The Dodgers took a huge hit over the weekend when Mookie Betts was placed on the injured list due to a cracked rib, and they’re already looking at ways to help weather the storm in his absence. Los Angeles exploring ways to acquire a right-handed-hitting outfielder to platoon with lefty-swinging Eddy Alvarez while waiting on Betts to heal, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (Twitter link). They’re looking to expend only “minimal prospect cost” in such a deal, which suggests they’re looking at low-cost stopgaps rather than a higher-profile name.
Were it not for a tough-luck injury to veteran Kevin Pillar, the Dodgers might’ve already had that solution in house. Pillar, however, suffered a fracture in his shoulder shortly after being called to the Majors and will miss the remainder of the season following the subsequent surgery to address the issue.
There’s no way to fully replace the value provided by Betts, who is again one of the game’s top all-around players. The former NL MVP was hitting .273/.349/.535 with 17 home runs, 13 doubles, six stolen bases and his typical brand of all-world defense in right field. There’s no firm indication as to how long Betts will be shelved. Manager Dave Roberts expressed optimism about a two-week absence, but that’s a best-case scenario. That the Dodgers are seeking low-cost, ostensibly short-term platoon options speaks to that optimism, but there’s little to be done about a rib fracture of this nature other than rest it and let it heal. Only time will tell the rate at which Betts’ rib mends.
The 32-year-old Alvarez doesn’t have any kind of big league track record to inspire much hope (.190/.277/.276 in 130 plate appearances), but he’s crushed Triple-A pitching at a .304/.430/.500 clip so far in 2022 and has had similarly productive Triple-A showings with the 2019 and 2021 Marlins. It’s sensible that, for the time being, the Dodgers would look to go with some in-house options to patch things over. Even the most obvious sellers on the summer trade market aren’t going to be motivated to sell yet — not with so many teams still trying to gauge their own playoff chances — and taking a short-term approach gives them some time to evaluate just how long Betts will need to recover.
The focus on low-cost platoon options removes the Dodgers from the mix for higher-profile names like Oakland’s Ramon Laureano and Baltimore’s Trey Mancini — at least for now — but still ought to leave plenty of scenarios to explore. Speaking purely speculatively, a big leaguer like Arizona’s Jordan Luplow would make sense both with Betts out and then as a bench piece moving forward, though the D-backs may want an actual prospect in return — especially from a division rival. Then again, given that the larger half of the proposed platoon (Alvarez) is a relative unknown, perhaps the Dodgers will be content to hunt for a similarly obscure solution on the short side of the platoon — be it an accomplished minor league slugger (e.g. Trayce Thompson, Jaylin Davis) or someone who’s yet to make their MLB debut at all.
If it appears at any point as though Betts is in for a lengthier absence, the possibility of a larger-scale move will improve. For now, small-scale swaps or even in-house promotions are the likelier first course of action. For instance, Rosenthal notes that third base prospect Miguel Vargas, who’s hitting .278/.376/.475 in Triple-A Oklahoma City, could be an option. The 22-year-old Vargas, ranked among baseball’s top 100 prospects at MLB.com and Baseball America, hasn’t played any outfield his professional career, however.