“Life’s a Pitch” is a column by Elizabeth Islas about collegiate and professional sports.
The alleged three-team trade between the Dodgers, Red Sox and Twins was a circus that should never have happened.
Last Tuesday, breaking news erupted in the baseball world. MLB insiders from various platforms reported that Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts and pitcher David Price were about to be traded to the Dodgers. And yesterday, news broke that Betts and Price were reportedly traded to the Dodgers … again.
Now you may be confused at this point, so let me fill you in.
On Feb. 4, sources told reporters that the deal was essentially done — the players just needed to pass routine physicals. A few days later, neither team had confirmed the trade and people began to wonder about the trade’s status.
Turns out, the health of Twins pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol was in question and it was holding up the trade. The Red Sox, who were originally arranged to acquire Graterol, were under the impression that he could act as a starting pitcher. In reality, he is on an innings limit given his history of shoulder and elbow injuries.
His health left questions about how each team would proceed with the trade, since his status would throw a wrench in the plans. Some questions fans had were: Would this trade still happen? Do the teams have to restructure this deal? Will the Dodgers get Mookie Betts? How will this affect the other two teams involved?
For nearly a week, nobody had an answer. Even the players involved and their families didn’t have an answer. With players having to relocate, a week in limbo was too long of a turnaround with real lives at stake.
Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) executive director Tony Clark took this issue seriously, releasing a statement condemning the four involved teams for treating the players as “commodities.”
“The proposed trades between the Dodgers, Red Sox, Twins and Angels need to be resolved without further delay,” Clark wrote on Feb. 7. “The events … have unfairly put several players’ lives in a state of limbo.”
For players like Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson and reliever Ross Stripling, whose names were involved in this blockbuster trade deal, this made for an uncomfortable situation. They were reportedly traded to the Angels but later removed from the deal after the trade fell through.
Their move wouldn’t have been far, but the fact that they didn’t end up getting traded makes matters awkward. Everyone thought their team traded them away and they were going to get a new start. Now, they are going to stick with the Dodgers even after they thought their time was over. They aren’t going to move; they aren’t going to have to adjust to new teammates and play in a new league.
As for the players who eventually got traded like Betts, Price and Dodgers outfielder Alex Verdugo, the delay put them in a week-long state of confusion.
These players had a bit more pressure since their move would be cross-country. They have homes and families in the cities they play in, but when the reports came out that they would be traded, they likely had to come up with new arrangements. Unfortunately for them, the trade delay also put a delay on their new plans.
It’s times like these when the MLB and MLBPA need to work together to never let this chaos happen again. These players’ lives were on an indefinite hold, and letting this uncertainty linger for nearly a week is absurd.
The next collective bargaining agreement, set to be agreed on by the 2022 season, must include a protection from slow-moving trades, especially after they have been nationally reported. Although the sourced information was accurate at the time it was reported on Feb. 4, it was the teams’ responsibility to get the details resolved as soon as possible.
A trade finalization window of about 72 hours would prevent teams from leaving future players in an awkward state of limbo and would give the players a sense of when they could hear official word back.
In the case of the Dodgers and Red Sox, it took them six full days to finalize the decision. And with less than one week until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, it doesn’t give Price much time to make his new arrangements before his work starts.
For players, trades need to happen sooner rather than later. And this deal showed exactly why.
“Life’s a Pitch” runs every Monday.