While dealing their No. 1 prospect was painful, their entrenched star at the big-league level, Will Smith, certainly made the decision easier — as did his pre-arbitration salary.
So did having youngster Diego Cartaya in their minor-league ranks. Trading Ruiz, who was nipping at the heels of MLB without a defined role, allowed LA to kick the decision-making can down the line a bit, allowing Cartaya to develop for two years or so before having to make another determination about Smith’s future viability.
With six months of hindsight, it seems like our preconceived notions about trading Ruiz to clear Cartaya’s path may have been spot on.
Not only does MLB Pipeline believe in Cartaya, but they see a quicker ascent than Ruiz’s coming in the next year, concluding with the young catcher in their league-wide Top 10 Prospects list by the end of 2022, if all goes well.
Dodgers chose right with 2023 top-10 prospect Diego Cartaya
According to MLB’s resident expert Jim Callis, the future is looking bright:
"Often compared to Salvador Perez because of his size and profile, Cartaya is a more advanced hitter than Perez was at his age and batted .298/.409/.614 at age 19 in Low-A during an injury-shortened 2021."
Now, are there infuriating elements of this list? Naturally. Callis also claims the Diamondbacks will possess prospects No. 7 and 8 (Corbin Carroll, Jordan Lawlar), meaning there might not be an also-ran at the bottom of the NL West for too much longer.
Additionally, Cartaya would not be the No. 1 catcher; Mets backstop Francisco Álvarez ranks No. 2 on the projected list.
However, there’s something to be said for the Dodgers holding three of the top young catchers in the game entering 2021 — one in MLB, one in the upper minors, and one in the lower minors — and making the prudent decision to flip Ruiz before his value fell, somehow distracting the Nationals from the fact that he was totally blocked in LA while still using him as a central bargaining chip.
Ruiz hit .273 with three homers in 88 at-bats last season, 81 of which came with Washington. He deserves a pat on the back and best wishes on his future endeavors, but the fact that Andrew Friedman managed to deal him for two superstars to fortify a playoff run and kept Smith and a possible top-10 name is enviable.