Ah, the Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline. That magical time when fans of contending teams drool over potential impact acquisitions, lovers of lousy teams fantasize about flipping veteran rentals for the next great prospect, and baseless speculation runs rampant as everyone is desperate to break the next big news item on Twitter.
It’s true, as they say, that time flies when you’re having fun. And while the deadline is still a couple of months away, you probably didn’t notice that just last week, we zoomed past the ¼ mark of the season. So yeah, before you know it, the deadline will be upon us. The most encouraging news for Dodger fans is that once again, for the 67214th season in a row, we’ll be buyers.
Well, let’s start shopping! By now, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of who is likely to play meaningful games down the stretch, and who is going to be in a position where flipping their valuable assets for potential future stars is the best course of action. We’re also getting an idea of where contending teams’ vulnerabilities are that they’ll need to shore up.
Here are three guys I think will be on the Dodgers’ radar as the end of July approaches.
Lorenzo Cain. CF, Kansas City Royals: Why? In short, the Dodgers have a Joc Pederson problem. Don’t get me wrong, Joc is great guy to have around when he’s smacking homers off of right-handers, and working counts to get walks. Unfortunately though, his OPS is down more than 200 points from last year (.847 to .623). He’s got only two homers, and remains almost an automatic out against lefties. He’s still playing acceptable defense, but that alone isn’t enough to keep in a lineup that isn’t exactly flush with slugging presently. Full disclosure, I don’t like WAR as a metric, but Joc’s -.5 sounds about right so far.
Enter Cain. Yeah, his triple slash of .259/.353/.358 isn’t necessarily elite, but he’s a superb defender, leads the American League in stolen bases (something missing from the Dodgers’ current offensive dynamic) and is only two years removed from an MVP-caliber season that featured an .838 OPS. He would be the very definition of an impact acquisition.
So the question is, can we realistically get him? Well, let’s put it this way. The Royals aren’t going to contend, and will admit that at some point. Cain is going into free agency after this season, so the Royals should want to recoup something for him rather than just lose him. The main problem is likely going to be a glut of suitors. The Washington Nationals come to mind, as they have shown a willingness to deal prospects for stars, and need a replacement for their own injured excellent center fielder (Adam Eaton). So to make a long story even longer, yeah, the Dodgers can get him; if, of course, they are willing to pay a king’s ransom. A package including Alex Verdugo, perhaps Pederson himself and a low minors pitching prospect with a high ceiling might be good enough to get the conversation started.
Tony Watson. LHRP, Pittsburgh Pirates: To say the Dodgers have a bullpen problem would be a gross misrepresentation of the facts, as statistically they’re elite. Here’s the part that makes me shift uncomfortably in my chair. At the beginning of the season, we had three quality lefties in the pen. A quarter of the way through, Alex Wood has put a strangle hold on a starting rotation spot with an extended stretch of dominance, and Grant Dayton is trying to find himself in AAA. That leaves Luis Avilan, whose results have been more than acceptable, but a walk rate of nearly five per nine innings raises a warning flag.
Enter Watson. The Pirates were going to struggle to contend in a deceivingly tough National League Central anyway, and that was before Starling Marte got an 80-game ban for being a stupid cheater. Now they’re a rapidly sinking ship. Add to the equation the continuing decline of Andrew McCutcheon, a full rebuild can’t be far off. Why not flip Watson like they did Mark Melancon last year?
Watson has been very good for quite some time now, and proven to be a durable bullpen workhorse with a minimum of 67 appearances each year since 2012. An elevated FIP in 2016 and so far in 2017 (4.37 and 5.10) are worth noting, but I suspect that will level out with some usage correction – as the closer this year and primary set up guy last year, he had to face a lot more righties than he would in a Dodger pen that features Kenley Jansen, Pedro Baez, and a suddenly awesome Josh Fields.
Can we get him? Ummm, sure. If we’re willing to pay. He won’t cost what Melancon did last year, but with an ever-increasing premium being put on quality bullpen arms, he won’t be available for spare parts. A package centered around Willie Calhoun, and maybe including a fringy pitching prospect like Dennis Santana could pique the Pirates’ interest.
Matt Harvey. RHSP, New York Mets: I know, I know. His attitude lately leaves a lot to be desired. That said, baseball fans tend to have short memories. He was so good in 2015 when he returned from Tommy John surgery. So good. And after a bit of drama surrounding innings limits, he was a post-season stud. His 2016 was marred by thoracic outlet syndrome, and 2017 is off to a dubious start, but the velocity is still there, along with the rest of the stuff. He just screams of a need for a change of scenery.
Do we need him? I mean, not really. But that could change over the next couple of months. For all the things the Dodgers rotation deserves praise for, durability isn’t high on the list. Do we want him? Look, I’ll spare you the ugly stats of this year and last because they 1) are not truly indicative of what he can bring to a contender, and 2) completely don’t fit my narrative. Hey, at least I’m honest.
Can we get him? Probably not. He would have to rebuild some serious value with a string of good performances first, and if he does that while the Mets could still sniff contention, will they WANT to trade him? I could see it happening under one circumstance. Yasiel Puig has by most accounts been a model teammate this year (attempted murder of Joc Pederson aside). But if he suddenly ends up being back up to his old shenanigans, a swap suddenly makes more sense. Yoenis Cespedes can provide some veteran mentorship for Puig while a more laid back L.A. environment could be the catalyst to a Harvey rebirth.
Did I miss anyone? Let me know on Twitter @thestainsports. Thank you for reading.