Sports fans love to talk about which team “won” a trade, but many of the best trades have made both teams better. Perhaps both teams deal from a strength to address a weakness, or a team in win-now mode pays a fair price in future prospect performance. While the sample size is small, the trade that brought Kenta Maeda to Minnesota appears to be one of those times.
The trade, of course, originated as a side-deal from the three-team affair that was headlined by Mookie Betts moving from Boston to Los Angeles. Originally, the Red Sox were supposed to end up with Brusdar Graterol. Boston found something in the physical that they didn’t like—or maybe used it as an excuse to get a better return, since fans hated the trade. Minnesota was always supposed to end up Maeda, and held their ground, eventually forcing the transaction to turn into two separate deals, and putting Graterol into the Dodger’s 2020 bullpen.
A few more pieces ended up involved in the deal, but unless Luke Raley or Jair Camargo break out in a big way, its likely that this will just be remembered as the Maeda for Graterol trade.
The Twins got a pitcher they sorely needed, and who may have been miscast in a deep Dodgers rotation that saw him bounced back-and-forth to the bullpen. Maeda fills the role of a veteran addition to the rotation that the Twins largely struck out on in free agency. Rich Hill’s season was supposed to have a delayed start, and Homer Bailey has been exactly as questionable as advertised, so Maeda was expected to fill a key role behind Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi. He’s been forced to do more than that, and done it well.
The Twins have called on him to make five starts this season. With Berrios having command issues, and every other veteran starter on the IL, he’s stepped up to lead this rotation. He’s averaging over six innings per game, including pitching into the ninth last night. He has three wins, and no losses (thank you Taylor Rogers.) His 2.27 ERA is likely sustainable, as its backed up by a 2.45 FIP. The MLB-leading 0.632 will likely come up, but is still impressive. His name will also be forever inked into the franchise history books, as no other player has struck out eight batters in a row, like he did last night.
Maeda is under contract until 2023, and the Dodgers are paying $2.5 million of his $3.125 base salary each year. His contract is heavily incentive-laden, but if he doesn’t continue to perform well, the Twins are paying next to nothing for the privilege. Its very difficult to find a scenario, at this point, where the Twins can’t call this trade a win. A 100-mph fireballing rookie in the bullpen might be nice, but its a luxury the Twins can live without, especially as Jorge Alcala begins to emerge into that role. If the 2020 season had gone as planned, Graterol would have been behind several other rookie pitchers to start the season, although it wouldn’t have taken him long to pitch his way in front of Cody Stashak and Zach Littell, the Twins still had a number of options to turn to.
For the Dodgers though, they also have to be happy with their side of things. Graterol has made ten appearances on the senior circuit this season. In 9.2 innings, he has struck out seven batters, allowed eight hits, and kept the ball entirely in the park. He has a 3.72 ERA, and despite all that, could still be classified as unlucky—his FIP is 2.01, which is almost half his ERA. They also won’t have to pay him much for a long time—he’s under team control until 2026, and not even arbitration eligible until 2023. They also have a loaded starting rotation that has put up results to make Maeda clearly extraneous.
Its obviously too early to truly evaluate this trade, but based on the results nearing the halfway mark of the 2020 season, both teams have to be very satisfied with their results. Both teams got a piece they could use, at a good price, in exchange for a piece that was a bit superfluous. Both players seem to be thriving in their new roles. Overall, it looks like the rare trade that really is a win for both sides.
So far, who won the Maeda for Graterol trade?
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