Dodgers reminded of prospect cost of trade with Nationals

Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz, the towering prospects the Dodgers traded a year ago to acquire Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, were the Washington Nationals battery Tuesday night.

As they watched them battle for last place at the Nationals in an 8-3 win over the Dodgers, the questions were obvious, but the answers were not. At least not yet.

Which team won the deal? Or was it a wash?

Back then, it looked like a bargain for the Dodgers. But they didn’t make the World Series and Scherzer didn’t re-sign. Turner, a post-season free agent, is playing at the level of an extremely valuable player, but wouldn’t the Dodgers have to win the World Series for the trade to be worth giving up their top two prospects?

Gray, a beginning pitcher with electric stuff, hits more than one batter per inning and gives up less than one hit per inning. Ruiz, a switch-hitting catcher, is solid defensively, hitting from both sides of the plate at high speed. Both are under team control through 2028, cornerstones of the Nationals’ recovery plan.

But they have one major flaw: Gray hits too many home runs. Ruiz doesn’t hit enough of that.

Gray was touched for an amazing 42 homers in 167-2/3 career innings. Mookie Betts greeted him with a 404-foot shot into midfield in Tuesday’s first inning — the 14th time in 18 starts this season Gray has given up a home run — and Cody Bellinger hit a high-flying drive to the right on the first pitch of the fifth inning .

Betts thwarted a Nationals goal threat in the fifth when he threw Victor Robles at the plate of Josh Bell’s two-out single, but the defense wounded the Dodgers in the eighth.

The inning started with second baseman Gavin Lux making a throwing error, and Luis García hit reliever Garrett Cleavinger on a 0-and-2 pitch with two outs to give Washington a 4-3 lead.

“I left it a bit open-ended,” Cleavinger said. “Hung it up in a bad spot.” Referring to Lux’s mistake, Cleavinger said, “It happens to everyone. We are all human. The next 100 times he will make that move.”

Cleavinger was called up before Triple A’s game to give what manager Dave Roberts called “a fresh arm”. Roberts stayed with him in the ninth, and the Nationals scored four insurance runs from him.

Ruiz rode a single in one of those runs. However, he has only three homers in 310 plate appearances. He doesn’t hit much, but too often makes weak contact on places outside the hitting zone.

Dodgers' Mookie Betts blows a kiss to the crowd as Washington Nationals catcher Keibert Ruiz looks on.

The Dodgers’ Mookie Betts blows a kiss to the crowd after hitting a solo home run while Washington Nationals catcher Keibert Ruiz looks on during Tuesday’s first inning at Dodger Stadium.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Regardless of their longball shortcomings, Roberts holds Ruiz and Gray in high esteem.

About Gray: “I like Josiah a lot. What stands out is the fastball; It’s a unique fastball. It’s a low arm slot, there’s a rise and there’s a slider in there. He was very good against righties and had a harder time against lefties.”

About Ruiz: “Keibert will be a really good player for a long time to come. For him, it’s all about taking on catching tasks and getting to know the pitchers. There was never much power, but he has elite ball-to-ball ability from both sides of the plate.

The Dodgers and Nationals could make another mega trade ahead of this year’s August 2 close. Washington is considering bids for superstar Juan Soto and the Dodgers have the enticing young players to strike a deal.

If so, the Dodgers should win another World Series or three before Soto could become a free agent after the 2024 season. And the Nationals should successfully rebuild around the plethora of prospects.

A little less from either team, and winners and losers should be easy to determine.

Dodgers are changing their attitude towards Taylor

A few weeks ago, Roberts made it clear that valuable utility man Chris Taylor would only play outfield for the remainder of the season due to concerns over his right elbow, which was surgically repaired in the offseason.

Then Taylor came on the injury list on July 5 with a broken foot and now faces a minor league rehab assignment.

Will he only play outfield or will he mix in second base? Have the Dodgers changed their stance?

“We feel like a lot of that was driven by the elbow and gave it time to heal,” Roberts said. “We just feel like he can handle the different arm angles in infield and outfield. So if we take Grounder in the infield, we have more options.

“I just don’t think there’s a lot of downside to Chris getting back into second base.”

And if the Dodgers take over Juan Soto at the close of trade, Taylor would have no place in the outfield. Recalling that possibility, Roberts laughed and said, “That’s right, that’s right.”

Heaney to try again

Left-hander Andrew Heaney will make his fourth start of the season and first since June 19 when he entered the mound against the Nationals on Wednesday

Heaney made two highly effective starts early in the season before missing two months with a sore left shoulder. His return lasted just one start as he was dominant again but injured his shoulder again.

In 15-1/3 innings over three starts, he gave up one run while striking out 23. His ERA is 0.59.

Roberts said Heaney will be limited to about 75 pitches Wednesday. Heaney has only two games against the Nationals in his nine-year career and has given up four runs in seven innings. Dodgers reminded of prospect cost of trade with Nationals

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