A true win-win trade for two teams is a rare occurrence in any sport, but it seems as if the Dodgers and Twins nailed one in the offseason.
Once the forgotten leg of the original Mookie Betts mega-deal involving the LA Dodgers, Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox, the separate transaction that sent righty fireballer Brusdar Graterol to the Dodgers in exchange for current Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda is looking like a net positive for both sides.
It’s easy to examine the second iteration of the Betts trade that occurred solely between Boston and Los Angeles and declare the Dodgers the likely winner of that deal, especially after the latter handed the ultra-talented Betts a massive long-term extension.
After all, the Red Sox are a team looking to shed payroll and retool under new leadership, while the Dodgers continue their quest for the franchise’s first championship since 1988.
It’s much more difficult to orchestrate a trade that benefits multiple parties, especially when both are aiming to win now.
Such is the nature of the Graterol-Maeda swap, at least so far.
Of course, this trade likely never occurs if the Dodgers and Twins were in the same league, being that both teams are prime contenders in 2020. And while it’s possible Los Angeles and Minnesota could meet in the World Series, this deal seems to be mostly free of any direct consequence.
In Kenta Maeda, the Twins acquired a solid starting pitcher which they desperately sought after seeing the lack of quality starting pitching play a role in their demise in last year’s postseason.
Signed out of Japan in the offseason preceding the 2016 season for eight years and $25 million, Maeda was a mostly stable option for the Dodgers during his time in Los Angeles, splitting time between the starting rotation and the bullpen and filling a void left by Zack Greinke, who departed the team in free agency after 2015.
Maeda seems to be comfortable in his new home, as he’s posted a 2.27 ERA, 0.63 WHIP and 2.45 FIP in 31.2 innings pitched across five starts for the Minnesota Twins in 2020.
Not to mention, he’s 3-0 on the season and had a no-hitter into the ninth inning in his most recent start, a game that began with the right-hander striking out his first eight batters in a row.
Unlike the Twins, the Dodgers have received very good starting pitching over the last few seasons. Having Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler certainly can’t hurt your chances of possessing a top-flight rotation.
However, the bullpen has been the Achilles’ heel for Los Angeles during their recent championship runs. Outside of closer Kenley Jansen, who had some struggles himself in 2019, the team has mostly lacked reliable late-inning options, a critical component to any legitimate contender in baseball.
Enter dynamic young righty Brusdar Graterol, who has been very effective early on during his time in Dodger blue.
Graterol has incredible stuff, touching triple-digits with ease on his fastball. He combines that with his nasty sinker/slider combination and the occasional changeup to attack hitters with a devastating arsenal of swing and miss pitches.
Graterol’s pitch mix is electric enough to freeze any hitter at the plate, even some of the best ones like Manny Machado.
The young fireballer has a 3.72 ERA and seven strikeouts in nearly 10 relief innings out of the Dodger bullpen this season. His WHIP is a mere 0.93 and his FIP of 2.01 suggests he’s had some bad luck so far.
If some of said luck eventually goes Graterol’s way, as it should given baseball’s tendency to even out trends over the course of a season, that could be a frightening proposition for opposing hitters.
Combining Graterol’s arsenal with Jansen’s closing experience appears to finally have given the Dodgers a fearsome bullpen tandem that can stack up with any in baseball, a missing piece of the last few Dodger teams that have contended for a World Series.
Did we mention Graterol is also under contractual control until 2026 and doesn’t become arbitration eligible until 2023? That means Los Angeles is getting elite stuff and production in a critical area for a bargain bin price. What a get!
Overall, the pitcher swap has clearly paid dividends for both sides in the interim. However, we should also take this deal with a grain of salt, as it’s early yet and the sample sizes with which we’re evaluating both Maeda and Graterol in 2020 are minuscule compared to the 162 game season’s worth of data that we usually have at our disposal.
That said, both the Dodgers and Twins have to be satisfied with the production they’ve gotten to this point out of Graterol and Maeda, respectively.
Both teams also dealt from areas of strength to improve their weaknesses, an ideal outcome.
It remains to be seen how the future looks upon this trade, but if the present-day has given us any indication so far, Los Angeles and Minnesota are both winners.