By Rob Bishop
Back again, and after an offseason of speculation, the Boston Red Sox finally dealt 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts. As has long been rumored, Betts will be joining the Los Angeles Dodgers, accompanied by veteran left-hander David Price in what turned into a three-team trade also involving the Minnesota Twins. Betts is arguably the second-best position player in baseball behind Mike Trout, and he instantly makes the Dodgers the clear-cut favorites in the National League.
In return for Betts, Boston received young outfielder Alex Verdugo and pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol. While Verdugo has already proven himself a capable major league hitter with upside for more and Graterol is a desirable prospect, the trade represents an obvious move intended to lower payroll rather than improve as a baseball team for the Boston Red Sox. The justification for dealing Betts is simply non-existent otherwise, especially when the return was obviously lessened by Boston’s insistence on including Price’s lofty $96 million contract in the deal.
Another blockbuster was consummated on Tuesday night, albeit in the NBA, as a four-team trade featuring numerous contenders was announced. Highlighting the deal was Houston’s move to add swing-man Robert Covington from the Minnesota Timberwolves while dealing center Clint Capela, a 2020 first-round pick, and salary. Covington fits perfectly alongside James Harden and Russell Westbrook, giving Houston a viable, elite-level perimeter defender who is also more than content to be the third or fourth option on offense. Houston’s lineups without an obvious big man will be interesting to see, however, as it is near-impossible to conceptualize how Houston will match up against Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert, and company in the West.
Capela heads to the Atlanta Hawks to give the team a building block alongside All Star starter Trae Young. Though not a superstar, Capela is a good player signed for the next three seasons on a reasonable deal, and he is an excellent fit around Young. It will be interesting to see how Capela fits alongside incumbent big man John Collins, but this was a trade worth making for the win-desperate Hawks.
Also in the deal, the Nuggets received a collection of pieces and Houston’s first-rounder, while the Timberwolves added four players—highlighted by wing Malik Beasley—and a lottery-protected first-round pick. The intriguing element for the Wolves will be whether or not this deal is parlayed into a follow-up move involving Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell. Minnesota has been in hot pursuit of Russell, and now the team boasts an extra first-round pick to include in any offers heading into Thursday’s trading deadline.
On the court, Heat All Star Jimmy Butler’s incredible season continued with 38 points against the reeling Philadelphia 76ers. Butler’s season-high point total propelled Miami to an easy win against his former team, and the Heat continue to surprise as Philadelphia’s struggles on the road continue. Though the 76ers are an NBA-best 22-2 at home, Philadelphia has now lost 10 of 12 on the road. As for Butler, the veteran is in the midst of his finest season following a summer in which Philadelphia opted not to retain his services following a mid-year deal last season. At 34-15, the Heat are certainly thankful for Philadelphia’s decision. Tonight, Butler and the Heat will square off against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Wizards guard Bradley Beal missed out on the opportunity to be an All Star this season due to the sub-par nature of his teammates, but the veteran is every bit deserving of the honor. In yet another loss on Monday, Beal erupted for 43 points, and he has now scored 30+ points in seven straight games. It is easy to dismiss Beal’s success as a product of being his team’s lone offensive weapon, but that would be doing his success a massive disservice. Most games, Beal is working against consistent double-teams as opponents are justifiably able to ignore Washington’s supporting cast. Washington is in the midst of another lost season, and Beal’s tremendous individual play is proving to be a casualty of his team’s inability to surround him with competent NBA talent.