It has now been over three days since the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Twins initially reached an agreement which would send Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers, and over two days since initial reports saying that the trade was in jeopardy due to potential concerns relating to Brusdar Graterol‘s medical records. It has been roughly the same amount of time since the Dodgers and Angels reached an agreement which would send Joc Pederson, Ross Stripling, and Andy Pages to the Angels in exchange for Luis Rengifo and “a prospect.”
This delay seems like a pretty gross negotiation tactic by the Red Sox. What they “found” in Graterol’s records was already widely assumed to be true by the scouting community: that he’s more likely to be a reliever going forward than a starter. From the Dodgers’ perspective, this impasse is between the Red Sox and Twins to resolve, as the Twins are effectively trading Graterol to the Red Sox for Kenta Maeda. However, the Dodgers have a lot to lose if these trades don’t happen. Their relationships with several players have already been changed.
Here are a few of the consequences if the trades do not go through:
Through this process, the Dodgers may have irreparably harmed their relationship with Joc. Last night, Ken Rosenthal posted an inside account of Pederson’s arbitration hearing, and the details were not pretty. Essentially, Pederson and his representatives did not know which team he was arguing against, and their requests to postpone the hearing until after the pending trade was completed were denied. The arbitration process is already pretty damaging to a player’s relationship with a team. It is harsh for a player to go to court and hear their employer lay out everything they think the player isn’t doing well enough. For this to happen while Pederson was in limbo is unique in baseball history, and has already drawn the ire of the player’s union. It wasn’t fair to him.
From a baseball standpoint, the Angels trade never made a lot of sense. Trading Pederson after trading for Mookie is sensible — the outfield would be crowded enough that the Dodgers would not be able to guarantee that Pederson starts against right-handed pitchers — but the rest of the package made the trade confusing. The Dodgers may have needed Stripling’s innings, and they almost certainly still will if they don’t acquire Price. But one has to feel like the Dodgers have already burned their bridge with Pederson by taking him to arbitration and leaving him in limbo during the hearing. It’s an ugly situation which won’t go away if the Betts trade falls though.
For most of the winter, it has appeared that the Dodgers might need to trade Kenta. Earlier this offseason, Andy McCullough of The Athletic reported that the Dodgers and Maeda were at odds over his role with the team. Maeda can be an elite reliever, but he is still a good-enough starter for most teams, and that’s the only role for which his contract provides fair pay. The Dodgers reportedly offered to re-structure the deal to provide relief incentives, which Maeda turned down (there is limited evidence to suggest that the Dodgers would approach this re-negotiation in good faith).
Meanwhile, the Dodgers appear content to go into this season with the same mix-and-match rotation philosophy which they have used for the past few seasons. This means that they can demote Maeda to the bullpen at any time, and almost certainly will down the stretch. The Dodgers’ bullpen is also pretty thin at the moment, heavily relying on bounce-back seasons from Kenley Jansen and Blake Treinen. If neither of those bounce-backs happen, the Dodgers could find themselves in a position where they would need Maeda’s arm in the bullpen, a situation which would cost Maeda a lot of money.
Trading Maeda seemed like the best way forward for both parties, and this trade finally put him in a position where he could likely be given every opportunity to earn his contract incentives without being moved between roles. It will be difficult for Maeda to return to his current situation with the Dodgers if the trade doesn’t happen.
Last year, Jessica Quiroli of All Heels On Deck reported that Alex Verdugo was present for the physical and sexual assault of a minor while he was a minor leaguer in the Dodgers’ system. This story has been known for some time, though never quite reached the level of public knowledge that it should have. When news of the trade broke, Sheryl Ring of Beyond the Box Score rightfully called into question the reporting of the trade with relation to the assault.
While MLB will likely not take further action here (if they were going to suspend Verdugo they would have already done so), it will make it much harder for many to cheer for him. This story should have been made more widely known at the time of its reporting, and the Dodgers should have done more about this than they have. Domestic violence is a major problem across baseball, and due to this trade many more people will know that a player on their favorite team was present during an alleged rape.
Should these trades not go through, the Dodgers will still have to deal with a lot of fallout from the decisions made in relation to them. The Dodgers have a lot to lose here, even beyond the fact that they wouldn’t have Betts on their team. They have the most incentive of the four teams to make sure these trades get done.
Even if it is the Red Sox dragging their seemingly cold feet, and even if leaking Graterol’s medical status was a dirty negotiation tactic, it feels like it could be on the Dodgers to make sure these trades still happen. The initial Betts trade seemed wildly imbalanced in favor of the Dodgers, so it would not be the end of the world if they had to throw in another prospect or pay more of Price’s contract than they would have on Tuesday. After all, if Mookie reports to their camp in a few days, they’ll quickly forget about the extra cost.