Jump to content
  • Create Account
  • Graterol Trade On Hold? Valuing Starters and Relievers

    John Bonnes

    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.


  • Twins Daily Video

  • User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Featured Comments

    I think the Twins are ok; the Dodgers should be the ones on the hook (Stripling probably would have gone to Boston vice the deal the Dodgers made with the Angels.  It will depend on what Boston wants to even things up; Minnesota needs to hold firm on Graterol's value. I think the Sox are pandering a bit to soften the blow of the trade, and "anything" extra they can get will be their attempt to placate their fanbase (lots of luck, lol). 


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Was wondering when learned of this trade if all the moving parts would clear physical exams.  Hopefully, the Twins don't sweeten the deal with a second player who has a lot of value or replace Graterol with either Balazovic or Duran.    


    Should the deal unwind and Graterol remain with the Twins, don't know right off hand if that is good or not.  If healthy, there is a lot to like about Graterol.  Also means that one of the opening day starting spots will definitely be manned by one of the young guns.  To be honest, I like that.  


    So I guess we need to stay tuned.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    So absurd!     They knew they were getting a prospect that could throw hard and had some shoulder impingement last year.    Did they think they were getting Kershaw?   The ONLY question health wise is whether or not he can throw right now.   Unless something in the off season happened health wise that we don't know about if he can throw right now then neither the Twins or the Red Sox know if he can go 5 innings or 205 innings.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Why aren’t the Dodgers offering Gonsolin?? Better than losing May, Gray, or Urias. If anything, the only reason the Twins were even included was due to the Dodger’s reluctance give up fair prospect value.


    Twins should pull out and pursue a separate deal for Maeda.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    The following paragraph is from Passan's article on ESPN talking about the hold up. I think the part I've bolded is really what this is about.


    Alternative options to complete a deal exist, according to sources. The players involved could be amended, as could the amount of money Boston is sending to Los Angeles to cover a portion of the $96 million still owed Price. The Dodgers and Red Sox could theoretically opt for a two-team deal or involve a different third team; Graterol is currently with the Twins.


    I think Boston is trying to save themselves some money.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I think the fact that the BoSox are getting crushed by almost everyone for making this deal and tanking the season is what's driving this a little; finding a way to get a little more back or make it look better is the issue. The sudden concern about Graterol not being able to hold up as a starter isn't sudden at all; they were just pretending he might start to make it look like they were getting a potential ace back in the deal when the truth is they're getting a good bullpen arm who might be great if his command develops and he stays healthy.


    I like Maeda and I think deal is worth the risk, so I want the deal to go through. but I also want the deal to go through because I don't think the ****ing Red Sox should get to hold anyone hostage when they're doing a massive salary dump/tank job so that super-rich ownership can get out of the luxury tax.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    1. You can certainly argue the limits of Graterol's value. That's the reason the Twins were willing to gamble by trading him. That being said, I wouldn't give up anything else for Maeda despite my belief that he would be very valuable on this team.


    2. This has been true for weeks now. Unless he has a partially torn UCL which I highly doubt, this comes off as the Red Sox being petty and trying to increase the return mid deal. If we can Google Graterol's medical history, the Sox were definitely aware of it. It was fairly clear that even the Twins already believed Graterol to be a likely reliever. 


    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.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    The Twins were very public about moving Graterol to the bullpen. The Red Sox had to know what they were getting from both the Twins actions and the medical reports. 


    I think we learned that Graterol's value is probably below that of Duran, Balazovic and even Thorpe. Relievers with a medical history and a high effort delivery are risky acquisitions but teams like Boston should be able to afford to take bets on that 103 MPH upside.


    If Graterol remains let's hope this doesn't change his relationship with the organization.


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Obviously I was not involved in orchestrating this trade. But the way I read it is that the Dodgers needed to send more to Boston to complete the Betts/Price transaction and the Red Sox did not want Maetta. So the Dodgers suggested Graterol and the Sox said "Yes, Please!". So the Dodgers sent Maetta to Minnesota for Graterol and then traded him to Boston. If Boston now thinks Graterol is unhealthy, then the Dodgers should be on the hook, not the Twins. But all that aside, why would Boston not just take Maetta if they had to have a starter? I do think it's buyer's remorse and now they want to save face. Hold your position Falvine.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites


    "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. 

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    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.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Join the conversation

    You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
    Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...