With the July 31 trade deadline less than one week away, all eyes are on the Los Angeles Dodgers and how they will address arguably their only weakness on the roster — an inconsistent bullpen.
It’s evident that the Dodgers need to acquire a reliever or two before the 1 p.m. PT deadline. Ideally, one of them will be left-handed, as the club’s bullpen currently lacks in that department.
Tony Cingrani never threw a pitch in 2019 before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, while Scott Alexander and Caleb Ferguson have either been mired by injuries or struggles for the better part of the year. Julio Urias has thrived as a swingman, but he will continue being a multi-inning reliever going forward as opposed to a left-handed specialist.
The Dodgers have also long desired pairing Kenley Jansen with another elite reliever in the backend of the bullpen. Connecting the dots, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Felipe Vazquez appears to be the ideal trade target for Los Angeles.
One of the sport’s most dominant left-handed relievers, Vazquez is reportedly the Dodgers’ top trade target ahead of the deadline. Though, the Pirates remain reluctant to part ways with him.
That hasn’t stopped L.A. from inquiring, however, as the two teams have recently engaged in trade talks. According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, the Pirates are reportedly enamored with Dodgers catching prospect Keibert Ruiz and covet him in any potential trade involving Vazquez:
Ruiz is intriguing to the Pirates, who have had the worst production at catcher of any National League team this year.
As noted, the Pirates have received minimal production from their catchers this season. The group ranks 28th in FanGraphs’ WAR, ahead of only the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers, and collectively, are hitting just .243/.306/.306 in 135 games.
Moreover, the Pirates farm system currently lacks an established catcher of Ruiz’s caliber. Of their top-30 prospects according to MLB Pipeline, none of the those ranked play the position on a regular basis.
Thus, the Pirates’ interest in Ruiz should come as no surprise. A consensus top-40 prospect in all of baseball, Ruiz is hitting a respectable .259/.329/.340 in 80 combined games between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City this season.
After an up-and-down stint with the Drillers, Ruiz is taking advantage of his recent promotion to the Dodgers’ top Minor League affiliate. In four games for Oklahoma City, he is batting .333/.333/.500 with one home run and six RBI over 18 plate appearances.
Along with Ruiz, it’s believed the Pirates would also want to receive Dustin May as part of their return in a Vazquez trade.