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Sports Corner

By: Rob Bishop

Back again, and after a brief hiccup and major re-working, the Los Angeles Dodgers have officially acquired outfielder Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox. Joining Betts on the cross-country trip is veteran left-hander David Price, completing Boston’s quest to get payroll below the $208 million competitive balance tax threshold. Betts upgrade’s L.A.’s lineup to being a nightmare for the rest of baseball, while Price adds another reliable arm to an already-loaded stable of hurlers. The Dodgers will enter the 2020 season as clear-cut National League favorites.

Boston, on the other hand, dealt one of the best players in baseball for, above all else, salary relief. Netting talented young outfielder Alex Verdugo and prospect Jeter Downs, who could be starting in Boston’s infield by mid-season, was a plus, but the Red Sox were simply keen to be rid of Price’s hefty contract–of which Boston will be playing half– and Betts’ looming payday next winter. Right now, as it stands, the Red Sox, without Betts, appear as likely to be the fourth-best team in the American League East as the second-best, obviously trailing the absolutely loaded New York Yankees in even best-case scenarios.

Interestingly enough, a side effect of the aforementioned trade taking over a week to become official is that a follow-up trade involving the Dodgers and Angels sat in limbo long enough that the Angels eventually nixed the deal. The deal, which would have sent outfielder Joc Pederson and swing-pitcher Ross Stripling to the Angels for infielder Luis Rengifo, was ultimately killed by the Angels, an odd decision considering the team was coming out as the clear winners of the swap. For context, Rengifo is coming off a season in which he hit .238/.321/.364 in over 400 plate appearances.

Now, the Angels still need an outfielder and the Dodgers have one too many with Betts in tow. The Dodgers will not have any issue finding trade suitors for either Pederson or Stripling. The Angels, on the other hand, aren’t going to get a better package for Rengifo in any deal. For the many playoff hopefuls in need of a back-end rotation upgrade, Stripling represents a nice buy-low option, and Pederson is an incredible hitter for any team willing to use him solely against right-handed pitching. The Dodgers will be flush with trade options. The Angels, on the other hand, not so much, making it all the more vexing that it was the Angels that ultimately backed out of the deal.

Los Angeles did manage to complete another trade in conjunction with the acquisition. The Dodgers will send veteran right-hander Kenta Maeda to the Minnesota Twins, receiving prospect Brusdar Graterol in return. Graterol adds another solid, potential-laden arm to its cache, and there’s a strong likelihood he is ready to contribute to the team’s bullpen this season. Meanwhile, Maeda joins fellow veteran winter addition Homer Bailey behind the duo of Jake Odorizzi and Jose Berrios in Minnesota’s rotation. Paired with a talented young group of position players and big-ticket signing Josh Donaldson, the Twins are going all-in on winning the wide-open AL Central this season.

Reliever Dellin Betances suffered a torn Achilles in September, an injury that brought an end to a disappointing 2019 season that was besieged by injuries. Betances was forced to settle for a one-year deal in free agency, agreeing to terms with the Mets, and the expectation was that he would miss a chunk of the regular season. Now, with spring training on the horizon, the veteran seems to have his sights set on being ready for Opening Day. From 2014-2018, Betances was in the conversation alongside Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen for the claim to being baseball’s best reliever. Anything close to that level of production would be a huge—and frankly unexpected—boost to the playoff-hopeful New York Mets.