Of the trades and acquisition made by the Los Angeles Dodgers over the last several seasons, the Max Muncy signing may be the biggest heist.
"“It’s been a whirlwind of emotions, not knowing if I was ever going to play baseball again,” Max Muncy told Bleacher Report in July 2018."
At the time, he was in the midst of a breakout campaign for the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, the newfound success brought him full circle to the moment when his baseball future was no longer a guarantee. It was an obstacle that left Muncy wondering where his career would go and where the next opportunity would come.
At the end of Spring Training of 2017, Muncy found himself at a crossroads. A second-round pick of the Oakland Athletics in 2012, Muncy had risen through the ranks in the A’s system but hadn’t done much with his opportunities afforded to him. Through his first 215 at-bats in Oakland, Muncy struggled to a .195/.290/.321 batting line and the power he had shown in the lower minors had not translated to the upper minors or Major Leagues.
Now at an advanced age for a prospect, he found himself a victim of the roster shuffle, having been designated for assignment by Oakland in January 2017, clearing waivers and being outrighted after going unclaimed, and then being released by the team after not making the club out of Spring Training.
"“Was a team going to give me a chance? Was I ever going to make it back to the major leagues? Was I going to be a career minor leaguer?”, Muncy asked himself as he looked for his next opportunity."
After floating on the free agent wire for a few weeks, Muncy finally received his next chance when the Los Angeles Dodgers signed him to a minor-league deal on April 28, 2017. Nothing was guaranteed, but an opportunity was there to get a fresh start and prove himself to a new organization.
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Assigned to the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers, Muncy would spend the entire 2017 season in the minors. However, he would find his stroke with the bat, slashing an impressive .309/.414/.491 while contributing 12 home runs, 20 doubles, and 44 RBI. Muncy would return to Oklahoma City to start the 2018 season, but an early-season injury to Logan Forsythe created the opportunity he needed.
Muncy would not look back.
Recalled on April 17th, Muncy hit a home run in his second game for Los Angeles, but his first month for the Dodgers was still a struggle, finishing with a .207/.281/.448 slash when the month turned to May. However, the Dodgers stuck with him and Muncy rewarded them, hitting a combined .281/.425/.628 with 20 home runs and 37 RBI as the league headed into the All-Star break.
Now an everyday player, Muncy became a fixture in the Dodgers lineup for the remainder of the season, appearing in 137 games and hitting .263/.391/.582 with 79 RBI and a team-leading 35 home runs. His 162 wRC+ would rank him fifth in all of baseball among players with 400+ at-bats, while his 5.2 fWAR would rate 17th.
His performance would even throw Muncy a few MVP votes as well, as he finished 15th in the National League Most Valuable Player balloting. He then wrote his name into the Dodgers history book with a walk-off home run in the World Series, ending the longest game in World Series history in the 18th inning.
The sudden rise of a 27-year-old leaves a lot to question, including whether or not performance was a flash in the pan or whether it can be sustained. Muncy proved the latter when he returned to post a .251/.374/.515 with 101 runs, 98 RBI, and a repeat of both his 35 home runs and his 15th place MVP placement.
No longer a question of sustainability, Max Muncy has found a home in Los Angeles, and the Dodgers made it official. The team and Muncy agreed in February to a 3-year, $36 million extension with a fourth-year option worth $13 million per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
Now life is simple. Max Muncy can look ahead knowing his future is set and Los Angeles fans can look forward to seeing him in Dodger blue for the foreseeable future. The only reason to look back now is to recognize the bump in the road, what has been overcome and be thankful that the A’s made it possible for the Dodgers to find a diamond in the rough.