The Los Angeles Dodgers? They’re sitting the prettiest at that position of any big-league team.
LA has 25-year-old playoff hero Will Smith entrenched as the starter, classic gritty backup Austin Barnes locked in for the next two years thanks to an arbitration-avoiding deal, and top prospect Keibert Ruiz, still just 22, waiting in the wings.
But how long can he wait before realizing the wings are kind of cramped and dark?
For all intents and purposes, Ruiz is ready to start for an MLB team within the calendar year, if not sooner.
And once he’s done ascending, using him as a backup — which the Dodgers might be stuck doing, thanks to the happy problem of Smith’s emergence? — isn’t helping anyone.
If only there were a way to free Ruiz, solve the Yankees’ long-term catching problem with a near-sure thing, allow one of the Yanks’ blocked players to thrive, and get the Dodgers something they could actually use right away?
The issue at hand is…the Dodgers have everything. They have no weaknesses. They have very few long-term needs the Yankees can help fill with players who deserve a brighter opportunity than a seat on the Scranton Shuttle.
Specifically, the Dodgers may not provide a better shot at playing time for Miguel Andújar, the No. 1 Yankee we’d like to free.
So, perhaps a three-way deal?
Presenting: A Completely Insane Yankees-Dodgers-Rangers Trade
Rangers Get: Miguel Andújar, Yankees C Prospect Austin Wells
Dodgers Get: Joey Gallo
Yankees Get: Keibert Ruiz
There we go! Now that is how you theorize!
Ruiz, currently the Dodgers’ No. 2 prospect, has only eight big-league plate appearances to his name, but they include a rocket home run to the pole in Anaheim. He wouldn’t start for the 2021 Yankees — at least, not right away, in any fantasy — but after some more seasoning in Scranton, he could have a clear path to the throne in 2022.
If Sanchez dominates in ’21 and grabs the job for himself? Then Ruiz will wait until 2023 when El Gary bolts to an unsuspecting team in free agency. Same timeline he’s in now, but without an entrenched young starter ahead of him.
In this three-way machination, the Rangers receive Andújar, who can provide instant offense to a team that just dealt Elvis Andrus to the A’s to move Isiah Kiner-Falefa to shortstop. They’ll also get Austin Wells, currently the top catching prospect in the Yankees’ system whose future might be elsewhere on the diamond.
And we also plugged the Dodgers’ only “weakness,” giving them Joey Gallo to play the Joc Pederson lefty masher role!
Gallo, fated to leave Texas before the expiration of his contract in 2023, would provide the Dodgers with an upgrade on Pederson, whose low-average, 30-homer seasons were always trumped up with postseason heroics.
The Dodgers are of course good enough to contend the second Opening Day begins, but they haven’t exactly filled the hole Pederson left when he departed for the Cubs in free agency. This would do that with aplomb, allowing LA to cash in one of their top chips instead of letting him simmer as third-tier insurance in the minors for the next two years.
The Yankees did this with Estevan Florial. They know all too well the dangers of holding onto a blocked prospect while his warts get exposed.
Will this happen? Oh, for sure no. Does it benefit every team involved in a perfect way, and not a cursed “monkey’s paw”-type situation where each squad’s fatal flaw is exposed? It should!
At least consider it, Baseball Gods.