Dodgers need to aim high during July trade deadline shopping

Photo: Stacie Wheeler

The first two trade deadlines of the new regime have not been uninteresting. While most of the rumors you hear won’t come to fruition, there’s a good chance that the Dodgers will do something, and it’s always fun to speculate. With this year’s trade deadline now a month away, let’s briefly look back at the past deadline deals and then talk about what the Dodgers should be doing at this year’s deadline.

——

In 2015, the Dodgers made a massive 3-team, 13-player deal with the Braves and Marlins that netted them Luis Avilan, Jim Johnson, Jose Peraza and Alex Wood from Atlanta and Mat Latos from the Marlins. While Latos and Johnson were incredible failures in their Dodger tenures, Avilan has provided value and Peraza helped the Dodgers acquire Frankie Montas, who helped acquire a player we’ll get to in a moment. But the big prize was and still is Wood.

Wood, then 24, had a 3.45 FIP and a 2.0 fWAR in 119 1/3 innings at the time of his acquisition. He wasn’t just acquired to help in 2015, but in the future. Unfortunately, in his final start with the Braves, he suffered an ankle injury and wasn’t terribly effective for the Dodgers the rest of the way because of it (4.10 FIP, 0.6 fWAR in 70 1/3 innings). Last season he was good, but dealt with injuries. This season, he has taken his game to another level, as he’s the clear No. 2 starter on this team and is primed for a trip to Miami in a couple weeks.

——

In 2016, the Dodgers made three trades on the non-waiver trade deadline day:

The big one was acquiring an elite-performing Hill and insurance policy for Yasiel Puig in Reddick. The other two were cost-effective and, to a lesser extent, creative ways to try to upgrade the bullpen.

But even with the acquisitions of Wood and Hill (to boil down the deals to what they were really about), they weren’t the big, sexy names rumored to be coming to the Dodgers. No one like Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, CC SabathiaCole Hamels, David Price, Chris Archer — ironically or not, all starting pitchers — have been acquired for the stretch run by this or past front offices. And that’s fine. The asking price for them was exorbitant and cost-prohibitive, and the Dodgers likely don’t regret on passing on them given how the prospects rumored to be leaving have panned out.

But that should go out the window this year.

Teams aren’t going to be asking for the likes of Corey Seager, Julio Urias or Cody Bellinger in deals as they were in years past. Two of them are key cogs in the lineup and one, despite recent shoulder surgery, still has a bright future.

This year, teams are going to be wanting Walker Buehler, and for good reason. His stuff has taken a step forward after Tommy John surgery (which isn’t totally unheard of) and with professional instruction. But unless a team comes to the Dodgers with a young starting pitcher who isn’t even rumored to be available now (or at all this season), don’t expect Buehler to be going anywhere.

Yadier Alvarez, Willie Calhoun and Alex Verdugo, on the other hand, seem like prime trade bait (and they’re all really good). The Dodgers also have lesser (in terms of future value) prospects in Yusniel Diaz, Gavin Lux, Jordan Sheffield, Brock Stewart and the like to include in potential deals — I’m leaving Mitchell White out because not only is he injured, I don’t think the front office would be particularly inclined to deal him right now. They could also pull from the MLB roster if the situation presents itself, and I don’t think Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi wouldn’t hesitate to deal a Pedro Baez, Joc Pederson, Hyun-Jin RyuChris Taylor or someone along those lines if it not only helps land a big-time player, but also lessens the number of quality prospects going the other direction. I’m not saying I want it to happen, I’m just saying I wouldn’t be shocked if someone got moved in the right deal.

——

The Dodgers don’t need to gut the farm to “go for it” by acquiring two or three impact players as if their window is about to close (instead of beginning to open), but for the present and the future, it’s time to cash in on a portion of those assets to make that big splash. And as painful as it may be, to do that there are going to be prospects traded that are going to make you wince if/when you hear of a deal.

In spite of that, this is the year to strike.

The Dodgers just dispatched with the Rockies (though they’re far from out of it), and the Diamondbacks are still hanging around. The NL Central is a mess, but the Cubs will probably end up on top, and the Nationals, while talented, have one of the worst bullpens in recent memory. The path to the World Series, while still uncertain, has never been easier for the Dodgers. Things will change for the other teams as well — the Cubs will probably land a starting pitcher, the Nats will upgrade their disastrous bullpen, the D’backs will be relevant as long as they’re healthy — but the Dodgers can easily keep pace and build on their already stacked roster to keep a step ahead if they want to.

This is not the year to be “cute” when it comes to acquisitions. Don’t use resources on guys like Alex Cobb, Michael Fulmer, Jimmy Nelson, and Dan Straily this time around, because while they’re all quality pitchers, they don’t give the Dodgers a clear upgrade for the rest of 2017. Of course, I mention them because they happen to be the kind of potentially underrated talents this front office would target in a deal, which is great for keeping the asset cost low and thinking for the future, but not for the Dodgers’ immediate needs. It’s also funny to say a team on a 106-win pace “needs” much of anything, but there are definitely a couple areas in which the Dodgers could stand to upgrade.

——

Available players will be come clearer in the coming weeks, but there are sure to be some proverbial big fish available. Once that time comes, we’ll examine some of the likely candidates and those who might interest the Dodgers.

The price will be high, but the Dodgers, with all their prospect capital, can afford to make a move (and not just for the sake of making a move). And if the Dodgers’ front office can put the team in an even better place to make the team’s first trip to the World Series in 29 years, it shouldn’t hesitate to do so.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif., and has yet to be shot.