Red Sox Trade Former MVP Mookie Betts to the Dodgers. Lets Break It Down

ESPN – The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed to a blockbuster deal that will send former MVP Mookie Betts and left-hander David Price to Los Angeles for a package that includes outfielder Alex Verdugo, sources tell ESPN.

The trade includes a third team, the Minnesota Twins, with the Dodgers sending starter Kenta Maeda to Minnesota, which in turn will ship hard-throwing pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol to Boston, sources said, confirming a report by The Athletic.

Verdugo, 23, hit .294/.342/.475 with a 2.2 WAR in 377 plate appearances for the Dodgers last season. He took over in center field when A.J. Pollock was out. Verdugo didn’t play after Aug. 4 because of a back injury he re-aggravated while on a rehab assignment in September.

He is excellent against left-handed pitching and is under team control through the 2024 season. He will make the MLB minimum of $563,500 in 2020. He’s also a member of the Mexican national team.

Graterol, a hard-throwing, 21-year-old right-hander, pitched 9⅔ innings last season in the majors, going 1-1 with a 4.66 ERA. In the minors last season, the Venezuelan was 7-0 with a 1.92 ERA across three levels. He was rated the No. 83 overall prospect for 2020 by MLB pipeline.

In the words of Red Sox owner John Henry, “It’s not ideal.”

It is an absolute bummer to trade a dynamic, homegrown, and MVP level talent. Theres no other way to put it. A gross mismanagement of assets if you will, but a situation the Red Sox put themselves in. Mookie Betts seemed like a great teammate, a good dude off the field, and was fun as hell to watch, but he is a businessman. Thats not meant to be a knock because everyone should look to get paid what they think they’re worth, but that meant the Sox were never going to get a hometown discount, let alone sign him before he hit Free Agency. Lou Merloni told a story on NBC Sports last night about how Mookie’s been very consistent over the years on how he approaches these situations. Merloni brought up how the Sox offered Mookie a signing bonus of $300K out of high school, but he counter offered with $750K and threatened to go to college if the Sox didn’t meet his number, which of course they did to sign their 5th round pick. My point is the Red Sox saw the writing on the wall, had a value in their minds of what Mookie was worth and realized it probably wasn’t going to be what he figured to make on the open market next season so they chose to (barely) get ahead of it and recoup some assets.

Maybe if the Sox managed their assets a little better they could have not worried about paying top dollar to re-sign Mookie Betts next offseason. Drunken sailor deals given out to David Price, Nathan Eovaldi, and Chris Sale over the years put them in a tight spot financially. You can’t pay everybody. Or the team could have traded him last year to get a bigger return. However, Mookie was never going to sign before hitting free agency unless the Sox offered him $500 million so lets not pretend otherwise.

Oh, and let us never forget *when* the news of this trade actually broke.

The Return

Not great! This is where I do have a problem with the deal. I am an unabashed “Prospects Guy,” much to the chagrin of Big Z. My stance has always been I am OK trading Mookie Betts if it meant restocking the depleted farm system, which the Red Sox did not do here. They got one young major league outfielder and one pitching prospect. Not exactly a haul for arguably the second best player in the game.

The main piece of the deal is Alex Verdugo, who had a 3.1 WAR in 106 games at 23-years-old and will be under team control for the next five seasons. Not terrible. To be fair, prior to last season Verdugo was the Dodgers’ top prospect.

“One of the best pure hitting prospects in baseball, Verdugo recognizes pitches and controls the strike zone better than most players his age. He uses the whole field, repeatedly barreling balls with a quick left-handed stroke geared for line drives. Though he homered just seven times in 132 games last season, his hitting ability, bat speed and strength should translate into average power if he adds some loft to his swing.

As good as he is in the batter’s box, Verdugo’s best tool actually is his plus-plus arm. Despite average speed, he has spent much of his pro career in center field, where his instincts help him get the job done. Scouts are split on whether he can handle center on a daily basis in the Majors, but no one doubts that his arm would play in right.”

Then there’s also this, which I would like to chalk up to just a young guy being a young guy, but Boston fans will have zero patience for that as the centerpiece of a Mookie Betts deal.

The Red Sox also received the No. 83 ranked prospect in baseball from Minesota with pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol, who’s *ceiling* is a No. 2-3 starter according to baseball guys like Sean McAdam.

The realistic hope is that Graterol turns into a young, cheap closer for the Sox. Boston absolutely needs a young flamethrower in the pen, but it seems like a player of that caliber could have come much cheaper. Graterol will be under team control until 2026.

Oh and the Sox will also be paying HALF of David Price’s remaining contract for him to play elsewhere for the next three years! Good grief.

The Red Sox screwed this up by not having a long term plan, which they haven’t had since Theo Epstein left town. They change organizational philosophies at the drop of a hat, which leaves you with these gigantic problems down the line.

Also, can someone make sure John Henry never gets in front of a microphone again? He hamstrung Chaim Bloom from Day 1 by announcing to the rest of the league that the Sox were looking to get under the luxury tax so every team in baseball knew the Sox HAD to trade Mookie. Add in the fact they were trying to shed Price’s contract too and the Dodgers were one of the only teams in the league that could make a deal work, and the Dodgers knew it.

Get your “It’s Not Ideal” shirts now!

The Contract

I don’t feel comfortable giving any player in the league a 12 year $400+ million contract, let alone a 5’9″ guy. If his power slips at all, that contract will be an absolute albatross, making Jacoby Ellsbury look like a bargain. Granted on those mega contracts you’re paying for the front half and hoping for the best in the second half, but tell that to the teams paying Ellsbury, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Robinson Cano just to name a few recent examples.

“Stop Rooting for Rich Guys to Save Money.”

Okay, this is one I need to address because I could not care less what John Henry’s ROI is on the Red Sox so I’m not rooting for one of the most valuable franchises in the world to save money. However, I am also an adult and realize the situation the team was in. Every business has a budget and yes the Sox could absolutely “afford” Mookie Betts, but by doing so they would blow through their budget, not to mention the landfall of luxury tax penalties they would have to bear for being a repeat offender. I’m talking fines, lost draft picks, international signing money etc. etc. You would be strapping your team by overreaching on one contract. Not an efficient way to run a business. And thats if Mookie plays at an MVP level for the next 5-12 years, which he won’t.

Looking Ahead

So by making the impossible decision to trade a home grown superstar player the Sox have freed up a ton of money AND gotten ride of that pill David Price. This is what Theo and his disciples fetishized as a “bridge year.” Take a step back in order to take two steps forward rather than dumping more money into the problem, which is exactly what got them into this situation in the first place.

You could say I’m a bit more optimistic, or at least pragmatic, than most of what I’m seeing on Twitter today, but make no mistake: the Red Sox just punted on the 2020 season. Ownership could have kept Mookie and made one last run at it this year even if they knew he wasn’t going to resign, but maybe they saw the writing on the wall. Eovaldi, Sale, and Price are always hurt, the Yankees are loaded, and this team’s chances of winning a World Series were precarious. So they figured to punt on 2020, and dump Mookie and Price rather than pay through the nose to field a Wild Card team.

Here’s hoping they now put together an actual organizational plan for the first time in a decade and get after it next year. At least we’ll have the XFL to watch this spring!

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