So let us HYPOTHETICALLY discuss a potential Red Sox/Angels trade based on David Price and Mookie Betts to understand how likely or unlikely it would be and the impact for the Angels.
First of all let's discuss the elephant in the room which is team payroll. Currently we sit at about $190M in both 2020 Club Payroll and Actual Club Payroll (AAV). It is my speculative opinion that Moreno may have splurged for both Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon and exceeded the CBT threshold, if the former had not slipped away. Those two clearly represent Moreno's "right player" in terms of the potential outlay of payroll dollars. Mookie Betts is certainly a "right player" in every sense of the term. David Price was a "right player" at one point but it is debatable if he still is now and he carries such a large contract, relative to his recent performance history, that he carries negative "surplus" value, despite excellent peripherals in 2019.
There is a real probability that the Red Sox have had great difficulty trying to find a taker for Price without eating a lot of his contract and, realizing they are not getting the interest they want and need due to their desire to get below the CBT threshold, they are now exploring the packaging option of David and Mookie together. This may (or may not) represent an opportunity for another team to take advantage of the Red Sox' Luxury Tax situation.
Mookie is in his final year of arbitration control and will make $27M in 2020. David Price has three years of team control at $32M per season for a total of $96M. Using rudimentary surplus value projections you get the following:
David Price (2.6 WAR, 2.35 WAR, and 1.85 WAR from 2020-2022): -$30M
Mookie Betts (6.75 WAR for 2020): $45M (really the number is about $35M but you can make a case of performance scarcity here that increases his value)
Remember that these surplus values include their total salaries, it represents their "extra" value beyond what they are owed.
So, packaged together, they are only worth about $15M give or take (again these are really rough estimates). That is the equivalent value of a high quality prospect (think #3-#10 on most teams prospect lists), which, for the Angels, is someone like one of Jordyn Adams, Jose Soriano, Jeremiah Jackson, or Chris Rodriguez for example. For reference, Jo Adell, a Top 5 prospect, is worth about $60M-$70M and Brandon Marsh, recently ranked #43, is probably worth close to $40M.
The Red Sox have needs in the back-end of their rotation (replacing Rick Porcello), 2B (they signed Peraza but he is not a solution and Pedroia may be out for good), OF, bullpen, and perhaps 1B. They have supposedly asked for another teams Top 2 prospects, which, when looking at the above combined value is a pretty ridiculous ask if they are not throwing in a lot of money.
So what are the scenarios here?:
1) The Red Sox want to remove all of Price's and Betts' salaries from their books, thus they will only get back approximately $15M in return value.
2) The Red Sox want to get a bit more out of the deal so they offer to pick up a total of $15M of Price's contract, say $5M per season over the remaining three years of his contract, so they can potentially extract about $30M in return value.
3) The Red Sox want to get a more substantial prospect to headline the deal and are willing to eat between $20M-$50M of Price's contract to potentially extract approximately $35M-$65M in return value.
4) The Red Sox are dead serious about getting an organization's Top 2 prospects and are willing to possibly pick upward of $40M-$80M of Price's and/or Betts contracts to possibly pull down $55M-$95M in return value.
To be honest, these scenarios will all be different based on the team that Boston wants to trade with so we will stay focused on a HYPOTHETICAL Angels trade, working in reverse order of the scenarios:
4) The Top 2 prospects scenario will not work for the Angels. Giving up both Adell and Marsh is preposterous and will not happen. Acquiring one year of Mookie and three years of Price only makes sense if Adell or Marsh is still in our farm system because we will have to replace Betts once he is gone, unless he signs an extension as part of the trade which seems really remote based on Mookie's own comments. Additionally this may not solve their payroll issues to Boston's satisfaction, creating an inability to create enough payroll space to make other moves.
3) In this scenario the Red Sox could end up asking for Adell by himself (which I think the Angels would 100% refute) but more likely they ask for Brandon Marsh as the centerpiece and then add on a player like Jose Suarez, Luis Rengifo or Matt Thaiss plus a near or actual MLB-ready bullpen piece. They would still have to pick up a large portion of Price's (or maybe some of Betts) salary, something on the order of $40M-$50M. However, this may still be too much money for the Red Sox to retain in regard to their payroll issues. For the Angels they keep Jo Adell in this scenario and keep him down on the farm for the season unless they experience an injury at the Major League level (high quality depth) and can either trade Betts at the deadline or get a compensation pick at the end of the year when they make Mookie a Qualifying Offer which he will almost certainly turn down. Adell with an extra season of experience in the Minors could take over in 2021 instead.
2) To me, if an actual trade went down, this would be the more likely scenario for both sides. The Red Sox want a lot for Mookie but combining him with Price drags their combined value and potential return down a lot. By picking up something on the order of $15M give or take, they could pick up a top prospect from the Angels, say a Jordyn Adams type, plus another piece like Suarez, Rengifo, or Thaiss for example. The money they save will be tremendous (over $100M) and give them a lot more flexibility for 2020. For the Angels they KEEP both Adell and Marsh while trading off from their depth surplus. This scenario may not be satisfactory for the Red Sox to be honest but they are in a position where they really want to dive below the CBT threshold and probably don't have many options available to them.
1) This scenario is less likely because the Red Sox don't need to remove all of Price's and Betts salaries from their books and only get one #3-#10 type prospect back in return. They too have some leverage in any trade discussion because they only need to eliminate about $40M-$60M total to have operational payroll room for 2020. For the Angels this might be a great scenario because they only give up, likely, one or two prospects, maximum, although they will carry a lot of payroll on their books, which would be the downside for the next three seasons as seen below for reference:
Total Club Payroll for 2020-2022 with Price and Betts Full Contracts:
Total Actual Club Payroll (AAV) for 2020-2022 with Price and Betts Full Contracts:
As you can see, taking on Price's and Betts' full contracts would put us over the CBT threshold significantly for 2020 and we would be borderline in 2021, tying up financial flexibility for the next two years, but giving the team a very high quality player (Betts) for 2020 and an aging, but still useful, starter for the next three years. Price's only injury, as far as I can tell, has been this wrist issue (cyst surgery), so in terms of health it is hard to characterize David as an injury risk and he still had really good peripherals in 2019 (21% K-BB% which is strong for a starter). From a risk perspective having Mookie not only increases the odds of the Angels making the playoffs (along with Price in the rotation) but it allows Adell to get more seasoning in the Minors and will likely make him a more finished product to start 2021.
There are only a small group of teams in the Majors that will take on this type of money, giving a large market team like the Angels an opportunity to use their financial muscle to leverage Boston's need into a value proposition for the Halos, potentially.
Make no mistake though, if the Angels do this, they are all-in for the next three seasons and will have poor financial flexibility which will be counterproductive during the off-season and at the trade deadlines. On the flip side they will have retained most, if not all, of their farm system depth, creating a really nice surplus of prospects that could be used to supplement the Major League roster or used as currency in trade.
For me personally, in this HYPOTHETICAL scenario, if Moreno has the balls to do this, spending-wise, and Eppler feels enough pressure regarding his job to make this leap it may be a gamble worth taking as you are getting an above average quality starter and you are getting a superstar right fielder in his prime right now that could make a 2020 playoff run a much likelier reality than it already is. For me it would have to be in that Scenario #2 or maybe #3 realm, although I like Marsh a lot and would hate to lose him. The thing that makes me hesitate is the loss of flexibility in payroll but if you are adding 7+ wins to the 2020 season that could be a real difference maker and, if you have the Red Sox eat more of the money from 2021, rather than 2020, the Angels could only be over the CBT threshold for the 2020 season, potentially.
What would you do?