The Mookie Betts trade rumours had already been hot in the past couple of weeks. The culmination came on Tuesday night, and it provided possibly the most impactful offseason trade in years. As first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, The Boston Red Sox traded their star outfielder to the Los Angeles Dodgers, while the Dodgers dealt young center fielder Alex Verdugo to Boston and Kenta Maeda to the Minnesota Twins, who also joined to make it a three-team trade. Here’s how it looks in the end:
Dodgers acquire: RF Mookie Betts, RHP David Price, cash (from BOS)
Red Sox acquire: CF Alex Verdugo (from LAD), RHP Brusdar Graterol (from MIN)
Twins acquire: RHP Kenta Maeda
Just hours later, Los Angeles moved outfielder Joc Pederson to their city rival, the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels, aiming at a first playoff appearance in six years, dealt second baseman Luis Rengifo, who made his MLB debut in April of last year, alongside minor league outfielder Andy Gapes.
The Red Sox certainly leave what was an eventful series of trades knowing that their chances of contending in the 2020 season have experienced a significant hit. Boston, in order to stay under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, had to cut down on payroll costs; Betts, who they agreed with on a $27 million 2020 salary to avoid arbitration in December, and Price, who is owed $96 million across the next three years of his deal. According to MLB insider Jon Heyman, the Dodgers are ready to take on nearly half of his remaining salary.
Boston isn’t quite yet in rebuild mode, but trading Betts pretty much says that the upcoming 2020 season won’t be the one in which they regain the AL East crown and return to postseason glory.
However, their window is still wide open, with the possibility to re-sign Betts in free agency next year remaining an option.
But while Boston loses two of its most essential players, the return is surely adequate. Alex Verdugo batted .294 and posted 3.2 WAR in his rookie season in SoCal, setting his ceiling very high. His potential, both short and long-term, could turn the deal into a pretty good one for the Red Sox beyond the 2020 season. Verdugo joins a core of position players which the Red Sox control for the foreseeable future, also including Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi. Top starting pitcher Chris Sale is also signed through 2025.
In spite of losing Betts, the most of what was the 4th-best batting lineup in Major League Baseball during the 2019 campaign in terms of runs scored is under at least two years of Red Sox control, unless JD Martinez declines his player option next offseason. It’ll definitely take a real hit without Betts in the lineup but it still has a few hitters who both are consistent and hit for power on a daily basis.
Bogaerts is now clearly the best piece in the lineup, with Devers, who had a .311 batting average in more than 600 AB in 2019, Martinez and Benintendi joining him at the top of the order. Verdugo, after a strong rookie season in the majors, could be headed there as well.
As a fallout of this trade, the Red Sox now have financial flexibility and can afford to be aggressive on the market come next winter. And if they add upgrades to their rotation and at second base, and JD Martinez uses his 2021 player option, the Red Sox could return to contention as soon as 2021.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers improved enough to be placed amongst the group of favourites to win the 2020 World Series. Although LA already had one of the most dominant batting orders in the National League, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was looking for yet another acquisition which would make the team overpowered offensively compared to everyone else in the field.
Not only do Betts and Cody Bellinger now make for a fascinating heart of the order, which is surrounded by solid hitters like Justin Turner, Corey Seager and AJ Pollock, but Friedman also lands a pitcher that they desperately needed to add to their rotation. Effectively replacing Maeda with Price, the rotation now has much more depth than with Maeda as the team’s third-choice starter.
Add to that Blake Treinen, who improves their bullpen, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin at the bottom of the rotation, and debuting star second baseman Gavin Lux joining the lineup. The Dodgers have very little holes and have strengthened their chances to finally end a 31-year World Series drought.
Maeda joins Twins
As for the Twins, they also got what they needed and wanted to finish off their offseason. Kenta Maeda is the last piece that Rocco Baldelli adds to the rotation.
Maeda, just like in LA, will be a No. 3 starter, behind returning Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi. The last two spots will be decided between veteran pitchers Rich Hill and Homer Bailey, both on one-year deals with Minnesota, and young starter Lewis Thorpe. Randy Dobnak, who started 5 of 9 appearances on the mound in 2019, is likely heading to the bullpen. The price the Twins paid for Maeda was MLB Pipeline’s No. 83 prospect Brusdar Graterol, one of MIN’s highest-ranked pitching prospects, but it was worth sacrificing the future for the present, especially after throwing the bank at Josh Donaldson.
Pederson to Angels
The Angels also made the most of the fact that Pederson wasn’t needed by the Dodgers anymore after the Betts acquisition and further improved a very solid returning lineup. Aside from the usual threat in Mike Trout, the signing of Anthony Rendon, and Tommy La Stella and Justin Upton, both back from injuries which limited their time last year, make for a pretty dangerous offensive side that the Angels could turn out to be next season.
They didn’t do an awful lot to fix the pitching staff, their Achilles’ heel, which could still be a problem. However, as Griffin Canning enters his second year in MLB, Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy were top pitchers not long ago, and Keynan Middleton boosts the Angels ‘pen after sitting out 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Angels could perhaps be expected to put on a pleasantly surprising display on the mound.