Five days after it was first reported the Los Angeles Dodgers had reached an agreement to acquire Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts in a three-team trade also involving the Minnesota Twins, the trade seems to be going through. In a new, revised state.
During those five days of changing evaluations, contentious haggling and a new appreciation for the words “pending medical reviews,” the teams involved figured out a deal that still gave the Red Sox the prospects they wanted and the Dodgers the star they wanted (plus a bonus prospect).
In a trade involving a former MVP in Betts, a former Cy Young Award winner in Price and a player in Alex Verdugo who looked like a potential Rookie of the Year contender in 2019, it was the names most fans might not have heard of that go the job done. Here’s who they are and what they could end up being.
Who are the prospects in the new Mookie Betts trade?
To recap, the initial Betts trade was structured like this. The Red Sox send Betts and Price to Los Angeles, plus a mountain of cash to cover half of the three years and $96 million remaining on Price’s contract. In return, the Dodgers send Verdugo to Boston and right-hander Kenta Maeda to Minnesota, who then flip flamethrowing prospect Brusdar Graterol to the Red Sox.
The new deal is similar, though now it’s basically two two-team trades rather than one three-team trade. Betts and Price still go to Los Angeles, Verdugo goes to Boston and Maeda goes to Minnesota. However, the prospect algebra has changed significantly, not to mention cash (the Dodgers are still receiving the Price money, but also sending $10 million to the Twins) and draft picks (the Twins will send the 67th pick in the 2020 draft to Los Angeles).
Both the hold-up and the new deal are centered around Graterol, so we’ll start with him.
RHP Brusdar Graterol (No. 83 prospect at MLB Pipeline), goes from Twins to Dodgers
At first, Graterol was headed from Minnesota to Boston as one of two young players to replace Betts and Price. Now, he’s going to the Dodgers.
The right-hander’s potential starts with his fastball, and might end there too. His sinker — his most used pitch — averaged 99 mph last year according to Statcast and regularly hit triple-digits. MLB Pipeline is also a fan of his slider, calling it above-average and potential out pitch with a grade of 60. His curveball and changeup didn’t grade quite so well at 45.
Baseball Prospectus’ prospect team is even higher on him, ranking him as the No. 33 prospect in baseball this offseason.
The Twins called Graterol up late last season and used him exclusively as a reliever, even adding him to their ALDS roster. At 21 years old, Graterol is clearly an electric arm, though he dealt with shoulder issues last year and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017.
That entire report — triple-digit heat, one solid secondary offering, a history of arm issues and use as a reliever — seems to add up to Graterol likely being a future reliever, which is not as valuable as a starting pitching prospect. For some reason, that reliever future apparently came as a surprise to the Red Sox (or not) as they reviewed Graterol’s medical info, and caused them to try to re-negotiate the already agreed-upon trade.
So now Graterol will head to the Dodgers, who may give him a shot at starting but will likely want to see if he can turn into a dominant reliever and possible heir to Kenley Jansen as closer.
SS Jeter Downs (No. 44 prospect at MLB Pipeline), goes from Dodgers to Red Sox
Instead of getting a top 100 pitching prospect, the Red Sox managed to land a top 100 shortstop prospect.
Downs was acquired by the Dodgers from the Cincinnati Reds in last offseason’s Yasiel Puig trade, and he soon blossomed into a major prospect in the Los Angeles system.
Despite some major struggles at the plate to open the season, Downs ended up hitting .269/.354/.507 for Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga. He then performed even better in 12 games at Double-A Tulsa, hitting .333/.429/.688. Downs will probably open 2020 at Double-A again, but a similarly strong year could have him knocking on the MLB door in 2021.
Pipeline rates Downs’ tools all as average and slightly above-average, so his ceiling might be limited compared to others ranked around him. Baseball Prospectus is lower on him too, rating him as only the No. 8 prospect in the Dodgers’ system and not in the Top 100 at all.
Still, a quality MLB middle-infielder is nothing to sneeze at, and the Red Sox would definitely take that as the second-biggest piece in their end of the trade.
C Connor Wong (not in Top 100), goes from Dodgers to Red Sox
Wong could be a decent get for the Red Sox given that decent catching prospects are in short supply these days, but it was the Dodgers’ luxury that let them throw him into the trade.
Wong posted solid enough numbers at Rancho and Tulsa last year, hitting .281/.336/.541 with 24 homers (like Downs, he was even better at Tulsa). He even played some second and third base, in addition to catching. And yet, he was likely, at best, the fourth-best young catcher in the Dodgers’ deep system.
Ahead of Wong were likely Dodgers starter Will Smith, No. 73 overall prospect Keibert Ruiz and Diego Cartaya, ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the Dodgers’ system by Baseball Prospectus and No. 11 by Pipeline at the end of last year. To compare, Wong was ranked No. 16 by BP and No. 28 by Pipeline on the same lists.
Instead of getting buried in that depth chart, Wong will go to the Red Sox, who didn’t have a single catcher in last year’s top 30.
Luke Raley (not in Top 100), goes from Twins to Dodgers
It’s a homecoming of sorts for Raley, who was acquired from the Dodgers in 2018 as part of the Brian Dozier trade.
Raley somewhat stretches the definition of “prospect,” considering he’s pretty old for the title at 25 years old and doesn’t rank at all on BP and Pipeline’s Twins prospect list (though, again, Pipeline’s list hasn’t been refreshed for the offseason yet).
Still, Raley showed plenty of pop in an injury-shortened 2019, hitting .302/.362/.516 in 33 games at Triple-A Rochester. The Dodgers have a history of squeezing out quality platoon players for their bench out of less-heralded prospects, and Raley could be the next man up.
The full Mookie Betts trade(s)
In conclusion, here’s how the moves shake out:
Red Sox send Mookie Betts, David Price and cash to Dodgers
Dodgers send Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong to Red Sox
Twins send Brusdar Graterol, Luke Raley and No. 67 draft pick to Dodgers
Dodgers send Kenta Maeda and cash to Twins
Let’s hope it doesn’t get any more complicated than that.
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