With a week to go until teams report to Spring Training, the Red Sox, Dodgers and Twins reportedly struck the blockbuster trade of the offseason, with a former MVP and Cy Young Award winner going from Beantown to the City of Angels.
Dodgers acquire: OF Mookie Betts, LHP David Price and cash from Red Sox
Red Sox acquire: OF Alex Verdugo from Dodgers and RHP prospect Brusdar Graterol from Twins
Twins acquire: RHP Kenta Maeda from Dodgers
Grading Los Angeles’ Side of the Deal
The Dodgers were already a perennial powerhouse before they traded for Betts and Price. They have won seven straight NL West titles and appeared in two of the last three World Series. No team won more games in the 2010s than Los Angeles. Still, the Dodgers have gone more than three decades without winning a World Series. All that success and no rings to show for it made the Dodgers act. Like they were in the 2017 and 2018 World Series, the Dodgers were the runners up in the sweepstakes to sign both Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon. The third time was most definitely the charm this winter as they finally made good on their attempt at a major acquisition, landing them the two players they hope will bring them their first World Series ring since 1988.
And really, there’s no overstating how good this deal is, even if Los Angeles has Betts only for the 2020 season, after which he becomes a free agent. The Dodgers projected lineup is an absolute juggernaut:
- Mookie Betts RF
- Max Muncy 1B
- Justin Turner 3B
- Cody Bellinger CF
- A.J. Pollock LF
- Corey Seager SS
- Will Smith C
- Gavin Lux 2B
Plus, their rotation will feature two former Cy Young winners (Price and Clayton Kershaw) and a 25-year-old ace (Walker Buehler) who quite possibly could win the award this season.
What makes this trade all the more commendable is that somehow the Dodgers pulled off such a lucrative deal without giving up any of their top prospects. Instead, all they had to do was get the Twins to pay the prospect toll in exchange for Kenta Maeda, a soon-to-be 32-year-old pitcher who’s being replaced (read: upgraded) in the Los Angeles rotation by Price. Let’s not lose sight of how remarkable this is: the Dodgers essentially traded Betts for Verdugo—at best a third or fourth outfielder in L.A.—and Price for Maeda. And if that wasn’t enough, the Red Sox also paid them cash to get rid of Price. Sheesh.
Grading Boston’s Side of the Deal
Is this really the best deal the Red Sox could make for Betts? One year removed from beating the Dodgers in the World Series, they decide it’s in their best interest to trade away one of the best players on the planet and a fan favorite, along with Price and cash, for one solid pitching prospect (Brusdar Graterol) and a good but relatively unproven outfielder (Verdugo). With Betts and Price, Boston could have made one more go at the postseason, despite having the mighty Yankees and resourceful Rays in their division. This trade almost certainly indicates the start of a rebuild, though it’s far from assured that Verdugo and Graterol will be the cornerstones of the next great Red Sox team. Is cutting costs really worth it?
Of course, this deal isn’t all bad for Boston. Betts wasn’t likely to re-sign, considering the massive payday that awaits him in free agency, and Price was owed $96 million over the next three seasons. Shedding some payroll could help the Red Sox regenerate sooner. Rather, the disappointment of this trade comes from the lackluster package they received and the departure of a beloved superstar. It shows they’re giving up now without a promising investment for the future.
Grading Minnesota’s Side of the Deal
The Twins won 101 games last year with a good chance to win the AL Central for the second consecutive season for the first time in a decade. But Minnesota has greater ambitions in mind for 2020. Getting a veteran pitcher like Maeda with World Series experience could be crucial for the Twins going forward. They have not won a playoff game since 2004, and they have not won a postseason series in almost 30 years, when they won the 1991 World Series.
Other than their almost supernatural inability to beat the Yankees in the playoffs, the Twins were also burned by their relatively underwhelming pitching staff. So rough was their postseason rotation that they turned to 24-year-old Randy Dobnak—who began the season in A ball and scheduled his wedding for late September when he thought he’d be done for the year—to pitch Game 2 of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium against a ferocious New York lineup. Now, behind Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi in the rotation, Minnesota has solid veterans Maeda, Homer Bailey and Dobnak. Plus, they signed 40-year-old Rich Hill to join their staff once he returns from elbow surgery.
All the Twins had to give up for Maeda was Graterol, a top-100 pitching prospect who’s had success in the minor leagues (1.92 ERA last year). For the Twins, a team in win-now mode, getting an experienced starting pitcher is well worth the cost of a solid prospect, especially if pitching was one of the few things holding them back in 2019.