a stretch, especially if he transitions to the American League and doesn’t get to face pitchers three times a game. There is so much hype around Betts that most any fan would assume he could fetch a better pitcher than Gallardo imo. You might just be thinking wishfully.


  4. While Gallardo is a good pitcher, I am not sure he is AL east pitcher. Betts is a star in the making and there is no way that the Red Sox should make that deal. Daniel Nava and Shane Victorino for Gallardo would make sense or Cespedes for Gallardo would make sense but trading their best prospect for one year Gallardo would be a terrible move by Boston.


  5. This trade is a dream for a Brewers fan. There just isn’t any possible way that this could happen straight up. The years of club control sway towards Betts. This could be the framework to a larger deal between the two teams but it would not happen as a one for one.


  6. PJA is right. Betts for Gallardo is DOA. Of all the Red Sox prospects you could pick, he’s the most untouchable. National guys like Keith Law and David Schoenfield gush over him and some rate him higher than Bogaerts, who was the #2 prospect in all of baseball last year. As for Gallardo, his plummeting K rate over the past 2 yrs is a red flag and he’s only pitched 5 games vs. the AL, so there is a lot of uncertainty there. They might consider 1 yr of Cespedes or Napoli or Victorino for 1 yr of Gallardo. Definitely not 6 yrs of Betts.

    I don’t really see a match between the Red Sox and Brewers given that Milwaukee’s OF is pretty set and Boston is shopping for higher impact arms like Zimmermann and Hamels. Maybe if they got a third team involved like the Mariners that needs OF/1B pop and has depth in the middle IF, they could work something out but I don’t think the Red Sox would aim for a middle rotation guy like Gallardo this early in the off-season while they’re trying to land a bigger fish.

    Other than that, the Brewers’ biggest hole appears to be at manager, so maybe they could work a trade around Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo or 3rd base coach Brian Butterfield…


  7. I agree with PJA – Gallardo is a nice get for the Red Sox, but with his contract structure this doesn’t seem feasible to get Betts back for him.

    The Brewers always seem to need a 1B and Red Sox seem willing to listen on Napoli ($116M/1yr) – what about a more complicated Gallardo & bullpen depth for Napoli & SP prospect (Allen Webster?)


  8. I think a more realistic trade would be to Texas. The Rangers have a ton of talent up the middle and have one or two platoon players they would be willing to throw in, like let’s say Jurickson Profar straight up or Luis Sardiñas and Michael Choice for Gallardo….


  9. I think that Boston would need more, I just don’t see the Brewers getting a top 20-30 type prospect for Yo. I think if it was Kyle Lohse this might make more sense, but the Sox do have a logjam of mlb ready/veteran everyday players. I think that Betts for Yo and someone like Arcia might be close.


  10. Steamer projections for Gallardo and Betts are up on Fangraphs. Betts projects to be worth 2.6 WAR. This is assuming 400 PA, so he is actually worth a fair amount more to the Sox, given that, with their depth, they stand a pretty good chance of running a talented player out there while Mookie is on the pine. Gallardo is pegged at 1.6, pretty much in line with what he has done over the last several years. Say what you want about WAR being a blunt tool, this suggests that these two are roughly equivalent for NEXT YEAR (barring the substantial difference in salary, of course) and means that giving away years of Mookie for one year for a roughly league average starter is bananas. Yeah, I know that pretty much everybody wants Mookie. It’s going to take a helluva lot more than Gallardo to pry him away.


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