Nothing like the July non-waiver trade deadline to get baseball-minded folks excited in terms of what their favorite team’s main priorities should be. For the past few weeks, many analysts and experts have stated that perennial All-Star shortstop and current franchise-face of the Baltimore Orioles Manny Machado is the player the Dodgers currently have their sights set on to upgrade their roster. However, it’s probably not close to the best available move.
For one, Machado’s in the final year of his contract and would strictly be a rental for the remainder of this season. Another prickly point is that he’s still standing firm by his word that he would ONLY play shortstop on whichever team gains his services. Not only does that force teams to back away from the Orioles’ trade demands, but it also limits Machado’s chances of playing on a legit contender—especially one that seriously stresses defensive versatility like the Dodgers have done in recent years. All of this is beside the point, though. The primary focus here is to make a very strong case for the Dodgers potentially resetting their sights and going after Miami Marlins’ starting backstop and first-time All-Star J.T. Realmuto.
To start off, a little basic background info on Realmuto—he was born on March 18, 1991 in Del City, Oklahoma, and he was drafted in the 3rd round by the Marlins in the 2010 MLB draft—No. 104 overall—out of Carl Albert High School in Midwest City, Oklahoma. He spent five years on the Marlins’ farm before finally being called up to the parent club in 2014, compiling a .269 avg with a .734 OPS through 438 games in the minors.
Realmuto’s overall numbers have continued to improve each year since making his official big-league debut and have culminated in what is now turning out to be a career-best season. By far, the most telling stat for him this year has been his WAR (Wins Above Replacement). For those who don’t follow sabermetrics closely, basically, it’s a stat used to gauge a player’s total value to their team when stacked against either a replacement player from down on the farm or one that’s readily available on the free agent market. Realmuto’s WAR in general currently ranks him sixth in the league at 3.7, which also places him second among position players. That’s extremely important because it’s literally saying that Realmuto is the second most valuable position player in the league right now, with Milwaukee Brewers OF Lorenzo Cain currently at No. 1. That means if the Marlins didn’t have Realmuto starting games for them behind the plate most of the time, their overall W-L record would definitely end up becoming the biggest eyesore in MLB.
Realmuto’s OPS ranks him seventh in the league at .919, which is rather impressive for a catcher. To put it into perspective further, the only Dodger player ahead of him in that category is Max Muncy in fifth place with an eye-opening 1.030 OPS—if he would have had enough ABs to qualify before Thursday’s game. Matt Kemp is the next Dodger behind Muncy—ninth on the NL list at .890. Nobody can say they couldn’t use Realmuto in this year’s Dodger lineup with an OPS that solid, especially considering how the Dodgers’ catchers have hit this season.
Back to the WAR argument, do you know where Machado ranks in the AL in that category this season? He’s not even in the Top 10. As a matter of fact, the last time Machado cracked the Top 10 in that most telling of sabermetric stat lines was back in 2016 at 6.9, ranking him sixth at the time. In terms of Machado’s OPS this season, it’s a little better at .957, also ranking him 6th in the league. If the Dodgers were to go all in on Machado like they’ve been rumored as of late, they most likely would’ve ended up landing a “bat-first” shortstop who’s probably no better defensively than either Enrique Hernandez or even Chris Taylor.
Consequently, the Dodgers would have needlessly given up several fairly valuable prospects for roughly 2-1/2 months of Machado’s services. By comparison, Realmuto easily supplants current Dodger starting catcher Yasmani Grandal in every single aspect, while also giving the club two more cost-controlled years of service. With the way this current Dodger roster is set up, you’re looking at a possible World Series contender for at least the remainder of those two years still attached to Realmuto. Personally, if I were the Dodger front office, that alone would do it for me in terms of attempting to get a deal completed.
Now with all the technical info on the table, the real question in need of answering revolves around what exactly would the Dodgers possibly give up for a player of Realmuto’s caliber at this point. The Nationals recently inquired about the asking price for Realmuto and quickly walked away after finding out the Marlins were demanding a trade package centered around either one of their Top 2 prospects—outfielders Victor Robles and recently promoted Juan Soto. As for the Dodgers, a few frequent commenters have mentioned an asking price that could be centered around top pitching prospect Walker Buehler, but that’s mere speculation than fact.
Until both front offices start seriously engaging in negotiations regarding the true value of Realmuto’s worth in any potential deal, no one can truly say for certain what it would take to complete a trade. I do know one thing that can’t be ignored—Realmuto did reveal to the press earlier this season that he indeed wants to be dealt to a playoff contender. With the way things have been for the Dodgers in terms of their catching situation in particular, it would be in their absolute best interest to at least look into the matter fully and sooner rather than later.
Personally speaking, I would start off by including a trade package centered around one of the Dodgers’ top catching prospects—either Keibert Ruiz or Will Smith, though I’d rather hold onto Smith for versatility purposes—and top SS prospect Gavin Lux. If the Marlins demand the Dodgers include a pitching prospect in the deal, I’d let them have their pick of anyone outside of Buehler, Julio Urias, Caleb Ferguson, or perhaps even Dustin May, unless closer Kyle Barraclough gets thrown into the mix, and only then would I probably be willing to cough up an arm like May’s in the deal.
All comments are welcome, especially ones related to what you think the Dodgers would be willing to sacrifice for Realmuto. Who knows, maybe sometime soon the focus of the front office will shift to Realmuto instead of having to deal with the catching situation over the winter. But, more importantly, by acquiring Realmuto right now, the lineup would be instantly upgraded while putting the team in a better position to succeed in this year’s playoffs.