Dodgers Get Their Man, Acquire Mookie Betts From Red Sox In Three-Team Deal
UPDATE—Feb. 9: Five days after an initial trade was reported that would send outfielder Mookie Betts to the Dodgers, a revised trade has been widely reported as well.
After the Red Sox reportedly balked at Twins' righthander Brusdar Graterol's medical report and a few more days of haggling, the deal has been altered and revived. According to ESPN's Jeff Passan and The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, Betts and lefthander David Price are still headed to Los Angeles and righthander Kenta Maeda is still headed to Minnesota, but a few more of the particulars have changed. Most notably, Graterol is now headed to Los Angeles, while the Dodgers sent a package of shortstop Jeter Downs and catcher Connor Wong to Boston to finish the deal. And the Dodgers are sending cash to the Twins in the deal, while the Dodgers are acquiring the Twins competitive balance pick (67th overall) which will add roughly $1 million to the Dodgers draft pool as well as outfield prospect Luke Raley in the swap.
Feb. 10 update - The deal is official. In addition to the previously reported players, the Dodgers also sent minor league catcher Jair Camargo to the Twins as well.
Mookie Betts, OF
Betts gives the Dodgers the impact, everyday righthanded hitter they sorely needed to complement their lefty-heavy lineup. The Dodgers hit .261 with an .824 OPS against righthanders last year compared to .250 with a .777 OPS against lefties and have sought to balance their lineup for years, including trading for Manny Machado in 2018 and signing A.J. Pollock before 2019. Betts took a step back from his 2018 MVP campaign, but still led the American League in runs, won his fourth straight Gold Glove and finished top-10 in MVP voting for the fourth straight year. Betts will make $27 million in 2020 before hitting free agency after the season. He will slot into the top half of the Dodgers order and give them options defensively with his ability to play both right and center field.
David Price, LHP
Price shook off his postseason demons in 2018 by winning Games 2 and 5 of the World Series against the Dodgers, but made only 22 starts last year due to an ongoing wrist injury and saw his ERA balloon to 4.28, his highest since his rookie season. Price still has the ability to miss bats (10.7 K/9 last year) and is only one year removed from turning in 30 starts, so there is still something in the tank if the former Cy Young Award winner can stay healthy. He is set to make $32 million each of the next three seasons as he finishes out the seven-year, $217 million contract he signed with the Red Sox prior to 2016.
Graterol, the No. 60 prospect on the BA Top 100, becomes one of the hardest throwers in the Dodgers' organization. He averaged 99 mph in the majors last September and postseason after receiving a big league callup. His fastball is hard and heavy. He throws more sinkers than four-seamers up in the zone. His 88-90 mph slider needs to get a little more consistent, but it has a chance to give him a pair of plus pitches thanks to how hard it is thrown. Graterol missed time last year with a sore pitching shoulder, but his velocity was fine when he returned and he pitched his way onto the Twins postseason roster. Minnesota had already announced that he would pitch in the team’s bullpen to start 2020, but the Dodgers will have a decision to make. Graterol does have some effort to his delivery, but he throws strikes with average control and he has a big frame. His upside will become higher if he can throw 150-plus innings as a starter, and his likelihood of being at least a useful reliever is quite high.
The Dodgers are also receiving the Twins' supplemental second-round pick (No. 67 overall) in the deal, as well as roughly $48 million from the Red Sox to pay down the remaining money on Price's contract.
It’s a homecoming for Raley, as he’s headed back to his original pro team. The Dodgers drafted Raley in the seventh round in 2016, but traded him to the Twins in a July 2018 deal that brought Brian Dozier to Los Angeles. Injuries limited Raley during his year and a half as a Twin. A shoulder injury cost him most of the 2018 Arizona Fall League season, and his 2019 regular season was cut short after just 33 games because of a serious ankle injury, although he did return to play in the AFL in 2019. When Raley did play, his impressive raw power was starting to play more often in games. He has an aggressive approach but he has a repeatable swing that gives him a shot at being an average hitter long-term. He is solid in the corner outfield spots defensively and can play center in a pinch. Raley does not project as an everyday regular, but he can carve out an MLB role as a lefty bat with some thump. He was just added to the 40-man roster during the offseason and ranked No. 24 on the Twins Top 30 Prospects list at the time of the trade.
RED SOX ACQUIRE
Alex Verdugo, OF
A longtime top prospect, Verdugo got tastes of the majors in 2017 and 2018 before getting a more substantive opportunity in 2019. He took advantage, batting .294/.342/.475 with 22 doubles, 12 home runs and 44 RBIs in 106 games before going down with a season-ending back injury. Verdugo has a smooth, sweet lefthanded swing that stays in the hitting zone for a long time and drives the ball to all fields. He rarely strikes out, makes hard contact and altogether projects as a potential .300 hitter with 20-home run power. Verdugo is a capable defender at all three outfield positions and has a cannon for an arm that led to six outfield assists in only 97 games in the field last year. While Verdugo’s talent is undeniable, his maturity and effort have long drawn scorn from coaches, scouts and even his own teammates, such as when Rich Hill harangued him in full view of reporters in the clubhouse. Verdugo will replace Betts as the Red Sox’s everyday right fielder, and his makeup will be put to the test in Boston.
Jeter Downs, SS
Downs would be a top prospect in plenty of systems, but ranked No. 6 in the stacked Dodgers' Top 30 list. This is the second time Downs has been dealt, the first coming in Dec. 2018 when he was shipped from Cincinnati—which drafted him with the 32nd overall pick just six months earlier. The shortstop was coveted for his multilayered skill set, which includes strong hands and a swing geared to quickly and easily turn around top-end velocity. He projects as an average hitter but could upgrade that forecast by adjusting his approach to be a touch more aggressive. He's got reliable hands and a strong throwing arm but he needs to improve his range in order to stick at shortstop.
Connor Wong, C
Wong ranked 15th on the Dodgers' Top 30 Prospect list, but was blocked at his position by Will Smith in the big leagues, Keibert Ruiz in the upper minors and Diego Cartaya hot on his heels in the lower levels. The third-rounder out of Houston in 2017 saw time in the infield in college before converting to catching full-time after his freshman season. Wong put together an impressive 2019 season, blasting 24 homers between high Class A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa. That power comes with some swing-and-miss and leads evaluators to believe he likely will be a fringe-average hitter with some juice in his bat. He is a solid defender at second base and third base as well as behind the plate, and that versatility will give him plenty of chances to be a big leaguer.
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Kenta Maeda, RHP
At first glance, the idea of the Twins trading Graterol, one of the team’s best young pitching prospects, for a 31-year-old who has bounced between starting and relieving may seem odd. But there are some logical explanations for how this deal benefits the Twins. Minnesota viewed Graterol as a reliever, while Maeda immediately makes the Twins starting rotation deeper—which was a bigger need for the club. Last season, the Twins simply did not have the starting pitching to contend with the Yankees in their American League Division Series. Maeda is extremely durable, having thrown 100 or more innings in each of the past 12 seasons dating back to his rookie year with Hiroshima in Japan’s NPB in 2008. He’s averaged 175 innings a season during his pro career, and he’s signed to a very team-friendly contract that will pay him $3.125 million for each of the next four seasons. Graterol has more long-term upside than Maeda, but for a Twins team that is the favorite in the American League Central and is looking for its first playoff series win since 2002, Maeda makes the team better in 2020 and 2021. Maeda has four pitches (five if you count his four-seam and two-seam fastballs as separate offerings) that he throws regularly. He’s generally around the strike zone and very rarely gives up hard contact. He’s not the frontline starter Minnesota ideally needs, but he’s a useful No. 4 starter who should start playoff games.
Jair Camargo, C
The Dodgers signed Camargo for $60,000 during the 2015 international signing period. He spent three seasons in Rookie ball before jumping to low Class A Great Lakes last season, where he hit .236 with four home runs and a .642 OPS in 79 games. Camargo is a strong, thick-bodied catcher with big raw power, but he's a well below-average hitter who struggles to get to it in games. Defensively Camargo shows some receiving skills and threw out 33.7 percent of runners last year, although his blocking needs work (12 passed balls allowed in 65 games). Camargo projects as an organizational catcher for now. That could change if he improves his hitting enough to start tapping into his power.