Let’s find a home for Dodgers’ prospect Michael Busch, because it isn’t in LA

Michael Busch (Photo: Cody Bashore)

When the Dodgers extended Max Muncy‘s contract, re-signed Jason Heyward (pushing Mookie Betts to play more second base) and signed Shohei Ohtani (still doesn’t seem real!), the writing was basically on the wall for Michael Busch.

Busch, 26, has spent most of the last two seasons with Triple-A Oklahoma City. He did make his MLB debut last season and hit .167/.247/.292 in 81 plate appearances. Despite the lackluster debut, a prospect of his caliber (and age) has no business being in the minor leagues. Sure, the Dodgers could keep him and he could be a the bench, lite-version of Muncy, but that isn’t especially fair to him and it’d be a tough role for a former consensus Top 100 prospect. Having said that, let’s try to find him a home.


Ideally, Busch would be part of a package to land a starting pitcher — preferably one who isn’t on the wrong side of 35 and is under contract for at least a couple seasons. Or maybe a prospect-for-prospect deal that would involve the Dodgers landing a non-40-man roster player.

Chicago White Sox

The Dodgers have been linked to Dylan Cease for quite some time. It’s an obvious fit because he has two years of club control remaining and is just two seasons removed from finishing second in American League Cy Young voting. He took a step back in 2023, which might actually make him more affordable when it comes to prospect capital. It would cost more than Busch, but he could headline or co-headline a deal for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.


While Shane Bieber is the obvious target here — and still could be, despite some harsh regression the last two seasons — I’m thinking a type of challenge trade here, and I’m going to get chastised by Josh for this one. Daniel Espino — the player the Dodgers would have drafted in 2019 if Cleveland hadn’t popped him one pick earlier (that Kody Hoese consolation prize has been not great!) — has some of the most electric stuff of any starting pitching prospect in the game. So, why would the nearly 23-year-old even be available? He might not be, but he is coming off a pretty significant shoulder surgery that cost him the 2023 season and could keep him out until mid-2024. This would be a high risk gamble for the Dodgers, and the Guardians are always looking for bats (see: Aaron Civale for Kyle Manzardo at the 2023 trade deadline). There might have to be more involved on both sides, but it’s something to ponder.

Kansas City

A more uninspired pitcher here is Brady Singer. The 27-year-old had somewhat of a breakout in 2022 (3.23 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 18.5 K-BB%), he saw his numbers slip last season and he has a lot of blue in his Statcast profile. However, he does have 93rd percentile extension, keeps almost half the balls in play on the ground and does a solid job of not walking players. If the Dodgers wanted to try to plug someone into the Mark Prior Lab, Singer could be a decent candidate. Plus, they signed Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha, so they could look to move a guy like Singer to give Bobby Witt Jr. some help.


Busch has always seemed like an Oakland (Las Vegas, ugh) Athletic, probably because of the Moneyball profile. While the A’s don’t have a ton of talent at the MLB level who would interest championship-contending clubs, one starting pitcher stood out a bit. Paul Blackburn, 30, despite not having the prettiest Statcast profile, does some things well enough that one could squint and see him taking a step forward in LA. He does a good job limiting exit velocity (87.2 MPH), as well as Hard-Hit% (33.2) and Barrels (5.8). He also saw his slider improve dramatically in 2023. The usage jumped from 6.1% to 18.1%, and the results were strong — .198 BAA, .247 wOBA, 34.4 Whiff%, 84.6 MPH exit velo. He’d need to fine-tune or completely ditch his cutter because it got hit hard, despite an 81.6 MPH exit velo (.435 BAA, .464 wOBA). He’d be an interesting candidate to see what the Dodgers could do with him, especially since he isn’t a free agent until after the 2025 season.


The Marlins are an interesting team when it comes to starting pitching. They simultaneously have a lot of it and not enough. Sandy Alcantara is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, while Max Meyer is coming back from the same procedure. They, reportedly, might be looking to move one of their other arms for some offense, which is why the Dodgers make some sense. I tried to get Trevor Rogers, 26, last offseason by using Busch, and it was met with a lot of backlash. While it wasn’t my best bit of rosterbation, it had merit. He has the kind of stuff the Dodgers covet, but he also has a significant injury past. Edward Cabrera, 25, is a guy I liked heading into last season, but his command/control slipped significantly before a September surge (2.38 ERA, 3.61 FIP) made Cabrera fans dream again.

But the most intriguing pitcher who might be available is Jesus Luzardo. The 26-year-old southpaw is coming off one of his best — and healthiest — seasons that saw him post a 3.58 ERA, 3.96 FIP and a 20.6 K-BB%. He’s similar to Tyler Glasnow in a way — he has premium stuff, misses bats, but also gives up some hard contact. With three years left before he hits free agency, Busch alone wouldn’t be enough to pry him from the Marlins, but if he’s available, the should be the top trade target for the Dodgers.


The Dodgers have been tied to Corbin Burnes for some time now — similar to Cease. With the Brewers unsure what the future holds for them and him, they could look to get more than a competitive balance draft pick for him if he were to leave after 2024. Despite not being as dominant as he was from 2020-22, he was still a Top 20 pitcher in baseball and is only 29 years old. Oh, and his 127 Stuff+ was the best in the majors, so, yeah, the dude can still shove. He’d be a fantastic get for the Dodgers, even if he only has one year of arbitration remaining.


Mitch Keller, 27, is under team control for two more seasons and is coming off a breakout 2023 campaign. Sure, a 4.21 ERA and 3.80 FIP may not scream “breakout,” but he posted his best full-season exit velocity mark (87.2 MPH), had a career-best K-BB% (18.8) and recorded Whiff% of more than 20% on all his pitches but his sinker, which isn’t a traditional swing-and-miss offering. If he were brought in to be the No. 4/5 starter, not the ace, he could thrive and he’d give the Dodgers a little rotation security beyond 2024.


The Mariners have long since been looking for a bat and Jerry DiPoto has been uncharacteristically quite (for him) this offseason. Busch would fit well in the lineup at first base, second base or designated hitter. While Luis Castillo or Logan Gilbert would be amazing acquisitions, the M’s aren’t trading either one of them. However, Bryce Miller is a bit interesting. His Statcast profile isn’t great, but the 25-year-old is coming off a solid rookie campaign that saw him throw 131 1/3 innings and pitch to a 4.32 ERA, 3.98 FIP and a 17.3 K-BB%. His Stuff+ was 117 among pitchers with 130 innings pitched — four points behind Ohtani and two ahead of Cease, for what it’s worth. He could be a nice project for Prior and Co., and could be a rotation fixture for the next five seasons. Others would have to be involved, but it’d be the kind of interesting trade guys like Andrew Friedman and DiPoto like to make.


Here’s how I’d rank the pitchers mentioned above in terms of who I (me, the silly blogger) would want, factoring in fit and cost:

  1. Luzardo
  2. Burnes
  3. Espino
  4. Keller
  5. Cease
  6. Blackburn
  7. Miller
  8. Rogers
  9. Cabrera
  10. Singer

And here’s how I’d rank them in terms of most likely to happen:

  1. Cease
  2. Burnes
  3. Keller
  4. Blackburn
  5. Cabrera
  6. Singer
  7. Rogers
  8. Miller
  9. Espino
  10. Luzardo

Disclaimer: This could all change if the Dodgers sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

I still think Cease is the most likely, but man, if the Dodgers truly have a chance to get Burnes, they should probably do whatever it takes, and I’m sure the Brewers would welcome a bat like Busch (and others) if they’re trading their ace. Keller and Blackburn are interesting for different reasons. Singer and Rogers are quite different but would be fun. Miller is going to cost a lot. Espino is a personal cheeseball choice, while Luzardo is a bit of a pipedream.

One thing’s for sure: Michael Busch needs a place where he can get a consistent playing time at the MLB level. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen in Los Angeles.

About Dustin Nosler

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Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.