BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox and Dodgers have agreed to a revised Mookie Betts trade, one that will not include the Minnesota Twins. Brusdar Graterol is no longer part of the deal, with Los Angeles now sending three players to Boston in return for Betts and David Price (and a truckload of cash for Price’s contract).
Outfielder Alex Verdugo remains the centerpiece of the package heading back to the Red Sox, but he’s now joined by infielder Jeter Downs and catcher Connor Wong, who should help improve Boston’s lackluster farm system.
Here’s a quick look at the trio of players Boston will receive from Los Angeles for a future Hall of Fame talent:
Alex Verdugo – Outfielder
MLB Experience: 158 games over three years
**This is the profile of Verdugo that we ran last week when the first Betts trade was announced**
Verdugo was the top prospect in the Dodgers’ system, ranking as the sport’s 35th-best prospect by Baseball America prior to last season.
Verdugo actually started the year on the big league roster and remained there until early August, when an oblique strain sent him to the IL. He showed notable strides from his first taste of the big leagues, when he compiled a .240 average and .669 OPS in 111 MLB plate appearances in 2017 and 2018.
In his last season at Triple-A in 2018, he batted .329 with an .863 OPS, hitting 19 doubles and 10 home runs and driving in 44 runs.
He’s shown decent if not overwhelming speed, stealing 44 bases on 60 attempts in the minors and successfully stealing four bases on six attempts in the majors.
Defensively, Verdugo has shown versatility, playing at all three outfield spots. In his major league career, he’s started 61 games in center field, 20 games in right field, and 21 games in left field.
The MLB profile of Verdugo in 2018 detailed his strong arm, among other things:
One of the best pure hitting prospects in baseball, Verdugo recognizes pitches and controls the strike zone better than most players his age. He uses the whole field, repeatedly barreling balls with a quick left-handed stroke geared for line drives. Though he homered just seven times in 132 games last season, his hitting ability, bat speed and strength should translate into average power if he adds some loft to his swing.
As good as he is in the batter’s box, Verdugo’s best tool actually is his plus-plus arm. Despite average speed, he has spent much of his pro career in center field, where his instincts help him get the job done. Scouts are split on whether he can handle center on a daily basis in the Majors, but no one doubts that his arm would play in right.
While Verdugo is not exactly Mookie Betts, he’ll be under team control for the next five seasons, as he won’t hit free agency until 2025.
Jeter Downs — Infielder
MLB Experience: None
Yes, Jeter Downs is named after Derek Jeter. Heck, his Twitter handle is @Jeter2Downs, showing loads of Re2pect to the new Hall of Famer.
And now Downs is the top prospect in the Red Sox system, ranked No. 44 in MLB’s Top 100 list.
The middle infielder was a first-round pick by the Cincinnati Reds in 2017, traded to the Dodgers in a 2018 deal that sent Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer to the Reds.
The 21-year-old has yet to make his big league debut. He played in 107 games with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in the Class-A California League in 2019, slashing .269/.354/.507 with 19 home runs and 75 RBIs. He played in 12 games with Double-A Tulsa, clubbing five homers while driving in 11 runs. Between the two leagues, Downs hit .276, hit 24 homers and stole 24 bases.
According to his MLB profile, Downs should hit for a high average, and could play second base or even center field if shortstop doesn’t work out:
While Downs isn’t the biggest guy in the world, he barrels the ball consistently and drives the ball to all fields. He should hit for a high average thanks to a simple right-handed swing and a mature approach. He possesses average speed but he’s an aggressive baserunner who likes to steal.
If Downs were a lock to stay at shortstop, he would have been a first-round pick. The Reds were pleasantly surprised at how well he handled short in his debut but deployed him more at second base in 2018. His range and arm fit better at second, and some scouts wonder if he might wind up in center field.
With Xander Bogaerts locked in at short in Boston, it’s a good thing Downs is versatile in the field.
Connor Wong — Catcher
MLB Experience: None
Like Downs, Wong does not have any big league experience. A third-round pick by the Dodgers in 2019, he split his time between Single-A and Double-A in 2019. He hit .281 with 24 homers and 82 RBIs between L.A.’s two minor league affiliates, but was really solid at Double-A Tulsa, hitting .349 with nine homers and 31 RBIs in just 40 games. He threw out a ridiculous 52 percent of potential base stealers in Double-A, gunning down 16 would-be runners while only 15 successfully stole a base off of him.
While Wong is primarily a catcher, he played some second base during his collegiate years at Houston. He also played some third base in the minors, so he’s seen as a potential utility player if it doesn’t work out behind the plate.
From Wong’s MLB profile:
As evidenced by Austin Barnes and 2016 first-rounder Will Smith, the Dodgers value catchers with uncommon athleticism for the position. Wong also fits that mold, starting at shortstop as a Houston freshman before moving behind the plate. Signed for $547,500 as a third-rounder last June, he showed offensive and defensive promise during his pro debut in low Class A.
Because he has a simple right-handed swing, recognizes pitches well and controls the strike zone, Wong didn’t have to make any adjustments to hit pro pitching. He surprised the Dodgers with the extent of his sneaky power, which could produce 12-15 homers per year. A solid runner, he has uncommon speed for a catcher and exhibits good instincts on the bases.
Wong only started catching two years ago, so he needs to get more consistent with his throwing and receiving, which earn average to solid future grades. His listed size of 6-foot-1 and 181 pounds is generous, so he’ll have to prove he can withstand the rigors of catching over a full pro season. If he can’t, his athleticism would allow him to play almost anywhere as a utilityman.
Wong really needs to cut down on his strikeouts, whiffing 308 times in 241 minor league games.