Dodgers Pay the Price to Get Betts
Over the last few days, it began to seem like a certainty that the Red Sox would ultimately deal Mookie Betts away. The Red Sox had been involved in lengthy discussions with both the Dodgers and Padres -- and ultimately it was the Dodgers who swung the blockbuster deal to bring one of the brightest young stars in all of baseball to Los Angeles.
To make the deal come to fruition, the Red Sox and Dodgers had to pull the Twins into the deal -- making it a three-team trade. The biggest names in the deal are heading to the Dodgers, with Betts and veteran left-hander David Price heading to Los Angeles. The Red Sox will receive 23-year-old outfielder Alex Verdugo from the Dodgers and highly-regarded 21-year-old hurler Brusdar Graterol from the Twins. The Twins, in exchange for Graterol, will get veteran right-hander Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers.
The Red Sox are also expected to send money to the Dodgers in the deal to cover a portion of the $96 million remaining on the contract of David Price. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic believes that the Red Sox will cover around half of that remaining total, putting the Dodgers on the hook for $16 million a year over the next three seasons.
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So let’s break it down.
While it’s certainly a tough pill to swallow for Red Sox fans, it’s hard to fault the club for dealing away the 27-year-old superstar, and face of their franchise. The 2018 American League MVP had declined multiple overtures from the Red Sox to work out a long-term contract extension and has been champing at the bit to finally get to free agency. He’s determined to hit the free agent market and is reportedly looking for a contract in excess of $400 million.
For the Red Sox - who desperately needed to get under the luxury tax threshold anyways - parting with Betts now was the right move. It was either that, or deal him prior to the trade deadline, though that would all but surely lessen the potential return. Plus, if the Red Sox are in playoff contention at the end of July, they’d simply have to bite the bullet and keep him for the rest of the season, meaning they would only receive a compensation pick if he ultimately signed elsewhere for 2021.
The Red Sox wanted to get under the luxury tax threshold, and shedding Price’s contract along with Betts definitely accomplishes that goal. In fact - depending on how much money they ultimately send the Dodgers in the deal - they may wind up significantly under that target, leaving them with some much-needed financial flexibility.
They also get a couple of extremely-talented youngsters in return. Verdugo, 23, was ranked as the #19 prospect in all of baseball heading into the 2019 season and was ranked 35th by Baseball America.
He didn’t falter in his first extended big league action either -- slashing .294/.342/.475 with 12 homers, 44 RBI and four stolen bases over 377 plate appearances with the Dodgers in 2019 before missing the final two months of the season with core and back issues. Verdugo will immediately replace Betts as the club’s everyday right fielder and he may even hit atop a potent Red Sox lineup.
From a fantasy perspective, Verdugo’s stock gets a massive bump in this deal. While he was likely to see close to everyday at-bats with the Dodgers, he’ll absolutely be a full-time player with the Red Sox. He also sees a huge improvement in his home ballpark, trading the spacious Dodger Stadium for the cozy confines of Fenway Park.
I’m not saying that Verdugo is Mookie Betts, because he’s not. If he hits at the top of the Red Sox lineup though, in front of Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez, he’s going to rack up counting stats -- specifically runs. Remember, Betts has paced the league in runs scored each of the last two seasons with 129 and 135 respectively.
Prior to the trade, Verdugo’s draft stock in NFBC drafts over the last few weeks has hovered around pick 230 overall. It’s safe to say that he’ll easily jump inside the top 200, and I firmly believe that he’ll climb inside the top 150 before all is said and done in March.
The Red Sox also receive Brusdar Graterol in the deal -- a flame-throwing 21-year-old right-hander. Prior to the 2019 season, he was ranked as the #33 prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus and 55th by Baseball America.
Most of his 2019 season was spent at Double-A Pensacola, but across three minor league levels he compiled a 7-0 record, 1.92 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 61/23 K/BB ratio over 61 innings. He also made 10 appearances out of the Twins’ bullpen, posting a 4.66 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 10/2 K/BB ratio over 9 ⅔ innings.
With the loss of David Price, and an overall lack of depth in the Red Sox rotation, Graterol should have an opportunity to make the Opening Day rotation. Fantasy owners should keep in mind though, that Graterol only logged a total of 61 innings in 2019, so the Red Sox -- who aren’t expected to contend -- will surely monitor his workload in 2020.
An afterthought in most early NFBC drafts, Graterol should see a small bump with the improved outlook and chances of winning a spot on the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster. Still though, he’s nothing more than a late-round flier in most redraft formats.
From the Dodgers’ perspective, they land the impact right-handed bat that they were sorely lacking -- even if it may only be for one season. An all-around force, Betts is a four-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner and three-time Silver Slugger winner. He has done nothing but hit since breaking into the big leagues as a 21-year-old in 2014, slashing .301/.374/.519 for his career over 3629 plate appearances while slugging 139 home runs and swiping 126 bases.
I think that his fantasy stock could take a small dip with this move. While he’s still a five-category monster, he gets a major downgrade in home ballpark leaving Fenway Park and heading to Dodger Stadium. It’s also a negative for Betts to move to the National League -- especially for his RBI output if he winds up batting leadoff for the Dodgers as he’s expected to do.
He’s still going to score plenty of runs, though Max Muncy, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger aren’t quite as formidable as the trio that batted behind him in Boston. If healthy, he’ll soar over 100 runs scored, but I’d say it’s unlikely that he matches the video game type of numbers that he has in that category over the last two seasons.
In addition to Betts, the Dodgers also land veteran southpaw David Price in the deal. The 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner had a disappointing and injury-plagued 2019 season, posting a 4.28 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 128/32 K/BB ratio over 107 ⅓ innings in 22 starts.
Already a player that I was buying low on before this announcement, Price’s draft stock takes a major leap forward with the move to Los Angeles. He gets to leave the American League East and away from the bandbox that is Fenway Park, to go to the pitcher-friendly confines of Dodger Stadium. The park shift in and of itself would have been a reason to move Price up the draft board, then you have to factor in the move to the National League. Prior to this announcement, Price had been going off the draft board around pick 195 in recent NFBC drafts, making him the 55th starting pitcher off the board on average.
If he can stay healthy enough to make 30 starts for the Dodgers -- which is far from a certainty -- it’s not crazy to think that Price could wind up as a top-25 starting pitcher in 2020. He’s going to move up the board a bit now that he’s a Dodger, but I would be surprised if he cracks the top 40 starting pitchers. It’s not a pick for the faint of heart, as there’s plenty of risk involved here, but I’m definitely one who will be buying up shares of this left-hander.
The final team involved in this blockbuster deal was the Minnesota Twins. Like the Dodgers, this deal makes a lot of sense from the Twins’ perspective as a team that’s trying to win now. Graterol is a consensus top-100 prospect and a very intriguing arm for the future, but for 2020 he was unlikely to crack the Twins’ starting rotation. If he were to help the big league club, it was likely to be out of the bullpen -- in a middle relief or setup role.
Instead, they flip him to the Dodgers and land 31-year-old right-hander Kenta Maeda. Despite his age, the Twins have Maeda under team control for the next four seasons at a very affordable $3.125 million per season. He has only averaged 147 innings per season in his four years with the Dodgers, but has posted a respectable 3.87 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 9.8 K/9 over 589 innings.
At the beginning of the off-season, the Twins planned to hit free agency hard, using their available funds to upgrade their starting rotation. The problem, as it turned out, was that they couldn’t get any of the top starting pitchers to take their money. That left them settling for the likes of Homer Bailey and Rich Hill -- and instead spending big on third baseman Josh Donaldson.
What this deal does, is give them a high-quality starter that can slot in behind Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi at the top of their rotation. Once Rich Hill returns from injury -- and Michael Pineda returns from his PED suspension -- the Twins now have the makings of one of the stronger rotations in the American League and are probably considered the favorites to win the American League Central.
From a fantasy angle, Maeda’s value takes a small hit with the move to Minnesota. Yes, he’s leaving an extreme pitcher’s park in Los Angeles, but Target Field isn’t a big downgrade. And sure, moving from the National League to the American League is never ideal, but getting to face the Tigers and Royals several times each is obviously appealing.
Maeda also gets the added certainty of having a rotation spot secured for the Twins, after having bounced around between the bullpen and the rotation over the last two seasons with the Dodgers.
Over the last few weeks, his ADP has sat just inside the top 200 overall in NFBC drafts. I don’t expect a drastic change in Maeda’s stock based on this news. If it does shift at all, I’d anticipate it only being a half of a round or so in either direction.
Joc Gets his Halo
With Mookie Betts headed to Los Angeles to be the Dodgers’ new centerfielder and leadoff man -- along with David Price and his costly salary -- the Dodgers were in a position where they needed to shed some of their own payroll if they wanted to remain under the luxury tax threshold for 2020.
They were also faced with a glutton of outfielders -- even after dealing Alex Verdugo -- so another trade made sense. The Los Angeles Angels pounced on that opportunity. As the Betts to Dodgers trade talks escalated on Tuesday, there were also rumors swirling around that the Angels were acquiring Dodgers’ outfielder Joc Pederson.
As that news broke at the same time as the rumors that a third team was involved in the Betts deal, many believed that the Angels could be that mystery team. While that proved to not be the case, the Dodgers did swing a separate deal with the Angels, sending Pederson to their cross-town rival in exchange for infielder Luis Rengifo.
According to Kiley McDaniel of ESPN, Dodgers’ outfield prospect Andy Pages is also heading to the Angels in the deal.
Pederson, 27, is entering the final season of his contract and will earn $5 million in 2020. He’s likely to function in a similar role with the Angels as he did with the Dodgers, serving as the starting right fielder -- and possible leadoff hitter -- against right-handed pitching. He’ll give way to a platoon partner when there’s a southpaw on the hill.
Pederson is coming off the best offensive season of his career, slashing .249/.339/.538 with career-highs of 36 home runs and 74 RBI in 514 plate appearances. He has been coming off of draft boards right around pick 200 overall in recent weeks, and there’s no real reason to expect that to change much based on this trade, as it seems like a neutral move overall for Pederson.
In return, the Dodgers get Rengifo, a 22-year-old infielder who is known more for his glovework than his offensive prowess. In his first taste of big league action in 2019 he hit .238/.321/.364 with seven homers, 33 RBI and two stolen bases in 406 plate appearances. Given the fact that the Dodgers have two versatile options in Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez already on the roster, Rengifo may face an uphill battle at securing a spot on the Opening Day roster.
American League Quick Hits: The Mariners’ signed Marco Gonzales to a four-year , $30 million contract extension with a $15 million club option for 2025. … Mariners’ general manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed Tuesday that Mitch Haniger underwent successful surgery to repair a sports hernia. He’s expected to miss at least the first few weeks of the regular season. … The Rangers signed former Yankees’ first baseman Greg Bird to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. … Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com reports that the Red Sox have interviewed bench coach Ron Roenicke and third base coach Carlos Febles for manager. … Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Athletics quality control coach Mark Kotsay is no longer in the running for the managerial vacancy with the Red Sox. … Mark Berman of FOX 26 reports that the Astros have made an offer to free agent outfielder Hunter Pence. … The Red Sox signed Ryder Jones to a minor league deal… The Athletics signed left-hander Donnie Hart to a minor league contract with an invite to big league camp. … The Astros hired James Click -- who had been working as the Rays’ vice president of baseball operations -- as their general manager. … The Yankees signed David Hale and Dan Otero to minor league deals with invites to big league camp. … The Red Sox outrighted Denyi Reyes to Double-A Portland. … The M’s designated Matt Festa for assignment. … The Mariners claimed outfielder Jose Siri off of waivers from the Reds. … The Rays signed Dylan Covey and John Curtiss to minor league deals with invitations to spring training.
National League Quick Hits: Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that the Giants have signed free agent infielder Wilmer Flores to a multi-year contract. … According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, "there is to this point no talk between the Cubs and Braves" about a Kris Bryant trade. … Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reports that the Cubs have been in contact with free agent second baseman Jason Kipnis. … The Phillies signed Anthony Swarzak to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. … The Braves inked Yonder Alonso to a minor league contract with an invite to big league camp. … Taijuan Walker held a workout in front of about 20 scouts on Tuesday, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. … Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that the Marlins signed Sean Rodriguez to a minor league deal. … Mike Dunn announced his retirement from professional baseball after 11 big league seasons. … The Diamondbacks signed veteran right-hander Edwin Jackson and outfielder Jon Jay to minor league deals with invitations to spring training. … The Marlins announced their one-year $3.25 million contract with Brandon Kintzler and their one-year, $1.5 million contract with Matt Joyce, designating Jarlin Garcia and Jose Quijada for assignment in the process. … The Giants signed Brandon Guyer to a minor league contract. … The Diamondbacks signed Trayce Thompson to a minor league deal.