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Brusdar Graterol's Strange Journey: What Did We Learn?

First we thought he was gone. Then, we weren't so sure. At one point it looked like he definitely was going to stay.

But once the dust had settled at the end of the weekend, Brusdar Graterol was indeed shipped out, sent to Los Angeles in a trade for veteran right-hander Kenta Maeda. (Obligatory: Pending physicals.)

So what have we learned from this whole ordeal, and what is the fallout?
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Graterol was freshly of legal drinking age when he joined the Twins last season, so it's only fitting he brought the Fireballs. His average fastball velocity of 99.0 MPH registered as fifth-highest for anyone who threw in the majors. Watching Graterol establish himself at the highest level, flashing boyish enthusiasm while pumping heaters past big-league stars, was a pure delight.



Naturally, I was very eager to see Graterol work his rare magic once again this year, potentially over an entire season (and deeper playoff run). That's why I supported the decision to keep him in the bullpen – it was a win-now move, which this franchise has historically shied away from.

Ironically, Graterol has now been dealt in an even bolder win-now move. With Maeda, the Twins get an established quantity, whose impact on the 2020 team far exceeds what could've realistically been expected from Graterol as a 60-inning reliever. But in making this swap, the Twins are losing a very unique player and special person whose story is yet to be written.

So while I'm excited about Maeda, I do find myself rueing Graterol's loss as the reality of his exit hits.

THE GOLDEN ARM

Los Angeles seems a great fit for Graterol. The Dodgers are a storied franchise, and among the top two or three 2020 World Series favorites – especially with Mookie Betts in the fold. But their bullpen could use a boost.

Formerly elite closer Kenley Jansen has seen a bit of a slide in recent years and is 32. Hard-throwing hothead Joe Kelly, signed to a big deal last offseason, was a disappointment in Year 1. Graterol joins Julio Urias as premium young arms infusing this staff with exhilarating upside. Jansen is under contract through 2021, so the Dodgers closer gig figures to be up for grabs then if not sooner. That's a prestigious (and, as Jansen has shown, lucrative) title.

It's also possible the Dodgers could try moving Graterol back into a starting role. But that's not happening this year, and now seems unlikely in general.

VALIDITY OF INJURY CONCERNS?

Under the original agreement, Graterol would've been heading to Boston, which itself wasn't a bad fit. As to why the Red Sox soured on the deal and reneged at the last moment, we don't know, and may never know. Some have insinuated it was fueled partially by negative public backlash, but the official account holds that a final review of the pitcher's medicals convinced Boston he's destined to stay in the bullpen, thus altering their asset valuation.

It's really unfortunate that Graterol's health – perfectly fine from all outward signs – came under scrutiny in this process. He battled hard to come back from shoulder soreness last summer, delivering in a huge way into October and finishing on a high note. So, to now have his outlook downplayed by subjective evaluations from Boston's staff has gotta be frustrating.

Then again, from the moment it came to light that Minnesota was willing to trade the top pitching prospect in any kind of deal, implications regarding their own assessments of Graterol were plain to see.



The Red Sox apparently reached a similar conclusion upon closer review of his medicals. They are entitled to their opinion, and while it really sucks this all got aired publicly, I'm not sure Boston's new GM Chaim Bloom is deserving of animosity. With an edict from on high to trade Betts, he's trying to make the best of an ugly situation.

The idea that this was a PR-driven course correction doesn't hold water to me. By opting out on Graterol, the Red Sox instead ended up subbing in shortstop Jeter Downs as the second talent received behind centerpiece Alex Verdugo. Downs is, according to most lists, a moderately better prospect than Graterol, but ... enough to meaningfully move the needle on fan sentiment? He's barely played above Single-A.

There's no such thing as a satisfactory return when trading a Mookie Betts, but Graterol is hardly unexciting. Red Sox fans just watched him blow away Yankees hitters in the playoffs at age 21 a few months ago. They weren't being asked to dream on some fanciful long-term project.

So, Boston got spooked on Graterol's medicals. Okay. And while the Dodgers were clearly less spooked, they weren't willing to make the same one-on-one swap that was originally planned. Los Angeles added in $10 million (meaningless to them) and a low-level prospect to extract more value from Minnesota, in the form of outfield prospect Luke Raley and (more critically) the 67th pick in this year's draft.

Based on what we can ascertain from the outside, Graterol alone would've been a fair return for Maeda, if not a bit of a heavy give by Minnesota. The Red Sox initially reached that conclusion. After seeing more files and records, their valuation changed, and LA also needed a bit extra to make it happen.

I think we can conclude, based on all of this, that there is a more valid basis for concern about Graterol's arm holding up than before this whole fiasco started. But you know what? The human body is an unpredictable construct. David Price, also heading to the Dodgers as part of a (now separate) trade with Boston, seems a relevant example to cite; he's been skirting Tommy John surgery for his entire career thanks to his "very unique" elbow. Sometimes red flags just flap in the wind endlessly.

There's a perfectly good chance Graterol goes on to enjoy a healthy career with no abnormal incidence of arm issues. But one thing does crystal-clear: he won't be doing it as a starter.

WHAT NOW FOR THE TWINS BULLPEN?

Graterol was a dynamic weapon and his absence is a negative for the bullpen picture. Duh. Then again, we hadn't been definitively planning around him as a reliever up until a couple weeks ago, and the Twins looked plenty strong on that front beforehand.

Even without Graterol, Minnesota still has proven late-inning firepower in Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, and Trevor May. There's steady veteran support from Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard. A promising project in Matt Wisler. Ready young contributors in Zack Littell and Cody Stashak.

This unit is not hurting for options, who have earned their chances. And in Fernando Romero, the Twins still have a forgotten flamethrower on hand whose raw stuff is nearly as formidable as Graterol's.

That Minnesota possessed the depth to part with a talent of Graterol's caliber speaks to the job this front office has done building a robust bullpen and pitching pipeline. (Don't be shocked if hard-throwing righty Jhoan Duran becomes this year's version of the 2019 Brusdar.)

None of this changes the fact that losing Graterol hurts, and the pain will likely resonate over the years as the phenom gets chances to shine on the biggest stage – probably while exhibiting the same boyish grin we came to love during our short time with him. But those are the sacrifices the Twins needed to make in the same pursuit.

There's a decent chance, I think, that the 2020 journeys of Graterol and the Twins will ultimately converge at the same place: a World Series in late October. Both teams involved in this trade are counting on it.

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46 Comments

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Brock Beauchamp
Feb 09 2020 10:07 PM

Graterol was freshly of legal drinking age when he joined the Twins last season, so it's only fitting he brought the Fireballs.

 

Groannnnnnnn. Nelson, yer killin' me. :D

    • Nick Nelson, Seth Stohs, Mike Sixel and 10 others like this
You have to give up something to get something. There should be pain.
    • Brock Beauchamp, SQUIRREL, James and 12 others like this
Pain is my friend- it never lies to me!
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Lasorda_This_Out
Feb 09 2020 11:53 PM

NBCSports did Brusdar irreparable career harm by reporting him as "damaged goods"?

Epitome of 'Fake News" from a sports perspective?

Wish Mr. Graterol an incredibly productive and successful (HOF?) MLB career..

 

Shame on BOS..shame on NBCSports...and the lazy media who simply repeated the damaged goods narrative...

 

Time to move on...bring on Spring Training 2020!

Pain is good. It informs you that you are still alive, if but to feel pain.

 

My parting thought for Graterol is that he can no longer blame the Twins for screwing him up the way they screwed up Trevor May. Good luck, Brusdar. May you mow 'em down with ease, by the dozen.

 

Luke Railey is gone, too. Good luck, Luke. Bash a few for the Dodgers. 

 

Welcome to the Twins, Kenta Maeda. We all hope you stay healthy. You will be needed. 

    • Dman likes this
I just hope Graterol doesn't pitch too many scoreless innings against us in this year's World Series.
    • Twins33, Minny505, bighat and 3 others like this

 

I just hope Graterol doesn't pitch too many scoreless innings against us in this year's World Series.

Yeah, but that would be a fun scenario to see happen!

    • Minny505 and IAMNFan like this
Thought pitching prospects weren't good until they had TJ surgery? The list of guys that have TJ and continue to dominate is really long. Hope he continues to dominate a d he gets to play in Boston and makes them regret backing out
    • mikelink45, Hosken Bombo Disco and DannySD like this

 

Pain is good. It informs you that you are still alive, if but to feel pain.

 

My parting thought for Graterol is that he can no longer blame the Twins for screwing him up the way they screwed up Trevor May. 

May was not that good as a starter.While it is more profitable to be a mediocre starter than a set up reliever, it is not screwing anyone up by putting them in roles they can have success. There is only one number that supports Graterol as a starter, which is called velocity

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diehardtwinsfan
Feb 10 2020 07:19 AM

 

NBCSports did Brusdar irreparable career harm by reporting him as "damaged goods"?

Epitome of 'Fake News" from a sports perspective?

Wish Mr. Graterol an incredibly productive and successful (HOF?) MLB career..

 

Shame on BOS..shame on NBCSports...and the lazy media who simply repeated the damaged goods narrative...

 

Time to move on...bring on Spring Training 2020!

personally, I think this affects the fan's perception of the deal than any front office... you just have to learn to take those barbs... any public athlete will have to do that from time to time...

 

Not saying it's right, but I don't think this is nearly as damaging as people say.

    • spycake, Sconnie, Dman and 3 others like this

One less player waiting in line - Rooker, Kiriloff, Larnach and no Raley.That was good and we will not miss him.But someday we might dream of Pressley and Graterol together in our pen. I know we have a funny guy with a low ranked fastball to take Brusdar's place.Mainly I am happy this is over.Back to the starting line.Good luck Brusdar.

It is probably time that ballclubs work hard to keep terms of trades silent until they are ready to announce a done deal. This week was total chaos and sure as he..ck took a toll on one young man.   

 

Understand that Graterol moving from starter to likely reliever reduces his value.But he can still throw the ball like very few on this planet.If another part needed to be added, adding Raley is a good choice as it would be difficult for him to find a spot on the Twins this year or beyond.As much as Maeda doesn't seem like that 'impact' pitcher everyone was looking for over the winter, he is very solid with a reasonable contract for the next four years. 

 

Don't like trading away the #67 pick.Hopefully, the low level minor league player coming back will offset that.Low level means he is young, doesn't mean he isn't a good prospect...at least I hope he is.And I can't calculate why the $10,000,000 was included in the deal, and what it means.

    • Minny505 likes this

What about Jorge Alcala making some gloves pop? 

    • DocBauer likes this

Nicely written.

    • Minny505 and DannySD like this
I was looking at the 2013 Cardinals who lost the World Series in 6 and nearly every pitcher and reliever had arm injuries since then. Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha, closer Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness. Only Joe Kelly who bombed in LA last year did not. Trading these young pitchers off before they became injured isn't as easy as it seems. The Cards got 1 good year out of 5 from Wainwright in $95 million contract though he came back in an incentive contract.

You as a GM would have to be absolutely naive not to believe that Brusdar with TJ surgery and shoulder impingement while still throwing 99 Mph isn't going to spend time on the DL with arm injuries? Boston playing games? Please.

The Cards bought out Jaime Garcia's arbitration years and got enough value out of him, barely, to then trade him for John Gant. C. Martinez has been sent to the BP as we nurse his shoulder and may start this year.

The incentives contract with Maeda is a good thing. But, his record on the road and against the AL last year is awful. He may pitch well against KC, Detroit and Baltimore. Against the Yankees and Astros I don't think they will be too worried. But, thanks to the contract and Brusdar's arm problems it'll probably be a good trade. Perhaps Brusdar becomes a more finesse pitcher.

Remembering our pitcher Lance Lynn who injured his elbow near the end of his fourth season rendering a trade impossible as season five was rehab and season six was a recovery year in which his second half was bad you remember him for season seven? It took him until season eight with the Rangers to look like his old self.

It wouldn't shock me Berrios suffers an arm injury as hard as he throws. This isn't the days where pitchers like Maddux were averaging 89 Mph on their fastball.

 

It wouldn't shock me Berrios suffers an arm injury as hard as he throws. This isn't the days where pitchers like Maddux were averaging 89 Mph on their fastball.

 

But it kind of reminds me of the days where pitchers like Johnson and Clemens were averaging 97 on their fastballs.

 

eh? eh?

"It wouldn't shock me Berrios suffers an arm injury as hard as he throws."

 

It wouldn't shock me if any pitcher suffers an arm injury.

    • Mike Sixel, Twins33, Danchat and 6 others like this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Feb 10 2020 09:17 AM

Thought pitching prospects weren't good until they had TJ surgery? The list of guys that have TJ and continue to dominate is really long. Hope he continues to dominate a d he gets to play in Boston and makes them regret backing out

My guess is the shoulder stuff concerned Boston more.
    • USAFChief and Twins33 like this

 

It is probably time that ballclubs work hard to keep terms of trades silent until they are ready to announce a done deal. This week was total chaos and sure as he..ck took a toll on one young man. 

Do we really know that it "took a toll" on Graterol? I guess it was revealed that one team expressed skepticism about his medicals, which might be weird but hardly surprising. No real details were leaked about those medicals. Being traded in general is probably a bit of a weird experience, especially the first time, but I wouldn't necessarily describe it as "taking a toll". On the positive side, Graterol saw that two powerhouse organizations were both interested in his services, which might be a bit of an ego boost.

 

Also, I'm guessing it was more chaos among media and fans than with the teams and players. The Twins likely informed Graterol of the deal when it was first announced and kept him updated on the process. The process wasn't even that long when you think about it -- yes, longer than the average trade, but it appears the teams agreed in principle on Tuesday evening, spent Wednesday reviewing medicals, Thursday and Friday renegotiating based on those medicals, Saturday the original configuration of the deal was abandoned, then on Sunday all parties came to new agreements. Considering it's still technically the offseason, that's hardly an egregious timeline.

    • USAFChief, DocBauer, gbg and 1 other like this

LAD seems like a good fit. They know how to build innings and use swingmeninstead of the traditional 1 IP approach (e.g. Maeda and Urias in recent years).

 

    • Riverbrian likes this

I find it bizarre to give Boston any leeway for how they handled this. What could they have possibly seen in "the medicals" that would have shown them that "hey, maybe the twins are right and he's a bullpen guy after all"? What could they have possibly seen in an old MRI and the year-end physical that would give them more information that his arm could hold up for only 60-80 innings a year vs 150-200 innings a year over scouting him as a player?

 

the answer is, of course, nothing.

 

There are few realistic scenarios for why this happened: 1) The BoSox think the twins medical staff and scouting are incompetent, ignored everything that came out around the decision to move him to the bullpen...and then realized that "dang, maybe they were right all along". 2) the team got crushed by their fan base and most analysts for the deal they had in place (mostly for giving up betts at all to save money) and panicked.

 

Fortunately for them, LA still really wanted Betts (and why wouldn't they? he's a generational talent) and was comfortable eating a chunk of Price's contract.

 

LA also knew that with price coming on board they didn't have room in their rotation for Maeda and knew he was going to be pissed off all year if they dumped him in the bullpen absent injury. Graterol fit just fine on their team, and it sounds like they still liked Raley and threw a little more cash around, since they're printing money out there.

 

From a baseball perspective, this worked out for LA, though they ended up giving up a little more prospect capital than they probably wanted to. it worked out for the twins because they fortified their rotation not just for this year but also for the next few years at low risk, and they're ready to go for it this year and next.

 

from a financial perspective, the BoSox got what they wanted: a reset on the luxury tax and out from under most of david "i hate it here" price and his contract. From a baseball perspective, it stinks for Boston, unless these prospects both turn into allstars. because they gave up an MVP. A generational talent. They basically threw in the towel on 2020, unless the Yankees totally bust out (seems unlikely) Guys like Betts just don't come around very often and they do more than just win baseball games for you: they inspire a generation of fans. Think about what watching Kirby Puckett for his whole career did for a generation of twins fans. Betts was one of those guys for Boston and they dumped him because ownership wanted to make like $100M in profits rather than $50M. They have that right, and it's a lot of money, but it not great for baseball in Boston.

 

On the other hand, screw them. they've won plenty in the last 15 years or so; maybe it's great that they're starting to botch things up for their team on the field!

 

 

    • DocBauer likes this

 

I find it bizarre to give Boston any leeway for how they handled this. What could they have possibly seen in "the medicals" that would have shown them that "hey, maybe the twins are right and he's a bullpen guy after all"? What could they have possibly seen in an old MRI and the year-end physical that would give them more information that his arm could hold up for only 60-80 innings a year vs 150-200 innings a year over scouting him as a player?

 

the answer is, of course, nothing.

This is an incorrect assertion about what is contained in player's medical record.

 

Not just every exam, but every interaction with training staff, every treatment recommended by staff, the results of monitoring those treatments, etc.

 

I've linked this a billion times already, but it's a very good explanation of the process:

 

“How baseball teams exchange medical information, and what it means for the Mookie Betts trade”

 

https://www.bostongl...?outputType=amp

 

    • Nick Nelson, markos and MN_ExPat like this

 

LAD seems like a good fit. They know how to build innings and use swingmeninstead of the traditional 1 IP approach (e.g. Maeda and Urias in recent years).

 

Which would be the perfect approach with Graterol - he's the age of a college junior starting his career in Elizabethton. Still so much time to stretch that arm out.

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diehardtwinsfan
Feb 10 2020 10:20 AM

 


You as a GM would have to be absolutely naive not to believe that Brusdar with TJ surgery and shoulder impingement while still throwing 99 Mph isn't going to spend time on the DL with arm injuries? Boston playing games? Please.

 

I guess the point many are making is that this statement applies equally to Boston too. They'd have had to be naïve not to think that this was a real possibility. I tend to think the medicals were likely more of an excuse than anything. 

    • JLease likes this

I fully expect Maeda to go about 2 1/3 in his first start just so Twins fans can go bat$*** crazy and then he'll settle into a nice groove like Pineda did last season that too few noticed.I like the move and Maeda starts will be more important than any relievers appearances.


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