On Tuesday night, the long and drawn-out Mookie Betts trade talks finally came to a head with the Boston Red Sox sending the former American League Most Valuable Player to the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of a three-team blockbuster that has shaken up the baseball projection landscape just a week from the start of Spring Training.
With the Minnesota Twins throwing their cap in the ring as a third suitor in the blockbuster deal, the Chicago White Sox and their standing in the thick of the American League Central conversation have been directly affected, but how much exactly?
Before we get to the AL Central ramifications, let’s break down what we know about the players changing sides as of late Tuesday night.
In the trade, the Los Angeles Dodgers received outfielder Mookie Betts, starting pitcher David Price, and cash from the Red Sox, while the Dodgers sent outfielder Alex Verdugo to Boston. As part of the deal, the Dodgers sent starting pitcher Kenta Maeda to Minnesota, while the Twins sent pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol to Boston.
Whew, that was a mouthful.
The trade was reported by a slew of the usual national media insiders almost simultaneously, but my sourcing credit for this story goes to ESPN Major League Baseball insider, Jeff Passan.
The Dodgers were initially the favorites to emerge from the National League in 2020, and now one would have to believe that the additions of Mookie Betts and David Price will make them sure favorites to win it all, finally getting over the hump that has seen them fall short time after time over the past decade.
The Red Sox ridded themselves of a star in Mookie Betts, who was never going to re-sign with Boston due to their current urgency to stay under the luxury tax threshold. In return, they got a three-win outfielder with five years of club control and a legitimate pitching prospect from the Twins while also putting themselves around $30 million under the luxury tax threshold.
A lot of Boston fans are up in arms right now, and I guess I would be too — but I think this was a ‘best case scenario’ return for the 2018 World Series Champions.
Now, on to the ramifications for the White Sox and the American League Central conversation.
The Minnesota Twins lost Kyle Gibson early on in the winter — after coming into the winter needing pitching help — and ended up with Homer Bailey, Rich Hill, and Jhoulys Chacin as a consolation prize in their swing-and-miss efforts in their bids for Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu. That was all until last evening when they landed Maeda in the three-way deal to bolster their 2020 rotation.
Maeda, 31 (will turn 32 around Opening Day), has spent all four of his state-side seasons with the Dodgers. The former Hiroshima Toyo Carp — of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league — has been used primarily as a starter in a deep Los Angeles rotation but has made 34 relief appearances for the Dodgers.
Maeda posted a 4.04 ERA in 26 starts (37 appearances) in 2019. While he struck out 169 opposing hitters in 153.2 innings of work, he posted a career-worst 51 walks and saw a full point reduction in his K/9 total from 2018 (11.0) to 2019 (9.9).
In 2019, Maeda made four starts against A.L. clubs in interleague play and saw a pair of relief appearances, getting beat up to the tune of a 6.45 ERA (16 ER in 22.1 IP). Against A.L. clubs, Maeda surrendered 18 hits in his 22.1 innings of work, with seven of those hits leaving the ballpark.
Career-wise, Maeda has made 15 starts (19 appearances against A.L. opponents), and has allowed 71 hits (12 home runs, 19 doubles) and surrendered 31 walks. He has a career 4.63 ERA in interleague play, and he’ll now switch sides to the American League, where his numbers against have been much less flattering than his numbers against in the National League.
It’s a small sample size, surely, but that’s what we have to go on at this point.
As of now, Minnesota’s rotation will be comprised of some combination of Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, and Kenta Maeda as the shoo-in front-end with guys like Rich Hill, Homer Bailey, Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe competing for the final two spots this spring.
I have to be quite honest… I’m really not sure that Maeda — while certainly a stabilizing force in the middle of their rotation — really moves the needle all that much in the Twins’ direction when it comes to the conversation of the American League Central race.
The Twins are the favorites, but they were also the favorites on Tuesday morning. They got a little better on paper on Tuesday night, but I’m nowhere near hitting the panic button over Kenta Maeda.