If the Dodgers want to save money and give Keibert Ruiz playing time, well, here’s the solution.
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ offseason plans are far from materializing, much like every other MLB team, so it’s our job to speculate and come up with some potential solutions for the reigning World Series champs. And one area of the roster that could see some changes is at the catcher position.
LA has a plethora of depth behind the plate. Will Smith is a young star who will undoubtedly hold down the fort for years to come. Then there’s Austin Barnes, who’s your defensive stalwart and is someone you trust giving a considerable amount of starts. And lurking in the farm system is No. 2 overall prospect Keibert Ruiz. Is he trade bait or part of the future plans?
We already talked about the possibility of him being included in a trade package for Rockies star third baseman Nolan Arenado, but if the Dodgers opt to keep Ruiz in LA, here’s how they can expedite that process as early as 2021.
If the Dodgers feel Ruiz can quickly match or exceed Barnes’ production, the front office could trade Barnes this offseason and get some value for the veteran. He’s only owed ~$1.7 million in his second year of arbitration eligibility, and almost no team would have a problem paying that for a catcher of his caliber.
Perhaps they can’t find a trade partner? That could very well be a paramount obstacle given the constraints many teams face this offseason (though unlikely given Barnes’ pedigree and price tag). In a worst-case scenario, he can be non-tendered, which would save the Dodgers that $1.7 million and make Barnes a free agent.
Promote Ruiz to back up Smith. As the 22-year-old progresses, the duo should be used like Smith and Barnes were in the postseason. Smith’s bat is too valuable to take out of the lineup when he has to sit to get rest from catching, so plop him at DH and let Ruiz take over on defense. That system was almost flawless for LA in October.
Look, all we know is that Ruiz is knocking on the door of the MLB roster. Now’s the time to use him as a trade chip or integrate him as early as possible to become a part of the Dodgers’ future alongside Smith. Both scenarios maximize his value.
Either way, the Dodgers seem to win, but Barnes will have to go in the form of a trade or non-tender if Ruiz wants a shot at the Opening Day roster. And even that feels like a win-win for LA because they could get OK value for Barnes on the trade market or just outright save money.
The non-tender deadline is Dec. 2, so be on the lookout for potentially roster-changing news then.