The Mookie Betts trade is finally official. Contributor Ben Schneider takes a look at which new players Baltimore Orioles fans will soon see often.
It took a week, but the Mookie Betts trade has been completed, and the Baltimore Orioles are still happy to see him go. Some of the details have changed, but the Orioles will get their reprieve from the former MVP and former Cy Young winner David Price.
In the restructured deal, the two stars go to the Dodgers with cash to pay for half of Price’s remaining contract. In return, the Red Sox receive major league outfielder Alex Verdugo, top shortstop prospect Jeter Downs, and mid-level catching prospect Connor Wong. The changes occurred because the Red Sox were alarmed by the medical records of pitcher Brusdar Graterol.
In a separate trade, the Twins are now sending Graterol to the Dodgers instead of the Red Sox, along with outfield prospect Luke Raley and the 67th pick in this year’s draft. The Twins still get Kenta Maeda, $10 million, and a prospect to be determined.
What I wrote last week about Betts and Price is still true. They both have dominated the Orioles over their careers and won’t get the chance to this season, as Baltimore lines up with the NL Central in interleague play. They shouldn’t fret though, because they now play for the World Series favorites.
More of interest to the Orioles is who the Red Sox got back in return, and there is some concern. I went over Verdugo’s stats when the initial trade came out, but I have since learned that he brings significant baggage to the table. Verdugo has been implicated in a sexual assault case stemming from spring training of last year. Assuming this is true, the Dodgers are wrong to look past the event, and the Red Sox are wrong to trade for someone with such a serious drawback.
Perhaps even more concerning is the lack of coverage this news has gotten. The alleged assault occurred last spring, and I only heard about it for the first time since the trade happened, and very few articles even mentioned it. I generally find baseball writing to have a lot of integrity, but the sparse mentions are very unsettling and speak to larger problem in the sport of reckoning with sexual violence.
In the less upsetting parts of the trade, the Red Sox greatly improved their return after the restructure. It is rather amusing that Boston now has a player named Jeter, but chances are he will not stick at shortstop unlike his namesake. That shouldn’t bother the Red Sox much because he can be the long term answer at second base, and he has the offensive numbers to make up for the switch.
In 119 games last season between High-A and AA, Downs broke out with a .888 OPS, 24 home runs, and 86 RBI’s. His twelve games in AA look even better with a slash line of .333/.429/.688 for an OPS of 1.116. He recorded 16 hits in those 12 games, including three home runs in a playoff game. I think he’ll be ready to start in the majors for 2021, and the Orioles better be ready too or else Downs will hurt them like Derek did.
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Connor Wong is not a top prospect like Downs, but he has hit just as well in the minors. At the same two levels last season, Wong had an .878 OPS with 24 home runs and 82 RBI’s. In 40 games at AA –not such a small sample size– his numbers also improved to .349/.393/.604 with 52 hits. Wong is not considered to be a good defender, but catcher is also a position of need for the Red Sox, and he has played some infield. Baltimore should also look out for Wong down the road.
Overall, the Red Sox should be happy with the return now even though fans are rightly upset about trading Betts and giving up on 2020. According to MLB Pipeline, Downs is the 44th-best prospect while Graterol is 83rd. Throw in Wong, who likely cracks the bottom of the Dodgers’ top 30 list, and the Red Sox clearly did better now than in the original trade.
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The Baltimore Orioles might not be happy about that aspect, but this is a much more appropriate return for trading one of baseball’s best.