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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Covid-19 test delays impacting multiple teams

Covid-19 test delays
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Covid-19 test delays — and at least one incident in which testers simply didn’t show up at all — have delayed workouts for at least two teams so far. And at least one team’s general manager is hopping mad about it.

Alex Coffey of The Athletic reported overnight that the Oakland Athletics have yet to have a full squad workout because of COVID-19 test delays. They were supposed to begin such workouts yesterday, but delayed them until today. They have since been delayed again until tonight, and even those may not happen.

Why? Because the initial team tests that are required before allowing the team’s full complement of players and coaches into the facility had not even arrived at MLB’s testing center in Utah as of last night. Indeed, they sat in the San Francisco airport all weekend because no one with MLB or the league’s testing company bothered to account for the Fourth of July holiday and expedite shipping.

Coffey obtained the text message Athletics’ GM David Forst sent to the entire club about the COVID-19 test delays. And, frankly, it’s gobsmacking.

The upshot, as Forst explains in the text, is that the test samples which were collected on Friday and which were due to be in Salt Lake City on Saturday sat at the San Francisco airport because of the July 4 holiday. Which, OK, fine, in which case someone should have changed the shipping instructions for Sunday delivery rather than have it just wait around until Monday like any other package. But no one bothered to do that. Forst, in the text:

On top of screwing up the logistics of this whole thing, neither MLB nor CDT (the company that collects the samples) communicated any of this to us until we pressed them for information, at which point all they could do was apologize, which frankly doesn’t really do much for us. Our best shot is to schedule a workout for [Monday] night with the hope that the samples arrive at the lab on time tomorrow and they are able to turn around your results in a matter of a few hours.

Forst goes on to say that the blame for the COVID-19 test delays “lies with CDT and MLB and I won’t cover for them like I did earlier today.”

The “covering for them” refers to comments Forst made to the media after the initial delay in testing, which he and manager Bob Melvin blew off as a routine delay, with Forst saying “We all know that being flexible and adjusting to the unknowns is going to be part of everything we do this season.” In the text, however, Forst is clearly pissed off:

Despite having our schedule a week ahead of time, they didn’t alert us to the possibility of any complications around July 4th, and once there were issues, they did nothing to communicate that to us or remedy the situation until Nick (Paparesta, the A’s head athletic trainer) and I forced the issue at various times today. If possible, I’m as frustrated and pissed as you are (well, probably not as pissed as Matt is), and I assure you the rest of the staff is as well.” 

“Matt” refers to A’s third baseman Matt Chapman, who expressed his anger at the COVID-19 test delays to Forst. He’s not the only A’s player to be upset about this:

This anger is not merely about delays to workouts which, given how compacted training camp and the season is, matter a great deal and put the A’s at a competitive disadvantage to teams who are already playing simulated games. It also poses health and safety concerns.

Pitchers and catchers have been allowed to report already and without the test results they have no idea if COVID-19 is spreading in the clubhouse or if any of them need to be isolated. Diekman has specific reason to be concerned as his history of ulcerative colitis, which caused him to have part of his colon removed a few years back, puts him in the “at risk” category. The A’s, now, get to sit around most of today waiting for testing results that, per Coffey’s report, likely, at best, arrived at the Utah testing facility after 1AM this morning.

And the MLB Covid-19 test delays, it seems, are not limited to the Oakland Athletics. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that down in Anaheim, the testers who conduct saliva tests for the Los Angeles Angels simply did not show up as scheduled yesterday. Rosenthal says that it led to Angels players conducting their own tests. He said that it was unclear if the tests were shipped to lab in Utah — the AWOL testers are supposed to do that — but he does note that today’s workouts were pushed back from 9 am to noon, most likely to account for the testing screwup.

Rosenthal says “two other, unidentified teams had same issue on Sunday,” which suggests as many as four teams, including the Athletics and Angels, are experiencing COVID-19 test delays.

This, to say the least, is inexcusable. Major League Baseball has based its entire, radical 2020 season structure on extensive health and safety protocols and an extensive COVID-19 testing regime. There is already concern on the part of some that, even with such protocols and testing, playing the 2020 season is too risky, but it’s undeniable that there is zero way for professional sports to be conducted in a pandemic without such protocols or with material COVID-19 test delays.

Mere days into the endeavor, however, we have all of this.