Baseball’s stove, once metaphorically lit and active, cooled down back to dormant during the holidays. Yusei Kikuchi signed with the Mariners but, outside of that move, the world was forced to wait. In typical fashion, the offseason is starting to come back with rumors that push the metaphor from ‘stove’ to ‘volcano’ and it is just a matter of time before it erupts. The Dodgers want to be the reason why.
That right there is where the predicament starts: the Dodgers want to be the team that starts the eruption, the team that signs Bryce Harper or the team that trades for JT Realmuto. For a moment, it felt like the Dodgers, typically cautious spenders and traders, wanted to forget every strategy they had once stuck by and sign a player to a deal exceeding and breaking any boundary Andrew Friedman had set for his office.
If that is not enough there is JT Realmuto– one of if not the best offensive catchers in all of baseball just waiting to be acquired. His price, however, is through the roof.
“The Marlins are not wavering,” MLB Insider Ken Rosenthal said. “They want a top 0-3 year player, someone like Cody Bellinger or Ozzie Albies, and on top of that they want some good prospects.”
That price would break Friedman’s back and surely he is not going to do that. But what if the price tag gets lowered, lowered enough where the Dodgers can get Realmuto for the ‘some good prospects’ part of the asking price? Should they do it?
I don’t think so.
The Dodgers definitely need a catcher. In 2018 they ranked third in the major leagues in catcher WAR, a feat buoyed almost entirely by current free agent Yasmani Grandal. If the reports are true, he is not coming back to Los Angeles.
Grandal’s presumed departure should point all needles at Realmuto and, quite frankly, that makes sense. He is the caliber of player the Dodgers need to continue their push for the postseason and is practically equal to Grandal in terms of offensive output. So why leave him alone?
The answer is simple, the price is far from worth it.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: Cody Bellinger is not and will not go anywhere. Not for Kluber or Realmuto. If the Marlins can’t bring their asking price below a mark with Bellinger’s name involved, this article is pointless and you can call the whole thing off.
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Push past that though. Hypothetically, let’s say the Marlins come back to earth and retract their offer to something in the realm of semi-reasonable. The trade is still not worth it.
Any trade with the Marlins will involve Alex Verdugo and most likely Will Smith. On top of that, the trade should push on to include one of Tony Gonsolin, Dennis Santana, Yadier Alvarez or Mitch White and it probably would not stop there. Those are elite prospects. Those are the kind of prospects that teams grapple with the decision on whether or not to move them and for good reason.
So why not trade them for elite major league talent? Because there is better talent on the market.
The Dodgers have been linked to Corey Kluber. The Corey Kluber that has won two Cy Young Awards in the last five seasons and the Corey Kluber that has finished in the top three in votes for the award in the last three years. He’s elite.
The Dodgers have been linked closer to him than they have Realmuto and still have not been able to swing a deal. Put the prospects there and acquire a player who, in terms of pound for pound value, is better than Realmuto.
In 2018, Realmuto found himself in the top 13 percent of batters who played at least 120 games in terms of OPS+. He was amazing offensively and better than 87 percent of all batters by that standard. Kluber, however, was in the top 7 percent of pitchers who threw a minimum of 120 innings in terms of ERA+. He was incredible and better than an astounding 93% of pitchers by those standards.
At the end of the day, the Dodgers should focus on Kluber and spend assets there. It’s safe to assume that any price for Realmuto, even without Bellinger involved, would be an over-pay and you can send those guys to get one of the best pitchers in the league. There seems to be a largely understated value of Kluber and an equally large overstated value of Realmuto for Los Angeles.
By trading with the Indians the Dodgers get their elite prospects out of the NL and get a pitcher that is a significant upgrade to the roster.
JT Realmuto is fantastic. His offense is tops in the league for catchers and that is undeniable. But, with his price set at a king’s ransom, it may be time to focus on spending assets for other elite and accessible talent. It’s time to turn the page on Realmuto on fully open one on Corey Kluber.