The Los Angeles Dodgers’ desire to acquire a starting pitcher is well known. What comes of it however, is largely up in the air. The Dodgers were expected to add a marquee free agent pitcher during the offseason, and signed Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy — respectable additions, but neither packed the same cache of a Jon Lester or Max Scherzer.
Among the names Los Angeles has been tied to with the trade deadline under two weeks away are aces Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds and Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies. The Dodgers’ interest in Hamels at the very least dates back to last season.
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Cueto and Hamels are the Dodgers’ top two targets, with Los Angeles and Philadelphia holding ongoing discussions revolved around the left-hander:
The Dodgers, baseball’s financial powerhouse, look like a major player this trading season, maybe the major player among the buyers. They’ve quietly continued having dialogue with the Phillies about ace left-hander Cole Hamels, and are also looking seriously into the rental market, with Reds ace Johnny Cueto their top target there… While Cueto topped out at 93 in Miami, Dodgers people like him very much. “He knows how to pitch,” one LA person said.
Talks between the Dodgers and Phillies stalled in months past due to Philadelphia’s high demands in exchange for their ace. Some believe their stance has softened, which could open the door for Los Angeles to acquire the left-hander:
While one AL executive suggested a week ago that the Phillies haven’t yet “bent” on their Hamels demands since Andy MacPhail joined their front office to lead them, two other executives, using similar terminology, now say the Phillies have seemed somewhat more “reasonable” in their recent trade talks, and sources suggest there’s word of some potential progress with at least the Dodgers and Rangers. Phillies scouts have been dispatched to check out multiple systems, including those of LA and Texas. In the Dodgers’ case, Philly was said to have previously insisted on at least one of the Dodgers’ top-two prospects, who happened to be two of the very best in baseball — shortstop Corey Seager or young lefty Julio Urias — but at least now appears to be considering other possible Dodger scenarios.
Part of the lure with Hamels is the three guaranteed years remaining on his contract, plus a vesting option for a fourth year in 2019, his age-35 season. Though Hamels owns the edge in postseason experience, adding him or Cueto would be a significant boon for a Dodgers rotation that lost Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu to season-ending injuries.
Pitching for the team with the worst record in baseball this season, Hamels is 5-7 with a 3.63 ERA, 3.40 FIP, 3.21 xFIP and 1.22 WHIP in 18 starts. While his stats suggest a drop off from the 2014 season, Hamels’ 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings is the second-highest clip of his career.
Cueto meanwhile is 6-6 with a 2.73 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 3.17 xFIP and 0.90 WHIP in 17 starts, improving in nearly every stat from last season. On top of prospects in their farm system, the Dodgers conceivably could include one of their many outfielders and/or Alex Guerrero in a trade package.
Guerrero reportedly is willing to waive a clause in his contract that allows him to opt out and become a free agent after the season in which he is traded, if financially incentivized.