Dodgers Have the Luxury of Pulling from MLB Roster
Whenever a team looks to make an upgrade via the trade market, it results in them weakening their farm system. The 2019 Dodgers are in the enviable position where they don’t have to lose pieces from their minor league system to do such a thing.
Everyone knows the Dodgers are looking to upgrade their bullpen, hence the links to Felipe Vázquez, Will Smith, and Brad Hand, among many other relievers. And in situations like these, the team acquiring the best player in the trade usually has to pull from their farm system because:
A. They can’t afford to dig into their 25-man roster
B. The team they are trading with wants younger talented players who fit their rebuild timeline better.
But Los Angeles can make an upgrade- significant or not- without reaching too deep into their farm system. And it’s because of their tremendous depth at the Major League level plus the players down in their pipeline that are making some of the Dodgers’ established talent expendable.
Take their catching situation for example. Austin Barnes and Russell Martin have shared time at catcher, but are known for their defensive prowess and relationship with the starting pitchers. However, at the plate, they have been near automatic outs.
But stashed away in triple-A is rookie Will Smith, who has already gotten an opportunity with the big league squad and impressed.
In 29 plate appearances with LA, the catcher hit .269/.345/.654 with three home runs (two walk-offs). And with Oklahoma City, Smith’s done nothing but prove that he belongs back in the show, hitting .274/.382/.616 with 20 home runs in 60 games.
But not only is his play worthy of a place on the Dodgers’ 25-man roster, but fellow top catching prospect Keibert Ruiz was promoted to triple-A this past weekend, leading many to believe that Smith will be promoted soon once again, or that either of the two may be moved.
But moving Smith would make no sense because he is Major League-ready and serves as an immediate upgrade for the Dodgers’ World Series aspirations.
Then there’s second base, which has been another position of weakness at the dish. It’s been held down primarily by Enrique Hernandez, with Max Muncy sparing him from time-to-time. But defensively, Muncy is better-suited at first base, leaving Hernandez (or even Barnes) as the best option(s) to get most of the playing time at second.
However, even with his recent hot stretch, the 27-year-old utility man has been a below-average producer all season long. And what are the chances that the franchise has another replacement down in triple-A? One who is pretty much ready to step in and make an immediate impact.
Granted, Gavin Lux is a shortstop by trade, and that’s Corey Seager’s position, but the 21-year-old prospect has accumulated 594 innings at second base since debuting with single-A two years ago. Besides, his bat is the kind you find a way to make room for regardless of position.
He has a .353/.417/.626 line with 21 homers in 83 games between double and triple-A, while hitting a torrid .481/.548/.963 with eight home runs in 19 games with OKC. And in these 19 games, he has 11 multi-hit games, three four-hit ones, a five-hit appearance, and a five-game span in which he hit six home runs.
These two youngsters are way too talented and valuable to move for a reliever, no matter how great. They are the types of players front offices hold onto to build around.
And the Dodgers have a good track record of making aggressive trades without moving their best prospects. They’ve acquired Yu Darvish and Manny Machado in the past couple seasons without having to surrender any of their top guys, and before them, Andrew Friedman refused to move Corey Seager, Walker Buehler, Cody Bellinger, and Alex Verdugo in past talks. And those decisions seem to be working just fine.
So if he rejects the idea of parting with Smith and Lux to acquire an elite reliever, we should trust his judgment. And if Lux and/or Smith are in LA’s 2019 plans, players like Austin Barnes, Enrique Hernandez, and even Joc Pederson could become expendable.
That is a collective 3.6 fWAR, with Pederson and Hernandez both tracking to finish the season somewhere between solid starters and good players, according to FanGraphs.
Pederson is a 27-year-old with a .850 OPS and 23 home runs that provides quality defense in left field and team control beyond 2019. Losing him would not have much of an impact as the Dodgers’ go-to starting outfield trio appears to be Cody Bellinger, A.J. Pollock, and Alex Verdugo. And rookie Matt Beaty’s emergence shows that the Dodgers have already have another capable fourth outfielder.
As weak-hitting as Barnes is, he’s an excellent defensive catcher that offers positional versatility all over the infield and great speed on the basepaths.
And Hernandez is a super-utility man that can play all positions but catcher and pitcher, and provide pop with the bat. He has 16 home runs on the year, and over his last 30 games is hitting .318/.400/.591 with six home runs.
They are by no means meant to be the centerpiece of a trade, but any, or all of the trio would serve as quality complementary options in a package deal. Attaching any combination of them to Keibert Ruiz and (non-Dustin May) pitching prospects would be an enticing offer for a team looking for high-end young talent while getting young, established MLB players.
And in turn, the Dodgers don’t have to lose too many good prospects from their well, while still fielding one of the deepest lineups in the game. It’s one of the rare occasions where moving established talent in favor of youth acts as an upgrade.
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Featured Image via Flickr/ Ian D’Andrea