Mookie Betts trade: Dodgers, Red Sox finalize blockbuster after lengthy delay, reports say
The Twins are involved in a separate deal with the Dodgers
Nearly a week after it was originally reported, the Mookie Betts trade is finally happening. The Boston Red Sox are sending Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a revised deal that is now a pair of two-team trades rather than one big three-team trade with the Minnesota Twins, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
The trades have not yet been announced but that is expected to happen soon after medical reviews. Here are the reported revised terms of the trades:
- Dodgers get: Betts, Price, cash (all from Red Sox) and Brusdar Graterol, 2020 Competitive Round B draft pick (from Twins)
- Red Sox get: Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, Connor Wong (from Dodgers)
- Twins get: Kenta Maeda, lower-level minor leaguer, cash (from Dodgers)
Originally, the Red Sox were to acquire Verdugo and Graterol from the Twins. Something in Graterol's medicals concerned Boston though — Graterol had Tommy John surgery in 2016 and missed time with a shoulder issue in 2019 — and the Red Sox sought additional compensation. That led to the delay and eventually the reworked trade.
Graterol will now stay with the Dodgers with Los Angeles sending Downs, a shortstop, to the Red Sox instead. The two separate trades are Maeda for Graterol, and Verdugo and Downs for Betts and Price (and cash).
For posterity's sake, here were the original terms of the three-team trade:
- Dodgers get: Betts, Price, cash (all from Red Sox)
- Red Sox get: Alex Verdugo (from Dodgers), Brusdar Graterol (from Twins)
- Twins get: Kenta Maeda (from Dodgers)
In a separate and subsequent trade, the Dodgers are expected to send Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling to the Los Angeles Angels. Infielder Luis Rengifo and two prospects will go the other way. With the Red Sox reportedly covering half Price's contract, and Maeda and Pederson being shipped out, the Dodgers will be able to stay under the $208 million luxury tax threshold in 2020.
Spring training is set to begin this week and the Red Sox presumably wanted to avoid the awkwardness of Betts and Price reporting to their spring camp a week after being traded, so the three parties worked to find a solution over the weekend. The MLBPA, it should be noted, ripped the teams for the delay and leaving the players in limbo.
"The proposed trades between the Dodgers, Red Sox, Twins and Angels need to be resolved without further delay," MLBPA chief Tony Clark said in a statement Friday. "The events of this last week have unfairly put several players' lives in a state of limbo. The unethical leaking of medical information as well as the perversion of the salary arbitration process serve as continued reminders that too often players are treated as commodities by those running the game."
Betts, 27 and the 2018 AL MVP, is scheduled to become a free agent after the season, and he's expected to seek a market value contract. Given his age and performance, he could command upward of $400 million. At the very least, Mookie is a $300 million player, and the Dodgers figured to be among his top free agent suitors even before the trade.
The Red Sox have reportedly made Betts several modest extension offers over the years, and because they don't want to lose him for nothing but a draft pick after the season, they made the trade. They get young talent and considerable salary relief, allowing them to get under the luxury tax threshold in 2020. That has been a stated goal this offseason.
Price, 34, battled wrist trouble last season and is owed $96 million through 2022. He was excellent as recently as 2018 — Price was magnificent during Boston's run to the World Series title — and the Dodgers get him at half-cost. Betts is considerably better than Verdugo and Price can be better than Maeda. It's a two-tiered upgrade for Los Angeles.
As for the Twins, they get a quality major league starter signed affordably through 2023. Minnesota is ready to win now — Nelson Cruz and Josh Donaldson aren't getting any younger — and Maeda is better able to help them in the short-term than Graterol, who is not yet established at the MLB level and doesn't have a clear long-term role. They're opting for certainty.
The delay was ripe for conspiracy theories. Did the Red Sox want to rework the trade after seeing the public reaction (i.e. all the angry Red Sox fans)? Did they see the James Paxton injury and decide to keep Betts and Price, and try to win the AL East? Nope. The simplest explanation is often correct: Boston really didn't like something the team saw in Graterol's medicals.
The Dodgers were the overwhelming favorites to win the NL West with or without Betts (and Price). They made this move to win the World Series. The Twins are AL Central favorites and they're trying to advance beyond the ALDS, something they haven't done since 2002. The Red Sox? They seem to be cutting costs without completely tanking.