It’s hard to look five years into the future, but here we are. The Los Angeles Dodgers don’t exactly have a starting shortstop for the 2023 season and the Pittsburgh Pirates could be reaping the ultimate benefits from a 2017 trade deadline deal.
Oneil Cruz, who was one of the pieces that went to Pittsburgh in the Tony Watson trade that helped bolster LA’s bullpen for their run to the World Series, has only appeared in four career MLB games as of Wednesday, but he’s been electrifying in those appearances.
Plus, it helps being 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, because that’ll naturally make you stand out in a crowd of major league ballplayers.
In 18 MLB at-bats, Cruz is hitting .333 with an .889 OPS, 142 OPS+, four runs scored, one homer, eight RBI and a stolen base. He’s also contributed a 0.2 dWAR at shortstop, showing off his rocket arm on Monday night against the Chicago Cubs. The ball flies off this man’s bat, too. There are plenty of stats that show his potential after just a handful of innings in 2022.
Not to sound like Captain Hindsight … but how did the Dodgers somehow jump ship on a talent like this, even if it was back in 2017? It’s clear they saw something in him after signing the Dominican slugger to a $950,000 bonus back in 2015.
At this point in time, he would’ve been the perfect transitional piece as Trea Turner heads for free agency after the 2022 season.
Oneil Cruz is starting to make the Dodgers regret their 2017 trade
Cruz figures to be one of the franchise cornerstones for the lowly Pirates, whose seemingly interminable rebuild is finally coming back around. Those three straight postseason appearances sandwiched in between futility sure are forgettable at this point.
Cruz, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Bryan Reynolds, Roansy Contreras, Jack Suwinski and others make for a fairly promising core, and though the Dodgers will easily move on from this fairly regrettable trade, it’d sure be nice to not be wondering who might seamlessly take over at shortstop next year if Turner leaves.
Gavin Lux is the obvious option, but with his best defense coming at second base, a middle infield of him and Cruz surely would’ve been awesome.
It’s hard for the Dodgers to truly regret this deal, though. At the time, they were World Series contenders and needed bullpen help. Watson pitched to a 2.70 ERA, 3.86 FIP and 1.05 WHIP in 24 regular season games and then owned the Cubs and Astros in the NLCS and Fall Classic (six innings and zero earned runs in nine games).
If not for Houston cheating, this trade would have 1,000% been worth it. But now there’s some reason to question it because the Dodgers didn’t end up achieving their ultimate goal.