Rumors began to swirl Monday afternoon revolving around Dodgers top pitching prospect, Julio Urias and it has all of Dodgers Nation buzzing about the potential moves coming. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Dodgers reportedly are willing to include Urias in a trade package that would land them White Sox’s ace, Chris Sale.
Neither club has confirmed that either player is available before the August 1st deadline, but given the Dodgers farm system, if the White Sox general manager, Rick Hahn would even consider trading Sale it’s in his best interest to keep Friedman’s number close. Prior to the season, Baseball America ranked Chicago’s farm system 23rd out of the 30 MLB teams.
— Gary Ibarra (@GaryIbarra) July 26, 2016
@DodgersNation absolutely not. Memories of 1993 Pedro Martinez trade still haunts the organization. Keep Julio!!!
— Willis Bancroft (@WMBancroftJKD) July 26, 2016
To hear Urias’ name come up in trade rumors now that he’s made his major league debut is somewhat surprising given the fact that the Dodgers front office has been reluctant to part ways with any of their top prospects since Friedman took over in 2014. Every move the front office has made to this point has been to build the depth of their farm system and a move of this caliber would certainly consist of the Dodgers giving up a few of their top prospects for the services of Sale.
Should these rumors be true, this tells us one thing — the Dodgers are finally back at that “win now” now stage that they were in back in 2012 when they traded for for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Shane Victorino, and Hanley Ramirez all within the same trade deadline. I know what you may want to say — “Well look at how that worked out. What did we get out of it?” Well, the truth is the Dodgers didn’t give up much (Ruby De La Rosa and Jerry Sands were the big prospect names that stand out). The 2012 trade deadline was a gamble of taking on horrifically bad contracts to signify the new ownership and an effort to compete right away, and compete they did, the Dodgers have made 3 straight playoff appearances since then.
This Sale – Urias [hypothetical] trade would differ from the 2012 trades because it would mean trading away the depth the front office has worked hard to create for players in attempt to help make the team a legitimate World Series contender. I’ll weigh in on why the Dodgers should make the trade for Sale even if Urias is the centerpiece of the deal.
- The Value of Chris Sale.
Chris Sale is in his seventh season with the White Sox. Having pitched out of the bullpen his first two season, his workload has been limited compared to other 27 year-old left handers in the league. Chris Sale has pitched just over 1000 innings in his career including two seasons eclipsing the 200 innings mark and posting an era under 3.0. The five-time all-star owns a career 2.95 era with a 4 2/3 strikeout to walk ratio.
Since joining the White Sox rotation in 2012, Sale ranks 4th in the league in WAR (Wins Above Replacement), ranking only behind Kershaw, Scherzer and Price. If you’re not familiar with the WAR stat, essentially it measures how much better a player is than a player that would typically replace him should he be unavailable, but in short — he’s good.
On top of Sale’s recent performance, his contract makes his performance stand out even more than being compared to Kershaw. Sale is technically under contract through next season, but his contract has a two-year team option at the back end of the deal. Meaning that if Sale we’re to get injured or suddenly become unproductive, the Dodgers could cut him after a 1 million dollar buyout. But the Dodgers would have control through 2019. By trading for Sale, the Dodgers would get the prime years of a talented left-hander while assuming little, close to none of the risk (except trading away some highly touted prospects).
- The Need for a 1-2 Punch.
Assuming Kershaw is able to return from the DL in the foreseeable future, the need for a solid 1-2 punch to have success in the postseason is vital. Currently the Dodgers stand in the first wild card spot, meaning the Dodgers would pitch Kershaw in an elimination one-game series. Should the Dodgers win the one game play in, the Dodgers would be in a uphill battle against the NL’s best team. Looking at the teams in the running for the postseason, you can’t help but notice the top teams have two top tier starting pitchers. Cubs (Arrieta and Lester), Giants (Bumgarner and Cueto), Nationals (Scherzer and Strasburg), and Mets (Syndergard and DeGram). Not to discredit what Maeda or McCarthy have done this season but the Dodgers would be in a better position throwing a quality arm like Sale against anyone of those opposing team’s ace.
- Long Term Solution.
If the Dodgers have made anything clear the first two season with Friedman as GM is that they will not overpay for “rental players.” Sale’s team-controlled contract is the exact opposite of that. Should the Dodgers give up a substantial amount of prospects in a trade, Sale would be with the Dodgers for the next three seasons before becoming a free agent. Sale would fill the void the Dodgers were unable to fill this offseason when Grienkie signed with Arizona.
By trading for Sale they will also have the pitching flexibility to trade one of their mid-tier starting pitchers (Anderson, Wood, Kazmir) to reinforce their farm system after trading for Sale. Since the starting pitcher market will be scarce this upcoming offseason, the Dodgers may be able to get some decent prospect back by making a trade during the winter meetings.
- The Uncertainty of Urias
We all saw how polarizing Urias was when he was called up back in May. Dodger players referred to it as Uriasmania while Dodger legends like Vin Scully and Fernando Valenzuela embraced the organizational moment. Whether it was the unfair expectations or the anticlimactic debut, Urias was far from productive for the Dodgers this season. Not to knock on the 19 year-old kid but Urias continuously struggled with his command and failed to pitch 6 innings in eight of his nine starts.
Urias showed signs of electric stuff and great resilience through his first professional starts so it’s easy to see where the hype generated from. He had an impressive 10.71 K/9 ratio in nine starts.
But with that, what are realistic expectations we can project for the young prospect? The comparisons to Valenzuela seem natural, both are undersized left-handers discovered by Mike Brito out of Mexico and both made their debut at age 19. But would it be fair to call Urias the next Valenzuela?– If so, judging how Valenzuela’s career regressed on the tail end of his career, is that an ideal career to protect? — The argument I’m trying to make here is that we can’t be certain Urias would meet or even surpass his potential when it’s all said and done. If the Dodgers and White Sox were to come an agreement on a deal, the Dodgers would at least have to consider trading Urias because Sale is easily a top 10 starting pitcher in the league and could arguably be moved into the top 5.
Of course, this is all contingent on both teams willing to negotiate, but it seems to me like the White Sox and the Dodgers are a perfect match. Chicago has a need to build up their farm system and the Dodgers have the prospects to pull off the trade. The question is what would Hahn’s asking price be for their ace. A trade for Sale would certainly be centered around Urias, but other prospects the Dodgers may need to be include are Austin Barnes, Frankie Montas and Cody Bellinger or Alex Verdugo. Those are a few prospects that would definitely be in the conversation, but depending on how much MLB ready talent Chicago is looking for in return, it wouldn’t surprise me if Pederson or Puig’s name come up during the conversation.
Now, I’m not saying the Dodgers should over pay by any means for Chris Sale and clean the farm. A package centered around Urias should be enough to bring Sale over. But if Urias turns out to be the deal breaker I’d say the Dodgers are doing something wrong and need to reevaluate their approach to winning. At the end of the day our leaders (Kershaw, Gonzalez, Utley, and Ethier) are not getting younger and it pains me to say that Kershaw’s window of dominance could be closing soon. The Dodgers have to transition from “protecting the future” to “the future is now.”