Red Sox Trade Mookie Betts and David Price to Dodgers
A more accurate title would be “Red Sox trade Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers in a three team deal that sees the Dodgers trading a player to each Boston and the Twins, and the Twins giving up their flame throwing rookie to Boston.” But that would be too long.
So let’s break down the trade that just got announced tonight. After months of rumors and speculation, the Red Sox finally pulled the trigger on a trade dealing 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts to Los Angeles. The deal also includes Boston dumping struggling starting pitcher David Price on Dodger Stadium’s doorstep. In return, the Dodgers are sending 23-year-old outfielder Alex Verdugo to Boston, and starting pitcher Kenta Maeda to Minnesota. Minnesota, in turn, will send up-and-coming pitcher Brusdar Graterol and his 102-mph fastball to Boston. Did you follow all of that?
Boston’s Losses/Dodgers’ Gains (?)
Betts is one of the best outfielders in baseball, and he’s going to hit the free agent market after the 2020 season. The four-time Gold Glove winner finished eighth in MVP voting in 2019, and led all of MLB in runs scored with 135. 2019 saw a dip in his numbers – .295/.321/.594, 29 home runs, 80 RBI vs. his MVP 2018 season (.346/.438/.640 and led all of MLB in average and slugging, with 32 home runs and 80 RBI) but he’s still among the best of the best in the outfield. It makes one wonder if the dip in average may have something to do with the Red Sox (alleged) involvement in the cheating scandal in 2018. (Sidebar: Why have we not heard anything more about the investigation into the Red Sox involvement/cheating in 2018 since Alex Cora got canned? What about Carlos Beltran? Why are the Astros taking all the heat? Cora and Beltran losing their jobs shouldn’t have been the end of the inquiries, but I digress.)
David Price was once a lights out pitcher who signed a seven-year, $217 million contract that was a huge drag on the Red Sox payroll. It only made sense to trade both of them now while they can still get something in return for Betts before he hits the open market, and free up payroll to sign some pitchers that actually produce after Price, Chris Sale, and Rick Porcello (who’s since gone to the Mets this offseason) rolled over and died in 2019. It sounds like in order to get Betts, the Dodgers had to agree to take Price and half of the remaining $96 million of his contract off of Boston’s hands. Between the $31 million owed to Price and the $20 million they would have paid Betts, the Red Sox are getting some much-needed breathing room in the payroll. Price will fill in one of the gaping holes left in the Dodgers rotation now that they’ve lost Hyun-Jin Ryu to free agency (to Toronto) and both Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda to the Twins.
Dodgers’s Losses, Boston and Minnesota’s Gains
In exchange for Betts and Price, the Dodgers are sending Alex Verdugo to Boston’s outfield and pitcher Kenta Maeda to Minnesota. Verdugo had his breakout season in 2019, playing in 106 games. His slash line of .294/.342/.475 isn’t far off from Betts’s average and OBP, but his slugging leaves a bit to be desired. Sure, he gets on base a lot, but he only hit 12 home runs, 22 doubles, and 2 triples in 2019. In comparison, Betts had 40 doubles and 5 triples (and the aforementioned 29 bombs). Boston will be sorely missing Bett’s power, but at age 23, Verdugo could just be ramping up.
Kenta Maeda was a (mostly) solid starter for Los Angeles over the last few seasons. He was untouchable in 2016, when he went 16-11, but hasn’t put up quite the same numbers since. He improved from 8-10 in 2018 to 10-8 in 2019, however saw a jump in ERA up to 4.04. His $3.25 million/year is right in the notoriously cheap Minnesota’s wheelhouse. He’ll be contending for the 4th and 5th spot in the rotation against Randy Dobnak, Louis Thorpe, or Deven Smeltzer, and eventually former Dodgers teammate Rich Hill (once he’s recovered from surgery sometime around June). They’ll be joining locked-in starters Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Homer Bailey, and the still-suspended Michael Pineda.
Minnesota’s Loss/Boston’s Gain
The final piece in this deal is Brusdar Graterol going to Boston from Minnesota. Graterol and his 102-mph fastball debuted with the Twins at the very end of last season, and though he only pitched 9 2/3 innings, he had Minnesota fans excited for what he would bring in 2020. In the Twins farm system, he quickly climbed the ranks through Rookie – AAA leagues and went 7-0 with a 1.92 ERA and 61 strikeouts over 61 innings. IF his arm doesn’t give out, Boston just got themselves a hell of a deal to replace David Price on their roster. Not that he’d be a starter yet, but the possibilities with the 21-year-old hurler are enough to get Boston fans excited about their pitching staff again.
Dodgers and Angels Make a Trade
The Dodgers weren’t done shuffling players. Shortly after they made the deal to get Betts and Price, they dealt outfielder Joc Pederson and his 36 homers to the Angels for young infielder Luis Rengifo. LA already has MVP Cody Bellinger patrolling the outfield with Betts, along with AJ Pollock, and needed an infielder. The Angels already bolstered their infield with the mega-signing of Anthony Rendon earlier in the off season, so they had an infielder to spare. Their infield is set with Pujols at first, Tommy LaStella at second, Andrelton Simmons at short, and Rendon at third. Pederson will be joining the other MVP Mike Trout in the Anaheim outfield.
The Dodgers are really going to go hard for the World Series title this year after losing in 2017 to the now-tarnished Astros and in 2018 to the now-tarnished Red Sox. They won a league leading 106 games in 2019 and were stunned when they lost the NLCS to the eventual-champion Nationals. Their hitting and fielding will still be ridiculously good, but now that they’ve lost three of their five starting pitchers from last season and are stuck with David Price, their pitching will be the big question. They still have Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, but will they be enough? If Price can get remotely close to what he was, he could be a solid number three in the rotation.
So what say you, readers? Will the Dodgers have another 100+ win season?