The chatter about a trade of 2018 MVP Mookie Betts picked up in recent days. Last night a deal finally happened, and a blockbuster it was. The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Betts along with SP David Price. Boston acquired former top prospect Alex Verdugo and Twins top prospect Brusdar Graterol. In the deal, Minnesota also acquired Dodgers starter, Kenta Maeda. The Dodgers will also be receiving cash in the deal. In a separate deal, the Angels also acquired OF Joc Pederson from the Dodgers with IF Luis Rengifo going back to the Dodgers. Lots of moving pieces and lots to analyze.
From the Dodgers perspective, there are not many negatives. A few days ago I wrote an article saying that it was time for the Dodgers to make the big splash: https://nutsandboltssports.com/los-angeles-dodgers-need-to-go-all-in-on-mookie-betts/. After staying patient for a few years that big splash was finally made. From the Dodgers side, there is not a lot to complain about. There is no downside to acquiring a former MVP winner. He will immediately slot into the middle of an already stacked lineup lead by reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger. Adding David Price will also help fill the void left by departing free agent Hyun Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda who was dealt to the Twins as a part of this trade. Price has 3 years and 96 million dollars left on the 6 years 217 million dollar deal he signed before the 2016 season. Price has proven to be serviceable however not worth the contract handed out to him. Boston will be paying half of Price’s remaining 96 million and the Dodgers will cover the rest of his contract along with Betts 27 million for the 2020 season.
There are some negatives for the Dodgers here. Although they made a huge addition with Betts they did lose contributors to their MLB team. Joc Pederson who had a .249/.339/.538 line to go with 36 HR and 74 RBI was shipped to the Angels. They also lost Verdugo who took over as their CF and in a 106 game sample size slashed .294/.342/.475 with 12 HR and 44 RBI. Already losing 2 outfielders they also lost a key rotation contributor in Kenta Maeda who went 10-8 with a 4.04 ERA in 153 innings. Although his spot was replaced by Price they still have a hole in the rotation left by Ryu which could be filled by highly touted but unproven prospect Dustin May. The Dodgers will take the headlines for the big additions they made tonight but it cannot be forgotten that they also traded valuable pieces from their 2019 team.
Whether Boston needed to make this trade can still be debated but the deal is done. This move is essentially waving the white flag on the 2020 season for the Red Sox and looking towards the future. Boston did get done what they hoped to accomplish which was financial flexibility and some prospects to help build for the future. They are now safely under the luxury tax and can use 2020 as a year to sort of do a mini rebuild. The acquisition of Verdugo is a good one as he is already a proven young MLB bat and still has not reached his ceiling. He can immediately slot into the Red Sox outfield for the season. Acquiring Twins prospect Brusdar Graterol will likely go under the radar but he can also be an important piece for the future of the Red Sox. Graterol who is ranked the 83rd prospect in baseball is only 21 years old and already has a fastball that averages 99 MPH and can top out at 102. Minnesota began to transfer him to a reliever role in 2019 but he was able to dominate Double-A as a starter so it is still to be determined what the Red Sox decide to do with them. Overall although they lost their best player you can’t complain about this return as a Red Sox fan considering they also unloaded Price’s albatross contract in addition to Betts.
Minnesota set the MLB record for home runs in 2020, however, were swept in the ALDS by the Yankees. They were able to improve their already deadly lineup by adding Josh Donaldson but they still needed to add pitching. They were able to get a solid middle of the rotation guy in Maeda who can eat some innings. Maeda is not the flashiest acquisition however he is needed for a team that started the unknown Randy Dobnak in a playoff game. However, for a middle of the rotation guy, the cost was quite steep by trading a highly touted prospect in Graterol. But for a team in the middle of a contention window, the time to win is now and this was a win-now move.
In a separate deal, the Angels acquired Joc Pederson. As stated above this is a big loss for the Dodgers lineup and will be a big addition to the Angels lineup. Pederson hits very poorly against righties but the Angels can probably platoon him with highly touted prospect Jo Adell. Luis Renfigo was a decent prospect at best and had a poor year for the Angels in 2019. The cost for a very good bat in Pederson was pretty low. This has been a good offseason for the Angels with Pederson and star 3B Anthony Rendon however what they needed most was starting pitching and they still have not gotten it. So yes the Angels have improved, however, they still need to address the rotation.
This trade can’t be judged in full yet as the results of the 2020 season have not played out and Betts still will be a free agent after the 2020 season. However, this deal has put the Dodgers as World Series favorites or second behind the Yankees. The games are not played in the offseason and with Spring Training starting in just about a week most of these questions will be answered soon enough.