Mookie Betts trade delayed over medical review; Dodgers, Red Sox, Twins confident it will be completed
The boom-or-bust trade the Dodgers made on Tuesday for Mookie Betts might look a little different
The Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins agreed to a three-team trade Tuesday night that would send star outfielder Mookie Betts and left-hander David Price to Los Angeles, but the trade hit a slight snag over the medical records of Minnesota right-hander Brusdar Graterol, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Jeff Passan of ESPN. The Red Sox, as a result, might ask for an additional player or more cash to finalize the deal. According to multiple reports, all parties remain hopeful that a deal will be completed soon.
Here's the full layout of Tuesday's initial trade before the medical reviews got in the way:
- Dodgers get: Mookie Betts, David Price, cash (all from Boston)
- Red Sox get: Alex Verdugo (from Dodgers), Brusdar Graterol (from Twins)
- Twins get: Kenta Maeda (from Dodgers)
Betts, 27, is a little more than a year removed from winning the 2018 AL MVP honors. Over the past three seasons, he's posted a 141 OPS+ while accumulating 24 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference's calculations. He's also averaged 28 home runs and 24 stolen bases over that time, making him one of the league's most dynamic power-speed threats. Factor in his well-above-average defense, and his makeup, and he's a superstar capable of serving as the face of a franchise. Why, then, would the Red Sox trade him?
Let's provide the answer to that, as well as five other things to know.
1. Red Sox prioritized money to wins
As we noted in October, the Red Sox needed to make a big trade in order to duck under the luxury-tax threshold. Boston's upper management, including owner John Henry, all but admitted the Red Sox intended to avoid paying what amounts to a trifling overage fine for one of the most prestigious and profitable franchises in professional sports. This deal will accomplish that.
Prior to the trade, the Red Sox had been projected to finish nearly $20 million over the luxury-tax line, according to Cot's Contracts. The Red Sox would have been underneath the line had they simply traded Betts and his $27 million obligation. By shedding half of the $96 million owed to Price over the next three seasons, they've further cleared their cap sheet.
Chaim Bloom is going to wear the fallout from the trade, and rightly so, but it is worth noting that the wheels were turning before he arrived in town. Indeed, Boston's front office had reached out to gauge other teams' interest in their players (including Price) before Bloom was hired, according to what league sources told CBS Sports.
There's another financial angle to consider here, too. The Red Sox, who won the 2018 World Series and were forecasted to have a highly competitive club ahead of the deal, were not willing to pay the price to keep Betts in town for longer than his remaining season of team control stipulated.
Again: one of baseball's most profitable clubs chose to champion profits to keeping its homegrown MVP.
2. Betts is a free agent at season's end
As previously mentioned, Betts is indeed scheduled to become a free agent after the season. He's been reluctant to sign a long-term extension in the past due to his desire to receive a market-value contract.
The Dodgers, who likely would have been one of Betts' top suitors regardless, will now have a season to convince him to stick around.
Andrew Friedman is expected to make a run at extending Betts at some point before he hits free agency, according to Jon Heyman. It would seem unlikely that Betts would change his mind given his motivating factors, but who knows. Perhaps the Dodgers make him an offer he can't turn down.
3. Dodgers are now arguably World Series favorites
The Dodgers had been on the hunt for an impact player all winter, seemingly believing that another All-Star-caliber talent was the key to get them over the proverbial hump. The combination of Betts and Price just might get it done.
With due respect to the defending champions, the Washington Nationals, the Dodgers are the clear National League favorites -- and likely the best team on paper in the entire league. After all, they have a rotation led by Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, and Price, a stacked lineup anchored by Betts and Cody Bellinger, and the prospect depth to add to their roster if and when they wish -- either through promotion or trade.
It's not surprise that SportsLine's projections have the Dodgers now winning 107 games, according to Stephen Oh. Their World Series odds are now up to 29.2 percent, an improvement of more than five percentage points from where they started the day. (The Red Sox, conversely, have had their World Series odds reduced to 1.1 percent, or a reduction of 2.3 percentage points.)
The Dodgers haven't won a World Series since 1988. Don't be surprised if that changes in 2020.
4. Boston's return is underwhelming
The Red Sox's return might hinge on whether they can acquire another prospect after running into issues with Graterol's medical review, but on the initial surface, it's fair to describe it as underwhelming.
Verdugo is a polarizing player within the industry. He showed an intriguing mix of contact and power during his rookie season in 2019, but teams have held reservations about his makeup dating back to his amateur days. He would provide the Red Sox with the years of cost control they so dearly value.
Graterol, meanwhile,Here's part of what we wrote:
Graterol averaged 99 mph with his fastballs during his stint in the majors, illustrating how much arm strength he has to spare. His main secondary offering was an upper-80s slider that missed bats on about a third of the swings taken against it. That makes for a promising combination.
Less promising is Graterol's delivery. It's high on effort, upright, and comes complete with a lot of recoil on his follow through -- to the extent that it looks like a last-ditch yank on his parachute. Those things tend to impact command and durability. Perhaps that's why the Twins were willing to throw him in the bullpen late in the year, even though he only turned 21 in August.
That's not an ideal return for the second best player in baseball.
5. Twins trade future for present value
Given what we wrote about Graterol, the Twins' decision to trade him for Maeda makes sense. Minnesota is in win-now mode and Maeda gives them another quality starter.
Over the last three seasons, Maeda has posted a 101 ERA+ and a 3.61 strikeout-to-walk ratio while averaging 138 innings per pop. Do note that the Dodgers often asked Maeda to pitch out of the bullpen late in the season, in part to prep him for his postseason role.
The Twins could ostensibly do the same, but it seems more likely that they view Maeda as one of the core pieces to their remade rotation. The Twins have either re-signed or added Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, Rich Hill, and Homer Bailey this winter. (Pineda and Hill will miss the onset of the season due to suspension and injury.)
Maeda, by the way, is under control through the 2023 season. He'll make at least $12 million, though his contract is structured in a way where he can earn more depending on his role.
6. The fantasy angle
How does this potential trade impact Betts' fantasy baseball value?, with focus on the different ballpark factors, lineup volume and the switch from American League to National League.
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