Hernández: Dodgers should deal prospect if it lands them Juan Soto

There are prospects and there are potential franchise cornerstones.

Diego Cartaya is a potential franchise cornerstone.

He’s a teenage Clayton Kershaw with a fang mask, a pre-debut Corey Seager with a chest protector.

The 20-year-old Venezuelan is as safe a bet as it gets in an industry where nothing is certain. Some Dodgers executives say he could be the heart of their team for more than a decade after reaching the big leagues.

I think the Dodgers should trade him.

More specifically, if they need to put him in a package to acquire Juan Soto from the Washington Nationals, they should trade him.

This wasn’t the column I wanted to write in the days leading up to Saturday’s Futures Game, where Cartaya was playing his first game at Dodger Stadium. I spoke to Dodgers and rival officials who raved about his raw power and makeup.

“When he steps into the batter’s box, there’s a presence in the box,” said John Shoemaker, who managed Cartaya in Class A Rancho Cucamonga earlier this season. “If he goes behind the plate as a catcher, there is a presence behind the plate. When he enters the clubhouse, the clubhouse is present.”

There have been similar confirmations from others.

Her words were no less convincing a day or two later.

What changed was that Soto, 23, suddenly became available when Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the Nationals would be “entertaining” trade proposals for the All-Star outfielder after he received a 15-year renewal offer in the amount of $440 million from you had turned down.

The Nationals' Juan Soto prepares for a fight against the Seattle Mariners on July 13, 2022.

The Washington Nationals will reportedly consider trade proposals for All-Star outfielder Juan Soto after he turned down a $440 million 15-year extension offer from them.

(Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

Soto is a generational talent. At 19 he got into the major leagues and started producing immediately. He was a World Series Champion his sophomore year and batting champion his third year. Last year he was second in the MVP award.

Cartaya could be a franchise player. Soto is a franchise player, and he’s only three years older.

Soto is a perfect fit for the Dodgers, a finished Superstar who can help them maximize their current championship window, but also a youthful Impact player to build around in their next cycle.

Making Soto a long-term cornerstone would likely cost the Dodgers, or any other team, more than $500 million. The Dodgers would be able to make the commitments necessary to keep Soto past his year of roaming in 2024 as they will rake in more than $106 million in payrolls after this season if Trea Turner, Justin Turner, Kershaw, Craig Kimbrel, David Price and Andrew Heaney and Tyler Anderson are free agents.

Say the Dodgers trade for Soto before the August 2nd trade deadline this year, but fail to sign him for an extension and eventually lose him in free hands. They’ll have Soto for three more pennant races.

They will also have kept Soto away from two division rivals likely to come out on him, the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants.

Soto is very popular.

He is intelligent and a quick learner, as evidenced by the fact that he spoke English in the year and a half between arriving from the Dominican Republic and making his major league debut.

This is also how Cartaya is described.

Cartaya is already fluent in English, which he attributes in part to spending his last three off-seasons in South Carolina at the home of Travis Barbary, manager of the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate. Barbary was the organization’s former catch coordinator and has a son who played with Cartaya.

“He’s extremely mature for his age,” Barbary said.

Dodgers prospect Diego Cartaya waits for batting practice ahead of a game on Aug. 25, 2018.

Dodgers prospect Diego Cartaya waits for batting practice ahead of a game on Aug. 25, 2018.

(Michael Owen Baker/Associated Press)

Cartaya signed for $2.5 million as a 16-year-old, but Barbary noted that his spending habits weren’t those of a typical bonus baby.

Cartaya’s first car was a white 2018 Toyota Camry.

“I still have it,” Cartaya said. “I love it.”

His maturity extends to the clubhouse and onto the field, with Dodgers officials emboldened by his continued improvement both offensively and defensively.

Cartaya is listed at 6ft 3, 219lbs and has 28 homers in 142 minor league career games. He plans to be a high-end power hitter in the major leagues.

“It takes a special player to improve in any area without getting a lot of replays and playing time,” Dodgers catching coordinator Rocky Gale said. “What’s been remarkable in his development is that he’s in High-A at 20 and really hasn’t played that much. He found a way to get better without the game reps that are usually required for this kind of progression.”

Cartaya has caught just 111 games professionally, but he likes to toss pitchers.

Shoemaker said it’s because Cartaya’s physique offers pitchers “big target.” Gale suspected this was due to the way Cartaya examines and integrates data into game plans that highlight his pitchers’ strengths.

Regarding his ability to retain information, Cartaya said, “It’s because I love baseball,” adding that he “probably wasn’t the best” student in school.

There’s a lot to like about him. There’s a lot to like about what he could be.

But Soto is.

Perhaps the Nationals think they found a long-term solution in Keibert Ruiz, the last catch the Dodgers sent them, and won’t ask Cartaya to be part of a Soto deal.

But maybe they will.

In this case, the Dodgers have to do something they don’t want to do. They need to part with a prospect in whom they have invested heavily, both financially and emotionally. You must trade Diego Cartaya.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-07-17/dodgers-should-trade-prospect-diego-cartaya-to-acquire-juan-soto Hernández: Dodgers should deal prospect if it lands them Juan Soto

Emma Bowman

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