Brusdar Graterol
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Reports: Mookie Betts trade talks deteriorating, deal in jeopardy

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UPDATE [4:00 EST]: It turns out that the Twins are not in fact pulling out of the trade, according to multiple reports. Ken Rosenthal and Dan Hayes said that the Red Sox are demanding more from the Twins and the Twins are not willing to do that. So the Twins might not be out yet but things aren’t looking good. My own thoughts: what if the Dodgers move Maeda on their own and chip in some of their own prospects? Surely Jeter Downs or Josiah Gray could make this work, right? The union and the owners are about to get even angrier, I’d imagine. Who the hell knows what’s going on anymore. What a mess.

[3:28 EST] LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minnesota Star-Tribune is reporting that the Twins are keeping Brusdar Graterol and will therefore not be part of the trade that would send Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers. Graterol was originally going to be shipped to Los Angeles in exchange for starter Kenta Maeda, and would have subsequently been flipped to the Red Sox along with outfielder Alex Verdugo.

The trade hit a snag when the Red Sox, who had planned on deploying Graterol as a starter, saw something in his medical records that made them think he would likely be a reliever long-term. The Twins were already planning to use Graterol out of the bullpen before the trade, and the idea that Graterol will be a reliever is supported by some in media and outside prospect evaluation community.

MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark had already issued a statement last night in which he urged the involved teams to reach a quick resolution, given that the involved players were in a state of limbo.

The Betts trade is also the contingent for the deal that would send Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling to the Angels. Pederson was just defeated in a salary arbitration hearing by the Dodgers. The hearing took place after many in the Dodgers organization had already wished him well with the Angels, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

The future viability of the Betts trade is now in question. There had been talk that the Twins could possibly provide a different player in exchange for Maeda, but their departure means that the Dodgers will either have to find a different team to get in on the action, provide a prospect themselves, possibly take on even more of Price’s salary, or nix the deal entirely.

The collapse of the trade could lead to serious friction in both the Red Sox and Dodgers clubhouses, given that the players in the deal were essentially told that they were expendable to the organizations. The Red Sox situation in particular could get ugly, given that moving on from Betts and Price essentially signaled that the Red Sox were okay with not contending for a title this year. The Dodgers are also now under pressure to find a way to make this work. The addition of Betts would essentially make them World Series favorites, and letting this caliber of player slip through their fingers would be devastating.

The Angels will also be left holding the bag, given that they were counting on Pederson and Stripling to play fairly prominent roles on this year’s team. Jon Heyman reported last night that owner Arte Moreno was upset with the current situation, and one can imagine that he’s even angrier now.

This was already an embarrassing look for the Red Sox, and now it’s even worse. It’s incredible that trading away literally Mookie Betts has gotten this difficult.

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Agent highlights injustice of spring training for minor leaguers

Joshua Kusnick
Joshua Kusnick
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On Wednesday evening, agent Joshua Kusnick (pictured) tweeted about an injustice one of his clients, a minor league player, is facing at spring training. He wrote:

Have an milb client who showed up 2 weeks ago

He isnt being paid because spring training didnt start for milb 10 dollars a day per diem.

They have a 1200 deposit for the hotel. The player. Making 6k a year.

Player has no choice in staying at hotel Pays own way to field!

No gas reimbursement. If player has a car he must stay at hotel

This is insanity. Someone has to change this

As we have mentioned here before, minor leaguers aren’t paid during spring training. Despite this, teams place significant restrictions on their behavior, including how they travel and where they stay. Teams do provide a per diem for meals and will reimburse the player for his hotel stay, but that a player making so little is expected to take on the up-front cost of the deposit, as well as is quite unfair. According to Kusnick, the hotel will release the deposit when the player checks out.

I asked Kusnick to elaborate more on the issue facing his client as well as minor leaguers in general. He said, “These guys make less than minimum wage and they’re sold the lie that if they have a uniform they have a shot to get paid.” He emphasized, “It’s ownership’s oldest lie.”

Kusnick’s client, like many other minor leaguers, has to pick up a part-time job in the offseason to help make ends meet. His client gives lessons. Kusnick said, “It’s embarrassing to see pro athletes in America with part-time jobs in 2020 in an $8-10 billion industry.” He added that the players “have the anger but they don’t know what to do.”

Kusnick pointed out that his client got a bonus, and despite the injustice in question, his client generally has it better than most other minor league players in spring training. He urges us to think about the “undrafted free agent guys” who didn’t get a signing bonus, earning $6,000 per year and facing similar circumstances. “That’s not a fair shot,” Kusnick says. “It doesn’t make guys hungrier. It’s bulls***. It’s ownership selling bulls***. And they’re the kings of it. Ask Jim Crane.”

Asked about potential solutions, Kusnick suggested that the more prominent agents like Scott Boras use their “immense platform for good” to “establish real change.” He also suggested that minor leaguers could benefit from the MLBPA looping them in, especially “since they bargain away draft rights.” Kusnick doesn’t have faith in commissioner Rob Manfred even though he is “the only man who can do something now unilaterally.” An exasperated Kusnick tacked on, “Given the Astros situation, I’m not holding my breath.”

One thing is clear: Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball benefit from minor leaguers’ lack of unionization and their leverage deficit, forcing them to take on undue burdens just to go to work. Kusnick’s client and others like him shouldn’t be taking on the up-front cost of lodging and travel (“no gas reimbursement”). They should be paid a livable wage during the season, as well as during spring training and in the offseason when they are still responsible for training, nutrition, working on mechanics, watching video, etc. There are rarely days off for those in the minor leagues. It’s high time they are taken care of by teams that can, without question, afford to do so. Major league teams, not their minor league affiliates, are responsible for the salaries of the minor league players in their system.

Kusnick insists we “keep fighting and bringing attention to these issues so maybe one day the public pressure forces change. Until then, fight the bastards at every turn until they notice you and do something, if only to shut us up. It’ll work.”