Mookie Betts is officially on his way to LA

February 11th, 2020

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers officially acquired 2018 MVP outfielder on Monday night, as well as former Cy Young Award winner and cash from the Red Sox for three young talents in one of the most game-changing blockbuster trades in recent history. The pair will be introduced to Los Angeles with a 1 p.m. PT news conference Wednesday in center field at Dodger Stadium.

The Red Sox received from the Dodgers outfielder (L.A.’s top prospect -- and MLB's No. 35 -- a year ago), shortstop Jeter Downs (their third-highest ranked prospect on the 2020 Top 100 list, at No. 44) and catcher Connor Wong (No. 28 on the Dodgers' 2019 year-end list).

The Dodgers later confirmed a separate trade with the Twins that sent right-hander , cash and Minor League catcher Jair Camargo to Minnesota for hard-throwing right-hander , outfielder Luke Raley and the 67th overall pick in the 2020 Draft.

In the original three-team version of this transaction, Graterol was headed to Boston. But the Red Sox backed away after viewing his medical records, forcing the Dodgers to reconstruct it into two separate deals, costing Los Angeles prospects it didn’t intend to trade and $10 million to cover Maeda’s salary and likely bonuses.

Red Sox get: OF Alex Verdugo, SS Jeter Downs, C Connor Wong
Dodgers get: OF Mookie Betts, LHP David Price, cash

Dodgers get: RHP Brusdar Graterol, OF Luke Raley, 67th pick in 2020 Draft
Twins get: RHP Kenta Maeda, C Jair Camargo, cash

The Red Sox and the Dodgers will split the remaining $96 million owed to Price over the next three years, while the Dodgers will pay Betts’ $27 million salary for 2020, after which he’ll be a free agent.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Betts, Price, Graterol and Raley, the Dodgers designated infielder and outfielder for assignment.

During a press conference announcing the trade, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said of Betts: "In his time in our uniform, he has been one of the greatest to ever wear it," and described the decision to trade the star player as "a very hard one to make."

Downs will become Boston's No. 1 prospect, as the team's only Top 100 prospect currently is 2018 first-round Draft pick Triston Casas, who is No. 77.

The deal the Dodgers and Angels reportedly had agreed upon that would have sent Dodgers outfielder , pitcher and Minor League outfield prospect Andy Pages to the Angels for controllable 22-year-old infielder and a Minor Leaguer was called off, Angels general manager Billy Eppler confirmed on Monday.

The Red Sox, seeking immediate relief from the Competitive Balance Tax, felt compelled to shed Betts, who is determined to hit the market and seek a record $400 million free-agent deal.

To get the trade done, however, the Dodgers also had to take on a reported $16 million a year in Price’s contract. The $48 million sent by the Red Sox to the Dodgers will count toward Boston's luxury tax payroll, prorated annually over the three years remaining on the deal.

Price enters the Dodgers' starting rotation as the replacement for Hyun-Jin Ryu, who left as a free agent and signed a four-year, $80 million deal with Toronto.

Although the final deal cost the Dodgers a significant pair of prospects, they secured for one season Betts, a trophy for Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who went big-game hunting this offseason after the Dodgers’ seventh consecutive division title and postseason appearance couldn’t snap the franchise’s 31-year streak without a World Series ring.

Seeking an October difference-maker, Friedman was outbid for top free-agent pitcher Gerrit Cole. When free-agent third baseman Anthony Rendon wasn’t interested in the Dodgers, Friedman shifted to the trade market, narrowing the primary targets to Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant and Betts. It turned out to be Betts, and now this is the Dodgers' star-laden projected lineup:

  1. Mookie Betts, RF
  1. Max Muncy, 1B
  1. Justin Turner, 3B
  1. Cody Bellinger, CF
  1. A.J. Pollock, LF
  1. Corey Seager, SS
  1. Gavin Lux, 2B
  1. Will Smith, C

The Padres emerged as the Dodgers’ most serious competitor for a Betts trade and might have offered better young players, but they couldn’t match the Dodgers’ willingness to assume half of Price’s salary.

While that swung the leverage to the Dodgers, another presumed key factor in bringing the Dodgers and Red Sox together is the personal relationship between Bloom and Friedman, who was Bloom’s boss for a decade with Tampa Bay.

Verdugo, the key for the Red Sox, missed the last two months of the 2019 season with core/oblique/back issues, a motivator for the Dodgers to include him in the trade. Verdugo made an impact during the first half of 2019, replacing the injured A.J. Pollock in center field, but Verdugo injured his back in May. He played through discomfort, his production slipping, until being shut down in early August and not returning.

In the other trade, the Twins receive right-hander Maeda, who went 10-8 with a 4.08 ERA mostly as a starter for the Dodgers last season. Maeda also has played a pivotal relief role in recent postseasons, but he wasn't happy with his perception of it as a demotion.

Minnesota originally agreed to send the 21-year-old Graterol to Boston, but the Red Sox balked at the deal when concerns were raised about his physical ability to move from the bullpen to the starting rotation.

Having missed the 2016 season with Tommy John surgery, Graterol and his triple-digit fastball now join the Dodgers' bullpen. The 6-foot-1, 265-pounder got his first taste of the big leagues last season, going 1-1 with a 4.66 ERA, all in relief (10 games).

The 27-year-old Betts won the American League MVP Award in 2018, giving the Dodgers three past MVPs along with Clayton Kershaw ('14) and Cody Bellinger, who won the '19 National League MVP Award. Betts is a four-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove Award winner and has three Silver Slugger Awards. Bellinger figures to remain in center field, with Betts in right field, batting leadoff in an already loaded lineup, although they could flip positions as well. Pollock figures to open the season in left field.

Betts didn’t match his MVP season in 2019, but he was good enough to finish eighth in the voting after slashing .295/.391/.524 while leading the Majors in runs scored for a second consecutive season. His stolen bases were nearly cut in half from 30 to 16.

The 34-year-old Price, who played for Friedman with Tampa Bay, was 7-5 with a 4.28 ERA last year, when he was limited to 22 starts because of a cyst on his left wrist that required surgery. Price joins a rotation of Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and a large group of candidates for the final two spots that includes Alex Wood, Ross Stripling, Julio Urías, Jimmy Nelson, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin.