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Graterol Trade On Hold? Valuing Starters and Relievers

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic is reporting that the Red Sox’ examination of Twins pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol may have raised concerns before the deal is finalized. The Red Sox “evidently agree that he is not suited for a 150- to 170-inning workload” and, the trade could require an adjustment before the deal can be completed. The new twist highlights how teams (and fans) value relievers versus starting pitchers.
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
In the now-delayed deal, the Twins acquired starting pitcher Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers in exchange for sending Graterol to the Red Sox. The surprising trade was announced Tuesday night, and Twins fans’ evaluation of the deal tended to vary depending on this very question: just how much upside does Graterol have?

The other side of the trade is easier to evaluate. Maeda’s talent is considerable, and his team-friendly contract makes him even more valuable. But as recently as a month ago, the assumption was that the 100-mph-throwing Graterol would begin the season in the minors as a starting pitcher, keeping him on the path of becoming a rotational ace.

That narrative was reversed when Twins coach Wes Johnson revealed that Graterol was preparing for a bullpen role a few weeks ago. Graterol served in that role in September and in the postseason for the Twins, but had been a starting pitcher to begin the season, before a shoulder impingement shelved him for three months.

If he started the season in a relief role, it was unlikely he would ever return to the starter role for two reasons. First, he was expected to have tremendous success as a late-inning reliever with a triple-digit fastball and a plus-plus slider. But he also had never made more than 19 starts as a pitcher in any year, or pitcher more than 102 innings. His arm had never shown it could withstand a starter’s workload.

“Value” is a tricky term, as it can mean a lot of things. The value to a team of a fire-throwing reliever versus a top-of-the-rotation starter can be debated. Because relievers are used more often, and especially because they are inserted into games in critical moments, they can impact more games in more meaningful ways than a starting pitcher. But starting pitchers pitch more innings, thus suppressing more runs.

Those two values are depicted differently by different statistics. Wins Over Replacement (WAR) values innings pitched, and starting pitchers lead relievers in it every year. But Win Probability Added (WPA) values how much a player increased the probability of their team winning a game. High-impact relievers often lead pitching staffs in that metric.

However, there is another meaning of value: rarity. It is usually harder to find starting pitchers than relievers. This has been especially true for the Twins, as their top-tier bullpen includes lots of reclamation projects, while they spent their offseason futilely begging “impact” starting pitchers to take their six-figure deals.

So when the Twins, who are hungry for impact pitching and flush with relief arms, decided to move potential ace Graterol to the bullpen, it probably should have told us something. It probably should have told the Red Sox something too. Apparently it is now, and it’s significant enough that it is jeopardizing their signature offseason deal, including shedding over $40M in payroll this year.

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I'd dig my heels in on this one. NO WAY would i give the BoSox anything more than Graterol.

    • Nine of twelve and Lasorda_This_Out like this


"The value to a team of a fire-throwing reliever versus a top-of-the-rotation starter can be debated."


Uh, no.There is a reason that aces get paid a ton more and get longer contracts than a closer. They are a LOT more valuable. 

 Yeah, and to add to this:


Quality starting pitching is way harder to accomplish than quality relieving and takes more skill and ability. A quality starter has to successfully navigate their opponents lineup three times in an outing. Any marginally successful major league starting pitcher can be a quality reliever. Relievers are failed starters. Their stuff/stamina is only strong enough to get hitters out once in a game. Hitters don't often get a second chance at a reliever in the same series. 


If Graterol becomes a rotation ace for Boston, then this trade will sting; but this trade definitely makes the Twins better for 2020. It does not make them a post season competitor. IMO, it makes them the favorite for the division, if they weren't already. It gives them a pretty good chance of getting to the break and deadline in a competitive position where they will have the option of trading for starting pitching that can actually make a difference in the post season. 

    • Jeff_M likes this

If the Twins part of this deal does unwind and Graterol remains a Twin, I can't wait until we play the Sox at Fenway.I want Graterol to close two of the three wins, hitting 105 on the radar gun and never being less than 102.Sit'em down with nine pitches both nights!



    • Steve Lein, KidBro, Nine of twelve and 1 other like this
I am about the last person you would ever accuse of being a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe this is, at least mostly, a power play by Boston to get something added to the deal whether that be player or additional $ savings.

My hunch? As expected, the deal still goes through with the Dodgers giving in something small. I think they really want this to happen.

Despite hopes and dreams of Graterol becoming a top of the rotation SP...and he could still be with some time and development...the Twins FO is having doubts about his long term viability there. Doesn't mean they don't like him, just that they believe the pen is his destination. I doubt Graterol's health is the hold up here. He was just fine after his shoulder impingement and there hasn't been so much as a whisper this off-season about any issues.
    • MN_ExPat likes this
Why didn’t the Twins do this with Dyson?
    • nokomismod, VivaBomboRivera! and Jeff_M like this
It's not on the red Sox. They aren't wrong for doing this. If they don't like his medicals, the deal needs changing or cancelling. That's how sports deals work.

I think this reinforces what some of us thought about Gaterol and his long term value.....
    • Twins33, twinstalker, Oxtung and 4 others like this
I can't fault the Red Sox for this. Twins fans would want their FO to do the same thing. Good on them.
    • Oxtung and spycake like this

Why didn’t the Twins do this with Dyson?

It seemed like the Twins received a clean bill of health for Dyson, but he developed the shoulder problem as he started pitching here. Just bad luck.
    • howieramone2 likes this

Depending on how the deal was set, if the physicals are failed or medicals show known issues by Twins but not known to Red Sox, the Sox could back out of deal.However, they will have to ask question if they want to, and MLB will have to see if they can.A lot will depend on what Red Sox learned they did not know before the offer, and if Twins knew it.  


Three ways it could be resolved, deal as proposed and no one budges.Deal blows up and no one moves anywhere.Either Dodgers or Twins throw more in for deal to Sox.In reality, the trade is two separate deals being contingent on the other being completed.  


If Sox can back out, they will have to ask themselves if they want to.Rumors of this type of deal had been going on for weeks, so clearly they want to move Betts and Price.If they back out, is the San Diego deal any better?Will try to call the bluff of Dodgers if Dodgers do not want to throw in more?Will Twins want to throw in more to get Matea?So many questions. 

Boston had to have done their due diligence and known how Graterol was preparing for the upcoming season (especially since the Twins announced it). I don't think it has anything to do with injury, injury history, etc... as Graterol pitched at the end of last season and in the playoffs (touching 100+). I think it is cold feet on return (no immediate starter to fill Price's spot) and angry fan base (trading Betts).


Los Angeles and Minnesota should stand firm and let Boston catch all the flak for trying to renege on a trade (from the fans, the commissioners office and the player's union). 


Why didn’t the Twins do this with Dyson?

The Twins received medicals on Dyson, just as the Red Sox did with Graterol.


But there was nothing in Dyson's medicals to suggest a problem, nor was there any real reason to be suspicious of a problem at the time. (And what constitutes a problem for a 21 year old SP prospect could be very different than what constitutes a problem for a 31 year old reliever.)

    • Twins33, Danchat and Sconnie like this
while they spent their offseason futilely begging “impact” starting pitchers to take their six-figure deals

Thanks for taking us back to the 60’s. Six-figures are for rookies.
    • Jeff_M likes this

To be fair to the Red Sox, the Twins publicly said Graterol was to begin in the pen but it was a flexible role going forward. It could be there was less flexibility than those public comments suggested.


And now, "not suited for a 150- to 170-inning workload" is likely a public generalization about a specific shoulder concern.

From what others are saying, I'm gathering that this is simply the Red Sox trying to exert late stage leverage at the tail end of a deal. Twins should remain absolutely silent, wait out these jerks. Let the whole league watch them twist in the wind. It will make it harder for the Red Sox to make deals in future. Fine by me. Always be willing to walk away. 

    • tarheeltwinsfan, Wizard11, Nine of twelve and 3 others like this
Feb 06 2020 11:05 AM



3. Terrible beginning to Chaim Bloom's tenure. The Sox holding up a blockbuster trade mid deal due to issues that were public knowledge with a piece they likely hand picked? Yikes. Good luck negotiating any meaningful deals in the future. All of baseball is watching this and wondering how this could happen.

I agree 100%. A man is only as good as his word. I admit I only know what I have read, but I didn't fall off a turnip truck riding into town this morning. 


I agree 100%. A man is only as good as his word. I admit I only know what I have read, but I didn't fall off a turnip truck riding into town this morning. 

By the same token, though, I doubt Bloom or the Red Sox front office fell off that turnip truck this morning either. :)


Seriously, if the negative effects of the Red Sox playing games at this stage of the trade process are so easily apparent to everyone, why would we assume that's what the Red Sox are doing?

    • USAFChief, Mike Sixel, tarheeltwinsfan and 1 other like this

I would be willing to add a prospect like Poppen to the deal.someone who could come up and be a back end starter or reliever.  


or a low level prospect could be in order too.


or a competitive round draft pick 


or 250k or 500k international draft signing slot.I wouldn't want to add too much to the deal.Maybe we could add 2-4 million cash to the deal to Boston.


Those are the types of adds / compromises I would be willing to consider to balance out the trade.  

Can we throw in Duensing?

    • SQUIRREL, USAFChief, scottz and 9 others like this


Why didn’t the Twins do this with Dyson?

Because the Twins are from Minnesota, ya know "Minnesota Nice."

Feb 06 2020 11:35 AM

Twins should do nothing...Graterol for Maeda, period.

Let the Dodgers "sweeten" the offer, if that's what it takes...


As jimbo92107 correctly pointed out: "Always be willing to walk away"

    • Twins33, DocBauer, Rigby and 4 others like this

The Dodgers are getting the best player in this deal (YMMV on whether Price/Maeda/Graterol is actually the 2nd best player) so if anyone tosses someone else in it should be them. I'm guessing they probably just eat a little more of Price's contract in the end or flip in an A-ball lottery ticket to close it. But no way should the Twins drop in anything more.


I think this still gets done.

    • Twins33 and DocBauer like this


It's not on the red Sox. They aren't wrong for doing this. If they don't like his medicals, the deal needs changing or cancelling. That's how sports deals work.

I think this reinforces what some of us thought about Gaterol and his long term value.....

That's the problem with incomplete information.If the doctors said "Hey he had a shoulder impingement so we are not sure he can throw 180 innings" or "Hey, the guy throws 103 mph and we're not sure he can do that over 180 innings" then they really have no case.If they did an Xray and found out he's been held together by duct tape and WD-40 that's another thing entirely.I guess the assumption is that the Twins haven't hidden anything from his last medical and that he hasn't had any changes since the last pitch.I have always had concerns about his long term value because of how hard he throws which is why I didn't want him throwing 103 mph in the minors. Its wasted there.However, I also recognize he could throw for a long time with no problems. He's just more at risk. Its just weird the way its worded. They are not worried that he can't throw 103 mph for the short term but concerned that he can't throw150-170 innings.That's the risk part of the reward and on the face of it they look unreasonable.Of course, new info may come out that changes that face.

    • SQUIRREL, Twins33, woolywoolhouse and 3 others like this

Could it be the simplest explanation? The RS looked at Graterol's medical history and didn't like what they see?



    • Mike Sixel, Oxtung, h2oface and 2 others like this

Why didn’t the Twins do this with Dyson?

Dyson had been pitching hurt, but pitching effectively. And he never informed anyone. The medical reports given to the Twins, reportedly, indicated no issues to be concerned about. It is also my understanding that in deadline deals, especially last minute ones, there is generally no physical involved, only traded medical reports by the teams.

Up until now, the Twins have had every incentive in the world to look optimistically at Graterol's future as a starter.


It's quite possible that the Twins haven't felt that same optimism privately, and another team with access to his medicals now agrees with them.

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