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Twins Trade Graterol to Dodgers for Kenta Maeda in Blockbuster Deal


Seth Stohs
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I like it. For once we sell high on an unproven prospect and get a proven starting pitching asset. Maeda has been reliable and pretty durable, he's controlled for four years, and he's cheap. Oh, and he's actually pretty good. 

 

The likelihood Graterol becomes Romero V2 are quite high. The likelihood he ever starts in the rotation was low. Graterol only has 50 something innings above A ball. 

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Here is an interesting  comparison.

 

Kenta Maeda: 31 G / 26 GS, 10-8 with 4.04 ERA, 153.2 IP, 114 Hits, 70 Runs, 3.95 FIP, 1.074 WHIP, 9.9 K/9

 

Zack Wheeler: 31 G / 31 GS, 11-8 with 3.96 ERA, 195.1 IP, 196 Hits, 93 Runs, 3.48 FIP, 1.259 WHIP, 9.0 K/9

 

 

Maeda, although he did not pitch as many innings, has similar comps to Zack Wheeler and even has a better WHIP and K/9.

 

Maeda costs $3.125 Million a year through 2023.  Zack Wheeler just signed a 5yr/$118M contract (who every Twins fan coveted in free agency).  This is a great move by the Twins! Graterol COULD be elite, yes. But the Twins just got a solid #2-3 pitcher.  Let's be excited!

 

None of those numbers are adjusted. The Mets had pretty horrific defense last year -- as an illustration, B-Ref says an average pitcher, pitching in the same conditions as Wheeler (park/opponents/defense), would have had a 5.08 RA9 last year; Maeda, only 4.12. That's a pretty massive difference, if true!

 

Thus, both bWAR and fWAR give Wheeler a significant edge on Maeda, about 1.5-2 WAR, even after prorating Maeda's innings.

 

Also, $3 mil is only Maeda's base salary. He's likely to earn more in incentives, especially as a full-time starter -- still less than Wheeler, of course, but it closes the gap a little. The value of Graterol closes the gap a little further too. (And Maeda is 2+ years older than Wheeler, so his future projections are likely a little worse.)

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I'm just full of thoughts tonight, here's one more:

 

This is not Terry Ryan at the helm anymore. 

With Maeda's unique contract, I could actually see TR making this move, under these conditions. But the opportunity never really presented itself (contending team, prospect equivalent to Graterol, and perhaps most of all, Maeda's contract).

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Like most I have mixed feelings on this deal. But I’m warming on Maeda because of his ability to start and get whiffs in addition to his success in October. Maeda is another Twin locked up for the next 4 seasons and there are still plenty of ways to add more ML talent during 2020 and beyond. I am a Graterol believer. I’ve had him on my fantasy squads minor league roster for a few years now. But I think the team traded him when his value was quite high which is very unlike the Twins.

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I wasn't trying to say that Maeda was better than Wheeler, obviously I would rather have Wheeler, but I think their comparison is valid.   Definitely not a #5 starter like some on this forum have mentioned.  Graterol could be great, but if he's strictly going to be a reliever, I would rather have Maeda.

 

None of those numbers are adjusted. The Mets had pretty horrific defense last year -- as an illustration, B-Ref says an average pitcher, pitching in the same conditions as Wheeler (park/opponents/defense), would have had a 5.08 RA9 last year; Maeda, only 4.12. That's a pretty massive difference, if true!

 

Thus, both bWAR and fWAR give Wheeler a significant edge on Maeda, about 1.5-2 WAR, even after prorating Maeda's innings.

 

Also, $3 mil is only Maeda's base salary. He's likely to earn more in incentives, especially as a full-time starter -- still less than Wheeler, of course, but it closes the gap a little. The value of Graterol closes the gap a little further too. (And Maeda is 2+ years older than Wheeler, so his future projections are likely a little worse.)

 

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"In 2019, he went 10-8 with a 4.04 ERA. In 153 2/3 innings, he walked 51 and struck out 169 batters."

 

I tried to look up the impact on ERA of going from the NL to the AL.  I did not find a lot, but would expect about a 0.5 increase which would make him much less of a #3 pitcher than we would want.  

 

I am not upset with this move, but the rookies must be discouraged. 

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Here is an interesting   comparison.

 

Kenta Maeda: 31 G / 26 GS, 10-8 with 4.04 ERA, 153.2 IP, 114 Hits, 70 Runs, 3.95 FIP, 1.074 WHIP, 9.9 K/9

 

Zack Wheeler: 31 G / 31 GS, 11-8 with 3.96 ERA, 195.1 IP, 196 Hits, 93 Runs, 3.48 FIP, 1.259 WHIP, 9.0 K/9

 

 

Maeda, although he did not pitch as many innings, has similar comps to Zack Wheeler and even has a better WHIP and K/9.

 

Maeda costs $3.125M a year through 2023.   Zack Wheeler just signed a 5yr/$118M contract (who every Twins fan coveted in free agency).   This is a great move by the Twins! Graterol COULD be elite, yes. But, there are major concerns about his ability to be a starting pitcher that gives you 180-200 IP a year. The Twins just got a solid #2-3 pitcher and are clearly saying that we are in a "Win Now" window.   Let's be excited!

 

I was kind of thinking this same thing.  While acknowledging the age difference and some other differences pointed out I was asking myself would I rather have Wheeler and keep Brusdar or have Donaldson and Maeda?    Assuming had we signed Wheeler to a 20+ million per year deal Donaldson would have been off the radar.  I'll take the latter.  

 

Plus the fact he's been successful in the bullpen to me is a nice transition here if he does fall off as a starter over the last year or 2 of his contract.   Could also transition to bullpen for playoffs if needed and/or if we develop some of our young pitching prospects.  

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I wasn't trying to say that Maeda was better than Wheeler, obviously I would rather have Wheeler, but I think their comparison is valid.   Definitely not a #5 starter like some on this forum have mentioned.  Graterol could be great, but if he's strictly going to be a reliever, I would rather have Maeda.

Yeah, I agree he's not a #5 starter. And Graterol might be a fair price for him, on this contract.

 

One more note on Wheeler vs. Maeda -- Fangraphs currently projects Wheeler with a 1.5 WAR advantage for 2020, or 1.0 WAR if you prorate Maeda's innings (although prorating may not be fair to Wheeler, as Maeda has never thrown that many innings since he left Japan).

 

If you use the common estimate of $8 mil per WAR on the open market, one could expect Wheeler to be worth ~$12 mil more per season than Maeda. And indeed, he's making $23.6 mil per season, and Maeda would make $10.65 mil if he hits those incentives. (Of course, there's benefit to the incentive structure vs a full guarantee, but there's also the cost of Graterol to factor in too.)

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Our only issue with payroll is that they dont reach the reported 50% of revenue

 

I think the big thing about Maeda is how affordable he'll be the next few years. We have a lot of payroll issues so finding a solid big league pitcher at his price is probably a significant factor for the Twins FO.

 

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"In 2019, he went 10-8 with a 4.04 ERA. In 153 2/3 innings, he walked 51 and struck out 169 batters."

 

I tried to look up the impact on ERA of going from the NL to the AL.  I did not find a lot, but would expect about a 0.5 increase which would make him much less of a #3 pitcher than we would want.  

 

I am not upset with this move, but the rookies must be discouraged. 

 

If you mean Dobnak, Thorpe and Smeltzer, I'm Ok if they're discouraged.

 

If/when fully healthy, the Twins should have Berrios, Maeda, Odorizzi, Pineda, Hill, Bailey and Chacin (iif he's still around) plus the Dobnak/Thorpe/Smeltzer crew. They're missing a Kershaw obviously, but it looks like they are building their staff similar to the Dodgers. They should be able to shuttle any or all of those starters to the pen for a stretch to keep them fresh, and they're a long way from being forced to use a Dobnak in game three of the post season. 

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Seems to me this is what trades for prospects look like, they aren't going to dig up a number 1 or 2 starter for that price. Free agency didn't work out for them like they would have liked so we have this, which improves their pitching now, which is desperately needed. Maeda can be an important piece for the Twins for the next couple or 3 years, you worry about replacing a Graterol type in the pipeline later. I like the deal. 

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Just to be clear, I think I endorse this trade. I haven't been quite as high on Graterol's future value as some, and I recognize the value of Maeda's contract. It seems like a fair deal.

 

FWIW, baseballtradevalues.com is a little more pessimistic. They forecast 12.2 median future value for Maeda, as compared to 21.1 for Graterol.

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Fascinating move.  On the heels of the Donaldson signing, a trading one of our top pitching prospects in a win-now mode? Sort of feels like we have entered a strange version of The Twinkie Twilight Zone.

 

I can't help but wonder if Falvine viewed Graterol's career path as somewhat similar to Fernando Romero. A hard-throwing prospect who they wish that they had sold high on a couple of years ago. A couple of years later, I don't think that the Twins know what to do with Romero at this point.

 

Graterol may be great. However, the warning signs are there. All of the discussion about guys like Smeltzer and Dobnak filling in for Pineda...while Graterol was already being moved to the bullpen?  That tells you that Falvine had some concerns about Graterol.  A 21 year old flamethrowing top prospect isn't just moved to the bullpen so that Devin Smeltzer can start games for a contender.  If that is the case, Graterol's value may never be higher.

 

The affordable contract, even with incentives, for Maeda could also provide one other benefit:  having a controllable starter for a few years at a team-friendly price could provide the Twins some extra payroll flexibility to add a few more dollars to the contract negotiations for Berrios.

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I actually like getting Maeda. I don't like the price being Graterol. I agree that getting a controllable SP is going to come at a steep price. But imo that price should have come out of our surplus, ie Kiriloff, Larnach, Lewis etc. Trading away a Graterol who can fling the ball at 100mph plus is a hard pill to swallow. It really doesn't even matter if Brusdar is only good for 60-70 IP for season. We needed pitching yes. But giving up pitching when you had a surplus elsewhere is a poor move. Graterol is just as much of a win now player as Maeda is imo.

 

I'm neutral on this deal at this point. 

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I have to love it because I will be able to watch the Twins more than before. It was the top news on NHK sports, so I'm getting it second hand here, but they will certainly show some games pitched by Maeda. He may not be able to throw as many pitches as Yamaguchi, but he's still a horse. Let's keep him healthy and happy.

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I actually like getting Maeda. I don't like the price being Graterol. I agree that getting a controllable SP is going to come at a steep price. But imo that price should have come out of our surplus, ie Kiriloff, Larnach, Lewis etc. Trading away a Graterol who can fling the ball at 100mph plus is a hard pill to swallow. It really doesn't even matter if Brusdar is only good for 60-70 IP for season. We needed pitching yes. But giving up pitching when you had a surplus elsewhere is a poor move. Graterol is just as much of a win now player as Maeda is imo.

 

I'm neutral on this deal at this point.

It probably slipped Falvine’s mind completely to trade from surplus... Or maybe, just maybe, other teams share who they’re interested in?

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Told you so

Haha! When the genie granted you 3 wishes, I’m not sure why all three of your wishes was knowing what would happen for the Twins in the 2019/2020 offseason! Me? I probably would have asked to have the ability to fly. You have some weird wishes, Bird.

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Stupid move for a team desperately trying to develop a top-of-the-rotation arm for the last 20 years.

 

I'm done with Team Falvine.

 

What inside knowledge do you have ? None. Falvine has more baseball knowledge in their pinkie fingers than In your whole being. 

 

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I've been digesting this one a bit and the more I think about it the more I'm pleased. It's not a sexy or exciting trade for us but it's a solid one. This now makes our playoff rotation Berrios, Odorizzi, Maeda, and Pineda with Bailey, Hill, Dobnak, Smeltzer, and Thorpe all as #5s or fall back plans in case of injury. That's a really deep rotation to go along with a deep bullpen. With a top 3 line up in all of baseball to go along with really deep pitching we are going to make some noise. Is it this a dominant, scary rotation? nope, but it's one that's solid with promise. I've also openly questioned Graterol's long term viability as a starter as well as his injury risk on this board, the Twins just confirmed my concern with this trade

 

Interesting take on my take.....please, tell me more!

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I actually like getting Maeda. I don't like the price being Graterol. I agree that getting a controllable SP is going to come at a steep price. But imo that price should have come out of our surplus, ie Kiriloff, Larnach, Lewis etc. Trading away a Graterol who can fling the ball at 100mph plus is a hard pill to swallow. It really doesn't even matter if Brusdar is only good for 60-70 IP for season. We needed pitching yes. But giving up pitching when you had a surplus elsewhere is a poor move. Graterol is just as much of a win now player as Maeda is imo.

 

I'm neutral on this deal at this point. 

 

Well the Red Sox probably didn't want another outfielder since they were already getting Verdugo.

 

And the Twins already as much as said Graterol wasn't opening the year with the club, so I don't see how he's a "win now" player.

 

After watching the Twins get nothing from and get nothing for Romero and Gonsavles, I'm much, much less hesitant about moving Graterol. I don't see Balazovic and Duran as significantly less (or more) likely to become an ace than Brusdar, and after holding the bag while the last two top pitching prospects fail, I'm no longer inclined to hoard them and cross my fingers.

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I'm a fan of Graterol, but this tells me there was a lot of certainty in the Twins organization that he was never going to hold up as a starter, and I'm ok with dealing a reliever, even one who might be a plus or plus plus guy, for a quality MLB starter with a great contract.

 

Dealing for MLB pitching is going to cost. Unless we were going to dip into one of our current younger MLB guys, we were almost certainly going to have to pony up not 1 but 2 of our top prospects to do better than Maeda and then the risk jumps up again.

 

Look, if Graterol develops into an ace, this is going to suck for us, but the odds of that happening don't look all that great, unless you have very little faith in the Twins talent assessment. If there was a realistic chance in the Twins' mind that Graterol's future was as a plus starter, he would not have been slated for the 'pen this year, because it's hard to see a path for him developing as a starter if he spends the year throwing 60 innings as a reliever. Maybe he can develop a 3rd pitch while working in a bullpen role, but when does he develop the endurance and ability to pitch through longer stretches and higher pitch counts and when to give max effort and when not to and all the other things a starter need to do without getting that experience? Maybe Boston sends him to AAA this year to develop as a starter and maybe it works out, but the twins are betting on him being a reliever.

 

Now, I like Graterol as a reliever, but we really don't know if he's going to be a dominant back end guy or not. And no one can predict if he's going to be healthy, though as a reliever I suspect he'll hold up ok. In limited time he pitched well, but wasn't lights out; we remember the 100mph fastball and the wipeout slider making some guys look silly, but he also gave up hits and the BB/9 was a career low and almost certain to rise significantly.

 

He's a good player, but you have to give up something to get something and teams aren't going to hand over quality pitching for a couple of A-ball lottery tickets you drafted in the 4th round.

 

Maeda is a guy that's very interesting. The contract is very team-friendly: if he hits all those incentives it either means he pitched well and was clearly an above average starter, or everyone else got hurt and he was one of the only guys to stay healthy. Odds are, if he reaches those incentives the twins will smile and pay them. It also fills the rotation nicely for several years with fairly low risk.

 

The peripherals on him are pretty nice: plenty of K's (he would have finished just behind odorizzi on last year's staff) and would have had the best WHIP on any of the guys who got more than 10 starts. He's not homer-happy, doesn't give up tons of hits, and has a plus pitch in his slider to rely on.

 

The Wheeler comps are interesting: if they hadn't moved him to the 'pen Maeda could have easily ended up with a very similar pitching line for the year. You can't know for sure, but it's hardly crazy and he's only 2 years older.

 

The Gibson comp is interesting as well: Maeda was definitely better last year. WHIP, FIP, ERA, ERA+, bWAR all confirm this. Where I look at Maeda being a real upgrade is he just doesn't give up baserunners like they're goin' out of style. Gibson's best WHIP is equal to Maeda's worst. I think we can feel confident that Maeda is going to be consistently good and with the twins lineup that's a big deal and you're going to win a lot of games.

 

I can't say I love this deal because I like Graterol a lot, but I respect this deal. We're trading from an area of strength (bullpen) to shore up an area of weakness (rotation). We're getting a guy who helps us now, but hopefully not just this year. There's risk to it, but it's calculated risk.

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One interesting thing to me is that it appears that the only reason this trade needed to go three ways was that the Twins wanted Maeda more than Price. Obviously, Boston was willing to swap Price for Graterol. So why didn't the Twins just do that trade with Boston? I would guess that such an offer was on the table, and the Twins wanted Maeda more than Price. It will be interesting to see if Maeda out-performs Price over the next four years. I wouldn't bet against it. And I would definitely bet that Maeda will be the better value for the Price. I suspect the Dodgers had to pay the Price to get Betts (probably knowing they can sign him long term). I'm trusting the FO on this call.

 

This is not to say that I don't like Price. I've always liked him as a pitcher, and he's a really interesting guy. But it concerns me that he's a big into video games and has had arm problems in recent years.

 

One final response regarding whether Maeda should start a playoff game. Our main competition in the playoffs will likely be heavily right-handed. Maeda is devastating against righties.

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After watching the Twins get nothing from and get nothing for Romero and Gonsavles, I'm much, much less hesitant about moving Graterol. I don't see Balazovic and Duran as significantly less (or more) likely to become an ace than Brusdar, and after holding the bag while the last two top pitching prospects fail, I'm no longer inclined to hoard them and cross my fingers.

And Kohl Stewart. Also, don't forget Alex Meyer was recently the Twins top pitching prospect. 

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One interesting thing to me is that it appears that the only reason this trade needed to go three ways was that the Twins wanted Maeda more than Price. Obviously, Boston was willing to swap Price for Graterol. So why didn't the Twins just do that trade with Boston? I would guess that such an offer was on the table, and the Twins wanted Maeda more than Price. It will be interesting to see if Maeda out-performs Price over the next four years. I wouldn't bet against it. And I would definitely bet that Maeda will be the better value for the Price. I suspect the Dodgers had to pay the Price to get Betts (probably knowing they can sign him long term). I'm trusting the FO on this call.

 

This is not to say that I don't like Price. I've always liked him as a pitcher, and he's a really interesting guy. But it concerns me that he's a big into video games and has had arm problems in recent years.

 

One final response regarding whether Maeda should start a playoff game. Our main competition in the playoffs will likely be heavily right-handed. Maeda is devastating against righties.

My view as well. Hypothetically If the price/contract is the same, I think I'd rather have Maeda over Price. I would have gladly slotted Price in this rotation but Maeda has a higher floor. 

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Why the hell did the FO feel it was necessary interjecting themselves in this trade?? I mean, if we were planning on trading Graterol all along I’m certain there were better fits around the league than a damn #3 starter. And if not, what’s wrong with signing Walker and retaining a potential relief ace?? I mean, remember when we gave away Anderson for nothing, and don’t forget about the Pressly deal either!!!

 

I haven't forgotten the Pressly deal. In fact, I think it's a great example of the difference between a "win later" move and a "win now" move. We were going nowhere in the summer of 2018. We lost a great RP (one who was likely better than we thought), but in return we received Celestino, a "no-doubt" CF who BP ranked as our #10 top prospect and a 99+ mph throwing RP, Jorge Alcala who may end up being a similar player to Graterol if he remains in the pen.

 

This trade makes me wince a bit, too. I would have loved watching Graterol pitch for the Twins for years. But Maeda makes us better today, for sure. And I love that we truly are in a "win now" mode. It's been a long time coming.

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One thing about Maeda that stands out: he doesn't give up a lot of hits. He gave up 6.7/9 innings last season, and his career total is 7.6.

Maeda's a good pitcher, but this might be exaggerated a bit by park factors and defense. Per ESPN, Dodger stadium has averaged in the bottom third for "hits" park factors the past 4 years (as compared to Target Field, which has averaged top third over that time).

 

http://www.espn.com/mlb/stats/parkfactor/_/year/2016/sort/hitsFactor

 

And B-Ref has given Dodgers pitchers a boost from RA9def ("support from defense") over that time too (as compared to Twins pitchers who have been more neutral or negative in that mark).

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