There are a lot of big names who should be available by the time the trade deadline rolls around. Two names who have already been connected to the Dodgers are Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez and left-handed reliever Justin Wilson.
Both are logical fits for this squad. In fact, I’ve been on the Martinez bandwagon since the offseason. Here’s what I wrote in November:
“The right-handed slugger has a 143 wRC+, 83 home runs (including 38 in 2015) and a .299/.357/.540 triple slash in that time. Against lefties in the same time frame, he has a 150 wRC+ and a slash line of .293/.363/.563. Seeing as the Dodgers were historically bad against lefties last season, Martinez seems like the type of player this front office would target. His strikeout rate is a bit higher than I’d prefer (26.1 percent in the last three years), but it comes with a lot of power (.270 ISO) and an improving walk rate (8 percent).”
Despite missing a month of the season with a foot injury, Martinez has come back and, again, is one of baseball’s best and most underrated hitters. He has a .286/.379/.615 triple slash with a 154 wRC+ and.318 ISO (5th-best in MLB, minimum 200 plate appearances), while his walk rate is up 2.5 percent and his strikeout rate that is down 2 percent from last season. He’s an elite hitter and has been ever since the Tigers picked him up in 2014 after the Astros let him go. Martinez is having a career year and is sure to be one of the — if not the best — bats available ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline (July 31).
The Dodgers don’t exactly need to trade for a bat, but it makes sense. It means they’re not sure guys like Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor can keep up their current pace. Bellinger has already gone into a bit of a slump, and will likely not continue to hit at an MVP-caliber level despite still being productive. Meanwhile, Taylor has never been an every day player, so protecting against a possible massive regression is the smart play. Besides, Taylor would still get plenty of playing time — he could spell all three non-first basemen infielders once a week and play in center field when a lefty is on the mound (apologies to Joc Pederson). That would still give him plenty of exposure without the risk of over-exposing him.
Wilson, 29, is a hard-throwing reliever and, if you’ve seen what Luis Avilan, Grant Dayton and Adam Liberatore have done this season, you’ll see why the Dodgers could use a guy like him. He has a 2.48 ERA, 2.92 FIP and has seen his strikeout rate increase from a good 25.9 percent last season to an elite 37.8 percent this season. His walk rate is up almost 3 percent, so that’s a little concerning, but he’s a quality left-handed reliever who is good against both-handed hitters.
The Dodgers have been tied to both Tiger players recently, and both would be welcome additions to the club, but the big question remains: How much would these guys cost to acquire? Despite Martinez being a rental, he still carries a lot of value, and Wilson is under team control through the 2018 season, so he has good value as well.
Let’s just get this out of the way: Walker Buehler is not on the table here. He’s not going to be on the table for anyone who is realistically available this month. Aside from him, anyone else is in play.
The Tigers long been interested in Alex Verdugo, and if the Tigers are trading their starting right fielder, they’d likely want to replace him with a quality prospect. They’d also likely be interested in guys like Yadier Alvarez, Yusniel Diaz, Willie Calhoun, Gavin Lux, Jordan Sheffield, Brock Stewart and Mitchell White among others.
So let’s build three packages here:
- For Martinez
- For Wilson
- For Martinez and Wilson
Even though Martinez is a rental, the Dodgers would probably have to surrender one of their top prospects. And since he is a rental, the Dodgers might need Verdugo next season, so they’d rather trade a premium arm in Alvarez that’s farther away from the majors. Meanwhile, Alexy is having a breakout season for the Great Lakes Loons at just 19, and definitely has rotation upside. Sborz is a near MLB-ready arm who could slot into the rotation or bullpen later this summer or next season.
I know the Tigers would want Verdugo, but trading him for a rental seems unlikely. If this were last offseason when the need against lefties was glaring or Martinez had another year of control, I’d be more inclined to do so, but not anymore. This deal gives the Tigers the premium talent they’d be looking for in return for a premium player, and also gives them an upside play to add depth to their farm.
To Detroit: Calhoun, Sheffield
To Los Angeles: Wilson
Calhoun has an explosive bat that’s MLB-ready but a questionable positional future, which makes him a safer bet in the AL where there’s always the DH. Sheffield has a premium arm and is a high-risk, high-reward play. The price for quality relievers is always high at the trade deadline, especially for those who aren’t rentals, and the Dodgers could stand to deal from their prospect depth to improve the MLB club.
There’s just not enough for me to include both Alvarez and Verdugo in the same deal, but losing two premium talents is doable with Calhoun instead because of the positional questions and lack of opportunity with the Dodgers. Sheffield continues to be the lottery ticket of sorts, but one with high value due to his coveted arm. Sborz is currently a starter, but most have a move to the bullpen coming for him at some point, which is where his fastball and slider combo would play up. German would be yet another low-level lottery ticket with big-time velo.
Martinez would add a big bat in the middle of the order that would take the offense to the next level by lengthening the lineup further. Wilson would vastly improve the bridge to Kenley Jansen by providing a late-inning pen arm to use, and one from the left side as well. Plus, he’ll be around next year, which eliminates a need in 2018 too.
This combination of players might make the most sense for the Dodgers to acquire, and while the cost would be steep, it also wouldn’t come close to gutting the farm system. Most importantly, it’d improve their World Series odds in 2017 and protect against injury concerns and regression of guys who are playing a bit over their heads right now.