Posted on February 4, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine
Just when the offseason was starting to wind down, the wildest trade of the winter takes place. The blockbuster deal is centered around the Boston Red Sox sending Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers will be sending outfielder Alex Verdugo to the Red Sox and starter Kenta Maeda to the Minnesota Twins, who are the third team in the deal. The Twins will receive Maeda while shipping pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol to the Red Sox.
For the Red Sox, this trade was all about reducing payroll. Both Betts and Price have been in the rumor mill for most of the winter, largely because of their salaries. Betts is set to make $27 million this year in his final season before free agency. Price, meanwhile, will make $32 million in each of the next three seasons. Boston will pay a significant chunk of his contract, but they will get it off their books as a way to reduce payroll ahead of the season.
On the field, Verdugo will likely take over for Betts in right field. Last year was his first full season in the majors outside of missing time due to an oblique injury. Verdugo hit .294 with an OPS of .817. He’ll obviously be a drop-off from Betts, who’s been an all-star in four straight seasons and won MVP honors in 2018. However, Verdugo has proven to be a productive big leaguer early in his career. He’s also likely to improve and won’t even be arbitration-eligible until 2022, helping save the Red Sox money.
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As for the Dodgers, they hope that Betts will be the last piece of the puzzle who can help deliver a championship. Unless they can work out an extension, they’ll only have him for one season until he hits the open market. However, Betts has been one of the truly elite players in baseball over the last few seasons. Despite a deep stable of outfielders, he will be an upgrade in right field and a great complement to a lineup that already includes the reigning National League MVP Cody Bellinger.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles is essentially swapping out Maeda for Price in their starting rotation. Price didn’t appear to be a frontline starter last season. He’s also missed time due to injuries in two of the last three seasons. However, he should at least be a solid mid-rotation starter, which is all the Dodgers need with Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler ahead of him in the pecking order. The club was also able to part ways with Maeda, who has expressed displeasure with his role with the team the past few seasons.
In the short term, the Red Sox losing Price creates a vacancy in their starting rotation. Starting pitcher depth isn’t one of Boston’s strengths at the moment. There will be some competition for the fifth spot in the rotation during spring training. On the bright side, the Red Sox have improved their farm system with Graterol, who is the no. 70 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com. He’s yet to pitch above A-ball but has the ceiling of a frontline starter.
Finally, the Twins have done well in this trade as well. They’ll lose Graterol but gain Maeda, who is making just $3 million per year for the next four years. That’s a bargain for a reliable mid-rotation starter who will be happy to be out of Los Angeles. He’ll help solidify a promising rotation that will have five proven starters once Michael Pineda returns from his suspension.
Needless to say, there’s a lot to unpack from this trade with all three teams having different goals. The Dodgers hope that Betts, and perhaps Price, can improve their roster enough to win a World Series. The Red Sox, while hurting themselves in the short run, have reduced payroll and added a promising young player and a quality prospect. The Twins, meanwhile, have further improved a strong rotation that will help them retain their AL Central crown. As always, only time will tell what teams will be the winners and losers of this trade. However, we may very well have answers to that by October.
Editor’s Note: A few days after this trade was completed, the Minnesota Twins backed out of the trade, voiding the three-team deal discussed in this article.