The Boston Red Sox have finally finalized their trade with the Dodgers and the return for Mookie Betts has slightly improved.
The deal is finally done! It’s still not a great trade for the Boston Red Sox – they were never going to “win” a deal that involves giving away one of the best players in baseball. The revised package heading to Boston is a bit better than what was originally reported though.
What started as a complicated three-team trade ended up being completed as two separate deals. The Red Sox were initially expected to receive flame-throwing pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol from the Minnesota Twins but the trade was put on pause due to concerns with the right-hander’s medical review. Boston’s brass felt that Graterol’s arm wouldn’t hold up under a starter’s workload, in which case his long-term value wasn’t as high as they anticipated.
Graterol will end up with the Dodgers with Kenta Maeda still going to Minnesota, as was the plan under the original three-team proposal.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Red Sox have traded Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers along with enough cash to cover half Price’s salary. That part hasn’t changed from the original deal but the haul that Boston receives has been tweaked. Alex Verdugo remains the headliner but instead of Graterol, the Dodgers are sending shortstop Jeter Downs and catcher Connor Wong.
This isn’t close to fair value for a superstar of Betts’ caliber – even for one year of Betts. The Red Sox are taking less in order to shed half of Price’s contract. It’s been a shameless salary dump all along. However, this revised deal is an improvement.
Boston’s concerns about Graterol’s long-term health might be a little overblown but his value certainly takes a hit if he’s viewed as a reliever. Setting those concerns aside, Downs is still a more valuable prospect. MLB Pipeline ranks Downs No. 44 overall while Graterol is ranked No. 83.
Downs recovered from a slow start last year to hit .269/.354/.507 with 19 home runs and 23 steals in 107 games in High-A ball. His bat got hotter as the year went on, earning him a promotion to Double-A where he hit .333 with a 1.116 OPS in 12 games.
The 21-year old has quick hands and sneaky strength that should allow him to hit for average and power. He has played mostly at the shortstop position but has some experience at second base, which is where the Red Sox probably view him long-term with Xander Bogaerts locked in at shortstop.
Wong didn’t make MLB Pipeline’s top-100 list but he provides the Red Sox farm system with some depth at a thin catcher position. He displayed impressive power for his position, blasting 24 home runs in 111 games split between High-A and Double-A.
A team that prides itself on fielding an annual contender trading away the face of the franchise is a tough pill for fans to swallow but the package they ultimately received makes it a bit easier to choke down. Verdugo’s questionable character and work ethic issues will be under a microscope in Boston but he’s a talented young outfielder who was once the top prospect in the Dodgers system. Downs is a legitimate prospect worth getting excited about and he’s now easily the best talent the Red Sox have in their farm system.
The deal that was originally reported was blasted by nearly every media outlet and blog in Boston. A terrible deal got worse when it was determined the prospect heading to the Red Sox would top out as a reliever. You have to wonder if the PR-conscious Red Sox owners heard the backlash to the trade and used the medical report on Graterol as an excuse to pry more value out of the Dodgers knowing there was no going back for them once fans in Los Angeles were convinced they were getting Betts.
It’s an interesting conspiracy theory but there are some holes in the concept. The Red Sox would have to be completely clueless to not realize there would be a negative reaction to trading Betts, regardless of the return. They can try spinning it as a deal they had to do because the greed of Betts priced him out of town. That’s garbage. This trade is about getting under the luxury tax and washing their hands of Price.
The Dodgers were the only team in baseball willing and able to help the Red Sox achieve both of those goals. That’s why Betts will be wearing Dodger Blue this season.