When I first heard that the Red Sox and Dodgers were in talks on a possible Mookie Betts trade, I wasn’t surprised. Sad? Yes. But definitely not surprised. Los Angeles consistently has a top-10 farm system and is currently teeming with a handful of top prospects who could convince the Red Sox to deal the 2018 AL MVP. The Dodgers possibly being willing to eat some of the remaining $96 million owed to David Price could end up being what ultimately gets the deal done.
Los Angeles was also involved in talks with the Indians on Francisco Lindor this offseason, but those cooled down because Cleveland is reportedly unwilling to budge on wanting Dodgers’ #1 prospect Gavin Lux. Jon Morosi of MLB.com now see a Betts-to-L.A. deal as “more likely”. Obviously, that means Lux would not be on the table for the Red Sox, which stinks, because he’s really good. Like, second-best prospect in all of baseball good. But the Dodgers have some other intriguing options that could instantly improve the league’s 30th-best farm system. Let’s get to know some of those other options.
Dustin May, RHP
The 22-year-old is the second-best prospect the Dodgers have to offer and ranked #32 overall, according to MLB.com. Drafted in the third round in 2016, May spent most of the 2019 season in Double-A, but did get called up to the majors in August and made two appearances in the Division Series loss to the Nationals. Between Tulsa (AA) and Oklahoma City (AAA), May made 20 starts and posted a 6-5 record, 3.37 ERA and a strikeout rate of 24.6%. He walked 29 batters in 106.2 innings pitched and had a .231 batting average against. In the majors, May made 14 appearances (four starts), struck out 32 of the 114 batters he faced in 34 innings and accumulated a 115 ERA+, per Baseball Reference.
At 6-foot-6, 180 pounds, May “stands out for his mound presence and feel for pitching,” according to Baseball Savant. His bright red mop of hair, combined with his long, lanky frame, certainly make him stand out, but it’s his stuff that makes him a desirable target for the Red Sox, who are starving for starting pitching prospects. Per Baseball Savant, May has a two-seam fastball that sat between 92 and 97 mph last year, in addition to a hard-breaking curveball, 90-mph cutter and decent changeup. He posted a ground ball percentage of about 50% last year, according to Fangraphs, and his repertoire will likely help him maintain those numbers going forward.
The Dodgers were reportedly unwilling to deal May to the Orioles in exchange for Manny Machado in July of 2018, so I’m not convinced he would be included in a deal for Betts, who like Machado, would be a rental for Los Angeles. That being said, the Dodgers seemingly being just one or two pieces short of a World Series championship over the last few years has likely enhanced the urgency in Los Angeles, which would play to Boston’s favor.
Keiburt Ruiz, C
It’s a little more likely that we would see a player like Keiburt Ruiz — as opposed to Lux or May — included in a deal for Betts. The 21-year-old is the third-best prospect in the Dodgers’ organization, the #3 catching prospect in baseball and the #33 prospect in the league’s Top 100, according to MLB.com. Unfortunately for Ruiz, he seems to be behind 24-year-old Will Smith on the depth chart, who made the leap to L.A. last year and played 54 games for the major-league club. Smith is a big part of the reason why I could see Ruiz included in a trade, though I think the Red Sox should push for May, given that we are talking about Mookie freakin’ Betts here. Even if it does end up being just a rental, Betts is a generational talent and the deal that sends him packing absolutely needs to be more than just a salary dump to get under the luxury tax.
Ruiz is no slouch and the Red Sox would be happy to take him, even with Christian Vazquez’s progress last year and the recent signing of Kevin Plawecki. Ruiz was signed out of Venezuela in 2014 for his defensive prowess, but he has consistently surprised everyone with his bat since then. He finished the year in Triple-A last year and has been one of the youngest prospects at each of his minor-league stops over the years. Per MLB.com, he posted a slash line of .261/.331/.347 in 85 games in 2019 before his season ended early due to a hand injury, and that was considered a bit of a down year for the switch-hitting catcher. Vazquez is signed through 2022, so it’s not like the Red Sox are in dire need of a top-notch catching prospect, despite not having one listed in their top 30 prospects on MLB.com. By all accounts, Ruiz doesn’t seem like the type of guy a team would want to (or should) pass up on.
Josiah Gray, RHP
Compared to the Red Sox, the Dodgers are loaded with right-handed pitching prospects and currently have five listed in their top 10, with Josiah Gray being their #4 overall prospect and #75 in the league’s top 100. If the Dodgers are unwilling to give up May in a deal for Betts, Chaim Bloom better be asking about Gray, a Division II prospect out of Le Moyne College in New York.
The 21-year-old was acquired by Los Angeles in the trade that sent Yasiel Puig to the Cincinnati Reds in December 2018 and displayed consistently good stuff in 2019, which was his first professional season. Gray played primarily as a shortstop in college and transitioned to a full-time pitcher while playing in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2017, according to Baseball Savant. The following year, Gray went on to post an 11-0 record and 1.25 ERA in his junior year, which was the third-best ERA in all of D-II. He went from the 16th-best prospect in the Dodgers system in 2018 to #4 now after being named the organization’s best minor-league pitcher in 2019. Rightfully so as he posted an 11-2 record in 25 starts with a strikeout rate of 28.4% and .992 WHIP between Single-A and AA, per Baseball Reference.
Gray has a solid repertoire that features a fastball that hovers between 90-95 mph, but tops out at 97 with a plus slider and an effective curveball, according to Baseball Savant. As a former shortstop, his athleticism will likely help him pitch late into games with the same ferocity (and velocity) that he starts with. Baseball Savant thinks Gray can be a mid-rotation starter but also believes he could be an effective bullpen piece. That flexibility should make him an even more desirable target for the Red Sox.
If you’re going to trade one of the best homegrown stars this game has to offer, you absolutely have to get your money’s worth, even if he’s just a rental. The Dodgers have the depth in their farm system to make a trade for Betts worth Boston’s while, but Bloom has to be willing to wait until the deal is sweet enough to pull the trigger. Sending Betts and Price to Los Angeles without May, Ruiz or Gray coming to Boston in return is just unacceptable.