The Dodgers have been interested in J.T. Realmuto for years, but it feels at this point like the only way they'll make a strong push for him in free agency is if they don't win the World Series.
The Dodgers have been rolling with 25-year-old Will Smith and 30-year-old Austin Barnes behind the plate.
Smith was hitting .208 this summer through his first 70 plate appearances but hit .361 from there with six doubles and four homers. Through 333 regular-season plate appearances in the majors, Smith has hit .268/.363/.574 with 18 doubles, 23 homers and 67 RBI. He's also extremely inexpensive and will remain so for several years.
Barnes, who drove in two runs in the Dodgers' Game 3 win over the Rays Friday with a solo homer and a safety squeeze, has been with LA since 2015.
The Dodgers have nearly $40 million coming off of their books this offseason as the contracts of Justin Turner, Blake Treinen and Joc Pederson expire. Before the Phillies acquired Realmuto from the Marlins in February 2019, the Dodgers expressed interest. They were reportedly told by the Marlins a deal must include either Cody Bellinger or three top prospects, including Dustin May and Gavin Lux.
That was an easy pass for the Dodgers, who are much better off than they'd have been by making that trade. Bellinger was the 2019 MVP and has been a major run producer for the Dodgers in these playoffs. Like Realmuto, he's one of baseball's best all-around players. May was electric as a rookie with a 2.57 ERA.
The thing about teams like the Dodgers and Yankees, though, is that their rosters are so deep, so talented and so complete that any spot that could be potentially upgraded to end a championship drought is worth seriously exploring. If the Rays come back to beat the Dodgers in the World Series and extend a drought that dates back to 1988, the Dodgers will again be out on the market looking for the one or two pieces to put them over the hump. Just like the Yankees, with an 11-year title drought, will be doing this offseason.
What makes Realmuto so unique is that he'd improve almost any team in baseball in all three phases at his position: offense, defense and baserunning.
But at this point, the Yankees, Mets and Nationals all seem like bigger threats to the Phillies for Realmuto than the Dodgers and Braves, who had been mentioned this summer.
The only way it would make sense for the Dodgers is if they signed Realmuto and traded Smith for meaningful goodies. Smith would have a robust trade market. His own value might exceed Realmuto's, given the difference in what the two players will cost over the next few years. Realmuto could be earning $25 million annually while Smith makes close to the league minimum the next two.
If the Dodgers, up 2-1 in the World Series, do win it all, it is extremely unlikely they'd alter their course and outbid other teams for Realmuto. So in terms of thinning the market, that is the Fall Classic result Phillies fans should be pulling for.
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