The Pitching Trade Market Is So Uncertain

David Price, last year a very, very good pitcher with 1.5 years left on his contract, cost the Tigers Drew Smyly (a good, ready-now lefty pitching prospect, who would be a much bigger deal right now if he hadn’t been injured), Nick Franklin (a formerly well-regarded infield prospect who has disappointed), and Willy Adames (a highly thought-of shortstop prospect) who still isn’t even 20 yet. They also had to include Austin Jackson, a pretty solid everyday center fielder, to get down to that price.

Johnny Cueto, this year a very, very good pitcher with the remainder of the season left on his contract, cost the Royals Brandon Finnegan (a pretty good, ready-now lefty pitching prospect), John Lamb (a formerly well-regarded pitching prospect trying to return to past prominence after injuring his elbow in 2011, who has been much better in 2015), and Cody Reed (a 2013 second-rounder who has reportedly “taken a major step forward this season.”)

Scott Kazmir, this good a pretty good pitcher with the remainder of the season on his contract, cost the Astros Jacob Nottingham, a 20-year-old catcher with a chance to be a plus bat behind the plate, and Daniel Mengden, a decent-yet-unspectacular seeming pitching prospect.

So what’s all that mean for the Dodgers? I’m setting aside Cole Hamels here, because his contract status and the ongoing uncertainty in the Philadelphia front office make that one impossible to pin down. I legitimately have no idea what a Hamels trade would even look like any longer. But for Mike Leake, you have to assume that the Reds get something less than they did for Cueto. For Jeff Samardzija, you have to expect the White Sox get something less than Cincinnati did for Cueto, maybe something on the Kazmir level.

Now what that is, I don’t know. You know teams want Julio Urias and Corey Seager, and you know the Dodgers aren’t going to move them. You know, instead, that everyone’s asking for Jose De Leon, who’s occupying that odd space between “has seen his value skyrocket” and “you can’t expect to get anything good if you’re not willing to trade any value.” If it’s not De Leon, it’s Grant Holmes.

That’s the top four on Dustin’s midseason prospect list from last week — excluding Hector Olivera here — but realize who’s after that. Yadier Alvarez was just signed. Walker Buehler was just drafted, and is injured. After that you’re into nice-enough guys like Austin Barnes and Cody Bellinger. Keep going, and you’re getting to prospects who are more supporting players in a deal — Scott Schebler, Chris Anderson, Jharel Cotton, Darnell Sweeney, etc. — than likely centerpieces.

I really don’t know how the next four days are going to go. I think we all know that there’s at an absolute minimum one pitcher coming, and probably more than that. (I liked Dave Cameron’s suggestion of three, being “a starter, a reliever, and a guy who could do both.” While it doesn’t have to be specifically Hisashi Iwakuma, Jesse Chavez, Jake McGee, as he suggested, that feels about right.)

The trend, lately, seems to be for teams wanting big league talent, or very close to it. Since Alex Guerrero isn’t that valuable and Andre Ethier isn’t bringing back anything of interest, the Dodgers can’t really fulfill that. It’s going to have to be prospects, or eating awful contracts, or both. I wouldn’t put anything past this front office, especially since it’s their first deadline in Los Angeles. I would suggest being prepared for anything and everything — including saying goodbye to some prospects you really like.

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.