Mookie Betts will be packing his bags and moving from coast to coast this offseason. Late Tuesday night, ESPN’s MLB Insider Jeff Passan reported via Twitter that the Boston Red Sox were trading their star outfielder to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
According to sources, Boston trades Betts and injury-plagued Starting Pitcher David Price to Los Angeles in exchange for Outfielder Alex Verdugo. A third team, the Minnesota Twins, is involved and will send hard-throwing pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol (via @Ken_Rosenthal) to Boston while receiving Starting Pitcher Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers.
The three-team swap is pending medical review, and the Dodgers will be picking up the bulk of the $96 million left on Price’s contract, which has three years remaining.
Los Angeles is the big-winner in this blockbuster trade from a talent standpoint. Betts is one of the top-5 players in the Majors. At just 27-years-old, he is in the prime of his career and will be a catalyst for an already “formidable” offense. Price is a high-risk/high-reward starting pitcher with World Series experience, and a Cy Young Award on his resume. Despite injury concerns, he is a middle-of-the-rotation starter at this point in his career who is capable of rising up to shut down any team come playoff time in October.
Boston’s haul is themed with the idea of salary-cap relief and the future. Verdugo, the centerpiece for the Red Sox, is just 23-years-old. Last season, he batted .294/12 HR/44 RBI while appearing in 106 games before injuries derailed his season. While his primary position is CF, the outfielder is capable of playing all three spots. His impact will be felt in the upcoming season, as he has 25+ HR potential and hits well with runners in scoring position. Graterol, a hard-throwing pitcher is the long-term question mark. Capable of touching triple-digits on the radar gun, it remains to be seen whether he will be utilized in the rotation or bullpen on either the major league or minor league level.
Maeda is a middle-of-the-rotation starter with a career 3.87 ERA. The move could pay dividends for the Twins who struggled in the playoffs last season against a high-octane New York Yankees offense. He is a tough opponent for any lineup. With a career .227 Batting Average Against, he is difficult to hit when finding a groove.
Betts, 27, is coming off a year where he slashed .295/.391/.524 en route to an 8th place finish in American League MVP voting. The 2018 AL MVP has risen from being a fifth-round pick in 2011 to one of the best players in Major League Baseball during his 5 ½ seasons as a professional. During that span, he has an accumulated value of 42.0 Wins-Above-Replacement (via baseball-reference.com)
Over the course of the winter, a potential move seemed imminent as Boston’s ownership prioritized a goal of dipping below the $208 million luxury-tax threshold for this season’s salary commitments. The Red Sox were actively shopping Betts, who received $27 million in salary arbitration proceedings this winter and is expected to command a contract north of $400 million when reaching free agency after the 2020 season.
There’s no guarantee that Betts will sign an extension with the Dodgers. Set to become a free agent after 2020, he could prove to be a one-year rental. Acquiring both him, and Price’s over-inflated contract are gambles. Still, they may pay off this season if the Dodgers bring a ring to Hollywood.
Although Boston fans are contemplating a mutiny at the moment, they will settle down when they realize Verdugo is a quality player with a bargain salary of $583,500 this season who will remain under team control until 2025. This move provides salary cap relief while setting the ‘Sox up for future flexibility to pursue other high-profile players. Also, the move has the potential to bring a high-powered arm to Boston in the form of Graterol long-term.
Betts’ 134 home runs and 119 stolen bases over the last 5 ½ will provide the Dodgers with an immediate spark on offense for a lineup that lost in last fall’s Divisional Series to the eventual World Series champion Washington Nationals. Betts impact bat will join a lineup consisting of slugger Max Muncy, third baseman Justin Turner, shortstop Corey Seager, and top-prospect Gavin Lux.
Defensively, Los Angeles added Betts’ four Gold Glove Awards to a team that led the majors in Defensive Runs Saved last season. Their outfield will now be comprised of Betts, Cody Bellinger, and A.J. Pollack.
After winning 106 games last season before an early playoff exit, the Dodgers hope to make yet another run at a World Series title after coming up short the last three seasons. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox find themselves in a state question after the blockbuster deal.
Los Angeles Dodgers: B+
Boston Red Sox: B-
There is no real “loser” in this three-way deal. The Dodgers get an immediate upgrade in both their lineup and rotation, which ultimately establishes them as the favorite to represent the NL in the World Series this season. Boston adds two quality prospects, including one that is already making an impact on the major league level. Meanwhile, they also slash payroll and hit a home run in reference to their goal of luxury tax relief. The Twins step up to make the trade possible, and in return, they receive a quality starter in exchange for a question mark prospect. Again, this deal is a good deal all the way around for the teams involved. The only real loser is the Boston Red Sox fanbase.