The Red Sox and Dodgers have reached agreement on a blockbuster — again.
According to multiple major league sources, the Red Sox and Dodgers have agreed to a deal that would send superstar Mookie Betts and pitcher David Price to Los Angeles. In exchange, the Red Sox would receive outfielder Alex Verdugo from the Dodgers along with shortstop prospect Jeter Downs and catcher Connor Wong. As part of the deal, the Red Sox will also send $48 million to the Dodgers to help subsidize the remaining three years and $96 million on Price’s contract.
The only remaining step to the deal’s completion is approval of the money transfer by Major League Baseball. The medical evaluations have been completed to the satisfaction of the teams, and the players have been notified of the deal by both teams.
The deal represents a solution to a stalemate that prevented the completion of a previous deal that had been agreed upon on Tuesday between the Red Sox, Dodgers, and Twins. In that initial deal, Betts and Price were to go to LA, Kenta Maeda was to head to Minnesota, and Verdugo and Twins prospect Brusdar Graterol were supposed to go to Boston.
But that deal stalled when the Red Sox, after the exchange of medical information, concluded that Graterol — a pitcher viewed by some as having mid-rotation upside or better, though with a good chance of ending up as a late-innings reliever — was more likely to have a bullpen future based on his medical file than they’d anticipated. While the Twins showed a willingness to alter the deal, they could not find common ground with the Sox on additional prospect compensation to complete the trade.
As a result, the sides decided to split the negotiations into separate two-way trades, breaking the impasse. The Dodgers negotiated directly with the Twins and reportedly landed Graterol (who’d been seen by their head physician, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, during the season), a minor league outfielder, and a draft pick from the Twins for Maeda, a prospect, and cash.
And the Sox received Verdugo — the originally agreed-upon anchor of the package in the original three-team deal who is viewed as a potential above-average everyday outfielder who had a strong rookie season in 2019 — as well as two additional prospects from the Dodgers.
Downs is a top-100 prospect, a 2017 first-rounder who reached Double A last year as a 20-year-old, hitting .276/.362/.526 with 24 homers. One National League scout raved that he saw Downs as one of the best hitters in the 2017 draft, someone who could represent an up-the-middle anchor (at second base — like other evaluators, he did not see Downs staying at shortstop long-term) with Xander Bogaerts for years.
“There is a calmness when he hits,” texted that evaluator, who felt that Downs sees the ball well, is capable of using the whole field, displays impressive pull-side power, and has excellent makeup. “[I] see him being a top-of-the-order hitter in 2021 playing plus defense at [second base].”
Another evaluator was more reserved, suggesting that as a righthanded hitter who pulls the ball in the air, Downs could be a strong fit for Fenway, albeit with enough swing-and-miss that his offense will be driven primarily by his slugging ability rather than his on-base skills or ability to hit for average.
Wong, a 2017 third-rounder, hit .281/.336/.541 with 24 homers as a 23-year-old last year. Like Downs, he split the year between High A Rancho Cucamonga and Double A Tulsa. One evaluator described him as an athletic catcher who can also play third. Though his strikeout rate (30.8 percent last year) is high, the evaluator suggested that he has the skill set of a potential big league regular, while another felt that, like Downs, his ability to pull the ball in the air could play well at Fenway.
Wong and Downs collectively give the Red Sox a deeper pool of position players in the upper levels, providing the team with their best two up-the-middle prospects in the upper minors. (Evaluators were split over whether Downs would rank ahead of or behind first baseman Triston Casas as the top Red Sox prospect.) Verdugo, meanwhile, gives the team a big league-ready everyday outfielder who will remain under team control for five more years and won’t be arbitration eligible until after 2021.
Of course, that deeper core of young position players comes at the cost of a player in Betts who ranks as one of the best talents in Red Sox franchise history and a pitcher in Price who, when healthy, represented a rotation anchor — as when he claimed the Game 5 victory to clinch Boston’s 2018 World Series title in Los Angeles.
Assuming the deal is approved by MLB, the Red Sox now have a hole to fill in their rotation, an all-lefthanded outfield (Verdugo, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Andrew Benintendi) that may require a righthanded complement. Obviously, the Sox are a less complete team in 2020 as a result of the deal — though they still view themselves as contenders for the coming season, and better positioned to sustain such ambitions for the coming years thanks to the resetting of luxury tax penalties thanks to their payroll reduction below the $208 million luxury tax threshold in the coming year and the infusion of controllable long-term talent.
Follow Alex Speier at @alexspeier.