By Louis Addeo-Weiss
While it was reported last Tuesday that the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox had come to terms on a trade that would send the soon-to-be free agent right fielder Mookie Betts and pitcher David Price to Los Angeles,
this didn’t materialize as quickly as most assumed it would.
The reason: medicals.
The Minnesota Twins, the third team involved in this most recent blockbuster, were to acquire Dodgers’ pitcher Kenta Maeda while sending pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol to Boston.
However, concerns over Graterol’s medical history stalled the trade that figured to sent Maeda to Minnesota, Graterol and Dodgers’ outfielder Alex Verdugo to Boston, with Price and Betts – the centerpieces here – to Los Angeles.
Given Graterol’s medical concerns over his elbow and shoulder, the 21-year old native of Venezuela is projected to serve as a relief option with LA should he crack the opening day roster in 2020.
Now, nearly a week after it was first announced and with many a-tweak, the trade is complete. Betts and Price, as originally reported, are headed to Los Angeles, with the Dodgers taking on half of Price’s $96 million owed over the next three years, as well as Betts’ $27 million for 2020.
The Twins receive Maeda and $10 million from the Dodgers, with Graterol finding himself in Los Angeles rather than the originally reported Boston. Along with Graterol, the Dodgers will receive outfielder Luke Raley and Minnesota’s 2020 Competitive Balance Pick (67th overall).
Verdugo’s status remains unchanged, as he expects to be Boston’s major league asset in the deal, with the Dodgers forfeiting coveted minor league prospect, shortstop/second baseman Jeter Downs, and catching prospect Connor Wong, who hit .281 with 24 home runs between Single- and Double-A.
Other than a solid offensive profile, slugging .510 with a .342 on-base percentage in the minors, Wong offers positional versatility, playing second and third base in conjunction with catching – similar to that of Dodgers’ backup catcher Austin Barnes.
As for the other trade the Dodgers had originally agreed to – one with the 405-rivals the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim that would’ve sent outfielder Joc Pederson, pitcher Ross Stripling, and outfield prospect Andy Pages to the Big A in exchange for infielder Luis Rengifo and prospects – that trade is as good as dead.
For the Dodgers, a team with excess outfield depth – with names such as Bellinger, Pollock, the newly acquired Betts, Matt Beaty, Kike Hernandez, Chris Taylor all serving as options in the outfield – moving Pederson would’ve and still serves as a means of clearing some space in that crowded outfield. It also would’ve helped to clear up some cap space, with the impending free agent expected to earn $7.75 million in 2020.
The real losers here are Pederson, Stripling, and, from an organizational standpoint, the Angels.
Pederson’s power is raw and real, as exemplified by 36 home runs in just 512 plate appearances. The 2015 All-Star also made vast improvements in the field, totaling 11 defensive runs saved across all three outfield positions. Pederson’s absence will leave the team scrambling for a right fielder,
Pederson’s presence in the Angels lineup could’ve given them a nice stopgap for top prospect Joe Adell, who looks to have some impact in 2020, though 2021 should be his first full year of exposure.
Even more, Justin Upton isn’t a spring chicken, turning 33 in August, and posting a meager 92 OPS+ in 63 games played in 2019 – a year lost mostly due to turf toe. Upton’s contract, which sees to pay him $72 million through 2022, would’ve perfectly coincided with Andy Pages’ arrival to the major leagues.
Pages, who posted a 165 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) in Rookie Ball at the age of 18, slashing .298/.398/.651 in 63 games, projected to be the Angels’ left fielder of the future to complement a lineup that already features Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon.
And given Pages’ already advanced approach at the plate, ala shades of Juan Soto, could he have arrived in, say, 2022, Upton’s final year under contract and the first in the post-Albert Pujols era, Pages’ could’ve easily solidified in his place in left field while Upton became a full-time DH.
But no, as MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported, “LAA’s Moreno (team owner) grew impatient, pulled deal.”
We haven’t even discussed the loss of Ross Stripling, who, as I wrote last week when news of the trade first broke, would’ve gotten his first opportunity to start over a full season.
Now, the Angels are left without an affordable and viable rotation option in Stripling, who will again be relegated to a role as a spot-starter/bullpen arm should the team not trade him before the start of the season.
In four seasons at the big league level, Stripling has never thrown more than 122 innings in a full-season.
For the Angels to turn the other cheek to this deal is foolishness in its greatest sense, as above-listed names would’ve all served valuable roles for the organization now and in the near future.
Without Stripling, the team looks to boast a starting staff of Julio Teheran, Andrew Heaney, Dylan Bundy, Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, with the possibility of two-way star Shohei Ohtani contributing meaningful innings as well.
Stripling, given his established reputation, boasting a 3.36 ERA and 3.50 FIP since the start of 2017, would’ve presented a more viable option than Sandoval, who posted a 5.03 ERA in his 39 inning cup of coffee in 2019.
It’s been said before, but it bears repeating; don’t waste Mike Trout, arguably the greatest player since Barry Bonds, in the prime of his career – and that’s exactly what reflects in what the Angels did here.