February 9, 2020

Mega-Deal 2.0: Betts, Price, $48M To Dodgers; Alex Verdugo (OF) Jeter Downs (2B-SS), Connor Wong (C) to Red Sox

According to "sources", the Red Sox and Dodgers have agreed on a deal, with Boston getting outfielder Alex Verdugo, second baseman-shortstop Jeter Downs, and catcher Connor Wong from Los Angeles.

The Red Sox's 2020 payroll is now at $188.3 million (or $19.6 million below the threshold).

Downs, 21, has a rather unfortunate first name, but he's a fantastic prospect. He hit 24 dongs last year between High A and AA. In 56 AA plate appearances, he had a 1.117 OPS (.429 OBP, .688 SLG). Downs was the Dodgers' #3 prospect, according to ProspectsLive. He has a good shot at being our second baseman in 2021.

(Full name: Jeter Deion Downs. His mother says he doesn't like his middle name all that much. That's too bad, man! We should probably refer to him as J. Deion Downs... or J.D. Downs or ... CI Downs.)
The one thing that pops out is his power output in 2019. After hitting 13 home runs in 120 games for the Reds in 2018, he smashed 24 home runs in 119 last season, not to mention more doubles too.

The big change came in his swing. ... The Dodgers worked to get loft and length on his swing, marrying his quick hands with a new discipline to use all fields more while simultaneously filling out his frame. The result was multiple long balls clearing 400 feet, including six home runs to right field.

Downs never slowed down last year, even nailing a 12-game Double-A debut when he slashed .333/.429/.688. On the dirt, the Dodgers kept him at shortstop for most of the year but he played some second base, which was his primary position in Cincinnati. ... Downs is comfortably a top 100 prospect at present with a dynamic power/speed combo.
Baseball Prospectus, from last season:
Downs showed a solid power-and-speed combination from the shortstop position in his age-20 season. He led the California League with 33 doubles, then continued to rake during a cameo at Double-A, tying off his season with a three-homer game in the Texas League playoffs. After a pull-happy first half, Downs made adjustments to better utilize the opposite field in the second half, and both the hit and game power tools flourished. ... [H]e's got a decent approach and there's solid-average pop, but he stills cuts off the outer half too often. He's an above-average runner whose instincts play amplify his baserunning skill and should allow him to continue stealing bases at a solid clip. Defensively, the athletic 5-foot-10 middle infielder has good mobility and receptive hands, along with a 50-grade arm that is reasonable enough to cut it at the six, if not ideal for the role. It's more comfortable as a second base projection, but he should be able to stay up the middle and add occasional shortstop utility. The bat will lead him to the big leagues ... he should be scratching at the major league door by 2021.
MLB.com slots Downs in as the #44 best prospect in baseball for 2020. Boston's only player on that list is first baseman Tristan Casas at #77.

Wong was promoted to AA last year and posted an .997 OPS, playing three positions: 24 games at catcher, 10 at third, and six at second.

Baseball Prospectus, from 2019:
Wong has excellent coordination that allows him to make hard line drive contact consistently, but the combination of an extreme arm bar, aggressive approach, and trouble recognizing breaking balls lead to outlandishly high strikeout rates that threaten to derail the offensive profile. The arm bar helps him generate power, but it also creates huge holes up and on the inner third. ...

Defensively, Wong has solid hands behind the plate, and while he doesn't always have a smooth path to the ball, he performs well enough vertically and on the edges of the zone to add some value with his receiving. He has good footwork on blocks and a quick transition out of the crouch, which helps an average arm to play. The organization has flirted with second- and third-base reps for him, as well.

Wong currently projects to a tandem catching role at the major league level if he can shorten up the upper half of his swing and continue to bring his pop into games against experienced arms.

I gotta agree with S M A R F: "2019 home runs is a shit ton of dingers".

It's always a wise idea to hire someone who has no clue how baseball works for a job that involves talking to people about how baseball works. Sports radio ... It's like seeing a blind man driving a cab. Do you really wanna get in his cab? ... I guess what I'm saying is ... avoid sports radio.

I'm very curious how Graterol miraculously improved - in exactly three days - from "a pitcher with arm issues" to "a huge asset ... with [a] 100-mph arm".

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