As the trade deadline approaches, the Dodgers will undoubtedly be linked to nearly every player on the block. With the prospects and financial resources to pull off nearly any deal and team currently pacing the National League, the Dodgers could look to upgrade in their starting rotation.
Ideally, any upgrade that the Dodgers should pursue should be a very clear upgrade in performance. The need for marginal upgrades isn’t necessary with the way this team is constructed.
We’ve already examined some potential bullpen upgrades, so let’s take a dive in to some potential starting pitching upgrades. There are a few caveats to this experiment:
- I am only looking at top-end right-handed starting pitchers, since the Dodgers have an overload of lefties in the rotation anyways. Thus, there will be no Jose Quintana.
- You have to give up talent in order to acquire talent. Trading Scott Van Slyke for Sonny Gray isn’t realistic.
- Acquiring some of these players may not be possible, as the American League wild card race is still very competitive. Many things can change in a matter of 3 weeks, but it is important to consider.
Contract: Unrestricted free agent at the end of 2017. Strictly a rental.
Fit: Darvish is beginning to round into form with the Rangers, as he’s clear last years innings total. He’s currently sporting a ERA/FIP of 3.56/3.79, while running a strike out rate of 26.2% and a walk rate of 8.1%.
He would likely benefit from throwing to better framing catchers, as Texas’ catchers have not succeeded in that department this year. He also has a friend on the team in Kenta Maeda, who he very likely would displace in the rotation.
Potential Package: Examining a similar Darvish package in recent memory brings me back to the CC Sabathia trade in 2008. Sabathia was entering free agency and the Brewers sent top-prospect Matt LaPorta, two pitchers in Zack Jackson and Rob Bryson and CF Michael Brantley.
Though only Brantley has gone on to have true ML Success, LaPorta was considered the can’t miss prospect in the deal. While 4 players for a rental may sound like a lot, there will be plenty of competition if the Rangers inevitably make him available.
Willie Calhoun, Brock Stewart, Ross Stripling and Edwin Rios
Calhoun could immediately slot into their DH role, while Stripling and Stewart fill immediate holes in their pitching staff. Rios becomes the type of wild-card prospect that Brantley was considered at the time.
Contract: Will enter his 2nd year of arbitration in 2018. 2 total years of team control.
Fit: Cole was the #1 pick in the 2011 Amateur draft out of UCLA, so he’s a local boy. He’s had his struggles this year, but has pitched at an elite level in years prior. Running an ERA/FIP of 4.43/4.49 leaves a lot to be desired, but he could really benefit from a change of scenery, especially if that scenery had two great catchers behind the plate for him to throw to.
His main struggles are due to a huge bump in HR rate, which will likely normalize in a larger sample size. So let us not kid ourselves and think the Pirates would sell low on Cole. They’ll expect an elite package. Cole still has two years of control, so you’re also shoring up a longer-term need, if you deem it as such.
Potential Package: It’s really hard to find a package like this to compare to, because teams don’t often trade pitchers of this level with 2 years of control left. You’d have to think the Pirates will expect a ton.
Yadier Alvarez, Alex Verdugo, Yusniel Diaz and Keibert Ruiz.
Pirates don’t need immediate young pitching, so they could be patient with Alvarez. Verdugo helps them in the OF immediately, while Diaz gives them reinforcements at a later time. Keibert Ruiz helps them fill some organization catching depth with a higher-end catching prospect.
Contract: Similar to Cole, he will be entering his 2nd year of arbitration in 2018. 2 total years of team control.
Fit: As he works his way back from some early season injuries, Gray is beginning to round into form. He’s posting an ERA/FIP of 4.00/3.59 and striking out more batters than he has since his rookie year in 2013.
He’s another player that could really round into form throwing to the Dodgers’ catchers. And of course, don’t forget the team control portion. However, his recent injury history could become a bargaining chip that could reduce the cost slightly.
Potential Package: Gray is an above average pitcher even when he struggles and he could give the Dodgers a real solid right-hand punch to mix with McCarthy. He also has team control beyond this year, so his price tag could be a little expensive.
Willie Calhoun, Alex Verdugo, Edwin Rios, Jordan Sheffield.
The As are a little light by way of position player prospects, and the Dodgers are a little heavy. Easy to see a bit of a match there. Calhoun and Verdugo could likely slot onto the As tomorrow, while Rios could be a cog in 2018. Sheffield is likely more of the pitching wild card the As would like, and we know they like RHP in the Dodgers system.
Contract: Signed to an incredibly team friendly contract, he’s under control through 2021 at an average salary of roughly 7.5mil.
Fit: Cost certainty, coupled with youth and talent are things that any team wants. Archer is consistently good, striking out well over 10 per 9IP and running a 3.95/3.03 ERA/FIP. His performance alone would merit two or three times what he’s being paid, which brings a tremendous value alone.
It’s uncertain if the Rays would even consider selling, as they’re looking like they might be contenders. But if they decide to move Archer, they’ll rightfully seek a kings Ransom.
Package: Trades like this don’t have much by way of historical precedent, but if you’re the Rays, you ask for any 4 or 5 of the other team’s top prospects. If that team says any prospect is off limits, you move on.
Walker Buehler, Yadier Alvarez, Willie Calhoun and Alex Verdugo.
Painful, but probably close to what the Rays demand. They might even try to get someone like Stripling or Stewart too, and one couldn’t really fault them. Archer is good, cheap and marketable. If he’s made available, which still looks unlikely, there will be a decent amount of suitors.
There’s a big difference between what I want and what I think actually happens. I’d love Yu Darvish. I’d like Chris Archer, but I wouldn’t want to pay what it’ll require for him. But inevitably, I think the Dodgers stand pat here and rely on what they have internally.
Honestly, I don’t think any of the pitchers mentioned here will be moved, so this really was a fruitless exercise. But it was fun!