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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Patriots provided one blueprint for handling Alex Cora, but Red Sox ignored it

Patriots provided one blueprint for handling Alex Cora, but Red Sox ignored it

Let us imagine, for a moment, a scenario.

It's 2007, and the Patriots have just been nailed for stealing opposing signals despite an explicit league directive banning the practice. With national reporters swarming Foxboro like the Zerg, owner Robert Kraft assesses the damage to his brand, the importance of integrity to his family, and makes a heart-rending decision -- he must fire Bill Belichick.

Who can blame him? Belichick broke the rules and brought shame to the organization. Not even a pile of Lombardi Trophies justifies the long-term damage to the team's reputation. And so with vampires at his gate demanding blood, Kraft gives it to them and sacrifices his Hall of Fame coach.

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We now know two things, of course. One is that Kraft did not fire Belichick. The other is that it was inarguably the right decision, one that continues to pay dividends more than a decade later. While there's not much the Patriots can do about taunts that they're cheaters, there's also little doubt that they're the NFL's greatest dynasty.

There's a reason Belichick guest-hosted the NFL Network's series on the league's top 100 players, and there's a reason why when all is said and done, the dominant impression of this 20-year run won't be Spygate or Deflategate, but the unprecedented, record-breaking partnership between Belichick and Tom Brady.

None of that happens if Kraft pulls the plug in 2007. But he stood his ground despite intense public pressure, and has since reaped the rewards.

This alternate history, this road not taken, feels relevant today, given a very different choice made by Red Sox ownership in response to a remarkably similar scandal.

On Tuesday, the club and manager Alex Cora "mutually agreed to part ways," which is corporate jargon for, "we have unilaterally decided to part ways." A bombshell MLB report had just fingered Cora as the mastermind of a sign-stealing scheme in Houston involving replay cameras, dugout monitors, and one resonant trash can.

The Red Sox digested this report for a day before announcing Cora's departure. They based their decision, according to ownership, solely on his actions in Houston and what was laid out in the report. It doubtlessly didn't helps his cause that he's facing a lengthy suspension, probably at least a year, and maybe longer.

It's hard to criticize the Red Sox for acting decisively; Cora's actions embarrassed the organization. And far be it from me to suggest that anyone, in any sport, belongs in the same sentence as Belichick.

But I'm coming to believe the Red Sox should've stood by their man a la the Patriots, especially since the behavior they found so egregious occurred while he worked as a subordinate for another franchise.

Add their strangely smug confidence that the commissioner's investigation into their own championship season of 2018 will exonerate them (and therefore Cora, too, to a degree), and a case can be made that they fired him out of expediency at the expense of their long-term interests.

"They had no choice!" many have argued. And to that I say, why?

I don't buy for a second that Cora had lost his clubhouse. My guess is the players were well aware of his actions in Houston -- he didn't try to hide his admiration for co-conspirator Carlos Beltran and his ability to decipher signs by any means possible. Whatever Cora oversaw in Boston, it doesn't sound like there was much clubhouse dissent.

It's hard to overstate Cora's importance to the organization. He united disparate departments and communities like no one before him. He's the rare ex-player who embraces and understands new-school analytics. He's bilingual, which allows him to bridge gaps in a melting-pot clubhouse.

I've had half a dozen people at all levels of the organization tell me how much he'll be missed, all with a similar story -- he made everyone feel important, even the junior nobodies. He spent some of his last hours as a Red Sox employee consulting with player development about the farm system. He is personable, passionate, and driven, and he had a hand in everything.

Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts didn't waste words when asked what kind of manager the Red Sox should hire next.

"Someone like him," he said.

As scandalous and raw as this feels now, time has a way of smoothing edges and soothing nerves. A year from now, after a lengthy contrition tour, Cora might've been able to resume his duties. We'll never know if he could've survived the fallout, because the Red Sox never gave him the chance.

That's certainly their right, but imagine how different the Patriots would look today if they had reached the same conclusion more than a decade ago.

John Henry 'had every intention' to keep Alex Cora, until this possibility arose

John Henry 'had every intention' to keep Alex Cora, until this possibility arose

With Alex Cora at the center of MLB's rapidly-developing sign-stealing scandal, the Boston Red Sox opted to part ways with their manager on Tuesday. 

It wasn't an easy decision for Red Sox ownership to make. In fact, John Henry and Co. weren't going to cut bait with Cora until a nightmare scenario was brought to their attention.

NBC Sports Boston's own Gary Tanguay reported Thursday on Early Edition that Henry planned on keeping Cora as manager until the possibility that the organization's 2018 World Series title might gett vacated.

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Tanguay explained in more detail:

John Henry had every intention to keep Alex Cora as the Red Sox manager, despite Cora's impending suspension from Major League Baseball. When the possibility arose that the Red Sox could be stripped of their 2018 World Series title, the owner threw him out of the boat. The owner gave up his manager. He was the sacrificial lamb. The Red Sox and the Astros are nervous they could lose their championships. Lot of anxiety at Fenway Park, I was told.

The Red Sox said in their official statement that Cora and the team "mutually agreed" to part ways. 

Cora played a major role in the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal during his time as their bench coach in 2017. His dismissal from the Red Sox came on the heels of the Astros firing manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow.

MLB's investigation into the 2018 Red Sox' alleged sign-stealing is ongoing. 

How Red Sox will approach hiring their next manager