DETROIT – When the dust settled on the insane Mookie Betts trade fiasco last week, the Los Angeles Angels were the main casualty of the Boston Red Sox’s reluctance to follow through with their original deal.
The Red Sox had agreed to send Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Alex Verdugo and Brusdar Graterol, a hard-throwing prospect from the Minnesota Twins. The Twins would have received pitcher Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers to complete the deal.
After public outrage from the fan base and questions surrounding Graterol’s physical, the Red Sox demanded more in the trade.
Graterol was instead shipped to the Dodgers, along with prospect Luke Raley, for Maeda. The Red Sox still got Verdugo, but also improved their return by getting top 50 prospect Jeter Downs and catching prospect Connor Wong.
Los Angeles trade falls through
The Dodgers and Angels had also agreed to a separate trade that would send outfielder Joc Pederson and pitcher Ross Stripling to the Angels for Luis Rengifo. That deal was contingent on the first Betts deal, though, and the Dodgers have balked on the deal after finalizing deals with Minnesota and Boston.
But with Betts joining fellow superstar Cody Bellinger, as well as Chris Taylor, A.J. Pollock and Enrique Hernandez in the Dodgers’ outfield, there’s still a logjam.
Stripling is also in limbo, as the Dodgers add Price to a rotation that’s already loaded with Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May, Julio Urias and Tony Gonsolin. Los Angeles back strong backup options in Alex Wood and Jimmy Nelson, too.
The Dodgers were willing to trade Pederson and Stripling for so little because they need to alleviate some of that crowded roster. The Tigers should try to take advantage of the situation.
Right now the Tigers’ outfield has some potential with young players such as Christin Stewart, JaCoby Jones, Travis Demeritte and Victor Reyes, but it would get a huge boost with the addition of Pederson.
With the additions of Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron to the heart of the order, Pederson would give the Tigers three legitimate power threats who are proven at the MLB level.
Last season, Pederson hit 36 home runs in 514 plate appearances while walking 50 times. His .249/.339/.538 slash line is much better than anything the Tigers have on the current roster, even counting the off-season signings.
Pederson is only under contract for one more season, but he’s very reasonably priced at $7.75 million. He won’t turn 28 years old until April 21, and if the Tigers like what they see, they could try to sign him to an extension.
It’s not like he’s a major long-term financial commitment. The Tigers want to remain flexible in terms of the payroll, but they also want to be more competitive this season and beyond. Pederson is the type of player who can check both of those boxes.
At worst, Pederson could become a trade chip at the deadline. He’s a guarantee to hit for power wherever he goes, and a young left-handed power hitter is a consistent need for teams looking to make playoff pushes.
Stripling makes even more sense for the Tigers. Since he didn’t debut until his age-27 season, he’s under contract through 2023 -- the same as Matt Boyd. He’s set to make just $2.1 million this season, so he’s an excellent discount player.
Yes, the Tigers have a handful of young pitchers knocking on the door of the MLB level, but starting a rotation with Boyd and Stripling would be much safer than counting on three or four of the young prospects to work out, and the Tigers have made it clear they want a veteran presence on the roster to work with the young players.
Last season, in 15 starts and 17 relief appearances, Stripling struck out 93 batters in 90.2 innings while posting a 2.47 FIP and 1.147 ERA. He had a low walk rate to go with his high strikeout rate. For his career, he averages more than four strikeouts per walk.
Stripling has never gotten a full-time opportunity to start because of the crowded Dodgers rotation, but he’s earned that chance heading into his age-30 season. Last year, he held batters to a .708 OPS in 15 starts with more than a strikeout per inning, a low WHIP and a strong FIP.
Stripling could become a part of the rotation long-term because he’s only thrown 387 innings in his MLB career. He could also be dangled as trade bait now or in the future, much like the Tigers have done with Boyd.
What Tigers would have to give up
The original trade would have sent Pederson, Stripling and prospect Andy Pages to the Angels for Rengifo, a middle infielder who posted a .685 OPS as a rookie in 2019.
In 108 games, Rengifo hit seven home runs and 18 doubles while striking 93 times and drawing 40 walks. His .321 on-base percentage was the highlight of an otherwise underwhelming profile. Before getting called up, Rengifo was the Angels’ No. 10 overall prospect in 2018. He owned a slightly above-average OPS of .765 in six minor-league seasons.
Translation: The Dodgers really weren’t getting much in return.
It’s possible that the Dodgers now want more in a potential trade because they had to give up Downs and Wong in the Betts deal. Still, giving up more doesn’t necessarily mean overpaying. There are two valuable players on the table.
Los Angeles already has Max Muncy, Gavin Lux, Corey Seager and Justin Turner from right to left on the infield, so Rengifo wasn’t even going to have a starting job. The Dodgers would likely want a prospect or young player in this deal.
The Tigers have plenty of players who fit the same bill as Rengifo. They wouldn’t give up Isaac Paredes in a deal, but Willi Castro is certainly a good enough prospect. Wenceel Perez and Sergio Alcantara are also similarly ranked infield prospects.
Essentially, any prospects outside of the team’s top tier -- Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, Alex Faedo, Franklin Perez, Joey Wentz, Riley Greene, Paredes, Daz Cameron, Jake Rogers, Parker Meadows and Kody Clemens -- would be worth sending to Los Angeles for Pederson and Stripling.
Detroit would be flipping unknown players for proven big leaguers. That’s one of the steps toward turning a rebuilding team into a contender.