Our fourth and final installment of potential J.T. Realmuto trade centerpieces—barring any changes to the market—takes us back to the West Coast, as we check in on the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s been a busy weekend already breaking down candidates on the Reds, Padres and Braves.
The following is a list of prospects that Marlins fans should be familiarizing themselves with as we near the possibility of Realmuto wearing Dodger Blue.
C Keibert Ruiz (Baseball America’s #20 Prospect)
Although previous reports indicated that the Marlins were asking for the likes of OF/1B Cody Bellinger and other established Major League talent, that was never likely to transpire. Rather, a prospect-driven package with the Dodgers starts with one of the elite young catchers in baseball.
Ruiz is everything you want at the position: he deals damage at the plate, and limits damage behind it. Known for his advanced hit tool, which is perfectly paired with a strong defensive ability, Ruiz is an ideal return in a Realmuto trade. He would become the future backstop of the Marlins, allowing the organization to turn their focus to other areas of need.
OF Alex Verdugo (Baseball America’s #35 Prospect)
Some within baseball identify Verdugo as the Dodgers’ best overall prospect. They adore his well-roundedness: there is not a single element of his game that is considered below average. He does everything a ballplayer is expected to do, and he does it well.
Turning 23 in May, Verdugo’s floor is higher than most of the prospects discussed in this series of articles, and his ceiling is equally as exciting as the best targets discussed. Verdugo would immediately become a starting outfielder for the Marlins, with his bat likely slotted into the middle of the lineup. He owns a .669 OPS through 52 MLB games, though that’s certain to improve over a larger sample.
The reason he is not atop the wishlist? Because when you are creating a hole at catcher, and you have a young rotation of prospect arms coming up, it’s beneficial to fill it with the best catching prospect in baseball. The Marlins can’t expect to get both young studs packaged together, so Verdugo is a backup plan if they whiff on Ruiz.
SS Gavin Lux (Baseball America’s #40 Prospect)
Early in his developmental career, questions were raised about Lux’s ability to stay at short; these questions have now been resolved. Lux has instilled confidence throughout the baseball community that he could man the 6-hole in the diamond. The Marlins have been starved for such a prospect over the past several years.
The former first-rounder may be lacking in 60-grade tools, but there is value in having five consistently productive tools across his profile. Lux’s premium position skews his value toward being centerpiece-worthy.
Secondary Pieces: Jeter Downs, #82 Dustin May, #95 Will Smith, Yadier Alvarez, Josiah Gray, Diego Cartaya, and Edwin Uceta.
The Dodgers boast some of the strongest secondary pieces of the four teams that we have featured. Ironically, if the Reds had not traded Gray and Downs to the Dodgers earlier this offseason, then their Realmuto rumored deal currently under consideration would be much more enticing.
Nonetheless, the Dodgers now own their rights, and may very well flip them over to Little Havana.
So then, what finally happens?
As for who ends up striking a deal with the Marlins for Realmuto, it is anyone’s guess. I personally envision three realistic scenarios:
1. The Padres and Marlins resolve at a sweet spot of Mejia and Morejon (or similar SP prospect) as the main pieces.
2. The Reds include a stronger third piece—such as Santillan—in the India and Barnhart combo, which then allows the Marlins to pull the trigger of two Top 100 prospects and the Gold Glove winning backstop.
3. The Braves—who I have consistently stated should be the favorites—decide that Realmuto is worthy of either Riley or Anderson, and allow for a package to be built around one of those centerpieces. I believe that the instance in which this happens, the Realmuto saga comes to an end.
As for the Dodgers, I do not currently see the match occurring. (Which of course means that with the perfect timing of the Marlins, they will strike a deal with Los Angeles as soon as we hit publish on this article.)
Any of the three targets mentioned above successfully stock the Marlins farm with sorely needed upper-level talent. If they somehow come away with better prospect packages, then kudos to the Fish for using their leverage on a desperate contender. If they fall slightly below expectations, then the backlash will be heard, but the final rebuild piece will have been resolved and we can move forward.