On an otherwise quiet Tuesday night in sports, many baseball fans suddenly changed their television channels from The State of the Union Address to The Baseball Network as former league MVP Mookie Betts was reportedly traded. It’s not an unprecedented maneuver, as we have recently seen the likes of Josh Donaldson, Andrew McCutchen, and Giancarlo Stanton dealt sometime after collecting their MVP trophies; however, it’s one certainly worthy of immediate national attention. Additionally, Betts is widely labelled a top-5 talent in the game today while the aforementioned players didn’t quite carry that allure when traded. The reported mega-deal involves two separate agreements featuring four teams and nine players, led by former American League MVP and current 27-year-old standout Mookie Betts.
The first purported deal is between the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Twins. The Dodgers would allegedly acquire Mookie Betts, David Price, and cash from the Sox; the Twins would get Kenta Maeda from LAD; and the Red Sox would get Alex Verdugo and Brusdar Graterol from the Dodgers and Twins, respectively. In the separate, but seemingly reliant intrastate trade, the Dodgers would receive Luis Rengifo from the Angels in exchange for Joc Pederson, Ross Stripling, and prospect Andy Pages. This deal would absolutely qualify as a blockbuster with the combination of well-established veterans, promising prospects, and immense wad of salary in movement. The Jeff “Passan bomb” announcement of the trade sent a flurry of reactions through the Twittersphere, with many Dodgers and Red Sox fans (and players) expressing contrasting emotions.
Yet, this could end as the most significant trade to not actually happen and be a bad result for those engaged in sports betting. New Boston Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox Front Office have pumped the breaks on the trade. While sources familiar with the situation have told ESPN that the teams remain confident the deal will be completed, questions have emerged regarding the health of one player, Brusdar Graterol. Graterol will join the Red Sox if the deal is completed. He is a 21-year-old, physically imposing pitching prospect, standing 6’1” at 265 pounds. Highlighting his arsenal of pitches is a go-to sinker which frequently hits triple digits on the radar gun. While the Sox are rightfully eager about those facts, they were unnerved after reviewing his medical reports. Graterol has already undergone Tommy John surgery in the past and just dealt with shoulder impingement last season, though he was still able to pitch in the 2019 playoffs.
Many fans are questioning why this medical information would stall the trade; it was already public knowledge. Some think the young Bloom is reacting to public backlash with regret and is now looking to squeeze more out of Betts. This theory is highly unlikely. More plausibly, the Red Sox obtained new medical information about Graterol that rubbed them the wrong way. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the Red Sox, after reviewing medical records, now project Brusdar as a relief option only, diminishing his value.
With that, multiple parties remain disgruntled with the way this trade agreement has been handled. Tony Clark, Executive Director of the MLB Players’ Association, released a statement expressing his displeasure. He called for immediate resolution of the stalled trade, citing the sustenance of the involved players as well as the “unethical leaking of medical information” and “perversion of the salary arbitration process.” The arbitration perversion is in reference to Joc Pederson, who recently lost his salary arbitration hearing on February 6th, during the heart of the trade impasse. He will make $7.75 million instead of his requested $9.5 million.
Jon Heyman, insider at MLB Network, uncovered two additional voices of irritation. Super-agent Scott Boras said, “Brusdar Graterol threw without limitation and 100 mph in majors for weeks to end 2019 and he has no great medical concern.” “They’re relying on a cursory medical record review yet noted orthopedic doctors who saw him say there’s no issue going forward.” Additionally, according to Heyman, Los Angeles Angels Owner Arte Moreno “hasn’t been happy about having their big trade for Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling on hold while the Mookie Betts mega deal is in limbo. Not sure who his ire is aimed at but people in the know say he’s quite upset.”
With that, we wait for action. At any moment, teams are free to back out of the deal or attempt to modify the agreement to the Red Sox liking. It’s hard to imagine the Twins parting with another top-10 prospect for Kenta Maeda, even with their pitching woes. It’s hard to imagine the Dodgers standing pat with their current offer, wagering losing the potential impact of Betts. It’s also hard to imagine the Red Sox backing out of the deal and retaining the impending free agent and $27 million Betts as well as the aging $25 million Price. Red Sox Principal Owner John Henry has made it abundantly clear that he is intent on shedding payroll and this deal would accomplish just that. According to Cot’s Contracts, the Red Sox exceeded the competitive balance tax threshold in both 2018 and 2019 and were in danger of doing so again this year. A team exceeding the CBT pays a 20% tax on the overage. A team exceeding it in a second consecutive year faces a 30% tax and a third consecutive year results in a 50% tax. While Forbes has placed a $3.2 billion valuation on the Boston Red Sox, good for 3rd highest in the MLB, Henry doesn’t liken the excessive and repetitive tax payments to a sustainable business model.
Mookie’s MVP trophy and jaw-dropping talent are packed and ready for LA, but his flight has been delayed.