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Scattered thoughts after the Mookie Betts trade

There’s plenty to unpack.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The Red Sox traded Mookie Betts to the Dodgers last night, with David Price joining him out of town. In exchange, the Red Sox got two young major leaguers in Alex Verdugo and Brusdar Gaterol. You know all this. If you don’t, well, please don’t shoot the messenger. Anyway, yeah, there is a lot to unpack here and a lot of different angles from which to look at this. So, it seems like a good time to dust off the ol’ scattered thoughts format and just throw them all out at once.

  • We’ll start with the stuff I already wrote last night in the immediate aftermath of the trade. As a fan, this is just brutal in a whole lot of ways. Seeing the Red Sox trade the best player they have developed in my lifetime and a guy who could very well be the best they develop at any point in my life moving forward, well, it sucks.
  • I think the part of this that is bothering me the most is that David Price was included in this deal. Moving Betts is bad enough, but if you decide as an organization that you are going to take this path, it’s unfathomable to prioritize payroll over a talented return. It seems pretty clear to me that they made their return worse by adding Price in, even eating half of his salary. Maybe I’m wrong and this was the level they were getting back either way, but I’m struggling to see how that could be the case.
  • I don’t want to be all negative here. The Red Sox obviously got worse here, but it’s worth noting that they aren’t totally dead in the water for the 2020 season. They still have a very good core in the lineup with Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers. They still have Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale in their rotation. They certainly got worse, but if they started yesterday as a projected 93-win team (as ZiPS projected), they are probably down to about 88ish now. That’s not a playoff favorite, but it’s a couple of good breaks from playing in October.
Boston Red Sox v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images
  • That said, there’s no question the margin of error got a whole lot of smaller for this team. They still need Sale and Nathan Eovaldi to stay healthy in that rotation, which is a big if. It is now even more important for Andrew Benintendi to take a step forward and Christian Vázquez to not regress too much. It’s hard to really pin down where this team is without knowing if there are more moves coming, and if so what they are.
  • I’m going to write in more detail about this later today, but I don’t want to overlook the impact of losing Price. All of the focus is on Betts, and for good reason, but trading Price makes this team worse, too. He was at least their third-best pitcher, and depending on your thoughts on Sale’s health and Rodriguez’ sustainability, there was a not-crazy case he could be their best arm. Like I just said, we don’t know what else they have planned before the season, if anything, but there’s a big hole in the rotation now and the drop from Price to whoever joins the rotation could be as big — and maybe bigger — as Betts to Verdugo.
  • Okay, so on to the return. We’ll start with Graterol, who Jake wrote about this morning. That pretty much covers most of what I have to say. I will just add that I would caution anyone on either side of this talking with any sort of certainty. I have seen people in favor of this trade talking about his ceiling as a good starter and those not so in favor of the trade acting as if he is a for-sure reliever. There are reasons to be excited about him and reasons to be worried about his future as a reliever. Given how upset I am about this trade I’m really leaning towards the former side, mostly because I need to avoid totally losing it. If nothing else, it will be a big test of the Red Sox development staff to help him find that changeup.
  • As for Verdugo, well, there’s three angles here. We’ll start with him on the field. Offensively, he reminds me a lot of Andrew Benintendi in that he has a good hit tool but there’s some real doubt that he’ll ever hit for more than average power, and whether or not he even gets there is a question. That is not a bad player, just like Benintendi is not a bad player, but it certainly limits the floor. Defensively, he has played center field and can probably play there, but I think he’s better in a corner. Assuming Jackie Bradley Jr. sticks around this year, I’d expect Verdugo to spend most of his time in right field.
  • There is also the fact that Verdugo has dealt with some back issues. As of just a month ago, he had not participated in baseball activities over the offseason. He said his goal was to be ready for Opening Day, which is never a great sign. The Red Sox obviously saw his medicals so they certainly know better than me, but it’s worth pointing out that back issues are generally the type of injury that stick around for a while. Just ask J.D. Martinez.
  • And, more importantly than that, Verdugo was allegedly at least present for an assault of an underage girl from his days as a Dodgers prospect. This was never investigated by the team, and it’s probably something the Red Sox will be forced to talk about. At least, they should be.
  • The Red Sox roster has a big hole in their rotation right now, and according to Sox Payroll they are now $16 million under the luxury tax threshold. If they are going to add a legitimate impact arm, though, it’ll probably have to come through trade. The remaining free agents don’t look too great. There’s an argument to be made that Andrew Cashner is the best starter out there. Yikes.
  • The idea that has been sold is that resetting this penalty is a one-year thing and they’ll be back to spending next year. It’s not a great class next year, with it being headlined by J.T. Realmuto, George Springer, Justin Turner, Kirby Yates, Marcus Stroman, and, of course, Betts.