So Brandon McCarthy is out for the year and Hyun-jin Ryu is out for the year and Zack Greinke‘s velocity is down and oh my god they’re counting on Brett Anderson and Mike Bolsinger and Carlos Frias‘ total inability to throw off-speed pitches and PANIC!
You know where this leads. It leads to an insistence that the Dodgers need a starting pitcher — which is true, or at least will be true — and it inevitably leads to Cole Hamels, who’s been on the trade block for approximately 11 years. You understand the fit, anyway. Hamels is a Southern California native who would probably love to pitch for a contender on the west coast, and the Dodgers wouldn’t even blink at the remainder of his contract. With Ryu and McCarthy now both uncertain for 2016, and with Greinke’s opt-out still looming and Anderson signed only for 2015, having someone to slot alongside Kershaw for the next few years makes a lot of sense.
So what’s not to like? Well, there’s the fact that so far, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has bet correctly*. He held on to Hamels, and now the Red Sox need a starter, since their rotation has been a mess. The Cardinals may want to replace Adam Wainwright. The shocking Astros could figure now is the time for an interesting splash. The Dodgers clearly need an arm. What if the Yankees wanted to add Hamels to Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka, or hedge against Tanaka’s demise? Hamels is more valuable now than he was in February.
*So far, anyway. But he’s also taken on tremendous risk to do so, because a Hamels injury would destroy everything, just like the Phillies made a mistake by holding on to Cliff Lee for too long.
That’s a problem, considering that the entire issue was that Amaro’s demands have always been deemed unreasonable. Neither this Dodger regime nor the previous one wanted to part with any of the “big three” prospects, and that’s only looked more and more wise as time has gone on. Joc Pederson isn’t a prospect any longer; he’s a budding star and starting center fielder on a team that can’t replace him. Julio Urias and Corey Seager have done nothing but continue to impress; it’s not out of the question that one or both could be on the playoff roster come October. It’s exceptionally difficult to see either one moving; either one is too much for Hamels. (Phillies fans wouldn’t agree.)
So, are the Dodgers going to be able to entice the Phillies with some combination of Scott Schebler, Darnell Sweeney, Jose De Leon, and Zach Lee? Or Grant Holmes or Chris Reed or Chris Anderson or Alex Verdugo? Maybe. Maybe. There’s a lot of talent there, probably enough that a reasonable trade could be made. I’m just not sure that Amaro is going to be able to sell a deal in which he doesn’t get any of the team’s top two or three prospects, and without Seager/Urias, that’s what he’d get from the Dodgers. Comparable prospects from another team might not be better, but they might be the best that team has. That matters. Baseball is weird sometimes.
But the Dodgers don’t need to let Amaro hold them over a barrel, because there’s not going to be any shortage of pitching available this summer. Just look at the insane list of 2015-16 free agent pitchers:
- Clay Buchholz (31) – $13MM club option with a $245K buyout
- Mark Buehrle (37)
- A.J. Burnett (39)
- Wei-Yin Chen (30)
- Bartolo Colon (43)
- Johnny Cueto (30)
- R.A. Dickey (41) – $12MM club option with a $1MM buyout
- Doug Fister (32)
- Yovani Gallardo (30)
- Jaime Garcia (29) – $11.5MM club option with a $500K buyout
- Zack Greinke (32) – can opt out of remaining three years/$71MM
- Hisashi Iwakuma (35)
- Scott Kazmir (32)
- Ian Kennedy (31)
- John Lackey (37)
- Mat Latos (28)
- Mike Leake (28)
- Cliff Lee (37) – $27.5MM club/vesting option with a $12.5MM buyout
- Tim Lincecum (32)
- Kyle Lohse (37)
- Bud Norris (31)
- David Price (30)
- Jeff Samardzija (31)
- Alfredo Simon (35)
- Jordan Zimmermann (30)
That’s not everyone — sorry, Kyle Kendrick and Mike Pelfrey — but is a sampling of what’s out there. Immediately, you can see some options. Cueto and Leake are out the door the second the Reds finish hosting the All-Star Game. The White Sox haven’t played up to expectations, and you can see Samardzija being shopped later. Maybe the last-place A’s are willing to move Kazmir or Jesse Chavez.
It’s not like it has to be a pitcher who’s entering his walk year, either, or that the Dodgers would only give up prospects. Everyone seems to expect that Justin Turner or Scott Van Slyke or Alex Guerrero (less so, due to his contract) would have some kind of trade appeal on the market. Everyone seems to think the Mets are going to move Dillon Gee or Jon Niese. The Brewers are going to have to blow it up and move Matt Garza along with Lohse. Maybe the O’s, despite being in contention, want to move the suddenly-good-again Ubaldo Jimenez. Or there’s 20 other options we haven’t thought of.
These aren’t all good options, of course, and Hamels is still a perfect fit for a lot of reasons. It’s just that for a team that needs pitching, there’s pitching to be had, and pitching that won’t require the loss of either of the team’s superstar prospects. If the Dodgers can get Hamels for some kind of Schebler / Reed / Sweeney package, then great, by all means. I’m just not sure that’s realistic. Better, then, to try to find upgrades within the realm of reality.