The Twins are turning Brusdar Graterol into a starting pitcher after all.
Graterol, the organization’s top pitching prospect, appeared headed toward a bullpen role in Minnesota … but that was before he was traded to Boston as part of a stunning three-way trade Tuesday night.
The Twins will get Kenta Maeda, a Japanese righthander who has won 47 games for the Dodgers in four seasons since coming to the United States.
A team source confirmed the trade, which is contingent on a review of medical records for the players involved.
The blockbuster trade also sends 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts and 2012 AL Cy Young winner David Price from the Red Sox to the Dodgers. In addition to Graterol, Boston will receive 23-year-old outfielder Alex Verdugo from Los Angeles.
Maeda went 47-35 with a 3.87 ERA in four seasons with the Dodgers after leading NPB, Japan’s major league, in wins, ERA and strikeouts in 2015. The righthander signed an eight-year contract that has four seasons remaining at a paltry $3.25 million base, albeit with several achievable incentives based on starts and innings pitched.
The 31-year-old has also appeared in 24 postseason games in Los Angeles, though only three as a starter. He shores up a Twins rotation that will be without Michael Pineda until his drug suspension ends in May and without another former Dodger, newly signed free agent Rich Hill, who is out until July after undergoing elbow surgery.
With only returning All-Stars Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi, plus free agent righthander Homer Bailey, assured spots in the rotation, the Twins sought additional candidates to go along with in-house rookie candidates. They signed veteran righthander Jhoulys Chacin over the weekend, and on Tuesday added another veteran in Maeda by inserting themselves in the Red Sox’ salary dump.
The move came at a steep cost in Graterol, however. The Venezuelan righthander, who turned 21 just six days before making his major league debut last Sept. 1, has ranked among the Twins’ top pitching prospects practically since signing with the Twins three days after his 16th birthday.
With a right arm that routinely produces fastballs in excess of 100 mph — a talent that no Twins pitcher had exhibited in a decade until his arrival — Graterol posted a 2.65 ERA in four minor league seasons, striking out 230 batters in
But Graterol missed all of 2016 and half of 2017 after undergoing elbow surgery, and spent more than two months last summer on the injured list because of an impingement. The Twins brought him to the majors in September as a reliever, and perhaps suspecting that he would have trouble remaining healthy as a starter, last month revealed their plan to leave him in the bullpen, at least for 2020.
214 innings while rising to Class AAA last August.
In Maeda, the Twins exchange one strikeout pitcher for another — the former Dodger has whiffed 641 hitters in 589 career innings — but one who appears to be far less of an injury risk. Maeda has appeared in at least 29 games in all four seasons in Los Angeles, and made at least 20 starts in each.
His first season, coming off back-to-back Sawamura Awards — Japan’s version of the Cy Young — was his best. He went 16-11 with a 3.48 ERA, helping the Dodgers win the NL West title and then made three starts in the playoffs.
The Red Sox’s move was salary-related, as they shed Betts’ $27 million contract for 2020. It is the 27-year-old Gold Glove outfielder’s final season before free agency unless the Dodgers can sign him to a long-term contract. Price is due $96 million over the next three seasons, although the Red Sox are expected to pay a portion of that money.