The Young And The Betts-Less

Nathan Grimm

Mookie Betts has been traded.


For the first time.

Scroll to continue with content

After the trade of the 27-year-old was originally reported as being agreed upon pending review of medicals on Tuesday, concerns over the medical information on Twins pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol -- one of the players going to the Red Sox, by way of the Dodgers -- held up the deal. That effectively caused all parts of the trade to be put on hold and even called into question whether the trade would get done at all.

On Sunday, the revised trade did get done, and while it had many of the same elements it also included some small-but-important tweaks. Betts and David Price are still going to the Dodgers, and outfielder Alex Verdugo is still headlining the Red Sox return. But instead of Graterol, who we'll get to in a minute, the Sox will receive top-100 shortstop prospect Jeter Downs and catching prospect Connor Wong from the Dodgers in the swap.

The Betts, Price and Verdugo angles have already been covered, but the inclusion of Downs adds some more upside for the Sox. The 21-year-old hit .276/.362/.526 with 24 homers and 24 steals across two levels, reaching Double-A, in 2019 and projects to be an above-average major league player. Wong, by many reports, could advance to the majors at some point in his career but isn't projected as an everyday player.

One aspect of the deal that was hugely affected by the delay was the subsequent trade that would have sent outfielder Joc Pederson and starter Ross Stripling to the Angels for infielder Luis Rengifo and two prospects. Despite the Betts deal going through, creating a logjam in the Dodgers outfield, the trade between the Dodgers and Angels was scuttled, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. Bob Nightengale of USA Today later reported Pederson remains on the trade block, suggesting it was the Angels who nixed the trade.

After Sunday's deal the Dodgers' 40-man roster stood at 42 players, meaning a corresponding move -- in some form -- is coming. As has been par for the course with the club in recent days, we just don't know what or when.

Padres, Rays Swap Useful Pieces

The Padres bullpen is shaping up to be a strength for the club in 2020.

The Rays, meanwhile, have been stocking up on outfielders.

So naturally the two sides made a deal Saturday, with the Padres receiving one of the game's best relievers and the Rays, a highly-regarded defensive outfielder.

A day before the Red Sox and Dodgers re-engaged on a Betts megadeal, the Rays and Padres consummated a trade that sent reliever Emilio Pagan to the Padres for Manuel Margot and prospect Logan Driscoll.

The deal is one of the rare ones that, at least on the surface, appears to help both teams as they angle to contend in 2020. The Rays add Margot to a group that has already received a few new infusions already this winter, with Hunter Renfroe, Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena joining the existing group of Austin Meadows and Kevin Kiermaier.

Margot was once a highly regarded prospect in the Red Sox system and impressed in a 2017 rookie season in which he swatted 13 homers and stole 17 bases, but he's struggled to find his footing in the years since. Last season, he hit .234/.304/.387 with 12 homers and 20 steals in 151 games.

What he lacks in offense he makes up for in defense, though. By Statcast metrics, the 25-year-old was in the 95th percentile in Outfielder Jump and 97th percentile in Outs Above Average categories in 2019.

The Rays' gain may be fantasy players' loss, though, or at least might cause some more headaches. The team seems intent on maximizing a new 26-man roster that will allow for clubs to play matchups more frequently. Margot, who hits lefties but struggles against right-handed pitching, may find himself as part of a platoon with Kiermaier, another elite-level defender; Martinez and another new addition, Japanese slugger Yoshi Tsutsugo, could split time at designated hitter. In fact, few roles on the Rays seem defined, with only Meadows and Willy Adames looking like locks for everyday at-bats.

For the Padres, Pagan is the latest addition to a bullpen that was already pretty good, and which has added top-end option Drew Pomeranz to a group including elite closer Kirby Yates, hard-throwing Andres Munoz and complementary pieces Jose Castillo, Craig Stammen and Matt Strahm.

Pagan has bounced around in recent years -- the Padres will be his fourth organization in four years -- but not for lack of ability. The 28-year-old posted a shiny 2.31 ERA while striking out 36 percent of batters faced in 2019, racking up 20 saves in a very good Rays bullpen.

Both teams have been among the most active this winter, as the Padres look to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2006 and the Rays attempt to build on a 2019 season in which they were a win away from an American League Championship Series appearance.

“That’s the focus," general manager Erik Neander said of the Rays' desire to win now. “That’s why we made the deal."

Twins Get Maeda After All

Another aspect of the trade did happen, albeit in a different form.

The Twins will receive Kenta Maeda and an unidentified prospect from the Dodgers for Graterol, the Twins' Competitive Balance B pick in 2020, and outfield prospect Luke Raley. The Twins will also get $10 million from the Dodgers in the deal.

Unlike the Red Sox, the Dodgers were comfortable with Graterol's medicals, and are expected to use the hard-throwing 21-year-old in the bullpen as early as 2020. Graterol had a 4.66 ERA in 10 appearances with the Twins in 2019, striking out 10 in 9 2/3 innings of work.

The big winner remains Maeda, who should have every chance to make a full complement of starts in Minnesota. Maeda threw 153 2/3 innings for the Dodgers last season, going 10-8 with a 4.04 ERA, a 27.1 percent strikeout percentage and three saves to boot.

With the trades coming down, our online Draft Guide mixed league rankings have been updated with new rankings for Betts, Verdugo, Price and Maeda.

Quick Hits: Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports that the Red Sox are expected to name bench coach Ron Roenicke their new manager. Abraham says that the Red Sox are holding off on making an announcement until MLB concludes its investigation into the team's alleged sign-stealing in 2018. Roenicke, of course, has four-plus years of managerial experience, having been at the helm of the Brewers from 2011 until he was fired early on in 2015 ... Giants signed OF Hunter Pence to a one-year, $3 million contract. The 36-year-old outfielder has passed his physical and is officially back with the Giants, where he played for seven seasons from 2012-2018. Pence can also earn an additional $2.25 million in incentives. He's likely to be used primarily as a platoon option against left-handed starters, which restricts his overall fantasy appeal ... White Sox second base prospect Nick Madrigal will be given a chance to make the club's Opening Day roster. The soon to be 23-year-old infielder was the fourth overall pick in the first round of the 2018 draft. He reached Triple-A late last season and is poised to take over the starting second base job for the White Sox sooner rather than later -- perhaps even at the start of the season. Service time considerations would seemingly keep Madrigal in the minors for at least the first three weeks of the season, but the White Sox have a history of signing their top prospects to long-term contracts before they reach the majors. They did that with both Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. Yolmer Sanchez started at second base for Chicago last year but was non-tendered this off-season despite winning a Gold Glove award. Leury Garcia could begin the season at the keystone but he is just a place-holder until Madrigal is ready to take over. Madrigal is a high-contact, low-power speedster who will likely be used as a table-setter atop the White Sox batting order. He stole 35 bags across three levels last year ... Tyler Glasnow had a median nerve decompression procedure in his right wrist in November. This is the first we've heard about the surgery. The good news is Glasnow has been throwing with no problems, including most recently off the mound at Tropicana Field on Friday. The right-hander is expected to be on a normal schedule at the start of spring training. While the wrist operation doesn't sound like it was a big deal, Glasnow remains a health risk after being limited to just 12 starts last season due to a flexor strain ... Giants signed OF Billy Hamilton to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Hamilton really bottomed out last season with an embarrassing .218/.289/.275 batting line across 353 plate appearances for the Royals and Braves. He remains an elite defensive center fielder and base runner, though, and should have a pretty good shot to crack the Giants' Opening Day roster. Whether Hamilton ultimately plays enough to provide the speed necessary to be fantasy relevant is another issue ... Red Sox and OF Andrew Benintendi avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $10 million contract. Benintendi had requested $4.15 million and was offered $3.4 million by the Red Sox in arbitration. A potential bounceback candidate after a disappointing 2019, Benintendi should be in position to capitalize on a prime opportunity atop the Red Sox lineup with Betts now in Los Angeles ... Kendrys Morales has announced his retirement from baseball. Morales' career ended with a whimper in 2019 when he batted just .194/.313/.253 over 53 games for the Athletics and Yankees. However, he had plenty of nice moments over his nice 13-year career, finishing with a .265/.327/.453 batting line and 213 home runs for the Angels, Mariners, Twins, Royals, Blue Jays, A's and Yankees.

What to Read Next