Red Sox

Dodgers have prospects to trade for Red Sox' Mookie Betts, and here are names you need to know

Dodgers have prospects to trade for Red Sox' Mookie Betts, and here are names you need to know

Any team acquiring Mookie Betts this winter needs two items in abundance: money and prospects. A wide-open contention window, an opening in the outfield, and a home in the National League — where Betts can't haunt the Red Sox directly during the season — would be added pluses.

It doesn't take an advanced knowledge of Venn Diagrams to recognize that one team sits in the overlap of all of those circles — the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Blessed with a $200 million payroll, a perennially Top-10-rated farm system, and the need for a player to put them over the top after three straight near-misses, the Dodgers should be considered a prime destination for Betts this winter.

If we operate on the assumption that the Red Sox will be moving the former MVP primarily for cost-controlled prospects in order to keep their payroll manageable and allow them to build for the future, then it's worth considering whom they might receive from L.A. in return. And the possibilities are tantalizing.

The Dodgers are loaded not only with prospects, but redundancy at certain positions that could make a deal more likely.

Start in the outfield. MVP Cody Bellinger isn't going anywhere, and A.J. Pollock is signed through 2022, but there's an opportunity to upgrade Joc Pederson's spot. The natural heir apparent is Alex Verdugo, a consensus top-35 prospect who hit .294 with an .817 OPS in 106 games last season.

The 23-year-old would be the perfect Betts replacement, however, thanks to a high-contact, all-fields approach at the plate, a howitzer of an arm in right, and solid overall instincts. He'd be a steep price to pay, but Betts would still represent a clear 2020 upgrade, and he'd solve a corner outfield logjam by shifting to center.

Another name to remember is catcher Keibert Ruiz. Signed out of Venezuela in 2014, all he has done since is hit, posting a .299 average and .351 on-base percentage despite consistently being one of the youngest players at each stop in the minors.

Baseball America's most recent list of L.A.'s top 30 prospects includes no fewer than three catchers in the top 10, which means that Ruiz, 20, could be dealt from a position of strength. His former Triple-A teammate, Will Smith, got the call to L.A. this season and posted a .907 OPS with 15 homers in just 54 games behind the plate.

Continuing up the middle, the team's top prospect is shortstop Gavin Lux, and the odds of the Red Sox receiving him for what could amount to a one-season rental of Betts are nil. However, Lux does create the possibility of the Dodgers dealing middle infielder Jeter Downs, a former Reds first-rounder who came to L.A. in the Yasiel Puig deal.

Downs was born in Colombia and raised in Miami, and yes, his first name is exactly what you think. His dad named him after the Yankees great and Downs showed considerable power potential this season by smacking 24 homers between High A and Double A at age 20. He'd fit a Red Sox roster with no clear internal choice to play second base moving forward and the organization is familiar with his family, since his older brother, Jerry, is a first baseman in the Red Sox system.

On the pitching side of the equation, the Dodgers are also blessed with talent. Their top pitching prospect, right-hander Dustin May, is likely unavailable — his sinker hit 99 mph this season — but fellow righty Josiah Gray could be an option. Also acquired in the Puig deal, the 21-year-old owns a 13-4 record and 2.37 ERA in two seasons. He reached Double A in 2019 and went 3-2 with a 2.75 ERA in eight starts while striking out more than a batter an inning.

A former shortstop who didn't convert to the mound until his final year of college, Gray's athleticism is off the charts, and his breakout 2019 earned him Dodgers minor league pitcher of the year honors.

If the Red Sox are looking for someone more big-league ready, they could ask for right-hander Tony Gonsolin. The 25-year-old made six starts for the Dodgers and was effective, going 4-2 with a 2.93 ERA in 11 appearances. Another former college position player, he's the rare prospect to transition from reliever to starter, and he has done so with tremendous success, hitting 100 mph with his fastball and also featuring a plus splitter and curveball.

Any two of these players would make the start of an intriguing package, so keep your eyes on L.A. as the Betts rumor mill starts churning in earnest when the winter meetings open Dec. 8 in San Diego.

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Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (sore knee) has Sunday start pushed back

Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (sore knee) has Sunday start pushed back

Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will miss his first scheduled spring training start Sunday after he felt soreness in his left knee following a fall before his live batting-practice throwing session on Wednesday.

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Rodriguez's fall came before the BP session. He will throw a live BP Monday rather than pitch against the Baltimore Orioles in a Grapefruit League game Sunday in Sarasota, Fla. Manager Ron Roenicke told reporters the Red Sox are just being cautious.

“He was going to pitch [on Sunday], he’s not going to pitch now,” Roenicke told reporters, including Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. “This we’ve been talking to him and trying to figure out what to do. When he fell the other day, the knee got a little sore. It is not like the other knee where he had issues, this is a minor thing, at least right now it certainly is. But he’s still a little uncomfortable with it. It’s better everyday. So, what we’re going to do is push him back a day, push him back to Monday.”

Right-hander Chris Mazza, 30, claimed off waivers from the Mets in the offseason and in competition for the fifth starter's spot, will get the start Sunday. He had a 3.61 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 17 starts at Triple-A Syracuse last season. 

Rodriguez did make a few throws on the side Saturday, as captured by our NBC Sports Boston Camera Guys:

Rodriguez missed the start of the 2018 season after offseason surgery on his right knee. He had a breakout season in 2019, going 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA in 34 starts (203.1 innings pitched).

The lefty from Venezuela turns 27 in June as has given some of the credit for his strong 2019 season to the mentorship of Hall of Famer and Red Sox legend Pedro Martinez, now a spring training instructor.

The Sox open exhibition play against major league teams (they beat Northeastern Friday, 3-0) Saturday in Fort Myers, Fla., against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Here's their lineup for the 1 p.m. game:

Andrew Benintendi LF
Jackie Bradley CF
J.D. Martinez DH
Michael Chavis 1B
Kevin Pillar RF
Jose Peraza 2B
Bobby Dalbec 3B
Tzu-Wei Lin SS
Jett Bandy C

Brian Johnson LHP

Remember Rusney Castillo? He'll make $14 million in Triple-A, then finally become a free agent

Remember Rusney Castillo? He'll make $14 million in Triple-A, then finally become a free agent

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- On an unseasonably cool Florida afternoon, Red Sox regulars scattered like mice before the start of the annual spring training exhibition vs. Northeastern.

None of them were going to play, and therefore, none had to stay, the promise of a rare afternoon off beckoning like an oasis.

So in their place, a parade of prospects, minor leaguers, and fringe performers comprised the starting nine. Some -- such as center fielder Jarren Duran -- may have a future in Boston. Others -- such as third baseman Chad De La Guerra or left fielder John Andreoli -- are household names only in their own households.

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But there, batting cleanup and playing right field, was a man with more name recognition than all of them combined, finishing his Red Sox career in a peculiar purgatory, population: one.

When the Red Sox signed Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract in 2014, he represented not only hope for the future, but redemption for the failure to sign Cuban countryman Jose Abreu a year earlier. He was supposed to hit for power, steal bases, and make plays across the outfield. The Red Sox signed him not because he possessed any particular overwhelming skill, but for his across-the-board stability.

Six years later, Castillo is cashing his final Red Sox checks, having fulfilled virtually none of that promise. He'll make $14 million this season, but he hasn't appeared in a major-league game since 2016, and he hasn't recorded a hit since his first contest of that season, when he went 2-for-4 as an April fill-in.

Despite spending more on payroll over the prior three seasons than anyone, the Red Sox simply couldn't justify Castillo's place in the majors.

Because he's not a member of the 40-man roster, his salary doesn't count for luxury tax purposes. So he has stayed in the minors, hitting better than .300 in two of the past three seasons at Triple-A Pawtucket, sharing a clubhouse with major leaguers only in spring training.

Once the Grapefruit League schedule ends, Castillo packs his cars -- including a vintage McLaren and Lamborghini -- and heads north to Pawtucket, where he plays every day with little hope of reaching Boston, no matter how much he produces.

Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke feels for the 32-year-old, who will actually become a free agent this fall, when he'll hit the market with over $70 million in earnings and only one-tenth of one season of service time.

"He's going to be a free agent at the end of the year, so I think this is a big year for him," Roenicke said. "Go out and do what you've been doing, which has been really good in Triple-A, and hopefully you find yourself in the big leagues, and not to say it won't happen this year, but if it doesn't, shoot, go out and be the same guy and maybe play a few more years. I don't know him that well, but I know they've had really good things to say about him. He's been in a tough spot, and he keeps doing a nice job for us."