Red Sox Stumble Their Way Through Betts Trade, Finally Make It Official
Apparently, the Red Sox had spent all of this time looking for the right deal to trade Mookie Betts and somehow they had missed the little detail of Brusdar Graterol's health. Graterol was the flamethrowing pitching prospect being sent from the Minnesota Twins in the three-team trade, and his medical records were causing Boston to hit the pause button. The 21-year-old has already missed a year after tearing his UCL and undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2016 while also dealing with a shoulder impingement in 2019 that caused him to miss the better part of the season.
Graterol certainly has a lot of upside and talent but is projected more as a reliever than a starter. Again, somehow the Red Sox claim not to have known this when they made the deal so they pulled back and asked for more. What this comes down to is that the Sox were either trying to pull a bait and switch, or worse, they are just painfully dumb. The handling of this clearly angered the Twins, the Dodgers, the Angels (who were also slightly involved as they were about to make a deal with the Dodgers for Joc Pederson), Graterol's agent Scott Boras, and many others.
While the deal stalled out, many wondered whether the Sox were also getting cold feet due to backlash from their fan base. Again, how would the Red Sox explain not foreseeing that though? This trade was never going to go over well and now they realized that? Yikes. The one thing that would have made sense here is if they didn't know how many angles of this were going to be criticized. Boston fans and media weren't just attacking the trade of Betts and Price or the Graterol evaluation, they were latching on to an unsavory story involving Alex Verdugo.
Verdugo is the outfielder being sent from the Dodgers to the Red Sox to "replace" Betts. While he's been a top prospect and shown that he can play at the big league level, he could only dream of having the type of career Mookie is having. That isn't the issue though. The issue is that Verdugo has been caught up in an off-field scandal with details that will make it hard for any fan to support him.
In February of 2019, a website called "High Heels On The Field" reported on a scandal that never really saw the light of day. The post is called "Dodgers After Dark" and it alleges that Verdugo was present with other Los Angeles prospects while a woman was sexually and physically assaulted. While Verdugo never was charged with anything, the story is enough to make your stomach turn. The Boston media picked this up and let's just say that it added a whole other layer to why the Red Sox should have backed out of this deal.
All week the baseball world waited and waited to find out if Mookie was indeed staying in Boston or heading to the west coast. There were reports of the Twins, now fed up, refusing the Red Sox offer for more or better prospects. Could the Dodgers, who had dangled Mookie Betts over their fan base, let this deal fail? Would the Red Sox, who had already handled this whole thing abhorrently, actually pull the trigger? The MLB Players Union called for the teams to make a decision and stop dragging their feet. On Sunday, we got our resolution.
The original deal was a three-teamer with the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins. Boston would send Mookie Betts, David Price and cash to the Dodgers. The Dodgers would send Alex Verdugo to Boston and take on some of Betts' and Price's salaries while flipping starting pitcher Kenta Maeda to the Twins. The Twins, in turn, would send Graterol to Boston. Now, things had changed. The Twins weren't directly involved anymore and would deal Graterol to the Dodgers for Maeda separately. Boston would send the same package to the Dodgers while Los Angeles would now add in two other prospects, shortstop Jeter Downs and catcher Conor Wong.
Medicals were reviewed and the deal was official. Boston fans were still angry, but industry sources said the Sox "did better." That really doesn't change the fact that the Sox grossly misread the market and new Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom couldn't have looked worse. In my honest opinion, they still lost in a huge way. Jeter Downs (yes, he's named after THAT Jeter), is a shortstop who immediately becomes one of the best young pieces in the Sox farm system. That's not saying a whole lot, however. Conor Wong is a lesser prospect who is known for his power, but not his actual hitting or defense. Sounds promising!
Another angle to this is that the Sox missed out on Graterol. He has some red flags, like being 265 pounds, but the industry is praising the Dodgers for acquiring what could be an "elite closer." This is one of those situations where I'll just be a negative, glass-half-empty, Red Sox fan. If Boston had gotten him, he would have been damaged goods and we'd all be making jokes about him popping his belt like Pablo Sandoval. Now that we didn't though? He'll use this slight as motivation and become an absolute stud for the Dodgers. I'd bet anything on it.
Short of backing out of the deal, nothing was going to work for the Red Sox here. They dealt their best player and possibly best pitcher and got back two decent prospects and a good, not great big-league outfielder with character issues. You can hope for a miracle and say the Sox will re-sign Mookie in the offseason or they'll somehow shock us this year, but I'm not buying any of it. The ownership is hiding behind hollow statements while raising prices and punting on the season.