The trade sending Mookie Betts to the Dodgers looks like a mistake but Jeter Downs might be the key piece to making this deal a win for the Boston Red Sox.
I never thought I’d type this sentence as a Red Sox fan, but one day, Fenway Park is going to chant “Jeter! Jeter!”
While Red Sox Nation continues to mourn the loss of Mookie Betts, who was officially traded to the Dodgers on Feb. 9, the details of the trade offer a little more optimism than the initial trade.
I’ll never say this was a good deal, as trading a 27-year-old phenom for a couple of young players is never a winning move, but outfielder Alex Verdugo, infielder Jeter Downs and catcher Connor Wong is a better haul for Boston than the original three-way trade involving the Minnesota Twins offered.
While Verdugo was the centerpiece of the original trade, he isn’t the player with the most upside coming from Los Angeles. That mark goes to Downs, the middle infielder named after longtime Yankee nemesis Derek Jeter. If this trade is a win for Boston, it won’t be because Verdugo replaces Betts, as Verdugo seems like a future above-average outfielder with a questionable work ethic. The steal will be Downs, who has climbed up prospect rankings and could be a future all-star at the middle infield position.
Downs was rated as MLB.com’s No. 44 rated prospect. The Reds traded the 21-year-old to the Dodgers in the Yasiel Puig deal, and Los Angeles tried to move him to shortstop, when he was primarily a second baseman in Cincinnati’s farm system.
Two areas where Downs will excel in Boston is the team’s need for a second baseman and his ability as a right-handed bat. Second base is easily the Red Sox’s weakest position of infield players, and it has been plagued with injuries.
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Dustin Pedroia’s latest setback has seemingly put his career in doubt, while the left side of the infield is locked up for the future with Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers. Boston has a glaring need for a second baseman.
In addition to his ability to fill a need, a right-handed bat is exactly what fits at Fenway Park.
Downs was a 44.7 percent pull hitter last season, per FanGraphs. His ability to pull the ball with his developing power will be instrumental to his success in Boston. Downs hit .276, with 24 home runs and 35 doubles. His ability to hit balls off of the Green Monster will be a huge advantage for the Red Sox.
This trade represents a great opportunity for Downs to lock down the infield for the immediate future. With Bogaerts, Devers, and potentially Downs, the Red Sox have the best young infield in all of baseball. Especially at the plate, with all players projected to be long-term good hitters, and Devers as a potential MVP candidate as early as next season.
So while the Boston Red Sox inexplicably traded Mookie Betts, there’s an opportunity for an infielder named Jeter to become the biggest name in Boston.