As we approach the new year, we inch closer to the most wonderful time of the year — pitchers and catchers reporting. In less than two months, players will be heading to spring training and start ramping up for the 2022 season. Assuming a new collective bargaining agreement comes together early in January — yes, that is 1,000% a stretch of the imagination — teams will have a month at best to finish putting rosters together for the new campaign.
For the Dodgers, the clearest and most pressing need lies in the starting rotation. Assuming embattled right-hander Trevor Bauer does not suit up for the team next season, as many MLB pundits predict, LA has two clear and obvious ace-level pitchers penciled into the rotation at the moment. Walker Buehler and Julio Urias.
And that’s about it.
Left-hander Andrew Heaney joined the team via free agency this winter, but he’s a reclamation-type pitcher who posted a 5.83 ERA last season and owns a 4.92 ERA over the last five years. Tony Gonsolin will be expected to pick up some bulk innings in 2022 but has never thrown more than 55.2 innings at the big league level. David Price, who made 11 starts for the Dodgers last year, will be returning for the final year of the 7-year deal he inked with the Red Sox ahead of the 2016 season. However, the team seemingly has little faith in keeping the former Cy Young award winner in the rotation.
With all that laid out, let’s explore one trade scenario that could make sense for LA before the season.
Dodgers Interested in Trading for Sonny Gray, Should LA Trade for Gray & How Much Would He Cost?
The Cincinnati Reds reportedly have a pair of right-handed starters on the trading block this winter. We’ve already touched on former All-Star Luis Castillo in the past, but here we dig into another potential ace-level righty in Sonny Gray.
The two-time All-Star has been electric at times over his career. He posted his best season as a big leaguer back in 2015 (14-7, 2.73 ERA, 208 IP with Oakland) but nearly matched that output with the Reds as recently as 2019 (11-8, 2.87 ERA, 175.1 IP). Last season, he dealt with some injury issues which contributed to his higher than normal 4.19 ERA over 26 starts.
Gray, 32, comes with a team-friendly contract at only $10 million for 2022 plus there’s a team option attached for only $12 million for 2023. Luis Castillo still has several years of team control left, making him a more valuable trade chip for Cincinnati. Sonny Gray could be moved in a deal that equates to some salary relief for the Reds while netting one or two quality prospects along the way.
Notably, Cincy isn’t that far out from contention in the NL Central, so the prospects may need to be near MLB ready. RHP Landon Knack (LA’s no. 8 prospect) and shortstop Jacob Amaya (no. 14) come to mind to start.
Apologies to the prospect huggers.
Recent Trades Between LA and CIN
The Dodgers and Reds have been consistent trade partners over the last five or six years. In 2015, LA sent infielder Jose Peraza, outfielder Scott Schebler, and a prospect to Cincinnati for Micah Johnson, Frankie Montas, and Trayce Thompson. In 2018, the Dodgers picked up reliever Dylan Floro in an early July trade for low-level prospects. And in the 2018-2019 offseason, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, Matt Kemp, and more were sent to Cincy in a blockbuster deal that brought Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray to LA.
The foundation is there for a deal between these two teams once again. And, even with the Dodgers shipping out a number of prospects over the last few years, the farm system still has enough prospect capital to get a deal of this kind done.
A move to LA for Gray could also prove to be massive for his next big contract. The Dodgers staff of pitching gurus would undoubtedly bring out the best in the veteran right-hander before he hits the market again for perhaps one final big payday as a 34-year-old free agent.
The more you think about a move like this, the more it makes sense for both teams involved. And, presumably, Andrew Friedman is thinking about a move like this and about a dozen others.