Nearly four months after trading Andrew Benintendi to the Royals as part of a three-team swap also involving the Mets, the Red Sox announced that they’ve acquired outfielder Freddy Valdez from the Mets and right-handers Grant Gambrell and Luis De La Rosa from the Royals as players to be named later, officially completing the trade. The Red Sox acquired outfielder Franchy Cordero (from the Royals) and minor league righty Josh Winckowski (from the Mets) at the time of the trade, which also sent outfielder Khalil Lee from Kansas City to New York.
The 19-year-old Valdez has yet to progress to A-ball after splitting the 2019 season between the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League. The Mets signed him for a $1.4MM bonus as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic back in 2018. In his lone season of pro ball, he hit .274/.367/.448 with an 18 percent strikeout rate and an 11.4 percent walk rate.
Valdez is generally regarded as one of the Mets’ top 20 prospects, ranking 13th at The Athletic, 14th at MLB.com, 17th at Baseball America and 18th at FanGraphs. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen calls Valdez an “absolute behemoth of a corner outfield prospect” with “thunderous” power, likening him to Indians slugger Franmil Reyes. The Athletic’s Keith Law writes that Valdez has “huge” power with above-average speed and a plus arm, though many scouting reports on Valdez raise questions about his hit tool and his defensive future.
Obviously, given Valdez’s age and the fact that he’s yet to even take a single at-bat in A-ball, he’s years from factoring into the Red Sox’ big league plans. On some levels, there figure to be comparisons to another player the Red Sox received in this trade: Franchy Cordero. Valdez, by all accounts, is a physical specimen at a young age with a tantalizing set of loud tools but has a ways to go before scouts will be sold that those tools can translate at the Major League level. As far as lower-level lottery tickets go, he’s the type that comes with considerable upside but also a fair bit of risk.
Gambrell, 23, is the more highly regarded of the two players coming over from the Royals and also much nearer to the big leagues. Kansas City’s third-round pick out of Oregon State in 2019, Gambrell has tossed 22 2/3 innings of 4.37 ERA ball in Class-A Advanced to begin the season, recording a 19.8 percent strikeout rate, 7.6 percent walk rate and 50 percent ground-ball rate in that time. Longenhagen ranked him 21st among K.C. prospects, noting that Gambrell used the off-time in 2020 to get into better shape and reported to camp in 2021 with a “totally different body” and improved velocity.
De La Rosa is even more of a lottery ticket than Valdez. Still just 18 years old, he signed as a 16-year-old in 2018 and carved up the Dominican Summer League a year later, tossing 38 2/3 innings with a 2.33 ERA, a ridiculous 52-to-7 K/BB ratio and a strong 48.9 percent grounder rate. Despite that exceptional short-season debut, De La Rosa isn’t ranked among the Royals’ best prospects, although he could certainly generate some further recognition if he can back up that dominant 2019 showing at a more advanced level.
The Athletic’s Chad Jennings first reported that the Red Sox would acquire Valdez from the Mets (Twitter link). Julian McWilliams of the Boston Globe reported (via Twitter) that Gambrell and De La Rosa were also headed to the Sox.