Goodbye Mookie

To be completely honest, I have very mixed feelings about this deal. I’ll quickly touch on David Price before going into the centerpiece of the trade. Price never really fit in as a fan-favorite in Boston or with the media, which somewhat tarnishes his legacy on this team. However, being a Red Sox fan, I never completely understood the hate for this guy. Was he overpaid? Yes. He never really lived up to the hype and I can’t blame the guy for laughing his way to the bank. Capitalism at its best. But, he was one of the main reasons this team won the World Series in 2018. Price was nothing short of exceptional in 3 outings vs. the Dodgers that year. The problem I have is with the fans who started at second base for their Junior Varsity high school team and the know-it-all media that will be quick to dismiss those facts and strictly focus on the negatives. The facts are that Price threw 13.2 innings with a sub-1 WHIP and sub-2 ERA en route to granting this organization their 9th World Series Championship. Clearly, this move was a salary dump to free cap space, and one that was much needed, but let’s not forget how important he was to that Post Season run. Farewell, David.

Onto Markus Lynn Betts. If you didn’t believe the “baseball is a business” narrative before last night’s news, I’d be willing to bet you do now. This guy was quickly becoming the face of not only the franchise, but of the game of baseball. During my youth, guys like Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, and Dustin Pedroia were some of the players that drew me into the sport and garnered my attention at every game I watched or attended. They had extreme levels of talent, led by example and leaked confidence through their pores. As I grew up, it became tough for me to hold professional athletes in that same regard, simply based on the fact that I was older or around the same age as most of them. For me, Mookie was that exception. Not only did he have that same talent level of the aforementioned players, but he brought a dynamic, exciting style of play that electrified stadiums every time he stepped to the plate, ran down a ball, or jolted around the bases. At only 27 years old, he already has 3 Gold Gloves, 1 MVP, 3 Silver Sluggers, and 1 World Series Ring. What frustrates me most is not the talent that they’re losing, but the impact that he already did have and could have had on the city of Boston and its sports community as a whole. He was adored at Fenway Park and without a doubt could have gone down in history with names such as David Ortiz, Patrice Bergeron, and Tom Brady. With the MLB struggling to connect with fans and grow the game, Mookie looked like the type that could play the part. Look no further than David Price criticizing them just earlier this year for not doing more to market Betts. There’s no reason why he can’t attract a plethora of new young fans and draw interest from numerous different demographics. He should be promoted just as much, if not more than players like Bryce Harper. Add in the issue of a decline in African-American players in the game – who better than Mookie to take on the role of growing the game in those communities? Now, maybe this is something we’ll see more of as he transitions to the bright lights and entertainment of Los Angeles, but it’s tough to see him go when you dive into the idea of what could have been?

On the other side of the deal, I am of the unpopular opinion that the Sox picked up a pretty nice return here, assuming that they wouldn’t be willing to pay Betts this offseason. And please spare me with the “Betts is greedy” or “Mookie wanted out of Boston” comments. He gave everything he had for this organization. You’d be looking to maximize your worth to the highest extent possible too if planted in his situation. Alex Verdugo, the outfielder sent from LA to Boston in this deal, is a very exciting young player. Will he turn into Mookie? Probably not. Will the old, out-of-touch baseball writers probably despise him because of his tattoos, earrings, and loud personality? Undoubtedly, yes. But, man, do I see some potential in this kid and he does bring that same type of exciting play to the field as Betts. Heading into 2019, Verdugo was a consensus top 30 prospect going and had a WAR above 3 in only 343 at bats with the Dodgers last season. What’s particularly attractive to me was Verdugo’s low strikeout rate while obtaining an .817 OPS in his short 2019 season paired with 12 homers and 44 RBIs. I truly see his ceiling as a .285/30 HR/100 RBI type of guy. Those are pretty hard numbers to come by nowadays and there’s no reason Verdugo can’t produce like that rather quickly.

The other piece going to the Sox in the deal is Brusdar Graterol, a top-pitching prospect from the Minnesota Twins. Here’s another guy with loads of potential, although he seems to be more of a project. Graterol is a nice addition to a depleted Red Sox farm system (Thanks a lot Dealin Davey Dombrowski). With a fastball that touches triple digits and a heavy sinker, he has a lot of upside as a potential front-of-the-rotation starter. It will be interesting to see what the Sox do with him in 2020 – maybe a starting role in Portland or Pawtucket to see how he develops? I watched some video on him last night and he looks like a complete nightmare on hitters. His ¾ arm slot produces tons of movement and should translate to ground ball outs. From a player comparison perspective, I see a bigger, harder throwing Luis Castillo. I know that’s high praise, but hey, a boy can dream. A quote from Aaron Gleeman, the Twins’ writer for The Athletic really excites me – “There is no question that the Twins are opening themselves up to be second-guessed for years to come,” wrote Gleeman, labeling Graterol as an “awfully big chip.” I should probably wrap this up before I spin zone this into some type of steal for the Red Sox. 

In conclusion, you can’t replace Mookie Betts. You just can’t. I thought he would be the face of this franchise for the next 10 years, winning MVPs, batting titles, and World Series championships among other accolades. The harsh reality is that money talks, and sometimes rash financial decisions force you into making tougher ones down the road for the better of the organization in the future. Whether that becomes true or not remains to be seen, but give it time before placing full judgment.