The Red Sox Will Miss Mookie Betts in 2020, But Love Alex Verdugo for Years to Come
Getting Alex Verdugo for five years, a guy who's an above-average right fielder RIGHT NOW and just about to be 24 years old is already more than a fair return for ONE year of Betts. The Sox also essentially received top prospect infielder Jeter Downs and catcher Connor Wong for David Price. That’s more than fair, too. Because of Jeter Downs’ inclusion, the scales already seem to tip in Boston's favor in long term value.
To facilitate moving some payroll, the Dodgers traded Kenta Maeda to the Twins for Brusdal Graterol. He already projects as an elite reliever or league average starter. They will likely get the same or more production from Graterol than they would've gotten from Maeda at about league minimum for the next 3 seasons.
The Dodgers also kicked in $10 million to help offset some of the incentive money that will be owed to Maeda if he becomes a full-time starter - which the Twins will certainly do. To make up for that cash, the Dodgers re-acquired outfielder Luke Fraley, who went to the Twins in the Brian Dozier deal several years ago.
A Mookie Betts Return to Boston Can't Be Ruled Out!
The other thing that no one seems to consider is that unless Mookie Betts signs an extension with the Dodgers, there is nothing stopping the Red Sox from bidding for his services after the 2020 season. They will now have the payroll space to do so if they so wish.
Jackie Bradley Jr. needs to have a serious rebound in 2020, or he will easily be let go after the year. That frees up another $11 million in payroll. Verdugo can handle center field, so a Betts return should never be ruled out. Will it happen? Probably not - but you never know.
The Red Sox freed up $41 million on this year's payroll alone, and $16 million a year for 2021 and 2021. This assumes that the cash the Red Sox are paying the Dodgers to cover half of David Price's remaining contract obligations is split evenly. This isn't nearly to the level of the infamous salary dump of Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez but the Red Sox suddenly have a lot of options after 2020.
Who Won the Betts/Price/Verdugo/Downs Trade?
I grade this trade an A-plus-plus for the Red Sox. Red Sox fans should be thrilled they stole Alex Verdugo and got a future starting second baseman in Jeter Downs, plus a potential good backup catcher in Wong. I love Mookie Betts but this is a dream return for the Sox. The Twins got a very underrated pitcher in Kenta Maeda and Graterol was more than a fair price to pay the Dodgers for his services.
As for the Dodgers, it’s forced them to make other tough decisions. They were about to jettison outfielder Joc Pederson, himself a free agent after the 2020 season, to the Angels for a promising but so far light hitting infielder in Luis Rengifo. They were also set to trade Ross Stripling, also to the Angels, to make room in the rotation for Price. But, because of hold-ups over the Red Sox’s thoughts about Brusdal Graterol’s medicals, the trade was delayed so long that the Angels pulled out. So, for now, Pederson and Stripling remain in limbo.
Yes, Betts makes the Dodgers probably 3 wins better by himself. Price may make them one win better. Was that worth FIVE YEARS of Verdugo? I don’t think so. But, you understand why the Dodgers made this trade. They had too many guys for too few jobs. They finally want to win it all this year. I’d call this trade a B for the Dodgers, since Betts is about the best rental you can get and Price is still a very useful pitcher. They also get an intriguing live arm in Brusdal Graterol.
In fact, I’d argue Price will be better in Dodger Stadium and the National League - something people haven’t really brought up. If Price becomes a well above-average pitcher again, this trade will suddenly look a lot more fair. The Red Sox are also kicking in $48 million for the next three years, so they’re really only paying $16 million a year - a fair expense for what Price appears to be at this point. Graterol may also benefit from Dodger Stadium and the National League.
Because the Dodgers are now in luxury tax trouble, trading Pederson and Stripling seems necessary to duck back under the tax line. Trading one or both probably takes away some of the gain the Dodgers will get from Betts and Graterol. The overall trade makes sense, but it’s far more of a win for the Red Sox, especially with the late inclusion of the excellent young Downs. The 2020 Red Sox will be worse for it, but it was the right decision in my eyes.