You talk about a storybook season and there is arguably no better example from 2018 than Max Muncy. With a 35 home run campaign and an appearance in the home run derby, Muncy broke out for the Dodgers in 2018 but, for Los Angeles, could Muncy’s biggest value right now be on the trade market?
The real miracle here is Muncy’s story prior to 2018. Having not appeared in the Major Leagues since 2016, Muncy was a waiver claim by the Dodgers after he appeared in just 96 big league games in his career. In 2017, Muncy spent the entire year with the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City.
Muncy shined with OKC in 2017, hitting over .309 and slugging .491. Muncy opened the season in Triple-A in 2018 as well and was called up shortly thereafter to fill in for an injured Justin Turner who missed the first month of the season with a fractured wrist suffered in the spring. Muncy was called up, Muncy never looked back. In the majors, he hit just under 15% of the Dodgers’ home runs last season with 35 and accounted for 10.5% of the total RBI’s with 79.
Muncy led all major batters with a minimum of 300 plate appearances in ISO at .319, .003 higher than Mike Trout. And, without him, you could probably argue the Dodgers would not have gotten as far as they did last year.
So, why trade the hero? In what world does it make sense to trade away the guy who shattered expectations and piloted the Dodgers to the successful season they had been hoping for? The answer is complicated but is based on this simple sentence: take value while it still exists.
Muncy was a breakout in 2018. What he did was amazing but there is something to be said for the otherworldly improvements he had in almost every statistic. In other words, was it a fluke? If we isolate his numbers just to ISO, it sure likes like the season was just that. In Triple-A in 2017, Muncy’s ISO was just .182. That could be, in large part, due to a relatively average slugging percentage and a high batting average but jumping from .182 to .319 in just one season is an alarming transition.
Muncy’s strikeout percentage also saw a dramatic shift. In 2018, it rose to 27.2%. The second highest major league percentage since 2015, a season where he hit .206 with an 80 wRC+.
So why not take advantage, cut the risk of serious regression, something that is extremely common in players after their first successful campaign in the majors. Trading Muncy also frees up defensive space. In 2018, Muncy’s highest DRS at any position was 0, a number he shared at both second and third base while his DRS at first base, the position he played the most, was -4.
Now, if the Dodgers have any intention of keeping Alex Verdugo, Matt Kemp, Chris Taylor, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig and Andrew Toles around, Cody Bellinger has no place to play in the outfield. Outside of the three outfield spots, Bellinger’s only other defensive skill comes at first base, Muncy’s position. Justin Turner is playing third and some combination of Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor will man second.
So, trade the weaker defender, free up defensive space and suck up offensive value, of which there should be a lot, in a trade. Move Muncy to the team willing to pay in the best Major League second baseman they have and you can probably get away with taking a prospect too.
The Royals come to mind for this, a team that can always use a bat and a team that is home to Whit Merrifield. Trade him to Cleveland, an AL team rooted in its ability to hit homers and home to a plethora of good pitchers and a serviceable catcher in Yan Gomes. The options do not stop there either.
Max Muncy has what could be the highest trade value he has had in his entire career the Dodgers have enough depth at every position to make a trade involving Muncy well worth their time. With holes to fill in the bullpen, at second base and behind the plate, Muncy’s value could beg the return the Dodgers are looking for to round out a roster hoping to win a World Series.
Muncy was amazing last year, he led the team in the regular season and broke out in unexpected fashion. But, with regression potentially on the horizon and a roster that needs to be built differently this coming season than it was last year, moving Muncy could really help this team.