The Next Great Red Sox Team

Jack Rabbit Slim

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During the course of discussion through the offseason, there seemed to be two groupings of reactions to Bloom’s work – those disappointed with the lack of major additions and those content with the moves but with the expectation that the big signings were being saved for the ‘21/’22 offseasons. I would fall more into the latter category, and that got me thinking about what major free agents are available the next two offseasons and how they might fit into the current roster and top prospects.

I am only going to cover position players since I think it is much harder to predict pitcher performance/needs but we can get into that as well if someone wants to put it together. I also haven’t looked at major trades since it seems unlikely Bloom would trade away multiple top prospects for a star player. But perhaps a deal for a star already signed to a big deal where the prospect capital would be low is worth considering.

2021 – from MLBTR
  • SS – Lindor, Seager, Story, Correa, Baez - Obviously the historic SS crop is getting all the headlines for next offseason, but I expect 2 or 3 of the names listed to be extended/re-sign with their current team. Couple that with Bogaerts already being on the roster and other large market teams having a need at the position, and I doubt the splash is coming from this group. I know there is the opinion that X is not a good enough defensive SS and should move to 3B/LF, but I am predicting a reworking of his contract to remove the ’22 opt out after the bar is reset.
  • 1B – Freeman, Rizzo – Freeman is likely to extend with the Braves and I am not sure Rizzo is worth blocking your top 1/2 prospect. You can’t assume Casas will make in the big leagues but the whole point of Bloom rebuilding the farm system the last two years is to reap minimum salary players. I also think the pass here.
  • 3B Arenado, Bryant – Now that Arenado is out of Colorado, I have a hard time seeing him opt out so I assume he will stay a Cardinal. It seems almost certain Bryant will leave the Cubs, but Devers creates a complication with this signing. This season will be a huge data point in answering whether Devers sticks at third. If not, there is an opening for Bryant.
  • LF – Conforto, Bryant – Outside of Verdugo and the chance that Duran or Franchy takes a step forward, the outfield is pretty wide open. Signing one of Conforto or Bryant to take over LF seems like the most probable splash.
2022 – from Spotrac
  • CF – Buxton – If Duran can’t be anymore than a bench OF and they decide Verdugo is better in RF, Buxton could be a splashy signing for center. Also, we should know a lot more about G. Jimenez in two years.
  • RF – Haniger, Judge – Haniger could also be a nice OF addition if Verdugo can stick in center. I have a hard time seeing Judge being worth a large contract and it not being with the Yankees but YMMV.
  • SS – Turner, Anderson, Swanson – These three would only be replacement options if Bogey opts out and leaves. I don’t know that they would really be considered splashy signings though.
Going into 2023 then, my optimistic lineup would look like:
C Vaz extension/smaller FA signing and Wong
1B Casas
2B Downs
3B Devers
SS Bogaerts
LF Bryant/Conforto
CF Duran/Buxton/Haniger (RF)
RF Verdugo
DH Dalbec


So when spring training camp starts in 2023, who do you want to see signed? Any other FA names you think are worth big contracts?
 
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johnnywayback

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I really think the whole thing hinges on Bogaerts. As your analysis suggests, the easiest way to add an elite player to the roster would be to sign Trevor Story or Corey Seager next winter. Whether that makes sense depends on 1) Bogaerts's plans for his opt out, 2) his willingness to move off of SS after this year, and 3) the team's evaluation of what his SS defense will look like going forward. I'm not sure we know any of these variables, but the team needs to figure all of them out before the end of 2021. All the franchise-changing possibilities kind of stem from that decision.

I will add a name to your list who might make sense either way: Charlie Blackmon, who has player options for 2022 and 2023 that are probably less appealing if he's not playing with Arenado OR Story.

As for pitching, it's hard for me to imagine feeling great about a big market-value contract for a pitcher in his 30s, no matter who he is. My thought there would be to keep hoarding young talent with the idea of making a Snell-style trade for a cost-controlled starter when they're ready to push in their chips. Trading for Luis Castillo makes no sense this year, but trading for him (or Jose Berrios, or Shane Bieber, or Sandy Alcantara) after 2021 or 2022 might make a lot more sense, which is why it's so important to keep bringing in guys like German and Hernandez and Winckowski.
 

azsoxpatsfan

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Casas Downs Rafi X infield makes me happy to think about. We're back at a point with our farm system where I can once again dream about a great homegrown team a few years down the line. But honestly I think the biggest question is pitching. The Sox have had pretty great offensive teams over the past five years at least, and I don't see that changing too much. The issue is going to be, can we hit on one of our pitching prospects. Between Noah Song, Jay Groome, Bryan Mata, Tanner Houck, etc., we're gonna need at least two to develop into solid major league starting pitchers in order for the team to be truly great, unless we can pull off a Snell type trade like johnnywayback pointed out. I'm pretty confident in Song and Houck, and to a lesser degree Mata and Groome, but I'm also hopelessly optimistic.
 

azsoxpatsfan

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Also, I love the idea of signing Bryant or Conforto. My worry about Bryant, however, is that he's going to be 30, isn't a great defensive outfielder as is, and I don't want to have to worry about him at 35 or 36 trying to navigate the monster
 

Jack Rabbit Slim

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I really think the whole thing hinges on Bogaerts. As your analysis suggests, the easiest way to add an elite player to the roster would be to sign Trevor Story or Corey Seager next winter. Whether that makes sense depends on 1) Bogaerts's plans for his opt out, 2) his willingness to move off of SS after this year, and 3) the team's evaluation of what his SS defense will look like going forward. I'm not sure we know any of these variables, but the team needs to figure all of them out before the end of 2021. All the franchise-changing possibilities kind of stem from that decision.

I will add a name to your list who might make sense either way: Charlie Blackmon, who has player options for 2022 and 2023 that are probably less appealing if he's not playing with Arenado OR Story.

As for pitching, it's hard for me to imagine feeling great about a big market-value contract for a pitcher in his 30s, no matter who he is. My thought there would be to keep hoarding young talent with the idea of making a Snell-style trade for a cost-controlled starter when they're ready to push in their chips. Trading for Luis Castillo makes no sense this year, but trading for him (or Jose Berrios, or Shane Bieber, or Sandy Alcantara) after 2021 or 2022 might make a lot more sense, which is why it's so important to keep bringing in guys like German and Hernandez and Winckowski.
Blackmon is definitely interesting but he will also be 36 in 2022 so I don't think he would be getting a large deal. But perhaps it is smarter/more up Bloom's alley to sign Blackmon for 2 years versus Conforto or Bryant for 6.

On the pitching side, Sale is here long term. Whether that is for good or for bad is to be determined. I am not so much worried about the TJ surgery but whatever was going on with his shoulder at the end of '18. I don't think he has ever been fully back since then. If Edro proves he is back from myocarditis then I hope/expect he will be extended. We also have a decent crop of SP prospects to fill the 4/5 slots between Pivetta, Houck, Seabold and Mata. So hopefully long term we are only looking to fill one spot in the rotation, whether that is an ace to replace Sale or more towards the middle.
 

BaseballJones

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Here's what's crazy. Chris Sale was definitely experiencing issues in the second half of 2018, but still managed to contribute to a World Series championship. But it's now *2021*. That was THREE seasons ago. Hard to believe, really.
 

Yo La Tengo

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Whether there is a next great Sox team in the next 3 years all hinges on the health and development of the starting pitchers. If Sale comes back healthy, if ERod gets on track, and if two or more of the other pitchers prove to be competent MLB starters, the Sox will be in great shape moving forward. If that was to happen, I'd love to see Bloom send a package of prospects for a young starter who can be signed long term.

The offense has been good to very good. If their starting pitching lines up, they can fill in around the edges on offense rather than signing a big free agent. If the pitching is not good, there's no reason to sign a big free agent hitter next year. Which is good, because none of the hitters who will be available next winter are a good fit for a long term deal with the Sox.
 

nvalvo

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Whether there is a next great Sox team in the next 3 years all hinges on the health and development of the starting pitchers. If Sale comes back healthy, if ERod gets on track, and if two or more of the other pitchers prove to be competent MLB starters, the Sox will be in great shape moving forward. If that was to happen, I'd love to see Bloom send a package of prospects for a young starter who can be signed long term.

The offense has been good to very good. If their starting pitching lines up, they can fill in around the edges on offense rather than signing a big free agent. If the pitching is not good, there's no reason to sign a big free agent hitter next year. Which is good, because none of the hitters who will be available next winter are a good fit for a long term deal with the Sox.
I'm not sure I agree with the bolded.

Bogaerts has an opt out after the 2022 season, and it's not clear how long we should want him to start at shortstop, in any case. He certainly has the bat to carry another position. Devers' defense is divisive, he's into arbitration now, and he'll be tricky to extend if the team sees him as a future 1B/DH and he wants to be paid like a 3B with 35 HR power.

It might be that those two stay at their present positions for awhile, and we're not shopping. But it's plenty plausible that they might not, and if not, we suddenly are in the market for an infielder, right around when whichever of Lindor, Story, Seager, and Correa (at SS), or Kris Bryant, José Ramírez, and perhaps Nolan Arenado (at 3B) hit FA. That's a lot of infield talent.

I'm interested to see what Dalbec can do with a starting role in this semi-competitive season, but while I'm rooting hard for him, I wouldn't say that I expect him to still be in the picture as a starter come 2023, in no small part because I expect Casas to force the issue. Likewise, Downs seems like he should have the inside track on the 2B starting role, but either player could also fail to pan out or be traded.

But it is certainly possible to imagine a starting 2023 infield/DH picture that looks something like this:

1B Casas
2B Downs
SS Story/Seager/Correa/Lindor
3B Bogaerts
DH Devers

Or...

1B Casas
2B Downs
SS Bogaerts
3B Bryant/Ramírez/Arenado
DH Devers

Or even...

1B Casas
2B Downs
SS Story/Seager/Correa/Lindor
3B Dalbec
LF Bogaerts
DH Devers

If Downs, Casas, Dalbec, and Duran all pan out, and one or two of the pitchers do, too, that's the kind of pre-arb talent that should make it possible to pay $30m for a superstar two-way shortstop. I'm not saying we have to do it or even really predicting that we do; I'm just saying that our present personnel doesn't preclude us from doing so if it turns out that, say, Trevor Story has always wanted to be a Red Sox.
 

nvalvo

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Why do we feel XB won’t stick at SS? Has he noticeably gotten worse? I feel like he’s very reliable.
I wasn't really expressing an opinion on that. By the numbers, UZR likes him and DRS hates him, and no one I've read can figure out the source of the discrepancy.

(For the record, the SS I really thought it would be worth sliding Bogaerts over to third for was Lindor, as he's the best defender of this crop IMO, but he's likely to ink a huge extension with the Mets in the next few weeks. I admittedly haven't seen much of Trevor Story.)

More realistically, we might end up in a situation where, on the heels of Tatis' deal, three shortstops sign $200m+ deals after 2021, and then Bogaerts decides to test FA in 2022 because he can easily beat his remaining 3/$60 with a vesting option, and then we're suddenly competing on an open market for Bogaerts' age 30+ seasons.
 

Tuff Ghost

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Kris Bryant is an acquisition that would worry me. He'll be 30 years-old in 2022 and his raw batted ball numbers are concerning. He's typically found a way to be successful even without having eye-popping exit velocity by having a nice launch angle, few ground balls, and a good BB %. But the way his numbers are trending scare me as he heads into his thirties. Yes, 2020 was only 34 games for him, so you can discount that, but even so, there have been some downward trends.

The following chart shows his percentile rankings in a few categories throughout his career:

39224

Again, 2020 makes the graph look worse than it may have been, but even if you cut it off at 2019, there is a downward trend. He is not the same player he was in 2016-2017. Exit velocity is not everything, so he still projects as an above average hitter (2021 projections appear to range from 110 wRC+ to 124 wRC+), but when signing a 30 year-old free agent, these numbers introduce even more risk into the signing, in my opinion.
 

Yo La Tengo

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I don't think the long term option would be Bogaerts and another shortstop, because I think he would choose to opt-out and play SS on a different team. Remember his quotes from 2014: "My heart is always at shortstop, but they felt we're a better team with (Drew), so as I said, that's why they went out and got him," Bogaerts said. "And I was just feeling so good over there. But they made the decision that they have to make."

He was very smart to include that 2022 opt out.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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One of the things I just can't stop thinking about when Spring Training hits is lineup construction. Couldn't do it last it "season" but I found my mind wandering into that territory today.
The bottom of the order to me is a little harder to think about, but I think the top should be pretty consistently:

Verdugo
Xander
JDM
Devers
Dalbec
Vazquez

Obviously a lot of potential hinges on X's shoulder, Devers consistency but mostly on JDM being able to bounce back and Dalbec taking a step towards cutting back on K's.
If things break well as far as health goes, I'd put this first 6 up against any other team and feel confident
 

A Bad Man

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One of the things I just can't stop thinking about when Spring Training hits is lineup construction. Couldn't do it last it "season" but I found my mind wandering into that territory today.
The bottom of the order to me is a little harder to think about, but I think the top should be pretty consistently:

Verdugo
Xander
JDM
Devers
Dalbec
Vazquez

Obviously a lot of potential hinges on X's shoulder, Devers consistency but mostly on JDM being able to bounce back and Dalbec taking a step towards cutting back on K's.
If things break well as far as health goes, I'd put this first 6 up against any other team and feel confident
I don't know if it will stick, but Cora seems fixated on Kiké in the leadoff spot, hunting fastballs:
So we’ll see where it takes us. Kind of like what I preached in ‘18, ‘19. If it’s there, put a good swing on it and hopefully he hits it out of the ballpark, off the wall or in the gap. We’ll see. It’s not that he will be our guy. But I’m going to take a look at it.
 

chawson

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View: https://twitter.com/jonheyman/status/1366761878291025921?s=21


I think next winter’s FA discussion revolves around Trevor Story. But it’s possible, maybe likely, that the Rockies trade him before then, with the acquiring team looking to extend him. It would expedite the Bogaerts position-change conversation, but trading for Story could be better than courting him in free agency.

Story seems to me like the best FA fit by far. The Mets want to extend Lindor, I wouldn't count on Seager leaving L.A. and I don't think Baez is the kind of hitter we'd give nine figures to. Going all in on a LHH shortstop may run the risk we’d be too left-handed if all of Devers, Verdugo, Cordero, Casas and Duran stick long-term.

Beyond Story (and E-Rod, who I hope stays), I don’t see many good fits in next year’s free agent pool. Guys like Verlander, Scherzer, Kershaw and Greinke don’t make sense for various reasons. Syndergaard would be great but the Mets want to extend him. I’d be surprised if we land a #3-type starter like Stroman, Gausman, Lynn, McCullers or Heaney, if they reach free agency at all.

I like the Byron Buxton idea from the opening post, but I have a hunch that Kiké Hernandez can be a Top-10 CF the next couple years. Haniger too is interesting as a plus CF/RF with a solid RH bat that could be rehabbed back to productivity, though he’s getting old and isn’t a free agent for two more years. Bryant would be good here, but I bet someone pays him more to play third than we would to play left, and at this point he’d block our Franchy experiment.
 

Pablo's TB Lover

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Here's what's crazy. Chris Sale was definitely experiencing issues in the second half of 2018, but still managed to contribute to a World Series championship. But it's now *2021*. That was THREE seasons ago. Hard to believe, really.
And he was steady as a rock in taking the mound the previous 5 seasons through age 27. I would've have sworn Sale would go the way of Randy Johnson, who only missed major time in 3 out of his age 25-40 seasons, at least into his 30s. But you never know with pitchers.
 

Yo La Tengo

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I think next winter’s FA discussion revolves around Trevor Story. But it’s possible, maybe likely, that the Rockies trade him before then, with the acquiring team looking to extend him. It would expedite the Bogaerts position-change conversation, but trading for Story could be better than courting him in free agency.
Unless Story wants to change positions, adding Story likely means losing Xander, which makes for a minimal improvement (if any). I think the best move the Sox can make is a big package of prospects for a pitcher like Luis Castillo, followed by a big contract extension.

(And I agree that Syndergaard would be an attractive FA target and that I want no part of Kris Bryant.)
 

Minneapolis Millers

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And he was steady as a rock in taking the mound the previous 5 seasons through age 27. I would've have sworn Sale would go the way of Randy Johnson, who only missed major time in 3 out of his age 25-40 seasons, at least into his 30s. But you never know with pitchers.
Didn’t 85% of this board worry that, with Sale’s throwing motion and build, this is exactly the result we should expect? That we wouldn’t get the three years left on his CWS contract out of him? 2018 happened, but so did his TJS. Not many people looked at Sale and saw the Big Unit.

But hey, I’m an optimist. Here’s hoping he has 2-3 All Star seasons left with us.
 

Pablo's TB Lover

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Didn’t 85% of this board worry that, with Sale’s throwing motion and build, this is exactly the result we should expect? That we wouldn’t get the three years left on his CWS contract out of him? 2018 happened, but so did his TJS. Not many people looked at Sale and saw the Big Unit.

But hey, I’m an optimist. Here’s hoping he has 2-3 All Star seasons left with us.
Perhaps others saw it differently, but I didn't recall quite 85% (was also only a lurker back then). I was certainly on the optimistic side of the argument. I thought he'd at least put in more than a year and a half of work before his likely prime ended. He was absolutely pitching hurt throughout 2019 and still put up pretty nice peripheral numbers despite the W-L/ERA , so there's little doubt in my mind his next healthy season could be an All-Star season as you hope.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Unless Story wants to change positions, adding Story likely means losing Xander, which makes for a minimal improvement (if any). I think the best move the Sox can make is a big package of prospects for a pitcher like Luis Castillo, followed by a big contract extension.

(And I agree that Syndergaard would be an attractive FA target and that I want no part of Kris Bryant.)
Yeah, with Bogaerts and Devers on the left side, it seems less than ideal to sign a free agent shortstop next winter. You typically draft the best player available regardless of position, but you don't just sign the best available free agent regardless of position. That's how you end up with Hanley Ramirez in left field.
 

chawson

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Unless Story wants to change positions, adding Story likely means losing Xander, which makes for a minimal improvement (if any). I think the best move the Sox can make is a big package of prospects for a pitcher like Luis Castillo, followed by a big contract extension.

(And I agree that Syndergaard would be an attractive FA target and that I want no part of Kris Bryant.)
Yeah, with Bogaerts and Devers on the left side, it seems less than ideal to sign a free agent shortstop next winter. You typically draft the best player available regardless of position, but you don't just sign the best available free agent regardless of position. That's how you end up with Hanley Ramirez in left field.
I think Bloom will likely move away from the full-time DH model after JDM's gone. The Rays have had 9 players amass more than 100 PAs at the DH spot over the last five seasons, the Yankees 10. In Boston, it's been Ortiz --> Hanley --> JDM. As Sox fans who've watched franchise DHs for a generation, we may be slow to catch up on this.

Re X's future, it's a real puzzle and I don't know the answer. But Xander seems like a pretty tender and thoughtful guy. I'd imagine he'd be responsive if Bloom and Cora say they want him to retire a Red Sox legend, but to do that he'd have to consider moving off position. It's a different ask now than it was when he was 21.

In my scenario, we'd acquire Story and keep Bogaerts and Devers long-term. I could see both getting 250 PAs in the DH spot in 2023, splitting time at third depending on matchups. Bogaerts could even play second, a much less important position than it used to be, potentially freeing up Downs (and Potts) for trades.

The driving force behind my interest in Story is to ensure the Sox have a core of right-handed sluggers. The Sox wOBA from right-handed hitters last year was .328, the team's 5th lowest mark in the last 20 seasons. JDM rebounding and Dalbec sticking will help here, but it's a good bet we acquire a right-handed slugger at some point in the next couple years. It makes more sense that he plays a position than doesn't.
 

nvalvo

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Lots of Connor Wong talk at the Fort today, after he scalded a HR.

This seemed like news:

View: https://twitter.com/redsoxstats/status/1371928929964064769


Obviously, we'll all want to see how he does in games once the minor leagues spin up again, but I wanted to take people's temperature here about Wong. Is he a potential piece for the next great team, or just a guy — backup/org catcher?

(Because if we actually get a big league starting outfielder in Verdugo, starting middle infielder in Downs, and starting catcher in Wong for one year of Betts — a year that happened to take place during a pandemic nightmare season that even a talent like Betts couldn't have turned around — then Bloom seriously fleeced LA.)
 

Minneapolis Millers

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...

(Because if we actually get a big league starting outfielder in Verdugo, starting middle infielder in Downs, and starting catcher in Wong for one year of Betts — a year that happened to take place during a pandemic nightmare season that even a talent like Betts couldn't have turned around — then Bloom seriously fleeced LA.)
You had me right up to your conclusion. All those things could happen, and yet, given the chance to redo the deal, LA would do it again in a heartbeat. Flags Fly Forever. Plus the pandemic handed them the ability to sign Mookie long term before he hit the market.

But if either Downs or Wong, let alone both, can join Verdugo as long term, better than average starters, it will have been a solid trade by Bloom, given his apparent payroll mandate.
 

Max Power

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It could be one of those rare deals where both teams still would have done it with perfect foresight. Beckett for Hanley is another one.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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You had me right up to your conclusion. All those things could happen, and yet, given the chance to redo the deal, LA would do it again in a heartbeat. Flags Fly Forever. Plus the pandemic handed them the ability to sign Mookie long term before he hit the market.

But if either Downs or Wong, let alone both, can join Verdugo as long term, better than average starters, it will have been a solid trade by Bloom, given his apparent payroll mandate.
What if the Red Sox win a World Series (or two or more) with Verdugo and/or Downs and/or Wong playing a big role? Can we call it a big win for Bloom then?
 

joe dokes

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What if the Red Sox win a World Series (or two or more) with Verdugo and/or Downs and/or Wong playing a big role? Can we call it a big win for Bloom then?
Of course. But it's not because he fleeced LA. It could be a big win for both sides. A gm hunting for "winning" zero sum trades should stick to message boards.
 

nvalvo

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Of course. But it's not because he fleeced LA. It could be a big win for both sides. A gm hunting for "winning" zero sum trades should stick to message boards.
No one thinks LA is crying about this deal.

When you compare what Boston got for a year of Betts to, say, what Miami got for Stanton or what Colorado got for Arenado or what Arizona got for Goldschmidt, the package Betts returned looks like it will be considerably more valuable — maybe AZ's package is pretty good. None of those other trades are exactly comparable, it's true. But there's a market.