The Padres may be looking to rent Mookie Betts for the 2020 season.

Padres beat writer Dennis Lin of The Athletic reported Thursday that San Diego has discussed a trade with the Red Sox involving an exchange of Betts and outfielder Wil Myers, with prospects also going toward Boston. Sources, however, told Lin a deal for Betts was “unlikely” to be completed.

Finances are at the root of Betts trade rumors this offseason. The 27-year-old outfielder will make $27 million in 2020 after agreeing to a one-year contract that averted a salary arbitration hearing. He can become a free agent after the World Series ends in the fall and appears to be committed to testing the market.

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Red Sox owner John Henry said after the 2019 season that he would like the Sox to dip below the $208 million Competitive Balance Tax payroll threshold this year after exceeding the limit in 2018 and 2019. Boston’s current tax number for 2020 is $225.5 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts’ projections

Boston paid $13.4 million in graduated taxes on its MLB-high $228 million tax number for 2019. It was one of three MLB clubs penalized last year for exceeding the $206 million CBT threshold (the Yankees and Dodgers were the others). If the club can get below $208 million this year, then it would pay the lowest CBT penalties the next time it exceeds the threshold.

That’s why Betts and other high-dollar Red Sox players are in the rumor mill this offseason. Left-hander David Price (three years, $96 million remaining on his contract) was a topic of discussion at the Winter Meetings in December. Pundits thought center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., another impending free agent, would have already been dealt. He will make $11 million in 2020. Left-hander Chris Sale and designated hitter J.D. Martinez are also making big salaries, but there has been little to no chatter about them.

While moving Betts’ contract would help in accomplishing Henry’s goal, Myers’ $13.8 million tax figure would bump Boston back toward the upper limit. Also, Myers’ contract runs through the 2022 season.

The Padres’ goals are more baseball-driven, but there’s also a business element to pursuing the 2018 American League MVP. Betts would join a lineup that already includes Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., Tommy Pham and Eric Hosmer. The Padres would use a Betts deal to tell fans that they want to contend for a playoff spot now. 

San Diego can stay comfortably below the tax threshold even if it makes an eight-figure commitment to Betts. Cot’s Baseball Contract currently projects the Padres’ 2020 CBT payroll at $152.5 million.



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