The Dodgers had a great problem to start the season, too many starting outfielders on their roster. Between Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier, the Dodgers have four outfielders under team control through at least 2017. To add to their spoils, in Triple-A, the Dodgers have Joc Pederson batting .360/.476/.655 with 11 home runs and 11 stolen bases in his first 170 plate appearances. Unfortunately, Pederson is also an outfielder with no other positional experience to contribute to the Dodgers at the major league level.
While the 22-year-old Pederson continues to slug in Albuquerque, other teams are undoubtedly eyeing the outfielder’s latest breakout season. With the Dodgers virtually set in their outfield over the next four years, the team needs help most desperately in their infield and catching positions. But most recently, their infield has been quite good, with Dee Gordon finally starting to hit, Juan Uribe proving more than a fluke, and Hanley Ramirez continuing to hit well in Los Angeles. While Ramirez will become a free agent next season, the Dodgers are in a good position to extend or re-sign the shortstop. The organization also owns top shortstop prospect Corey Seager, who’s currently tearing up high-A ball at the moment. The biggest need for the Dodgers is undoubtedly at the catching position, as they’ve already gone through four catchers this season, and the position has thus far given them just a .171/.248/.248 slash, good for a 44 wRC+ and a -0.2 fWAR. They’ve had the worst contribution from the catching position of all teams this season and have little to speak of in terms of catching prospects.
Meanwhile, the Yankees have arguably the most valuable catching prospect in baseball in Gary Sanchez. Other top catching prospects in baseball include Austin Hedges of the Padres and Jorge Alfaro of the Rangers. While Hedges’ catching ability is unmatched, his bat is still a few years away from being major league ready, and some scouts are unsure if it will ever develop enough to match his catching ability. Alfaro offers more of a complete package, however he’s only seen a handful of bats at high-A, and is far the MLB-ready player that the win-now Dodgers are looking for.
Preferably, the Dodgers would eye a catcher that’s ready to contribute this season, with a good amount of team control and who comes relatively cheap. There are no clear MLB catchers that would be available though, and on teams that may look to sell, catchers like Carlos Ruiz and Miguel Montero offer limited team control and questionable price tags. And even if the Dodgers are willing to wait until the offseason to answer their catching dilemma, the free agent market offers little, with Russell Martin topping the list, a player the Dodgers non-tendered three years ago.
With all this said, the Yankees have a surplus of catching prospects at the moment. Brian McCann is undoubtedly the Yankee starter for at least the next five seasons, John Ryan Murphy looks to be one of the best pitch framing catchers in baseball and comes with a promising bat, Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli look like decent backup catchers, Peter O’Brien was recently promoted to Double-A after posting a 1.041 OPS in a pitcher-friendly Tampa, and $1.3 million bonus signing Luis Torrens should make his Staten Island debut in June. The gem of the Yankees’ catching class is obviously Gary Sanchez, who’s likely looking at a promotion to Triple-A Scranton soon. Sanchez still has work to do both at the plate and behind it, but his overall offensive and defensive package along with closeness to the major leagues is unmatched amongst other catching prospects around the league.
A Pederson for Sanchez swap makes a lot of sense for both teams. The Dodgers would receive one of the best catching prospects in baseball, and could contemplate plugging Sanchez into the roster sometime at the end of this season. Meanwhile, the Yankees do have a surplus of outfielders on their own MLB team, however Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano will be free agents at the end of the season. Likewise, Carlos Beltran‘s day in the outfield look numbered, and he’ll probably see the majority of the time as the designated hitter in 2015 and 2016. The Yankees have Ramon Flores, Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, and Mason Williams in their farm system, but none of these players match Pederson’s ability, nor do they look ready to contribute immediately in 2015.
Preferably, the Yankees would look to swap Sanchez for a middle infield prospect, but the market for these prospects is always incredibly difficult to target. Even if someone has a surplus at this position, the asking price is usually astronomical. The Yankees may be better suited to save some money in their outfield and answer their infield needs in a deep free agent market this offseason.
Pederson’s speed, power, and defense would project very well into the Yankees’ plans. His left-handed bat profiles well in Yankee Stadium, his speed and defense match the tools that they liked so much in Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, and his youth and contractual status would be a fresh change to the big contracts they’ve dealt out to aging players over the last few years. Yes, he’d be the third left-handed bat in the outfield, but Ellsbury and Gardner don’t appear too weakened by platoon splits, and Kevin Long is well known to counter these types of problems. It’s nothing but some speculation after last night’s tough loss, but it’s still a trade that makes sense for both sides.