Dodgers Acquire Max Scherzer, Trea Turner In Blockbuster Trade With Nationals
The Dodgers have a history of being active at the trade deadline under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. They acquired Rich Hill and Josh Reddick from the A’s in 2016, Yu Darvish from the Rangers in 2017 and Manny Machado from the Orioles in 2018.
But in each deal, the Dodgers held onto their best prospects. More often than not, they’ve been unwilling to part with the best their farm system has to offer during the season.
On Thursday, that changed in a big way.
The Dodgers reportedly acquired Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Nationals in exchange for Triple-A catcher Keibert Ruiz, righthander Josiah Gray, Double-A righthander Gerardo Carrillo and Double-A outfielder Donovan Casey in what would be the most significant deal of the trade deadline so far this year.
The deal is not yet official. The Washington Post's Jesse Dougherty was first to report the full trade return.
Ruiz ranked as the Dodgers No. 1 prospect in their midseason update and Gray ranked No. 4. Carrillo ranked No. 22 and Casey just missed the Top 30.
Scherzer gives the Dodgers yet another elite starter, and he couldn’t be arriving at a better time. Clayton Kershaw is on the injured list with forearm inflammation, Trevor Bauer is on administrative leave while being investigated for sexual assault, Dustin May is out for the season after having Tommy John surgery and David Price has yet to give the Dodgers much length after transitioning from the bullpen to the rotation earlier this month.
And that’s to say nothing of Turner, who is in the midst of the best full season of his career and gives the Dodgers an alternative at shortstop if Corey Seager, who has missed time with a broken hand but is expected to return this weekend, continues to deal with injuries. Turner also won’t be a free agent until after the 2022 season, while Seager is a free agent the end of this year.
For the Nationals, it marks the end of an era for two of the team’s greatest stars and cornerstones of their 2019 World Series championship team. It also adds a significant injection of talent into baseball’s worst farm system. Ruiz immediately becomes the Nationals No. 1 prospect and Gray becomes their No. 3 prospect.
Keibert Ruiz, C
Ruiz is the third-best catching prospect in baseball and the No. 16 prospect overall. The switch-hitter has elite strike-zone discipline, almost never swings and misses and has excellent plate coverage. Even when he’s fooled, he has special hand-eye coordination that allows him to put almost any ball in play. He is a consensus plus hitter and should has all the skills to hit .300 in his best years. Ruiz previously struggled to tap into power, but he got stronger and improved his pitch selection this year to pick out better pitches to drive. He’s hit career-high 17 home runs in only 58 games this year, doing most of his damage in one of Triple-A West’s few pitcher-friendly parks in Oklahoma City. Ruiz’s lefthanded swing is much more impactful than his righthanded swing, but he is able to make contact from both sides. Ruiz’s defense has steadily improved to make him an all-around contributor. He is an above-average receiver, has a feel for timing on blocks and has improved his game-calling, which was previously a weak point. Ruiz’s arm strength is fringy to average and plays down due to occasional footwork and transfer issues. Opponents run on him freely and stole 27 bases in 33 attempts against him this year. Ruiz has the potential to be one of the best-hitting catchers in baseball. His defense still needs polish, but he has the skills to remain behind the plate and is nearly ready for an everyday job in the majors.
Josiah Gray, RHP
Gray is the No. 68 prospect in baseball and is ready to step into the Nationals rotation from day one. He is a strong, athletic righthander who was previously a shortstop and has a fresh, powerful arm. Gray’s fastball is a dominant pitch that ranges from 93-97 mph and plays up with late running life. Other pitchers throw harder, but Gray misses more bats because he commands his fastball and holds its velocity and life deep into outings. His sharp slider is an above-average, swing-and-miss pitch he commands well to give him a go-to secondary offering. Gray’s changeup remains a work in progress. He has worked to add tail and drop to it and it flashes average at its best, but too often he throws it too hard in the upper-80s and it stays straight over the plate, where batters unload on it. Gray has a noted competitive streak and rises to his best in big matchups. He attacks the strike zone aggressively with above-average control and stays composed in high-profile settings. Gray has all the ingredients to be a mid-rotation starter if he can improve his changeup just a tick more. Otherwise, the quality of his fastball and slider are good enough to get him through a lineup two times and make him a solid back of the rotation starter. Gray did miss the season’s first two months with shoulder inflammation, but he has otherwise stayed healthy and showed he was durable with 130.1 innings in his first full professional season in 2019.
Gerardo Carrillo, RHP
Carrillo was the Dodgers No. 22 prospect in their midseason rankings. He is an undersized rigthander with a huge arm but very little control. He went 3-2, 4.25 in 15 appearances (14 starts) with Double-A Tulsa this year. He had 70 strikeouts in 59.1 innings, but also 29 walks and 16 hit batters. Carrillo generates huge run and sink on his 94-97 mph fastball and can reach 99. His short, 89-91 mph slider is another swing-and-miss pitch that moves in the opposite direction and he’ll flash an average changeup. Carrillo generates his velocity with remarkable ease for his size, but often has no idea where the ball is going from one pitch to the next. He’s completed five innings only three times in 14 starts this year and has a habit of looking great for one inning and falling apart the next. Carrillo doesn’t have the control to start, but his power stuff should play even better in one-inning stints. If he shows he can throw strikes more consistently in one-inning bursts, he has a chance to be a high-leverage reliever.
Donovan Casey, OF
Casey did not rank on the Dodgers midseason Top 30 prospects, but he would have ranked in other, less-deep systems. Casey’s game is simple: he has big power, a big arm and swings and misses a ton. He has a 31% strikeout rate in Double-A this year, which is actually a slight improvement from his strikeout rate in 2019. Casey makes loud contact when he connects though. He has plenty of bat speed, has above-average power and is a good athlete with enough speed to be an effective basestealer. Casey’s best tool is his right arm. It’s a plus-plus cannon that is strong and accurate and allows him to make jaw-dropping throws to nail runners at third base and at the plate. He had 15 outfield assists in 2019 and only has three this year because opponents have stopped trying to run on him. His power, speed and defense give him a chance to rise as an extra outfielder and automatically make him a Top 30 prospect in the Nationals system.
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Max Scherzer, RHP
The ageless Scherzer has continued to be an ace this season, posting a 2.83 ERA with 142 strikeouts and 25 walks in 105 innings. He’s held opponents to .183/.248/.353 slash line and ranks in the top five in the National League in WHIP (0.886), hits allowed per nine innings (5.8) and strikeouts per nine (12.2). Scherzer, simply put, is pitching like the future Hall of Famer he is and immediately becomes one of the Dodgers top starters in a playoff series. With Scherzer, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias at the front of the rotation, the Dodgers will have a formidable top three starters in the playoffs even if Kershaw’s injury lingers and Bauer is not reinstated.
Trea Turner, SS
The Dodgers have turned to Chris Taylor as their starting shortstop with both Seager and Gavin Lux on the injured list, but Turner gives them another option at the position and allows Taylor to move back into a super-utility role. The standout speedster is coming off his first all-star appearance and batting .322/.369/.521 this year. He is only one home run away from tying his career-high and has an outside chance for a 30-30 season, although he tested positive for Covid-19 and is currently on the Covid-related IL for an uncertain amount of time. Seager has been out since May 16 when he got hit by a pitch that broke his hand, but has a chance to return this weekend. The Dodgers will have options on how they want to line up their infield when both Seager and Turner are healthy. Turner still has one year of arbitration remaining and won’t be a free agent until after the 2022 season.